Cybernetic Maintenance: Exploring Infrastructure Legibility of Waste Systems at MIT


If Waste is Information, what can be learned from an understanding of waste management at MIT as a complex information system? Through engaging people with their role within a waste system, can relations to and practices of waste management change?

This thesis presents a case study for making and evaluating context- driven and critical civic games in partnership with local organisations. Working with waste management and sustainability efforts on campus, I explore issues with waste at MIT as a 'crisis of representation', drawing on ideas from systems theory, participatiory urbanism, environmental psychology and game design to develop a new 'systems image' of waste on campus. Through two controlled studies, I examine the potentials and limitations of such work for changing attitudes and behaviours, and the pitfalls of attempting to separate educational interventions from their infrastructural context. More generally, this project contributes to an understanding of how we might use participatory, critical and exploratory games to make legible complex civic systems, and the role of that legibility in changing both individuals, and the systems themselves. 

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