Dietmar Offenhuber, a Northeastern architect, information designer and urban planner, and MIT’s Katja Schechtner have teamed up to explore social practices surrounding the provision and modernization of streetlights and electricity in Paco, Manila.
The duo has proposed a model of infrastructure governance that is based on the concept of improvisation, developing the notion of improstructure as a conceptual model for understanding infrastructure governance as an improvisational process of “call and response” among a diverse set of actors.
Their paper, “Improstructure – an improvisational perspective on smart infrastructure governance,” was published in November 2017 in Cities, a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal.
“We invented the word ‘improstructure’ to acknowledge the fact that infrastructure is never perfectly planned in advance,” Offenhuber said. “It always involves ad-hoc decisions, negotiations among actors with different interests, and improvised fixes for problems that were not anticipated. In this process, which is in many ways similar to the call and response patterns of jazz improvisation, objects such as street lamps become a medium of communication.”
Offenhuber and Schechtner have been exploring urban data, its visual representations, and its impact on governance, society, and the city since 2011. Click here to read their paper.
Read a School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs interview on the Improstructure project with professor Dietmar Offenhuber.
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