Describing Cities, Suburbs, and the Places in Between

by  NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Do you live in the slurbs? Work in an Exit Ramp Economy? These are only a few of the concepts identified by Taylor and Lang in a list published in the The Shock Of The New: 100 concepts describing recent urban change. It is a pretty amazing list. I’ve provided the 50 concepts below that have been developed to talk about the edges of cities.

City Lists

Many of these terms appeared in the 50s and 60s as our society and researchers began to grapple with and describe the vast changes at the edge of cities, such as “Rururbia,” Slurbs,” and “Urban Galaxy.” New terms were also invented as the economy of cities and the geography of employment changed in the 80s and 90s,  such as “net of mixed beads” and “edge city.”

The list, which was published in 2004, would certainly be longer today. For example we could add to it Richard Florida’s Mega Regions and Megalopolis, John Kasandra’s Aerotropolis, and Ryan Avents Gated City.  The popularity of some of the terms over time can been seen in the chart below. Exopolis, Edge City and Penturbia seem to be on the rise.  Do we really need all these concepts? It is helpful to urban studies?

Google Ngram Viewer Results for eight terms

Google Ngram Viewer Results for Eight Terms

Taylor and Lang do not think so. In fact, they “suspect that there is more than a little incoherent thinking abroad in contemporary urban studies.”

Clearly, there is a time and place for many of these concepts. Our cities outgrow some and require new ones when older concepts are found lacking. For example, Slurbs seems to have peaked in the 60s, Outer City in the 80s. Overall, a very interesting list that probably tells us as much about the people studying cities as it does about cities themselves.