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Where William Whyte’s successors are taking urban science

The science of cities has come a long way since the 1960s, when Jane Jacobs published her seminal critique of urban planning and sociologist William Whyte conducted groundbreaking observations of how people use public spaces. Whyte helped inspire the founding of the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces, which has posted an overview of recent articles on the evolution of urban science.

Today, urban science harnesses futuristic technologies. For example, brainwave headsets and sensors can measure everything from the duration of a person’s gaze to cerebral activity, experimental psychologist Colin Ellard writes in The Guardian.

Urban scientists are also studying how technology impacts people in cities. As the New York Times Magazine notes here, Whyte’s successors have examined the ubiquity of cellphones in urban settings and how these devices impact human interaction. 

Another frontier is the study of happiness. A recent book, Happy City, by Charles Montgomery examines how long commutes, mind-numbing sprawl and other vestiges of city life affect our well-being. Click here for the New York Times review of the book. 

Project for Public Spaces

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