You would think that the people who have questions about how cities work would be rural dwellers or the few suburbanites who truly haven't been to the city in ages. But even city residents sometimes wonder about what lies beneath the street, how a city government really makes decisions, whether social service agencies really coordinate with one another or whether their efforts are disjointed, and how and why certain parts of a city attract used car dealerships or artists or technology start-up companies.
It is just not possible to explain once and for all time the dynamics of cities, because an urban system has many thousands of variables and is constantly in flux. Think of a family system in which each pair of people has a relationship; cities are like families of families, in which all the possible associations are too complex to even diagram.
That is actually a good thing, as this churn of people, ideas, styles, trends, and accidental interaction produces the innovation that underpins a good economy and the community attachment that keeps people emotionally involved and willing to sacrifice for their city.
When we started the website, we asked for general community development questions, and as time went by and the questions and answers started stacking up, we noticed that a few were really theoretical. One about cities in space was even abstract and futuristic.
So we thought a category about how cities work at the overview level would capture these outlier submissions and bring an interesting dimension to the conversation.
Our emphasis on practicality and straight talk on this site is what makes us unique and attractive to many people, but every once in a while, we want to dream and just ask questions about probable cause and effect relationships in urban systems overall. So do you.
While urban research from time to time provides evidence of strong support for one theory or another, the difficulties of isolating variables and keeping the measurement accurate as the culture changes still means that much of what makes urban areas function well is still elusive. That's just a fancy way of saying that it will be hard to prove our answers are wrong.
Join in on the fun by completing the invitation form below. When we decide we can say something meaningful about your question, we answer and set it up so that other visitors can disagree with us, add comments, and generally move a discussion forward. Below the form, you can see what others have asked, but we bet your question won't be here yet. Please ask; in this arena, there are definitely no stupid questions.
Would you like to ask the other visitors and the editors a question about what makes cities tick? Here's your place to ask about real or hypothetical cities of the future, and then check back for answers.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors, and answers.
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