Something old, something new, and something borrowed: defining urbanity I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Plaza Court 4, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Organizers: Jaana Vanhatalo, Michael Commons
Chairs: Jaana Vanhatalo


This session is part of a session series, which includes two paper sessions (I-II) and a panel session (III).
The urban environment is a dynamic, emergent formation resulting from the interplay between a variety of phenomena, from social and cultural to economic and ecological processes. These processes and their interrelations are complex and multifaceted. The common denominator for these is the platform - the city. However, the definition of the city, or the urban area, is most often ambiguous. Although the world is changing as a result of urbanization affecting the spatial and functional dependencies in urban regions, the official definitions of the urban areas and the methods of identifying them have remained surprisingly traditional and fixed. Such dualistic view between the city and the countryside has been questioned for decades in urban theory, enabling alternative approaches to define urbanity.

In 2016 United Nations launched a collaborative project with European Commission to study the global applicability of the EU method for urban and rural area classification (i.e. the Degree of Urbanization; DEGURBA). Currently, the method is under scrutiny and the initial results are being evaluated and discussed. However, several questions arise: can there be a single universal definition for urban areas? Is it possible to define urban areas using quantitative measures alone? Should other methods or criteria be used to classify various types of urban areas? Do we need to define urban and rural areas?

The key issues regarding the challenge of defining the urban area could include the following:
- Critical views towards existing / universal definitions and criteria.
- What kind of new quantitative methods could be used to define urban, or rural, areas?
- What are the data-related challenges in defining urban areas?
- Can urban areas be defined entirely without the qualitative measures?
- What are the key characteristics of urbanity when defining urban areas?
- Why do we need urban area definitions? How should they be used?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Emily Molfino*, U.S. Census Bureau, Shawn Bucholtz, Housing and Urban Development, Jed Kolko, Indeed, Building an Urban, Suburban, and Rural Indicator 15 8:00 AM
Presenter Michael Commons*, U.S. Bureau Of the Census, Heterogeneity of Settlement Patterns on the Landscape: Spatially Contextualizing Urban-Rural Gradients 15 8:15 AM
Presenter Todd Gardner*, U.S. Bureau Of the Census, Micropolitan Areas 1960-2010 15 8:30 AM
Presenter Opeyemi Zubair*, Tarleton State University, Urban Growth and the Dynamics of Urban Landscape Change: the case of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the State of Texas, United States 15 8:45 AM
Presenter Greg Yetman*, , Kytt MacManus, CIESIN, Columbia University, Jane Mills, CIESIN, Columbia University, Using VIIRs for urban mapping: selected projects at SEDAC 15 9:00 AM

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