09 Hypercity

Director/Producer/Composer: Tom COZENS
Executive Producers: Professor Chris WEBSTER & Dr. Eric SCHULDENFREI
Assistant Producer: Alex TAIT
Production Assistant: Winnie YEUNG
Editor: Nick BRIER

Academic contributor: Professor Chris WEBSTER
Actress: Yi SUN
Actor: Xianwei LONG

As cities grow in size, their so-called externalities – the third-party good and bad spill-over effects from private transactions – grow at a faster rate than population. Crime and traffic congestion, income and patents all tend to grow more rapidly than city population by a factor of 12-13%. This explains the relentless rise of the megacity and means that new forms of regulation and control will be needed. Will the 21st century’s polycentric megacities of 50-100M people require more of the same kind of control systems as the 500K-1M cities of the 20th century? Will it turn out that smart city governance technology has arrived just at the right time – delivering new kinds of automated control systems? Variable traffic speed-limits adjusted in real time, can now keep flows moving at optimal rates to avoid the traffic stop-start ‘waving’ that plagued urban driving for half a century. Automated air and water pollution monitoring, source-tracing, pricing and optimization systems are being developed to support cap-and-trade markets that turn urban externalities into tradable commodities. If smart city tech can solve many of the ‘curses’ of the city, will cities get even larger? What is wrong with ‘large’ if we can all live together happily?

Wu J, Wang Z, Li W & Peng J (2013). Exploring Factors Affecting the Relationship between Light Consumption and GDP Based on DMSP/OLS Nighttime Satellite Imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment, 134, pp. 111-119.

Li X & Nam KM (2017). One Country Two “Urban” Systems: Focusing on Bimodality in China’s City-Size Distribution. Annals of Regional Science 59(2): 427-452.

Nam KM, Zhang X, Zhong M, Saikawa E & Zhang X (2019). Health Effects of Ozone and Particulate Matter Pollution in China: A Province-level CGE Analysis. Annals of Regional Science 63(2): 269-293.

Chau KW & Wong SK (2014). Externalities of urban renewal: a real option perspective. Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 48(3), 546-560.

LU XX, Valin I & Trumpf Susanne (2016). Interstitial Hong Kong.
Project website:

University of Chicago Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation: