Application of Complexity Theory in Representation of the City

Application of Complexity Theory in Representation of the City

Manuela Piscitelli (Second University of Naples, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0148-0.ch007
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Abstract

The objective of this chapter is to show how chaos and complexity theory can be applied to understanding of the dynamics of a city. At first, the changes in the theoretical and practical knowledge that occurred in contemporary philosophical and scientific thought from the end of the nineteenth century, which led to the formulation of the chaos and complexity theory are discussed. The new vision of the world emerging from chaos and complexity theory allows a rapprochement between the two complementary ways of analysis and action: the analytical method, born from the Cartesian method, and the systemic approach, derived from cybernetics and systems theory. Then the characteristics of a complex system are analyzed by referring to the definitions of the main exponents of the discipline, in order to understand if a city can be identified as a complex system. A review of the main theories about complexity of the city is included in order to demonstrate that a city can be considered as a “system” defined by the elements (the various activities and urban functions) and from the interactions and relations between its various components (tangible and intangible communications) that produces hardly detectable effects on all parts of the city. Finally, the systems currently used for the description and the representation of components and relationships of a city intended as a complex system are presented.
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From The Analytic Method To The Systemic Approach

The history of contemporary scientific and philosophical thought is marked, as early as the end of the nineteenth century, by the gradual awareness of a slow but inexorable vanishing of the certainties of theoretical and practical knowledge. The categories of the scientific and philosophical thought and action, and in particular ideas and concepts considered immutable as time, space, relationship between cause and effect, have been progressively challenged.

Complexity theory is the best response given from the 70s to the need to understand apparently accidental scientific phenomena, until then generally categorized as “chaos”, Greek word to denote the void, the absence, the unknowable.

The new vision of the world emerged from chaos and complexity theory allows a rapprochement between the two complementary ways of analysis and action: the analytical method, born from the Cartesian method, and the systemic approach, derived from cybernetics and systems theory.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Analysis: Process of decomposition of the whole into parts.

Complex System: A system characterized by the number of the elements that constitute it, and by the nature of the interactions between these elements.

CAS: Complex Adaptive Systems, complex systems able to adapt and change following the experience.

Multi-Criteria: Analysis models that allow to compare and order the alternatives in a problem on the basis of data for the identified targets.

Simulation: Virtual model that can simulate scenarios to understand the behavior of a system under changing of conditions.

Synthesis: Combination of elements or components in order to form a coherent system.

GIS: A Geographical Information System allows the drawing of computerized geographic entities, and the storage of the data and information related to these entities.

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