Architecture and Collective Behaviour

Just published: a special Issue of Philosophical Transactions B (The Royal Society) on ‘Interdisciplinary approaches for uncovering the impacts of architecture on collective behaviour’. My own contribution is ‘open access’ and you can read it and print it from the web site here. The issue covers many aspects of collective behaviours at different architectural and spatial scales dealing with different social and physical systems. The commonality of diverse approaches to very different systems is well demonstrated by this issue. All the papers can be seen in terms of contents here.

The editors say:

“Built structures, such as animal nests or buildings that humans occupy, influence where and how individuals interact. These interactions lead to cooperation, collaboration, and collective behaviours, which are fundamental for the formation of functional human and animal societies. Despite the obvious influence of space on interactions, because spatial proximity is necessary for an interaction to occur, spatial constraints are rarely considered in studies of collective behaviour or collective cognition.

This special issue highlights ways in which structures impact society, for example through the impact of the built environment on information flow, disease transmission and health behaviours. In addition, the issue brings new research on how architecture affects collective behaviours of humans and animals. For example, humans have fewer face-to-face interactions than expected in open spaces and ground squirrels interact differently in open and closed spaces. This special issue creates a unique exchange of ideas among a wide range of disciplines including behavioural ecologists, evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists, social scientists, architects, physicists, and engineers. The goal of this issue is to formalise and catalyse an interdisciplinary exchange that will propel the study of architecture and collective behaviour.”

Renewing infrastructure

Infrastructure has become another hot word in post-industrial economies that are busy figuring out how they can renew all the physical plant that was constructed during their industrial past. The UK has established a National Infrastructure Commission amidst a flurry of proposed new initiatives involving high speed rail, and other new rail lines, a focus on new housing, as well as a continuing concern for ever faster broadband, specifically based on G5 technologies.  American too, notwithstanding the President’s pronouncements, is also initiating new approach’s to established and renewing infrastructure from roads to bridges to airports.

Infrastructure, however, no longer relates to simply physical things, information infrastructure is hot on the agenda while social infrastructure pertains to all our organisational and indeed socially responsible administration that emerged during the 20th century and badly needs renewing. In the current editorial in Environment and Planning B, I summarise some of the key points about renewing our infrastructure. Many new kinds of models are being fashioned to deal with such problems which are now spatially extensive in a way their precursors were not, and integrating different sectors is now one of the key issues so that the wider impacts of new infrastructure can be assessed, as for example in the MISTRAL models being developed by a consortium of research groups in the UK.

You can get my editorial here.

More Big Data and Cities

Two new volumes in big data, cities and regions, with a strong spatial focus. The first Seeing Cities Through Big Data: Research, Methods and Applications in Urban Informatics is edited by Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah, Nebiyou Tilahun, and Moira Zellner and published by Springer. This has some 30 key articles on a variety of methods including one by Greg Erhardt, Oliver Lock, Elsa Arcaute and myself called ‘A Big Data Mashing Tool for Measuring Transit System Performance’.

The second book Big Data for Regional Science edited by Laurie Schintler and Zhenhua Chen focuses the argument on regions as well in particular regional science, and contains some 28 chapters including a foreword by myself. There is a lot of food for thought here and the two books provide rather a good snapshot of the state of the art.