Changing cities
Changing cities

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Changing cities

2 Acting locally in a world of connections

Places – the specific towns, cities, regions or neighbourhoods in which people find themselves living and working – are often presented as being increasingly at the mercy of ‘global’ forces, whether these are economic processes, social and cultural movements of people and ideas or natural processes of environmental change. Globalisation is presented as something to which places, localities or cities just have to respond and adjust. It is also often presented in disempowering terms, as if all places have to engage in a competitive race-to-the-bottom in search of foreign investment, slashing business taxes, relaxing planning regulations or lowering employment standards in the hope of attracting the attention of footloose capital. This kind of ‘globalisation’ narrative, in which places are at the mercy of the whims of fickle global investors, is just one example of how academic descriptions of cities or places are not simply neutral observations.

Fields such as geography, urban studies or planning theory are very active participants in the processes which shape decision making in cities and around urbanisation processes. In defining ‘the city’ as a distinct space, separate from ‘the rural’ or ‘the suburbs’, these academic fields help to make urban places knowable in particular ways. More specifically, they help to make them visible as objects of interventions of different kinds.

So, it matters how we imagine the spaces of urban life, because this helps to shape the sorts of agency that are ascribed to places. Places can be thought of:

  • as causes of particular problems
  • as potential spaces to convene public support for policy responses
  • as political actors empowered to address public concerns.

The framework of critical spatial thinking developed in this course is designed to help you think through these issues of agency in context-sensitive ways.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371