|Are these both cities? Teo and Tikal at the same scale|
My thinking these days has shifted slightly. I am less concerned now with coming up with complete definitions of city and urban than with exploring the different kinds of features that make up the concept of urban. The different definitions of urbanism (the two I have discussed, and others as well) vary in the weight given to three main features: Population, complexity, and influence. Settlements can be urban-like on one, two, or all three of these dimensions. The one we choose to emphasize depends on our goals.
In the traditional (demographic) definition of urbanism, population is of primary importance -- both the number of people and the density per unit of area. For the functional definition of cities, the population doesn't matter much. Right now, in our project on semi-urban settlements, population is the most important attribute. These are places like refugee camps and internment camps that are formed rapidly, and we are looking to see whether they have neighborhood organization. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter whether these places exhibit social complexity, or influence on a hinterland. What makes them "semi-urban" or city-like is their aggregation of people in one place. Similarly, Roland Fletcher's important work on settlement size (Fletcher 1995) is about the role of population size and population density on human settlement dynamics.
|My university campus|
|Urban influence: capital city (Addis Ababa)|
Population, complexity and influence capture much of what we usually mean when we talk about concepts of the city or urban settlement. Most definitions of city and urban can be constructed from variations in these three factors. But sometimes we learn more by focusing less on such definitions and more on the individual dimensions. These three factors, and the ways they vary across time and space, are crucial components of the wide urban world
1995 The Limits of Settlement Growth: A Theoretical Outline. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Smith, Michael E.
2008 Aztec City-State Capitals. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
1938 Urbanism as a Way of Life. American Journal of Sociology 44:1-24.