The role of analytical models and their circulation in urban studies and policy

Clémentine Cottineau, Michael Batty, Itzhak Benenson, Justin Delloye, Erez Hatna, Denise Pumain, Somwrita Sarkar, Cécile Tannier, Rūta Ubarevičienė

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cities are so complex that we constantly build models to represent them, understand them and attempt to plan them. Models represent a middle ground between the singular configurations of cities and universal theories. This is what makes them valuable and prone to circulate (between places, institutions and languages) and evolve to adapt to new ideas, local conditions and/or other models. When it comes to analytical urban models (i.e. analytical representations of cities developed to study or simulate part of their structure or dynamics), there is a lack of academic understanding regarding how context and circulation affect their content, use and interpretation. What happens to analytical urban models and their reception during their circulation across geographical and disciplinary boundaries? How have different academic disciplines interacted with, contributed to and been influenced by analytical urban models? What are the consequences of urban models’ mobility for our understanding of cities? In this article, we employ the policy mobilities framework to analyse the circulation of analytical urban models. We use six canonical models as case studies to determine how their assumptions came about and how these models have circulated across different domains of policy and application by using biographical information and model analysis. The first contribution of the article is to demonstrate by example that our hypothesis regarding the influence of context is consistent. We also show that highly transferable/mobile models share common characteristics relating to contingent factors such as their creators’ biographies, institutional context and the traditional markers of power relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUrban Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • biography
  • circulation
  • contingency
  • mobility
  • simulation
  • urban model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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