Urban Dynamics Blog

What is Urban Dynamics? It’s a fancy name for the study of cities by way of the scientific method and mathematics. But it’s an important name nonetheless; and the credit of the name ought to go to Jay W. Forrester. He’s was the first of the urban dynamicists. And he first proposed the idea in his book Urban Dynamics in the 1960’s. I am the next generation.


Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson

Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson

My name is Matt Johnson. I am not only the Editor-in-chief and a writer for The Systems Scientist, but I am also a researcher at Iowa State University. Plus, I am a Systems Scientist. Urban Dynamics is a sub discipline of Systems Science.

What is this page?

This is my personal research page for those of my readers who want to delve a bit further into the mathematics and science of urban dynamics. In addition to the articles I publish on the general TSS page, I will be posting some of my research here including data, graphs, and explanations of what my research means. I will endeavor to update this page a couple of times per week.

If you are a regular reader and have questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section below. If you are a systems scientist, or researcher, and you have questions or comments for me, you can also communicate with me in the comments section, or you can email at mrj@iastate.edu.

What are cities?

dice_by_thamyris71-d2z4e6pCities are stochastic places; that is, they are composed of elements that interact with each other and produce random outcomes. These outcomes are not a 100 percent. They are probable. For example, flipping coins produce probable outcomes; dice, or die, also produce random outcomes. But these two examples are simple systems. A city is another story.

There is a lot going on. Actually, that is an understatement. But as a natural consequence of setting up camp in one place and the industrial revolution, our species invented and developed cities, and without much guidance I might add. The best word to use for such a circumstance is “emergence.”

Cities emerged over the past few hundred years. But so have the problems and the respective personalities of cities. Urban Dynamics helps urban dynamicists – city scientists – understand how and why cities behave the way they behave. I’ll expand on this idea as this page evolves.

Cities of Research

Here are the cities I am currently researching. My hypothesis, which isn’t yet stated here, is based off of my data observations of Minneapolis. Thus, Minneapolis is the prime city. I’ll explain the scientific process below. But first, here are the cities I’m researching.

  1. Minneapolis
  2. Los Angeles
  3. San Diego
  4. City
  5. City
  6. City
  7. City
  8. City
  9. City
  10. City

As I progress in my data mining, I will fill in the cities 4 through 10. Those cities are already known. However, this page is a work in progress and so as soon as I have enough information to share, I will reveal those urban environments.

As far as the scientific process is concerned, the hypothesis is based off of the data. That is, the data that was observed from from multiple data sets illustrating Minneapolis. After observing the data for some time, I began to notice patterns in different sub-systems of Minneapolis. This led me to the hypothesis, which is a working hypothesis.

To start, Los Angeles and San Diego, which were derived from strata randomization, will test my hypothesis. The variables that will be tested first are Condemned and Vacant Buildings (CVBs), Foreclosures, Crime, and Unemployment. Thus on each page, I will share data, graphs, and explanations of the information including some other details about each city.

Again, this page will always be a work in progress so check back regularly for updated information on this page or any of the city pages.



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