Global City Systems and Informatics


Cities have been studied for many years by a wide range of disciplines and professions, resulting in many large, isolated bodies of knowledge.  GSS brings the perspective that current challenges require this work to be strengthened along several lines:

  • Adopting global perspectives in the geographic, community and intellectual dimensions.
  • Overcoming the barriers to communication of the many professions and disciplines in order to create integrated knowledge of intra- and inter-urban systems.
  • Recognizing that cities do not exist in isolation, but are participants in many different networks, including environmental, cultural, economic, security, and other aspects.
  • Recognizing the many impacts of the Information Revolution on these aspects in both intra-urban and inter-urban systems.

We invite papers that address the changing futures of cities around the world under the influences of intensifying urbanization and the decline of hinterlands, the impacts of globalization on the local and global roles of cities, and the transformational impacts of Informatics on the design, operation, and governance of cities.  The role of Informatics in open governance is of particular interest.

These contributions may range from new, theoretical methods for understanding cities through to the application of GSS methods to practical problems in urban systems.  They may reflect the perspectives of communities including administrators, anthropologists, architects, computer scientists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, mathematicians, public health scientists, social scientists, and urbanists, among others.  Preference will be given to work that emphasises the trans-disciplinary nature of this field.


CONCEPTUALISATION & COMMUNICATION: We see as a key goal for Global city Systems the unification of the perspectives, the bodies of knowledge, and the methods of the many academic and professional communities that study cities.  This is a highly challenging goal.  We believe that it can be advanced through a new conceptualization of the principles of cities that will permit each community to understand how its perspectives, its body of knowledge, and its methods relate to those of other communities.

We invite papers reporting on proposals for new conceptual models of cities and experiments in developing communication and consensus building among academic and professional communities or among communities of citizens, particularly in the following ways:

  • Extending the methods of the Natural Sciences to deal with the kind of unstructured information often employed in the Social Sciences, for example narratives.
  • Extending the methods of the Social Sciences through hierarchical abstractions that enable common patterns of urban behaviour to be distilled from the unique behaviours manifest in any given location.
  • Employing denormalised environments, such as game playing, to allow participants drawn from a variety of academic or professional communities to step out of their habitual frames of reference and jointly explore a (fictional) challenge.
  • Employing or jointly developing narratives with citizen communities to build consensus among citizens from varying cultural, economic, and geographic backgrounds in open planning processes.
  • Extending such methods through the use of Informatics to improve bi-directional transparency between municipal governments and citizens and to allow the participation of very large numbers of citizens in on-line planning processes (based on games).

FORMAL DESCRIPTIONS AT MICRO-MESO-MACRO SCALES:   If an integrated conceptual framework for the cities can be developed as above, a second GSS task will be to develop archetypes for the detailed description of the life of cities at various spatial and temporal scales.  Such archetypes will cover the dynamics of the city at timescales from seconds to decades and spatial scales from meters to some tens or hundreds of kilometers.

These archetypes can then be applied to specific cities by applying the unique features such as topology, history, natural environment, demographics, economics, and so forth.  A variety of modeling and simulation methods will be required as well as modeling frameworks that permit the integration of models covering the range of spatio-temporal scales.  The initialization and calibration of these models will require the collection of defined data sets of standardized measurements.

We invite papers that describe approaches to integrated, multiple scale modeling of cities and regions including:

  • Templates for multi-scale modeling of cities
  • Data standards for the representation of cities at various spatio-temporal scales
  • Frameworks for the integration of models based on a variety of techniques, e.g. Systems Dynamics and Multi-Agent simulation, and a variety of scales.
  • Examples of the example of multi-scale modeling to specific cities.

URBANIZATION  –By urbanization we mean the net flow of people from the hinterlands of agricultural regions and smaller towns and cities into the larger, sometimes new cities.  This phenomenon is producing waves of transformation in regions around the world.  The large-scale expansion of existing cities and the creation of new cities in Asia, particularly in China is well known as that country completes its massive transition from an agricultural to a mixture of industrial and post-industrial economies.  Less obvious, but no less challenging is the decline of cities and regions in Western countries as populations concentrate around a small number of large cities such as London and Tokyo and as the declining cities experience rapidly ageing demographic distributions.

Informatics is a primary enabler of globalization and of many of the new areas for innovation that are drivers for urbanization and hence plays a key role in these structural changes.  Informatics also changes the “connectedness” of the individual to a place.  Many enterprise employees work in the virtual spaces of the company’s globally-distributed facilities and those of its suppliers and of its customers.  They are just as connected to colleagues in the same building as to those on the far side of the planet.  On the other hand, for many needs, they are closely connected to their physical location.  Examples exist of “US employees” who prefer to live in Tokyo and are perfectly able to discharge their US duties.  To some degree telecommuting can also work against densification by allowing workers to live in urban sprawl without paying the penalty of time-consuming commuting.

We invite papers reporting on studies of urbanization particularly in the following ways:

  • Identifying tipping points for the irreversible collapse of declining cities and regions.
  • Identifying changes in the structural patterns of dominant cities and the surrounding regions and smaller cities.
  • Studying approaches to stabilize or reverse the decline of subordinate cities and regions.
  • Studying possible end points of urbanization indicating possible limits to size, forces opposing urbanization.
  • Assessing the impacts of virtual workplaces and of global industrial ecosystems on the structural patterns of cities and regions.

SUSTAINABILITY:  Although many smart city initiatives employ Urban Informatics to produce incremental improvements in resource consumption (water, energy) or in exploiting the theoretical capacities of municipal services (transportation, social care, and so forth), little attention has been given to the transformational potential of Urban Informatics.  The utilities and other services of cities are still designed and operated on the 19th century principles of industrialization:  large-scale, closed, centralized means of production delivering a good into a one-way distribution network without dialogue with the consumers.

Progress in Informatics and the encapsulation of design and operational management methods supports a transformation into a 21st century model based on open, small-scale, highly distributed means of production that is embedded in the distribution network and tightly integrated with the consumers.  Such post-industrial approaches may offer greater resilience, greater support for closed-cycle resource consumption, greater opportunities for small and medium sized “green” enterprises, and the ability to gain efficiency by closely tailoring production to consumption in real-time.

Urban Informatics can also support communities in evolving norms for resource and service capacity consumption using methods such as gaming and online interaction as described above,

We invite papers reporting on proposals and experiments for the application of Informatics to transformational approaches to the provision and consumption of utility and municipal services including but not limited to:

  • Electricity and other forms of energy
  • Domestic and industrial water
  • Collective and individual transportation
  • ICT infrastructure
  • Public safety
  • Public health
  • Social services

GOVERNANCE:  Examples above (communication, gaming, norming) show that Informatics can play a valuable role in enabling distributed participation of citizens in urban policy- and decision-making.  It is hoped that this will foster increased transparency and trust in the relationships among policy-makers, administrators, and citizens.  The increasing roles of information in our lives in general and in urban living in particular reveal the need for careful governance of information itself.  Informatics therefore offer new possibilities in the spatio-temporal scales and the bi-lateral or multi-lateral roles  that should be explored.

We invite papers reporting on theoretical or practical studies of the application of Informatics to new intra- and inter-urban governance models including but not limited to the following aspects:

  • Intra-, Inter-urban dynamics
  • Short-term, long-term planning
  • Bottom-up, top-down approaches
  • Open/closed approaches (Open Data)

Scientific References

  • Jacobs, Jane. The death and life of great American cities. Random House Digital, Inc., 1961.
  • Alexander, Christopher, A city is not tree, Architectural Forum 122 April (1965): No. 1, pages 58-61 and No. 2, pages 58-62.  Reprinted in: Design After Modernism,  Edited by John Thackara, Thames and Hudson, London, 1988; and in: Human Identity in the Urban Environment,  Edited by G. Bell and J. Tyrwhitt, Penguin, 1992.
  • Yang, Xiaokai, and Robert Rice. “An equilibrium model endogenizing the emergence of a dual structure between the urban and rural sectors, Journal of Urban Economics”, 35.3 (1994): 346-368.
  • Batty, Michael. “The size, scale, and shape of cities.”, science  319.5864 (2008): 769-771.
  • Harrison, Colin et al., Foundations for Smarter Cities, IBM Journal of Research and Development, vol. 54, no. 4, paper 1, July/August 2010
  • Bettencourt, Luís MA. “The origins of scaling in cities.”, science 340.6139 (2013): 1438-1441

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