Characterization of an Urban System

Characterization of an Urban System

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3683-3.ch003

Abstract

Correct representation of characteristics of different attributes of a city helps in understanding the impact of these attributes on evolution of a city. And the way they are dependent on each other. It may further help in identifying the factors which can be a potential threat to sustainable urban development. This chapter aims to develop an understanding about the meaning and significance of characterization of a city, or say, an urban system. In addition, it provides detail about the approaches which can be adopted for characterizing an urban system. It is expected that this chapter will succeed in developing a good understanding about the need and significance of accurate and effective characterization of a city in the context of sustainable urban development.
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Introduction

Nowadays, urbanization is a ubiquitous phenomenon. It may be a consequence of globalization. There are other factors which may be responsible for aggravating this phenomenon. For instance, unprecedented growth in population is a compelling factor for expansion of urban clusters. There can be other factors which may attribute to the expansion of urban clusters. In addition, it also needs to be considered that the way an urban centre expands is determined and influenced by the presence of these factors. Therefore, the fact that final shape and size of a city is just a consequence of interrelationship of different factors cannot be ignored. It means that if there is some mechanism to establish a relationship between the structural or functional characteristics of a city and the causal factors; then there is a strong possibility that we can effectively assess the role of different causal factors in shaping particular structural or functional characteristics of an urban system. Furthermore, identification of the role of different causal factors in shaping particular set of patterns would help to control inconsistencies in the working of an urban system. But, before moving to further discussion on this issue, there is a need of understanding about the differences between complexity analysis and characterization of an urban system. They may seem to be similar in concepts. But, they are not. Yes, it is true that both of these concepts are an attempt to make a city or say, an urban system stable and robust. Effective application of these concepts may help in realizing the idea of sustainable urban development. However, differences in their working principle need to be understood in clear terms. Otherwise, there would be confusion regarding the utility of these concepts in investigations related to urban studies. Furthermore, it is also necessary to understand about the need of these concepts in urban studies. Especially, there is an absolute necessity to understand the contexts which need application of the aforementioned concepts. There is a possibility that sometimes, only characterization of the urban system is the requirement. That means, complexity analysis in that situation can be ignored. But, there could be situations where application of both of the concepts is required, and therefore, these concepts need to be applied for effective investigation of an urban system. Otherwise, the investigation will end up presenting the incomplete picture of the actual scenario. So, going back to the question: what is the primary difference between complexity analysis and characterization of an urban system? Before, answering this question, we may need to understand the reason which is responsible for such confusion. In both of the concepts mentioned above, there is a need of understanding about the nature of interaction among different attributes of the urban system. That may create confusion in the mind of readers about the necessity of segregating the aforementioned concepts into two different concepts. There is no denying in the fact that both of the aforementioned concepts, that is, complexity analysis and characterization of an urban system need assessment of the nature of interaction among different participating attributes of the urban system. This understanding and assessment is significant in application of these concepts for urban studies. In addition, as mentioned earlier, both of these concepts have significant role in transforming the characteristics of a city from random characteristics to stable characteristics. That suggests their indispensability in the investigations of urban systems as they may have significant role in making a city sustainable. However, their differences lie in terms of scale and projections. The process related to characterization of an urban system focuses on the interaction of attributes at the highest level of the working mechanism of the urban system. We mean to say that the process of characterization of an urban system is defined by the role of primary factors. It does not focus on the significance of secondary factors in shaping the characteristics of the behavior of an urban system. Furthermore, characterization of an urban system does not intend to assess the possible scenarios of the urban system in near future due to integration of different participating attributes. It just considers the factors which are present in the present context and have direct influence on an urban event or on the behavior of the urban system. However, the principle of complexity analysis process is significantly different from it in terms of scale and projections. The working principle of complexity analysis process considers both primary and secondary factors. In addition, it also attempts to understand the nature of interaction of different participating attributes at different stages of the working mechanism of the urban system. It further attempts to understand the possible variations in the structural and functional characteristics of the city due to change in the characteristics of the participating factors. Consideration of these kinds of possible variations in the urban scenario has significant role in assessment of the degree of complexity in the behavior of an urban system. There is one more aspect about the difference between the complexity analysis and characterization of process is their feasibility of application. The characterization of an urban event or urban system can be done easily. In addition, it is applicable in different contexts of the investigation. However, the complexity analysis process is comprehensive and time consuming as it involves all kinds of participating attributes. Furthermore, it is done at different stages of the study. Consequently, different aspects of the urban system get involved into the process. And it is applicable only when data related to different types of attribute is available. Otherwise, the results of the complexity analysis can be erroneous and misleading. Therefore, it can be said that application of the principle of complexity analysis process is not possible in every conditions. If the necessary requirements are fulfilled then only, we can go for complexity analysis of an urban event or urban system.

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