Cities in the Third Wave: The Technological Transformation of Urban America

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Cities in the Third Wave: The Technological Transformation of Urban America Leonard I. Ruchelman

  • Group:

  • Peter Heller

  • Kate McCauley

  • Adam Neumeyer

The Transformation of Urban America

  • Preindustrial

  • Industrial

  • Postindustrial

Preindustrial Cities

  • Small populations (typically less than 30,000 people)

  • Small size allowed for personal networks between friends, family and businesses

  • Small scale manufacturing limited by hand tools, hydraulic power, and the use of animals

  • Located on waterfronts/ mill sites (functioned as market centers)

Industrial Cities

  • Sudden rapid increase in the population of cities

    • Growth in Western cities
  • Railroad

    • Rail Mileage Grew Rapidly
    • Steam-powered locomotive – Western development
    • Connected the East and West coast
  • Mass Production

    • Huge new factories
  • Steam Power

    • Provider of industrial power
  • Steel

    • Upgrade from iron
  • Inventions – telephone, light bulb, refrigerated rail cars

  • Improvements - Street surfacing, public lighting, water and sewerage systems

From Urban Concentration to Suburban Deconcentration

  • In 1950 23% of Population in United States lived in suburbs

  • In 1960 31% of Population in United States lived in suburbs

  • In 1990 46% of Population in United States lived in suburbs

The Great Migration: Population Decline of Ten Major Old-Line Cities

Other Changes in the Metropolis

  • Decline in Central City Employment

  • Jobs move to the suburbs

  • Those that need jobs the most do not have them

  • Metropolis changes to Megalopolis


  • Large urbanized area around a certain city

  • Boston to Washington, D.C.

  • Florida peninsula

  • Northern California

  • Southern California

Global Restructuring

  • Geographic location means nothing

  • Manufacturing jobs leave United States

  • Advanced technology helps regions grow

Ten Metropolitan Regional Economies with the Highest growth

Ten Metropolitan Regional Economies with the Lowest growth Rates (ranked by change in rate of output

Third Wave Technologies

  • Telecommunication Systems

  • Wireless Communications

  • Internet and the Worldwide Information Explosion

  • Electronic Applications

  • Technological Reshaping of Work

  • Information Technology and the Emergence of New Spatial Patterns

Telecommunication Systems

  • Foundations

    • Telegraph
    • Telephone
  • Methods of Communications

    • Analog
    • Digital
  • Computers

    • Vacuum tubes
    • Transistor Circuits
      • Computer chips

Wireless Communications

  • Invented in 1896 by Guglielmo Marconi

  • Four types: one-way receiver, two-way dispatch, two-way mobile/portable phones, and two-way data

  • Many uses: tracking, communications

  • 22,000 transmission sites in U.S., with 100,000 more in next ten years

The Internet is Born

  • Prior to its introduction, there were only small “islands” of communication

  • Introduction in 1969 limited use to four sites that possessed text based computerized switches (ARPANET)

  • Enormous growth (1990- 313,000 users/ 1992- < 1,000,000)

  • Multiple benefits:

    • Allows anyone to transmit any message to millions of recipients
    • Quick and easy global communication
    • Large stores of information

Electronic Applications

  • Virtual Museums

  • Libraries connected to the Internet

  • Electronic College Campuses

  • Telemedicine

  • Electronic Banking/Financial Services

    • Smart Cards
  • Teleshopping

Transformation of Jobs

  • Increasing computers = increasing downsizing

  • Disappearance of the traditional job (agriculture, services, ect.)

  • Changing job locations

  • Expanding the range of services

Information Technology and the Emergence of New Spatial Patterns

  • Front Office Functions

  • Routine Back-Office Functions

  • Goods and Distribution

  • Complex Office Work

Types Of Cities

  • Headquarters Cities

  • Innovation Centers

  • Module Production Places

  • Border Cities

  • Retirement Centers

  • Leisure-Tourism Playgrounds

  • Edge Cities

Headquarters Cities

  • Also known as World, Global, or Capital Cities

  • Characteristics of Headquarter Cities

    • Leaders in global markets for commodities and investment capital, foreign exchange, equities, and bonds
    • High concentration of corporate headquarters
    • Locations of national and international headquarters of trade and professional associations
    • Locations for national and international media organizations, news and information services
    • Major cultural capitals

New York

  • Financial Capital

  • Leads in advertising and law

    • Computer and engineering services are drawn to the suburbs
  • Wall Street prospers = New York prospers

  • Site of a new high tech sector

    • Silicon Alley
  • Cultural Capital

  • Popular destination for tourist

  • Immigrants

Los Angeles

  • Military defense expenditures

    • High-technology telecommunications center
      • Manage military
  • Location on Pacific Rim

    • Trade between the West and the East
    • Diversity of ethnic groups
    • Rapid growth of foreign trade
  • Financial hub of the Western U.S.

Innovation Centers

  • R&D Centers are self-sustaining

  • Key Sectors: electronics and telematics, biotechnology, aerospace, nuclear technology, medical technology, environmental technology and space.

  • Examples Silicon Valley, Route 128

Modular Production Places

  • Places where routine tasks are preformed

  • Examples: production of cars and processing of magazine subscriptions

  • Places: Detroit and Newark

Border Cities

  • Labor Centers

    • Large Immigrant Populations
  • Trade and financial centers

    • Importing, marketing, and distributing goods
  • Utilized by the very wealthy Latin Americans

    • Shopping
    • Recreation
    • Wealth Security


  • Strategically positioned between North and South America and the Caribbean

    • Leading gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Immigration of large numbers of Latin Americans

    • Bilingual Spanish speaking residents
  • Globalization of the world economy

    • Eliminated Trade Barriers
  • Tourism

  • Foreign Banking

Retirement Centers

  • Increasing numbers of people (b/c growth and life expectancy)

  • Relocation

  • Consequences:

  • - communities have to deal with changes in pensions, social security and medicare

  • - lower industrial development

Leisure-Tourism Playgrounds

  • One of the largest industries in the United States

    • The United States is the second most popular travel destination in the world
  • Consist of theme parks, gambling casinos, consumer shopping centers, sports arenas, and exhibition centers

Las Vegas

  • Developed gambling as a major industry

    • Spurs growth and lower unemployment
    • Economic backbone of Las Vegas
      • 30% of all jobs are in hotels, gaming, and recreation
  • Fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation

  • There is no corporate or personal income tax

Edge Cities

  • Defined as:” high-order multifunctional centers which have emerged in the outer suburban areas”

  • Appeared in the 1950’s b/c of automobiles and communication technology

  • Three types:

    • Uptowns
    • Boomers
    • Greenfields
      • Are they real communities?

Cities in the Third Wave

  • The Role of Growth Coalitions in Cities

  • “Citistates” in the Global Economy

  • Cities as Entertainment Centers

  • Suburban Sprawl and Political Fragmentation

  • The Prognosis for Core Cities and Older Metros

The Role of Growth Coalitions in Cities

  • Urban restructuring is shaped by continuously changing economic conditions

  • Issue of domination results in an uneven capacity to attract growth, which in turn provides advantages and disadvantages to groups

“Citistates” in the Global Economy

  • A metropolitan area

  • Stimulated by advancements in telecommunications, trade agreements

  • Source of entrepreneurial leadership

Cities in Pursuit of Niche Markets

  • Cities create a certain draw

  • Examples gambling, tourism, convention centers, back-office operations

  • Problems get dumped on poor cities

Cities as Entertainment Centers

  • High-tech fun

    • Sports arenas, cultural centers, entertainment-enhanced retailing, and urban theme parks
      • Restore central cities
      • Bring back what they have been losing to the suburbs

Suburban Sprawl and Political Fragmentation

  • Suburbs healthiest parts of the metropolitan economy

  • Technology makes possible a spatial leapfrogging pattern

  • Edge cities and Industrial Parks

  • Segregation of income groups

    • Gated Communities

Are Core Cities Doomed?

  • While futurists are skeptical, their success depends on many variables.

  • Negative Pulls:

    • Business relocation
    • Technological advances
    • Social problems
    • Declining economy
    • Growth of diverging jobs/ job skills
  • Positive Pulls:

    • Central business locations
    • Population lifestyles
    • Environmental factors
    • Environment for innovation
    • Urbanized economies


  • All cities must be able to adapt to change in order to progress.

  • “Remember that the measure of a civilization is not the tools it owns, but the use it makes of them.”

  • –L. Ruchelman

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