Erik Porse, PhD

Cities | Systems | Environments

Life in the Tails: Behavioral Economics

The question of merging individual (or organizational) decision-making with infrastructure design and management is supremely interesting, though not often engaged by the engineering community. For urban infrastructure, social systems are a key component of function. Individual decisions are influenced by personal views, interactions with peers, and larger social trends. This may not have a lot […]

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Future Water Use: Solutions in Technology?

As a society, we often seek solutions to social problems in technology and innovation. If we need more food or water, we will develop more productive processes that exploit available resources. Technology and innovation are at the heart of fundamental conceptions prosperity, as crystallized by Endogenous Growth Theory that dominates economic thought. This innovation almost […]

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Big Dreams and Bountiful Capital: Western U.S. Expansion

The settlement of the American West in the mid-nineteenth century saw streams of Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Central and South Americans converge on the region and its resources. The new peoples brought their views of agriculture, exploitation, and wealth to the strange ecosystems of the West. For East Coast Americans and Europeans, who were accustomed […]

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Roots of Engineering in America: Military and Civilian Engineers

The tradition of engineering in the U.S. has deep roots in French, British, Dutch, and Italian innovation. The rise of a professional class of engineers begins, as with many technological innovations, in the military. Louis XIV in France was quick to recognize the value of having technical experts that could survey and assess land accurately, […]

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Balancing System Health Across Environmental, Social, and Ecological Metrics

The American ethos has evolved to encompass a new kind of environmental consciousness. Current popular notions of environmentalism in the U.S. focus less on government responses to mitigate readily-observable pollution, and more on personal and collective actions that reconcile goals of economic growth and resource conservation. This is encompassed by the term sustainability, which has […]

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Urban Infrastructure, Ecosystems, and Eco-technological Systems

Though exploding urban populations are indicative of the massive planetary changes humans are enacting, the process of urbanization has been a fundamental trend for centuries. Rapid urbanization in North American, European, and some Asian countries during periods of industrialization since 1860 necessitated a series of innovations in organization and infrastructure in order to facilitate transportation, […]

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Engaged Citizens and the Role of Expertise

Science and technology governance that follows “democratic” principles during the policy-making process should include potentially-affected citizens. The majority of Science and Technology Studies (STS) research advocates greater public participation in science and technology governance in an attempt to make the relationship of science with society democratic, open, and responsive. While past views within the scientific […]

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Science and Technology Governance: an STS Perspective

Building tools and frameworks that enable researchers to effectively describe the myriad relationships between actors, artifacts, institutions, policies, and values is a continuing challenge in studying the evolution of technological systems. STS has developed some of these new tools, such as actor-network theory, that enable flexible yet potentially specific levels of analysis. The development of […]

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A Bit on Sociotechnical Systems

Science and Technology Studies (STS) research analyzes the relationship between technology and society through macro- and micro-level analysis of the development of technologies within larger social frameworks. Empirically-based analysis of technology development has sought tools, conceptual models, and terminology for descriptive purposes. The complex networks of people, institutions, laws, values, and technological artifacts are intertwined, […]

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Urban Ecology Essays: Part 4


The U.S. Census bureau designates two classifications for urban settlements: urbanized areas with 50,000 or more people; and urban clusters (outside of urbanized areas) with 2,500 to 50,000 people. Outside of these areas, land is classified as rural. While needed for Census purposes, this definition does not provide clarity regarding what “urban” actually means. A […]

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