WIT Press

City out of chaos: Social patterns and organization in urban systems


Free (open access)


Volume 1 (2006), Issue 2



Page Range

126 - 135

Paper DOI



WIT Press


R.M. Pulselli, C. Ratti, E. Tiezzi


This research develops innovative approaches for urban studies, applying the theories of evolutionary physics and ecosystems to urban systems and defining a theoretical interdisciplinary approach. A new social positioning method for monitoring urban mobility, named Mobile Landscapes, studies the space—time behaviour of urban society. This project uses location-based data from cell phones to reveal the locations and intensities of urban activities (people using space) and to analyse mobility patterns in cities. An aim of the Mobile Landscapes project is to investigate human dynamics. Considering a city as a place of interactions between humans and the built environment, maps of social activity reveal how urban—social systems have self-adaptive properties like complex dissipative systems. Focusing on dynamic patterns of urban—social activity, this project highlights the role of time in urban processes and takes an evolutionary approach to urban planning and design. The case study described in this paper is based on data from cell phone antennas in the metropolitan area of Milan, Italy.


complex system, dissipative structure, ecosystem, mobile landscapes, mobility pattern, self-organization, social behaviour, urban system