Juval Portugali (Tel Aviv University)


From 09:15
to 10:45
From 09:15
to 10:45


Course description

The last decades have witnessed the emergence of two new scientific domains – complexity and cognitive sciences, a process of globalization associated with an unprecedented urban growth, and a global environmental crisis. The central thesis of this course is that these events and phenomena are interrelated: on the one hand, the reality of globalization with its global cities, and findings about brain and cognition, provided the context for the emergence of complexity theory and complexity theories of cities (CTC): global cities at the collective level of society, while cognitive and brain sciences at the level of the individual urban agent. On the other hand, since the 2nd half of the 20th century it is becoming evident that human society’s socio-economic activities threaten the stability, sustainability and resilience of our natural and urban environments. Specifically so since, as from 2008, society entered “the age of cities”: for the first time in human history more than 50% of human population live in cities. In this reality basic environmental issues such as sustainability and resilience are first and foremost urban issues. The aim of this course is to explore the processes of globalization and the sustainability and resilience of our natural and urban environments, through the theoretical lens of a complexity-cognitive approach.



In line with the above, the 24 lectures of the course are planned to develop in three sequential parts, when the last two meetings are devoted to students’ presentations:

Part 1: An introduction to complexity theory and CTC.

Part 2: Globalization, sustainability and resilience in the age of cities.

Part 3: Globalization, Sustainability, resilience and the city: A complexity-cognitive approach.

Part I: Introduction to complexity theory and CTC

1-2. An introduction to the main complexity theories.

3-4. An introduction to CTC.

5-6. Complexity, cognition and the city.

Part II: Globalization, sustainability and resilience in the age of cities.

  1. Founding perspectives on the relations between society and environment.
  2. The environmental crisis of the 21st century: A theory of 4 economic-environmental failures.
  3. Globalization, Global cities and discontent
  4. Urban sustainability and resilience

Part III: Conclusions

11-12. A complexity-cognitive view on Globalization, Sustainability and resilience in the age of cities.

13-14. Students presentations


Evaluation criteria

10% attendance and participation
10% individual out of class discussion with professor
10% oral presentations in class
70% written final research paper.



  1. Batty, M. 2005. Cities and Complexity. MIT press, Cambridge Mass.
  2. Batty, M. 2013. The new Science of Cities. MIT Cambridge Mass.
  3. Haken, H., Portugali, J. 2015. Information adaptation: The interplay between Shannon information and semanticinformation in cognition.SpringerBriefs. Springer, Heidelberg, Berlin.
  4. Portugali, J. 2000. Self-Organization and the City. Springer, Heidelberg.
  5. Portugali, J. (Ed.). 2005. Complex Artificial Environments. Springer, Heidelberg.
  6. Portugali, J. 2011. Complexity, Cognition and the City. Springer, Heidelberg.
  7. Portugali, J., Meyer, H., Stolk, E., and Tan, E. (Eds.) 2012. Complexity Theories of Cities Have Come of Age. Springer, Heidelberg, Berlin.
  8. Portugali, J. and Stolk, E. (Eds.) 2016. Complexity, Cognition Urban Planning and Design. Springer, Heidelberg, Berlin
  9. Sassen, S. 1999. Globalization and its discontents. Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money;
  10. Simon, H.A. 1969/1996. The Science of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
  11. Snow, C.P. 1964. The Two Cultures and a Second Look. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press 
  12. Spencer, H. 1852. A Theory of Population
  13. Stiglitz, J.E. 2002.Globalization and its Discontent. W. W. Norton & Company.


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