I am Associate Professor at Northeastern University in the departments of Art + Design and Public Policy, where I lead the graduate program in Information Design and Visualization. I received my PhD in Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hold a Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, and a Dipl. Ing. in Architecture from the Technical University Vienna. I worked as Key Researcher at the Austrian Ludwig Boltzmann Institute and the Ars Electronica Futurelab and professor in the Interface Culture program of the Art University Linz, Austria. I am currently visiting scholar at Harvard Metalab and was recently a fellow at the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities.
Waste Systems and Infrastructure Legibility
My research focuses on emerging practices of making infrastructures legible through sensing, data analysis, and participatory methods and on the role of these practices in infrastructure governance. My monograph Waste is Information introduces the field of waste forensics to study waste systems at a global scale and their informal dimensions. I study also the role of 311 citizen reporting apps in urban governance and the motivations of volunteers using these apps.
Visualization and Data Materiality
My recent work investigates the material aspects of environmental data collection and their role in visual evidence construction in environmental conflicts. Data by Proxy – Material Traces as Autographic Visualizations introduces a design theory for revealing material traces. It is based on an earlier work with Orkan Telhan on indexicality. I developed physical visualizations of air pollution and a way for visualizing ground-level ozone pollution using indicator plants. I also study epistemic issues connected to data proxies – the appropriation of data collected for unrelated purposes.
Organizational Improvisation in Urban Data Platforms
Through qualitative methods, I investigate the unpredictable creative forces of improvisation and bricolage to build, maintain, and subvert urban data platforms. The Improstructure study (with K. Schechtner) investigates improvisational policy making and the social practices around electricity and streetlight provision in Manila in the context of infrastructure datafication efforts. The platform and the bricoleur studies practices of improvisation in the context of smart city initiatives in Indonesia.
Urban Soundscapes, Noise, and Auditory Perspectives
Since the early 2000’s, I have worked with soundartists to study the role of the auditory sense for the qualities of urban places. Recently, I have worked with Philips and the City of Los Angeles to deploy a distributed sensor network to study urban noise beyond the traditional dB(a) metric. With sound artist Sam Auinger, I have published a series of articles on auditory urbansim and am currently working on a chapter about the soundscape of Alexanderplatz in Berlin for the upcoming Handbook of the Anthropology of Sound.