Sunday, October 10, 2010

Density and the City

In the article Population Density and the City, Amos H. Hawley suggests that both social and physical systems within a city experience adverse effects when their respective densities increase beyond tolerances set by their geographic boundaries. He further postulates that if a cities boundaries do not eventually increase along with population growth, that they will experience among other thigns "an impersonality in relation- ships, a view of one's fellows as means to ends, and in general an exploitative attitude of persons toward one another".

However, as much as his research guides him to believe this line of thinking, during his process of citing sociological studies, he seems to refute his own findings, and does not bring up many unique points of view that are supported by any others without some degree of controversy.

If not for the fact that he does acknowledge this fact, it would seem that this article really doesn't say much, other than that overcrowding of social and physical networks is annoying. He does seem to almost be ruminating competing theories about the effects of such a state.

For example, he lists the negative effects of density: 1.) Interference with goal attainment. 2.) Deprivation of gratification. 3.) Intrapersonal incompatibility of values and motives. 4.) Overload of demands and claims from others. 5.) Interpersonal opposition arising from incompativle claims to scarce facilities and rewards. 6.) Failures of support for norm-following behavior, and 7.) Involuntary exposure to noxious stimuli. (Ambiguous?)

Then, he shows us the flipside. A list of positive factors:
1.) Institutional support for goal attainment. 2.) Unparralleled opportunity for gratification. 3.) Opportunity for selective association felative to compatibility of values and motives. 4.) Overload of opportunity and stimulation. 5.) Mutual assistance in achieving access to scarce facilities and rewards. 6.) Easy availability of like-minded associates for support in norm following behavior, and 7.) Involuntary exposure to education, cosmopolitanism and innovative ideas.

It would seem, per Amos, that for every problem introduced by an ever-expanding population, there is an equal and opposite re-action, or set of upsides which fly in the face of this said adversity.

Maybe this is what he meant by "equilibrium" being reached in these systems.

Through the rest of the article, it is difficult to ascertain what measures he has taken to support his claims to historical reference, due mostly to the formatting of the paper, as well as the ambiguity of his source material. His final claim does warrant some attention, although it seems almost common knowledge, he argues that "...there is a growing need for innovation in the redesigning of urban systems in order to accommodate the mounting flows of communications while preserving integration in the system."

I suppose I would agree to that.


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