The Good City Conference

The Urban Transformations Consortium’s Conference on the theme of the ‘Good City’ was held in Oxford last week from April 18thto 20th. A variety of approaches to cities were presented with panel sessions devoted to healthy cities, shelter and ownership, labour markets and migration, environment and technology and social movements. These were contested with a series of more methodological and philosophic statements focussing around cities: the orderly city, the spontaneous city, the intelligent city, the self-sufficient city, the sustainable city and the imaginative city. Five keynote presentations were the highlights between the working sessions with contributions from different cities around the world: Detroit, Durban, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and London. You can see the program by clicking here.

My own contribution was the last one where I drew from our work in CASA in London with my themes that the city can be read through the generic theme of information – not smart cities, or even intelligent cities or virtual cities but information cities. Thus is an old idea but it is increasingly necessary to think of cities as being the hubs of information flow as we transform headlong from a world dominated by energy to one of information. I had a go at starting my talk by walking through a little fragment of the city and explaining how information technology characterises what we see on the walk, in the past as well as the present, but as a prelude to the future. You can get my talk if you click here and on the image above.


Non-Equilibrium Social Science and Policy


This great book edited by Jeffrey Johnson, Paul Ormerod, Bridget Rosewell, Andrzej Nowak, and Yi-Cheng Zhang brings together many contributions from an EU project which lead to several workshops and conferences about a new form of social science – out of equilibrium, far from equilibrium, in disequilibrium as the world always is. The book is open access and you can download it here.

Here is an explanation of what is contained within. Between 2011 and 2014 the European Non-Equilibrium Social Science Project (NESS) investigated the place of equilibrium in the social sciences and policy. Orthodox economics is based on an equilibrium view of how the economy functions and does not offer a complete description of how the world operates. However, mainstream economics is not an empty box. Its fundamental insight, that people respond to incentives, may be the only universal law of behaviour in the social sciences. Only economics has used equilibrium as a primary driver of system behaviour, but economics has become much more empirical at the microlevel over the past two decades. This is due to two factors: advances in statistical theory enabling better estimates of policy consequences at the microlevel, and the rise of behavioural economics which looks at how people, firms and governments really do behave in practice. In this context, this chapter briefly reviews the contributions of this book across the social sciences and ends with a discussion of the research themes that act as a roadmap for further research. These include: realistic models of agent behaviour; multilevel systems; policy informatics; narratives and decision making under uncertainty; and validation of agent-based complex systems models.

Here is my own chapter for your interest which is entitled Cities in Disequilibrium


City Analytics


City Analytics: An invited special collection of articles for Royal Society Open Science entitled ‘City Analytics’ compiled and edited by Desmond J. Higham, Michael Batty, Luís M. A. Bettencourt, Danica Vukadinovic Greetham and Peter Grindrod. Click here or on the image above for the papers.

The growing human urban population presents unique opportunities and challenges for a range of stakeholders. As is presented in this special collection, using a range of mathematical, computational and statistical tools, it is possible to extract and analyse data on urban environments from myriad sources of information.

In the City Analytics special collection, interdisciplinary work exploring, for instance, social media usage patterns, transport networks and urban resilience to natural disasters, such as flooding, provide researchers and policymakers with detailed insights. Click here for the editorial and the papers and for the contents which are open access.