The Development of the U.S. Urban System

The Development of the U.S. Urban System

The Development of the U.S. Urban System

The Development of the U.S. Urban System

Excerpt

This is the second of two volumes about the development of the U.S. urban system. It is a continuation of the concepts, representations, and explanations set forth in the first and thus can only be understood with volume I as background. To this end, we recall the highlights of the study thus far.

In volume I, which began with an attempt to reorient customary ways of looking at urban systems, a basic distinction was made between classificational and relational modes of observing urban regions. We distinguished, further, between different levels of behavioral observation: the object and activity levels of physical processes and the managerial and developmental levels of information processes (see figure 1 in volume I). In turn, each mode of observation was shown to be associated with a representational technique: boundary networks that classify, or relational networks that trace paths of connectivity. The existence of a hierarchy of observational levels yields two conceptual distinctions that shape the entire study. The first recognizes that empirical representation at a single level is merely descriptive. Explanation, however, requires each level to be viewed in the context of other levels (for example, behavioral artifacts explained by the physical activities that produce them; physical activities explained by the managerial processes that regulate them; artifacts, physical activities, and managerial processes all explained by the developmental processes that design and initiate them). A second distinction made in volume I differentiates between the growth of urban regions (which is based on scalar changes in the mix and level of established ways that households and enterprises behave) and the development of urban regions (which involves new ways of doing things triggered by new technologies and extraordinary environmental challenges).

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