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Smart sewers may soon analyze our poop

On September 2, 2017, a research project by several MIT laboratories – called Gangnam Poop: Underworlds in Seoul – will debut at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

Here’s an excerpt from the exhibition description:

A vast reservoir of information on human health and behavior lies in our sewage, and this resource is untapped. We imagine a future in which sewage is mined for information that can inform policy makers, health practitioners, designers, and researchers alike. Such is the idea behind Underworlds: a cross-disciplinary data platform for monitoring urban health patterns, shaping more inclusive public health strategies, and pushing the boundaries of urban epidemiology.

For this exhibition and “proof of concept”, they analyzed three distinct neighborhoods in Seoul, using an aptly named sewer robot called Luigi. 

Gangnam-gu (shown above) is an upper-class high-rise residential area. Mapo-gu is an emerging artist and designer enclave. And Seongbuk-bu is a hillside village with detached houses and an older demographic.

In each case, they mapped out the bacterial populations found beneath each neighborhood. Interestingly enough, the different areas revealed different bacterial occurrences. You can see those diagrams here.

I often think of healthcare as being very reactive. A future like the one this exhibition is imagining would be far more proactive. And that would be a very good thing.

Image and project by MIT Senseable City Lab. Gangnam Poop: Underworlds in Seoul. Commissioned by Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism

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