Department of Geography
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, NL
Office: SN 2023
Tel: (709) 864-8999
Fax: (709) 864-3119
E mail: email@example.com
I received my PhD in theoretical and economic geography at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, following a BA (honours) in economics and philosophy at Swarthmore College. Prior to coming to Memorial in 1977, I taught at the University of Western Ontario. I have also held visiting positions at McGill University (Montréal), the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Université de Dijon (now Université de Bourgogne), France, the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; a consultancy at Los Alamos National Laboratory; and a residency at the Santa Fe Institute. In 2008-2009 I was the Science Foundation Ireland E.T.S. Walton Visiting Professor in Information and Communication Technologies at the Urban Institute Ireland, University College Dublin.
For a number of years beginning in 1990, I was associated with the Research Institute for Knowledge Systems (RIKS) in Maastricht, The Netherlands, where I collaborated in the development of new techniques for modelling the dynamics of geographical systems, and since 2007 I have been involved with the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) in Mol, Belgium, where I continue to develop new models and modelling techniques aimed at a deeper understanding of change in urban and regional systems.
In general, my geographical research is aimed at understanding cities and regions as complex, self-organizing, dynamic systems. Currently I am using cellular automata as a tool for modelling land use change as well as change in the spatial distribution of population and economic activities, and then using these models as a platform for integrating models of other related phenomena—for example, economic, demographic, and environmental models. These integrated models provide insight into the complex ways that natural and human systems behave as they interact with each other. Currently they are being tested as decision support and planning tools by the Dublin Regional Authority (Ireland), the Flemish Region (Belgium), the Plan Board of Puerto Rico, and others.
Since geographical systems, like the social and economic systems that underlie them, are characterised by the emergence of new entities, and new relationships linking them to existing elements of the system, much of my current research is focussed on ways of modelling emergence. To date almost all formal research in this area has dealt with the appearance of new patterns or structures within a given dynamical system. An example would be the spontaneous appearance of large scale circulation patterns like hurricanes. A more challenging problem is the emergence of new types of entities, together with their relations with existing elements of the system—an emergence which transforms the system into another, different system. This is a problem of central importance, since this type of emergence is the fundamental driver of change in human systems. How does a system evolve? That is, how does it cease to be the system that it was and become a new system, a system composed of different—novel—elements, within a new structure, one characterized by different properties and functions?
It is important to develop a formal understanding of such systems because they are the ones that we live in, and evolutionary changes to these systems are the most significant ones that they undergo. For example, changes to the structure of an economy, in terms of institutions, technology, and products are in the long run more significant than the sort of phenomena dealt with by current theory, such as changes in price or output level. Clearly, there are practical benefits to being able to understand and foresee the major outlines of the possible ways our future may unfold, and the consequences of our actions today for our possible futures. The aim is to develop a formal framework for understanding emergence and structural evolution. In this work I am collaborating with colleagues in computer science and philosophy.
A complete list of publications can be found on my Google Scholar author page: R White
If you are unable to download a paper that interests you, please e-mail me.
Roger White, Guy Engelen and Inge Uljee. 2015. Modeling Cities and Regions as Complex Systems: From Theory to Planning Applications. MIT Press. 344 pp., 93 b&w illus., 17 tables, 15 color plates. ISBN: 9780262331364.
This book describes the theory and practice of modeling the spatial dynamics of urban growth and transformation. The approach is based on the theory of self-organizing systems. The book presents a series of cellular automata (CA) based computational models. It also provides discussions of the theoretical, methodological, and philosophical issues that arise from the models. Case studies illustrate the use of the models in urban and regional planning. Finally, the book presents a new, dynamic theory of urban spatial structure that emerges from the models and their applications.
A few classics: