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Hardcover | $34.00 Short | £27.95 | 280 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 31 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036733
eBook | $24.00 Short | October 2017 | ISBN: 9780262342209
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Waste Is Information

Infrastructure Legibility and Governance
Foreword by Carlo Ratti


Waste is material information. Landfills are detailed records of everyday consumption and behavior; much of what we know about the distant past we know from discarded objects unearthed by archaeologists and interpreted by historians. And yet the systems and infrastructures that process our waste often remain opaque. In this book, Dietmar Offenhuber examines waste from the perspective of information, considering emerging practices and technologies for making waste systems legible and how the resulting datasets and visualizations shape infrastructure governance. He does so by looking at three waste tracking and participatory sensing projects in Seattle, São Paulo, and Boston.

Offenhuber expands the notion of urban legibility—the idea that the city can be read like a text—to introduce the concept of infrastructure legibility. He argues that infrastructure governance is enacted through representations of the infrastructural system, and that these representations stem from the different stakeholders’ interests, which drive their efforts to make the system legible. The Trash Track project in Seattle used sensor technology to map discarded items through the waste and recycling systems; the Forager project looked at the informal organization processes of waste pickers working for Brazilian recycling cooperatives; and mobile systems designed by the city of Boston allowed residents to report such infrastructure failures as potholes and garbage spills. Through these case studies, Offenhuber outlines an emerging paradigm of infrastructure governance based on a
complex negotiation among users, technology, and the city.

About the Author

Dietmar Offenhuber is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Art + Design and Public Policy at Northeastern University, where he heads the Information Design and Visualization graduate program.


“In this remarkable book, Offenhuber asks us to look at the infrastructure of waste management to shed new light on the most pressing issues facing digital society—how data are sourced, used, and governed. Both intellectually rigorous and practical, this book will change the way academics and urban practitioners think about the unseen information landscape.”
Eric Gordon, Professor and Director, Engagement Lab at Emerson College
“In this fascinating and enlightening book, Dietmar Offenhuber extends our thinking with respect to waste, infrastructure, and urban and environmental governance. Casting waste as information, he exposes the spatialities, temporalities, and systems governing waste management by examining how data are used to capture, process, track, analyze, and control waste infrastructure across geographic scales. The result is an engaging and thought-provoking read that will be of interest not only to those concerned with waste but also to those concerned with infrastructure, the Internet of Things, and data-driven governance.”
Rob Kitchin, National University of Ireland Maynooth