Doing Global Urban Research
- John Harrison - Loughborough University, UK
- Michael Hoyler - Loughborough University, UK
Whether you are an urban geographer, an urban sociologist or an urban political scientist, and whether you take a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods approach, the challenge that confronts researchers of our increasingly "globalized" urban studies remains fundamentally the same—how to make sense of urban complexity.
This book confronts this challenge by exploring the various methodological approaches for doing global urban research, including Comparative Urbanism, Social Network Analysis, and Data Visualization. With contributions from leading scholars across the world, Doing Global Urban Research offers a key forum to discuss how the practice of research can deepen our knowledge of globalized urbanization.
Doing Global Urban Research
Under the straight-forward title Doing Global Urban Research the editors John Harrison and Michael Hoyler bring together articles on the approaches to ‘globalized’ urban research. The volume highlights the strengths and weaknesses of different disciplinary perspectives to the global urban. The volume begins and closes with the question ‘what constitutes global urban research’, because research done 'in' global cities and mega regions itself does not have to use explicitly global methodologies or reflect the global as an epistemological fundament. The editors’ identification of scales on which to approach a global research agenda and the trends in the development of methodologies, gives a good overview of the potential of the field. Macro-level approaches look at developments and interdependencies in urbanization in a removed perspective: they work with cartographic and analytic approaches that allow the visualization of global urbanization (Nikos Katsikis, Chapter 2). The meso-level approaches emphasize differences in development of urbanization and take the comparative route. Micro-level studies explore individual cities and trace the mutual shaping of global and local levels. These levels can interact in concrete research designs, according to the research question and unit of analysis.
The authors of the volume emphasize that there is no one way to doing global urban research. The focal points of research that arise in these methodological approaches vary regarding spatial, temporal, material and phenomenological aspects. Some researchers follow individual and collective agents’ (who, why) role in shaping urbanization processes (where and how) and how they interact with global and transnational economic and political developments.
Historical approaches to the global urban stress not only the spatial component or scale, but also the temporality and processuality of urbanization. Longitudinal research methodology (Katherine Gough, Chapter 14) or archival work can be helpful in understanding the development of global (urban) networks over time. The third trend in global urban research which the authors stress concerns the transdisciplinary and philosophically diverse background from which the field draws inspiration. Global urban research furthermore engages with diverse locales, and should therefore use and develop methods that make sense for the studied phenomena. Lastly, the book highlights that collaborative and technology-assisted empirical research designs and philosophical engagement is a mayor trend. Tim Bunnell (Chapter 13) reflects on the strategic and day-to-day strengths and weaknesses of multi-sited ethnographic research. Digitalization of data and discussions of data cross-site can bring fruitful inspiration to the research process, although the time and resource limitations of academic jobs may limit ability to engage thoroughly in the method.
The book is meant to stimulate both students and senior researchers. The chapters formulate calls to action by engaging the question why their research area is worthwhile, what challenges may arise, which techniques are required to be learned, different case studies from the respective fields and reflections on the field as a whole. Furthermore, the authors in Doing Global Urban Research engage the problematic epistemological perspective, namely methodological cityism, which like its nation state centric pendant too can limit the scope of study. They call on researcher to not do research ‘in’ the city, but ‘of’ the city, thus not of life in the city but of the production of cities in the context of events and transformations on other spatial scales.
Harrison and Hoyler’s edited volume Doing Global Urban Research approaches the global-local-nexus from the perspective of transdisciplinary Urban Studies. They engage with methodologies of visible representation, mixed-methods and multi-sited research designs, and invite researchers to design their research as reflective of spatial and temporal dimensions of urbanization. Other collections may go deeper into conceptual critique and debate, but this volume has the benefit that it sets relatively clear paths for design decisions to be made by students and researchers, gives interesting case studies as illustrations of the research and reflects on strengths and weaknesses of the respective approaches. It is a honest albeit condensed look at research.
Sample Materials & Chapters
Making Sense of the Global Urban