Measuring a City's Potential for Social Interaction

There's been a few studies lately about access to fresh food, access to services and whatnot, but what about access to other people?

Well, 'access to people' is tricky (people move around after all) but this article on The Atlantic Cities explores how the potential for social interaction is constrained in cities and highlights some research that has created an indicator for 'social interaction potential'.

In a nutshell, this indicator was applied to the 42 largest regions in the USA, and it found that:
  • The factors that most constrain social interaction potential are decentralisation, fragmentation, and long travel.
  • Social contact opportunities are negatively affected by urban sprawl.
  • Decentralisation affects social interaction potential more than Fragmentation and Commute Duration
  • Intensification of land use through densification and infill will increase the potential for social interaction.
In an interview, one of the authors (Steven Farber) comments:

"If we build cities that isolate people, that don’t allow people to have social contact with one another, we’re at risk of people having lower levels of social capital, of people not being able to depend on their social networks for things"

What do you think? To what extent do you think the form of the city influences potential for social interaction? And what are the implications of less potential for social interaction in our busy lifestyles?

Read more at the Atlantic Cities here. Or check out the original research here.


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