Seminar Overview

In the context of macroecological and financial crises that have dramatically shifted attention toward the management of multiple forms of garbage, excess and inefficiency, this seminar explores the cultural logics and politics of waste in contemporary urban life. Registered in terms of space (blight, sprawl, vacancy), time (waiting, boredom, drudgery), resources (refuse, trash), and increasingly in terms of digital information technologies (e-waste, obsolescence, “delete”), waste marks the residue, the left-over, the cast-off, the remainder, the damaged, the unclassifiable, the useless. Especially at a time when our virtual and material worlds are designed to streamline and optimize urban life at all scales – from operative landscapes to responsive systems to productivity software – our cultural definitions and regulations of waste are central to the ordering of our environments and ourselves.

Grounded in an understanding of the city as the irreducible density of people, built environments, and information architectures, students in this course will interpret the history of waste through the double lenses of urban development and media cultures. This research will be accompanied throughout by a range of art and design experiments that take up waste as matter for critique, reuse, or reinvention.

This seminar is project-focused, and students will be encouraged to use New York City as a laboratory for expanded research and intervention.

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