John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 1:00pm to 4:00pm

Stern Auditorium, U-M Museum of Art, 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor

Dr. Liz Gerber

The Future of Collective Innovation

Socio-technical infrastructure offers remarkable opportunities for improving innovation and the global economy by engaging geographically distributed and diverse individuals to identify, ideate, and implement new ideas, expanding the sources of innovation beyond the formal organization. But it is also possible that collective innovation will fail to achieve its potential by becoming increasingly professionalized, potentially raising the expectations for participation and failing to reach out to diverse networks, undermining participation from individuals.

Can we foresee a future of collective innovation in which there is broad participation from identification to ideation and ultimately implementation? This talk frames the major challenges that stand in the way of this goal. Drawing on theory from social computing and organizational theory, Dr. Gerber will outline a framework that will support collective innovation that is inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive and highlight 5 challenge areas: Roles, Communication, Trust, Reputation, and Feedback.

About the speaker:

Liz Gerber is a professor, designer, consultant and community leader who studies and designs organizations and technology to support collective innovation.

Collective innovation is a process that harnesses the diverse and untapped human, social, and economic capital from distributed networks to discover, evaluate, and implement new ideas. Open, ubiquitous, socio-technical systems support collective innovation affording greater speed and deeper and broader participation than was imaginable even a decade ago.

Dr. Liz Gerber serves as Founder of Design for America, Director of the Design Research Cluster, Associate Professor of Design in the Schools of Engineering and Communication, with courtesy appointments in the School of Management and Education and Social Policy at the Northwestern University. Dr. Gerber researches and designs technology and organizations to support innovation. Her work is generously funded by that National Science Foundation, Microsoft, and the MacArthur Foundation. She received her PhD and MS in Management Science and Engineering and Product Design from Stanford University. Learn more about Dr. Gerber and her work at and connect with her on Twitter at @elizgerber.

A panel discussion will follow the talk at 2 p.m.

Whose Innovation?

Innovation has arguably become the buzzword of the 21st century. Governments across regions encourage their citizens to become entrepreneurial innovators who take social and economic matters into their own ends. The language is optimistic; innovators make not only technologies, they also transform whole regions and indeed whole nations, so the rhetoric goes. The idea that the future of whole nations rests on the creative capacity of small-scale entities like start-ups and other grassroots innovators is couched in revolutionary terms. From industry concepts like Chris Anderson’s Long Tail to visions of a global maker movement, innovation is presented as something that is available to anyone. At the same time, jobs in the creative and tech innovation industries have become increasingly precarious. Access to tech innovation hubs like Silicon Valley rests on people’s ability to be self-reliant and flexible workers. Indeed, job stability and other forms of security are often rendered as holding back risk takers and out-of-the box thinkers. Whose innovation is this? Is innovation really innovative? What are alternate conceptions of innovation that challenge rather feed into a neo-liberal logic of self-reliance and precariousness?

Silvia Lindtner, Assistant Professor, UMSI - Chair and Moderator
Liz Gerber, Northwestern University
Dug Song, CEO Duo Security

Reception follows from 3-4 pm.

The John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society is an annual UMSI-sponsored series that features thought leaders from the front lines of the digital world sharing their perspectives on the societal implications of new technology. The symposium is made possible through the generous support of its founding donor John Seely Brown.

This event is part of the Academic Innovation Initiative, a strategic initiative to foster deep conversations among all members of the U-M community to consider how the university will lead the way for higher education through the information age and further strengthen our impact on society.