Forms of Urban Informality: Learning from Global Examples at MIT

Really pleased to have presented the Basque Case in this MIT class: 11.S966 Forms of Urban Informality: Learning from Global Examples, Full-Semester Course; 6 credits; 2-0-4

There are a myriad of forms of urban informality – spanning technology, economies, construction, and housing – and they are shaping cities. This course will explore examples of urban innovation around the world, through the lens of informality. Each case will examine the design and ideation process, stakeholders, resources and impacts. We will hear from a variety of actors and entrepreneurs, including discussions of Bird, Sweet Water Foundation, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), Open Desk, and Asiye eTafuleni, among others.

It is increasingly clear that a socially, economically, and politically resilient city has never been realized from the top down – to create urban futures, we must explore and learn from the forms of urban informality. They are many, and increasing: today, over 50% of the world’s working population generate their income through informal employment; 85% of new jobs created are in the informal economy; and one in eight humans live in informal settlements. By the same token, digital urban technologies, typified in the sharing economy and the gig economy, are atomizing traditionally monolithic systems. Around the world, informal modes of transaction, employment and regulation are demanding that cities function in newly distributed ways. And if the future of cities is informal, disaggregate, dynamic – then it is imperative to explore the many forms of informality.

How are concepts such as “investment,” “transaction,” “innovation,” “design,” “governance,” “agency” and “public,” among others, expressed in particular cases of informality? And how can those practically inform other economies, communities, technologies, and movements around the globe? Through guest speakers, readings, site visits, and discussions, this course will introduce and analyze a series of cases around the world. We will explore examples that reflect various characteristic modes of informality, and analyze their context with a variety of lenses (politics, economics, social dynamics, design and climate realities).

Together, the class will develop a working definition of innovation as it relates to informality, and a comparative framework to analyze the different cases. In addition, if students are interested in continuing beyond the course, we can assist with an independent study or group learning model.

Time: Thursdays, 4:00 – 6:00P
Location: 9-255
Grading: A/B/C/D/E/F
Class size: Maximum of 15 people

Teaching Team:
Kate Mytty, Visiting Lecturer, MIT Center for Real Estate,
Matthew Claudel, PhD candidate, MIT Department of Urban Studies & Planning