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The Utility of Systems Thinking for Cities

Matt Ball on January 21, 2013 - in Smart Cities

The nature of cities is one of fundamental system complexity, and this complexity can be wicked to understand, wicked to manage.  Sandy was a wicked problem.  Wicked problems are those that have multiple interacting systems — social, ecological, and economic — a number of social and institutional uncertainties, and imperfect knowledge, all of which apply to the state of the New York megacity immediately following Sandy.

Responses to Sandy didn’t just call for, but required systems thinking.  Ecologists have been thinking in systems since Arthur Tansley first used the term “ecosystem” in print in 1935.  The Odum brothers pioneered systems approaches in ecology in the 1950s and 60s.  More recently the emerging field of urban ecology, which explicitly includes humans as fundamental components of systems, has taken a social-ecological systems approach to the study of cities.  Cities like New York are the classic example of a complex social-ecological system and systems thinking remains one of most useful tools to understand cities.

Read more via Sustainable Cities Collective

Matt Ball

About Matt Ball

Matt Ball is founder and editorial director of V1 Media, publisher of Informed Infrastructure, Earth Imaging Journal, Sensors & Systems, Asian Surveying & Mapping and the video news site GeoSpatial Stream.

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