NuLab and Art + Design Assistant Professor Dietmar Offenhuber, the Program Coordinator for the Information Design and Visualization graduate offerings, has received the Austrian Scientists in North America (ASciNA) Award 2017, specifically given to young researches with excellent scientific publications. Offenhuber won the Young Principal Investigator prize, the primary award category, for his book Waste Is Information.

Offenhuber’s book investigates waste systems from a design perspective, examining three waste tracking and sensing projects in Seattle, Sao Paulo, and Boston. In each case, he explores how datasets and visualizations used to make waste systems legible shape civic governance of infrastructure. Each city was chosen for its specific qualities. Seattle is one of the most environmentally advanced cities in the United States, and ships a significant portion of its recyclables and electronics to Asia and elsewhere in the States. Sao Paolo is the origin point of Latin America’s waste picker movement, and the government has innovatively integrated the movement into its waste system. Boston is a leader in Civic Technology, and is pursuing using new technologies to integrate the needs of its citizens into its governance.

The book takes into account how each actor in a waste system – ranging from the public works department, to activists, to field operators, to citizens – has an incomplete view of the system. Offenhuber reveals that these obscured views strongly shape how the waste system in the city is treated and discussed, with the perception of those in power having a larger impact on waste policy.

Offenhuber’s research is useful for architects, planners, sociologists, and designers interested in studying urban informatics, as well as social and cultural practices tied to infrastructures. The NuLab congratulates Offenhuber on his achievement! More information can be found here.