A people-based density perspective on physical/virtual world spaces in the microcosmic city

David A. Plane, Wangshu Mu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Electronic and cyber-based methods of conducting transactions have reduced the role of propinquity across a large spectrum of civic activities. Simultaneously, however, technological advances affecting many realms of commerce and culture have increased the necessity and desire for face-to-face contact. Ceding substantial portions of our time to the virtual realm has, curiously, enhanced the importance of local-scale, physical world interactions. In this paper we focus on an elemental concept in urban development and planning: population density. Given that individual lives are now carried out within both physical and virtual spaces, we detail the advantages for land use policy of deploying density measures that are “people-based” rather than areal based. Such metrics provide a rich perspective reflecting planning-relevant geographies of spatial interaction. Rather than restricting density calculation to pre-specified areal units, such as municipalities, neighborhoods, census tracts, city blocks, or land parcels, we propose the deployment of “perceived” density surfaces that yield point-specific values for a set of bespoke values operationalizing critically relevant time-distance thresholds. We suggest embedding walking density, cycling density, and auto-travel density into the formulation and evaluation of land use decisions. In addition to being useful for many practical purposes, threshold-based perceived density provides an interesting conceptual framework for examining how individuals experience and interact within a spectrum of surrounding, microcosmic world spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104462
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Activity patterns
  • Land use policy
  • Physical versus virtual spaces
  • Population density
  • Time geography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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