University of Gothenburg
Människor i stad
Photo: Shutterstock

Managing Big Cities

Cities are spreading around the world, but what are the mechanisms behind the actual governance and use of these dynamic places? A city is characterized by different meeting places, but also areas, where different interests coincide, and sometimes end up in direct conflict. At GRI, we examine the different forces that operate in a city.

"Managing Big Cities" is a research programme at Gothenburg Research Institute that aims at bridging the gap between two traditional big city studies: those that focus on the intentions of the planners (politicians, city planners, and architects) and those that focus on the citizens, as represented by sociologists, massmedia and artists. In this case, the focus is city management, that is organizational practices within both private and public sector that together built an action net that constitutes the management of the modern big city.

How should a city be run?

Urban studies dedicate much time and attention to perceptions and models of an (ideal) big city, which change together with societal trends and fashions. One thing does not change, though: those perceptions and models are always centered about the issue of order (or lack of it). Even in anarchistic visions of the city there is an order but organically growing, rather than planned.

This issue translates into the language of management into a question, how should a city be run? What kind of order is desirable and how can it be achieved and maintained? While "city users" actively create both chaos and order by the simple fact of living in the city, the "city runners" have, at the end of the day, restore the order so that it can be destroyed the day after. This continuous organizing has always had the same goal, but its means and forms change with management fashions and political ideologies. The present research programme attempts to catch this changing logic of organizing both in managerial practice and in the public discourse about the city.