29 April 2012

The fractal vortex and relationship to ubran traffic congestion

This fractal was generated using a program at the website of Fractal Poster (see http://www.fractalposter.com/users_gallery/fractals_1.html .)  As in all fractals, there are rules, self-similarity, development and chaos. The theme of self-similar vortexes is apparent. It is notable that  in  above generated image, the main vortex  appears to begin from a ribbon of smaller vortexes and proceeds to form a large one embedded with smaller vortexes. The larger vortex unravels to form a ribbon.  These patterns would be repeated again at a larger scale, if we zoomed out  There are other patterns that are related to the formation of the vortex. This process of vortex formation can be seen manifested not in the actual physical form of urban areas, but in urban phenomenon.  For example, traffic congestion can be seen as small disturbances from smooth traffic to small disturbances (slowing of traffic), becoming more intense (stop and go) to complete breakdown. Then, in the same manner, reversing itself and leading to smooth traffic and then repeating the same pattern over again.  While the fractal vortex is self-repeating of the same patterns; the rules may be set up to start fractals and then disturbed so that vortexes fail to form.  In the case of traffic and complete breakdown, small changes may prevent the complete breakdown of traffic flow.

23 April 2012

Stepping into and out of the vortex: the role of urban planners

A vortex is a visual metaphor to describe phenomena (issues, technology, nature, human activities etc.) that has ‘solidified’ and is churning/rotating (self-organizing), dynamic and gathering energy from the surrounding environment. Vortexes do not remain static. They increase, fluctuate, or decrease in intensity and eventually dissolve.  Nature has two very powerful examples: the tornado and the hurricane.   Urban planners work within and outside of vortexes such as urban growth, poverty, economic development, environmental change, energy, traffic congestion etc.   The metaphorical concept of a vortex is very powerful and can spurn numerous discussions on using it to understand phenomena and issues and proposing ways to manipulate them for positive change. 

09 April 2012

Do humans have Read Only Memory?


Are we a ‘blank slate’ that enters the world? Do we learn everything from our parents and institutions (such as government, religion, schools etc.)? Or, do we come we a set of ‘rules’ that determines what we do as individuals, groups, nations etc.?   The answer is not one or another, but both.  We definitely learn ‘stuff’ from our environment, but we also come with a programmed set of instructions.  The programmed set of instructions or rule could be considered our Read Only Memory (R.O.M.)  This  could be considered the  ‘embodied’ or ‘embedded mind, which is the foundation of all decisions individually and as groups. Animals come already with R.O.M and react to their environment based on it. This is called instinct in animals.  Humans have some the same characteristics, but modified.

What would be some of the R.O.M. characteristics of humans?  Some could be considered as basic as the ability to learn languages, desire to speak, awareness of environment, adaptability, survival, hunger, security, mobility, curiosity, need for other people, reproduction urges, to the more complex such as religion.  Of course, this R.O.M. is intertwined with family groups and institutional interactions.  A human enters the world with R.O. M. as a child, but is not an isolated individual from the very beginning. The child interacts with its mother, then its father (if present), his/her sibling and proceeds to interact with others outside his/her immediate family.

In complexity theory and within the metaphorical use of agent-based modeling, human beings can be considered agents.  However, human beings, as discussed earlier, have built in R.O.M.  These are rules from the genetic storehouse that we all carry with us that provide the ability to perform multiple tasks.  Some appear to be common for all humans such as speech, language, reasoning etc.  They ultimately create archetypes that are common in most cultures.  However, all human agents operate within an environment.  Increasingly, human agents operate in an urban environment.  All human agents are networked to family, friends, and institutions.  While, some of the basic rules are the same for all, there are distinct differences.  Human agents change according to their age group, sex, income, education and family influences, which alters the way that the basic rules are interpreted. A way of visualizing this simply is to think of ants, each with different roles and purposes which are networked together.  This simple mental visualization serves the foundation of my theory on complexity and urban environments.