17 February 2012

Fractal Cities by Dr. Michael Batty and Dr. Paul Longley available free on-line

l For those interested in using fractal analysis to understand urban form, Dr. Batty’s and Dr. Longley's seminal
book, Fractal Cities: A Geometry of Form and Function  is still the most comprehensive work on this subject. It is now available for free in pdf format at: http://www.fractalcities.org/ . Dr. Batty's excellent follow-up book Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models and Fractals  is available through MIT Press and other sources. Hopefully, one day this book will also be available on-line

For other online papers concerning spatial analysis, many with an urban focus and several  on aspects of fractal analysis, and agent based modeling, go to website of the Barlett School Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) of at the University College of London which Dr. Batty is  associated  at: http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/ 

My own work and many others who are now conducting research on urbanization using fractal analysis of cities were influenced by Dr. Batty’s and Dr. Longley's book.  While doing my dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the land use impacts of an airport on urban structure/morphology,  one of my advisers, Bill Huxhold, a pioneer in GIS, recommended that I read this book.  In a ‘fractal-like’ manner, this book and its ideas were mentioned in the context of the dissertation, but at this time, I had not delved into the application of fractal analysis and complexity to urban form.  Later, I published some papers directly related to fractal analysis of urban form and ‘spun’ off to other areas such as using the metaphors of complexity theory, including fractals, to understand urban processes and provide new ways to approach urban planning in the Post-Modern era. I also delved into agent-based modeling and its integration with  Spatial Technology and developed several courses in the area. It was my great fortune to meet with both authors about ten years later. This are is so vast and fast developing that anyone who says that they are an expert in applications of complexity theory, fractal and agent-based modeling to urbanization, is probably mistaken.  I gladly accept that I am a novice and trudge on marveling, musing, exploring and ‘weaving tales’ (writing papers etc.) in the manner of a the manner of a metaphorical ‘shaman.’

I have recently co-edited a book along with two of my colleagues Ivani Vassoler-Froelich , and JesúsTreviño-Cantú, The Geography, Politics, and Architecture of Cities: Studies in the Creation and Complexification of Culture which includes two my articles, one on complexity theory and the other urban morphology.  There are also other excellent articles pertaining to other aspects of urbanism. It is published by The Edwin Mellen Press is available for ordering directly through the publisher at http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=8568&pc=9 . It is also available through Amazon and Barnes and Nobles by searching on the title.  This represents a good book for not only as a reference for those teach or conduct research in urbanism, but also is one that it is enjoyable to read and is approachable even if you are not a urbanist.

16 February 2012

You are a fractal (draft)

The metaphor of fractals has endless applications.  Most view fractal analysis is related to the characteristics of object. However, viewing human beings as fractal gives a much expanded view of fractals. It implications are boundless.

For those who may be reading my webpage for the first time, I will explain my version of fractals.  A fractal starts our as nothing and may end as nothing too.  But, before a fractal emerges, there exists an environment.  The environment represents the boundaries that the fractal can function at its inception.  The beginning of a fractal is the placement of an element into the environment. At this point, it is not a fractal; it is just a static element.  This element has its own characteristics, some inherent and others fabricated by its creator, referred to as rules. Therefore, before a fractal can be generated there has to be two prerequisites: an environment and a set of rules.  In mathematical fractal generation, the environment is the set limits on fractal generation and the rules are formulae. The fractal comes into existence once the formula is activated.  It is assumed in fractal generation that the fractal is also graphically visible The fractal once generated is merely the repetition of this formula.  The more it is replicated, the more complex and intricate it becomes.  But, the fractal may ‘mutate’ as the many formula and results interact.  The fractal can also change if even minor changes are introduced to the fractal by the generator or the environment changes during the course of activity.

An example of a fractal can be the growth of a tree. A tree is dependent on its environment and has certain rules that are not negotiable. The environment here is the physical environment.  A seed has all the information necessary to start a tree. This is the same as an element in fractal generation.   The environment is a clear determinate if the seed will become a tree. If the soil is dry, it will not become a tree till later or never become a tree. If the seed and the environment are completely incompatible, the seed will also not come into existence. For example, if you plant a palm tree seed in the Artic, the  seed will never germinate because the temperature is too cold, regardless of the soil type.  If you create an environment, exclusive of the natural environment, it will grow in the Artic. For example, you plant the seed in the right soil in a greenhouse that is warm and has the right amount of light, the palm tree has a good chance of growing from a seed, if there are no defects in the seed.   At this point to contine the analogy, we are assuming that the environment is ambient for a tree to grow from a compatible seed. At the point of germination, the seed starts to generate a fractal. The first fractal woul be a twig. The twig devides once to form two twigs (e.g. bifurcation.) Then, each of these twigs are divided again. This is repeated until the tree becomes to the level of full maturity.  No two trees are exactly the same because of minor interactions as the tree grows (e.g. feedback) or the changes in the environment.  After some point, programmed by the instructions in the seed, the tree produces seeds so that other trees can grow of its same species. Eventually, the tree dies either because of the environment (i.e., fire, drought etc.) or because it cannot maintain itself with its support system.

The analogy for a human being is basically the same.  We start our as an egg which is the element with all the ‘stuff’ for generating a human being.  It may not go beyond this, if not fertilized.  Life does not begin before the sperm is first able to join to the egg, mix the genetic material together to begin the process. The genetic material of the egg (e.g. elements) may reject those of the sperm  If so the process stops here.  If the genetic material of the egg accepts the generic material of the egg, then the process of the formation of a human being begins.  The fertilized egg divides into two cells, the these cells divided repeat, based on instructions that change the rules many time to create a baby.  Afterwards, the cells divide again and again to produce a mature adult.  The mature adult mates with  another mature adult to fertilize an egg and the process starts anew. The mature adult gets older and eventually dies because of accident, disease, or the inability of the body to maintain life.

Why am I mentioning this within the context of this blog.   One, urban areas are composed of human beings and without them, cities do not exist. Two, the fractal generation process in humans determines the basic elements of other fractals in the urban physical and the cultural landscape.  The thoughts, speech, actions, creation of physical objects (i.e., buildings, furniture, books etc.), lifestyles, government, and everything relegated to humans are fractal and linked/networked in a complex manner.  They are inherently self-organizing, adaptive, and chaotic.  

14 February 2012

the re conceptualization of urban governance

The city in post-industrial/information age city in the U.S. , Europe and other developed nations is organized on rigid representative democracy, defined political jurisdictions and controlled by a plutocracy made up of developers, corporations and the extremely wealthy.  As on the national scale, but sometime worse, politicians are guided by their own self-interest which is usually geared toward first establishing and maintaining their power in the community. The citizens of a city must come forth and petition for changes, much like in medieval times.  The city system of government, like the national one, has been placed under the control of the One Percent (AKA economic nobility.)  Most residents of cities have been alienated from their government and have become complacent.  The Occupy Movement in some locations have set in motion new ways of civil involvement and engagement.  The General Assembly form of decision-making has been proposed as a adjunct or replacement of city government.  However, this is undeveloped and needs to be expanded.

New ideas of city government and involvement need to be formulated.  However, they need not be based on ungrounded ideas. There is ample literature to warrant a new kind of city that will stress the participatation of its citizens and diffuse the influence of the One Percent.  Possible sources that can be used to construct this new form of government is those that were first proposed by Peter Kropotkin in Mutual Aid, which would be distinguished by cooperation among different groups working for the good of the city, town or rural area.  These concepts are also complementary to Communitarianism,  the social organization of the Kibbutz and the Just City advocated by David Harvey.  Recently in Latin America, new forms of participatory democracy are also emerging, particularly experiments in participatory budgeting. With the Interenet and other advances in telecommunications are renewing ideas of Direct Democracy and posing it as real alternative or adjunct to  urban governance.

On a national and international level, the Occupy Movement is emphasizing that the One Percent have taken control of the government and controls the Ninety-nine Percent at all levels.  Underlying the Occupy Movement IS NOT the destruction of the government or of the United States but its evolution toward a system that will serve the needs of post-modern man. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution knew that the abuses of an elite and also mob rule, were always present.  The Constitution establishes the rights of all citizens and is a model for all governments. They did not intend for the Constitution to be staid document presenting barriers to the economic and political freedoms of the public, but a living and evolving Social Contract.  The emerging concepts of urban governance will not be in contrast or lead to worse government, but better. 

As in other blog entries, these ideas need to further developed in other blog entires or in papers. One can think of these blog entries as sketches, that will be filled in later with detail and color to form a painting.   In key junctures in history, there comes a moment where new ideas must be introduced, discussed, put into experimental practice, and antiquated insituational structures which must be reformulated or dissolved.  This is not the concept of a revolution by a few who then impose on others their will, but a deliberative process by all people to create a framework that will make society to be: more prosperous, more just, more sociological and physiologically  stable and sustainable. I think we are entering such an era.

12 February 2012

Some questions about fractal formation in urban areas

I have been pondering some questions in the last couple of months about fractals in urban morphology: 1) Are there certain basic formulas that result in one or another type of fractal; 2) Are the fractal rules that form urban like fractals that are indicative of sustainable or unsustainable growth patterns in urbanizing areas.?;  3) Can urban development policy be translated to rules and subsequently be modeled in a real world scenario?; and 4) What are further delineations that can be made in fractal dimensions of urban areas?.  At this point, these are strictly musings and are naturally nebulous, as I have not delved further into them.  However, it seems that both of these topics are important, but are not being addressed by researchers in the field of fractal analysis of urbanization.  I would like to briefly touch on these points and at a later unknown date, go back to them in my blog and develop a paper around them. These issues may seem technical and dry on the surface, but have possible impact on urban policy and planning.

Comments on these question are appreciated. I will post all that are consistent with the topic .