An essential question, social and geographical, is why do we live where we do? What is the sorting process that brings about the patterning and clustering that we observe in the city? There is no “sorting hat” as was the case in the creation of school groups in the Harry Potter books, but there is a sorting process that brings about clustering and patterns of residential districts in cities. How does this sorting work -who do we choose to live with – and what are the roles of choices, preferences and constraints on the decisions that we make about where to live?
The presentation begins with the work of Thomas Schelling and explores how the ideas of self-selection are central in creating the neighborhoods in our cities and towns. But it is more than just what individuals do, there is an institutional role, as well as an individual role in the creation of urban neighborhoods. Institutions often set the playing field, they construct the board on which we move from one place to another. Recent experiments with agent based models reaffirms the enduring strength of self- selection and choice within constraints.