How Cities Work - Urban Systems Collaborative

Information and How a City Works
Colin Harrison
Perspective on Cities
A city is collection of processes – public, enterprise, and
personal - that are founded on the natural and built
environments, that are driven by and are intended to
support the needs of the inhabitants, and that produce
and consume various resources and social outputs.
These processes are mediated by flows of information.
The collection of processes is a complex system
operating on multiple spatial and temporal scales.
Information Engineering for Cities
To design, construct, operate, manage, and maintain a set of
systems (machines) that make the city’s processes as effective as
possible at supporting the short-term and long-term needs of its
citizens for…
…economic development
…efficiency (cost, reliability, capacity…)
…accessibility (ease of use, choices, flexibility…)
…resilience (acute threats, long-term threats, unknown threats,
social cohesion…)
Some of these systems will be centralised and some will be
Metaphor of Human Physiology
Nervous System
Lymphatic System
Circulatory System
Goals for this Urban Systems Symposium
• Share many views of the roles of information in how a city
works (Lightning Talks)
• Discuss what we have shared (Panels)
• Work together to sketch some maps of information flows
• Put it together (Synthesis)
• Begin to document how a city uses information