Let’s examine some samples of the definitions of the chaos theory and urban and regional planning.
A name given to recent wide-ranging attempts to uncover the statistical
regularity hidden in processes that otherwise appear random, such as turbulence
in fluids, weather patterns, predator-prey cycles, the spread of disease, and
even the onset of war. Systems described as "chaotic" are extremely susceptible
to changes in initial conditions. As a result, small uncertainties in measurement are magnified over time, making chaotic systems predictable in principle but unpredictable in practice. (Public Broadcasting System, 2008)
What exactly is chaos? The name "chaos theory" comes from the fact
that the systems that the theory describes are apparently disordered, but
chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently
random data. (Rae, 2008)
The irregular, unpredictable behavior of deterministic, nonlinear
dynamical systems (Roderick V. Jension of Yale University) (Gleick,
Chaos theory has a well developed literature which has permeated almost all branches of study although its roots came from mathematics (Gleick, 1987). Accompanying and complementary areas of interests would be those such as agent based and cellular automata modeling, fractal analysis, neural networks, and artificial intelligence. Chaos theory does not discard all the past methods of analysis, but selects parts of them which are deemed appropriate until more compatible methods are developed. For example, chaos theory still uses portions of statistics and other mathematics (i.e., calculus). However, just as logical-positivism, linear modeling and Newtonian physics is an outcome of a philosophy connected with industrialization, modernism and Fordism, chaos theory is a product of post-modernism (Smith and Higgins 2003). As such, chaos theory represents a philosophical break from the ideas that dominated much of the 19th and 20th Century. While the proponents’ of chaos theory claim that it represents a scientific paradigm shift, the root may more have its basis in a social movement with science backing it up (Smith and Higgins 2003).
Urban and Regional Planning
Urban planning involves forecasting future population growth and planning
for possible changes. Planners consider: rate of growth, rates of natural
increases and migration, age profile of the forecasted population and housing
types, employment services required (City of Prince Albert (Saskatchewan,
All planning can be considered as an attempt to restrict possible futures.
Usually this is not stated explicitly. However, 'futures scenarios' are explicit
rejections of other possible futures. They have become fashionable again, as
they were in the 1960's. Usually, a small number of alternative scenarios is
presented: they indicate the range of futures considered acceptable. In other
words, the range of acceptable future cities is made visible by the choice of
scenarios. 'Acceptable', that is, to the people who prepared the scenarios. That
is usually the city or regional government: sometimes, a private organization
funded by local elites.
There are a variety of definitions for urban planning depending on the approach. The latter definiton is also a criticism of urban planning as defined by modernists. The modernist approach would be one of a linear rational process that would lead to an end state at a particular year. This approach has been highly criticized and cannot be seen as a viable definition in the Post-Modern era. However, the Post-Modern era definition/concept of urban and regional planning is significantly flawed representing a field that is in transition (Post Modernism and Urban Planning, 2008) .
Chaos theory examines the non-linear, but deterministic processes. The urban environment contains many non-linear processes, but they emanate from entities which are not random, but have purpose and characteristics. In light of some of my present and past research, I have been contemplating about how can Chaos and Complex Systems be integrated into the practice of urban and regional planning. The analysis of urban phenomena using chaotic analysis techniques such as fractal analysis and agent based modeling are numerous. However, there is a gap from theory to practice that is just beginning to be explored in urban planning theory literature. Michael Batty (Batty, 2005) (Batty, 1995) and Patsy Healey (Healey, 2006) seem to have started to close the gap between chaos theory and urban analysis and planning practice.
Nevertheless, I think that it is still a relevant to ask: How exactly do urban and regional planners put the findings of these analytical tools into decision-making? Chaotic planning has been around for a long time, but has never really identified it as such. Incremental planning, ‘muddling through’ and a host of other techniques may possibly be considered chaotic planning. This needs further study and better delineation.
I will be presenting a paper titled “The application of fractal analysis and spatial technologies for urban analysis” at the Second International Interdisciplinary Chaos Symposium on Chaos and Complex Systems to be held in Istanbul, Türkiye sponsored by Külture University ( http://fen-edebiyat.iku.edu.tr/ccs2008/ ). The papers from this conference (hopefully including mine) will be published in the Journal of Applied Functional Analysis (JAFA) as a special electronic issue. In this paper, I discuss some of implications of fractal analysis to the practice of urban and regional planning. A draft of this paper can be obtained by sending an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Batty, M. (2005). Cities and complexity: understanding cities with cellular automata, agent-based models, and fractals. Boston: MIT Press.
City of Prince Albert ( Saskatchewan, Canada). (2007). Urban Growth and Urban Form Managing Urban Growth. Retrieved March 13, 2008, from City of Prince Albert: http://www.citypa.ca/TheCity/Departments/EconomicDevelopmentandPlanning/ThePrinceAlbertDevelopmentPlanProcess/tabid/347/Default.aspx
Healey, P. (2006). Urban Complexity and Spa tail Analysis Strategies: Towards a Relational Planning for our Times. London: Routledge.
Post Modernism and Urban Planning. (2008). Retrieved March 13, 20088, from http://www3.sympatico.ca/david.macleod/POMO.HTM#POMO7
Treanor, P. (1998). Limiting urban futures. Retrieved March 13, 2008 , from Webpage of Paul Treanor: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/few.futures.html