Mathematics of Culture, or How to Count the Cultural Character of a City?

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The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences

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The purpose of this article is to critically discuss the methodology for measuring the so-called urban scenes and cultural dimensions of the city proposed by the contemporary Chicago school. The article consists of four parts. In the first part, the author presents the assumptions of the scenes theory and the concept of “cultural dimensions”, called by the authors of the theory “grammar of culture”. Furthermore, the author presents the assumptions of the quantitative measurement of urban cultural scenes and cultural dimensions of the city, i.e. the so-called “mathematics of culture”. It presents basic measures and methods of measurement, including the so-called Performance Score, cultural profiles, cultural dimensions, cultural types, and cultural dynamics of cities. In the third part the author discusses the weaknesses of the proposed approach and the difficulties of its application in Polish conditions, pointing out, above all, the shortcomings of the approach connected with the underdetermination of variables and the level of analysis, the subjectivity of coding by the method of competent judges and the cultural burden of analyses, as well as the unavailability of data of sufficient detail. The author also shares their experiences in trying to overcome the limitations encountered in the research process. The article concludes by indicating the directions of development of the discussed approach.


This article was added to the Knowledge Bank in January, 2023.


scene theory, cultural urban studies, urban cultural character measurement


Ask: Research and Methods. Volume 30, Issue 1 (2021), pp. 81-104