Meeting Summary: The Social Reactors Project is a transdisciplinary collaboration of researchers and institutions seeking to establish a theoretical and empirical basis for the study of human settlements through history. Although we acknowledge the tremendous variety in human societies and histories, our goal is to identify common properties of all human settlements, and general processes of growth and decline, in a framework that accommodates both regularity and contingency. We refer to human settlements as social reactors due to their role in concentrating and accelerating social interactions and their outcomes in space and time. This view derives from urban scaling research and the discovery that some emergent properties of modern cities are also present in premodern and even non-urban settlements.
The focus of this meeting will be on the challenges posed by low-density urbanism, and especially ancient Maya civilization, for settlement scaling theory as it is currently developed. We will engage with a group of early career scholars who are interested in complexity science and have expertise in LiDAR mapping and Maya settlement patterns to improve our ability to define and measure the ancient Maya urban system. Through this process, we hope to determine whether or how our framework needs to be adjusted to accommodate low-density urbanism. For more information on our project, see: http://www.colorado.edu/socialreactors/.