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Making spatial sense of historical social data

Nadia Charalambous, Ilaria Geddes


Analysing the relationship between urban form and society through time is key to understanding the patterns of socio-spatial phenomena observable in contemporary cities and the mechanisms through which such phenomena unfold. The engagement of space syntax research with historical comparative studies of urban form has opened up possibilities for studying the relationship between urban development and social phenomena through time. The theory and methods of space syntax have a positive contribution to make to this research agenda. They need, however, to be better integrated within a multifaceted research framework. While space syntax provides a reliable methodology to compare the city’s urban form at different points in time, the evolution of a city’s spatial structure is only one component of the processes which shape the city as a social entity.

In recent years, relational theories such as Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and assemblage theory have highlighted the value of integrating different social science approaches in the analysis of social entities if we are to truly understand the complex processes which define the ways in which the social is realised in urban form. Although the implications of these theories in geography and urban studies have been widely explored, their relevance to space syntax research has received little attention. A meditation on their possible relationship informs the research presented in this paper. Drawing on key findings of an ongoing research project into the relation between social and spatial changes in the city of Nicosia through time (1883-2014), the argument advanced is that a critical reflection on the ways in which syntactical theory can engage with approaches from other disciplines is needed to inform methodological developments and facilitate the better interpretation of research findings in making spatial sense of historical social data.


Diachronic analysis, urban histories, assemblage theory, space syntax, Nicosia.

Full Text: JOSS_2015_P81-101