John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society

The annual UMSI-sponsored JSB Symposium 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.

2016: Liz Gerber

The keynote speaker for the 2016 John Seely Brown Symposium on September 30 was Liz Gerber, founder of Design for America and an 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. A designer, consultant and community leader who studies and designs organizations and technology to support collective innovation, she spoke on "The Future of Collective Innovation" and ways to insure that the future of innovation is  inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive.

View the video recording of this talk.

2015: Leigh Alexander

October 1, 2015, the featured speaker was Leigh Alexander, a gaming journalist and editor in chief of Offworld, Boing Boing’s counterculture games vertical dedicated to unsung voices and alternative movements in the field. Her talk,"Game changers: Video games transition from technology product to cultural form" focused on emerging alternative games culture, and the various trends that show video games coming into their own as an expressive cultural form rather than purely as a diversion or commercial technology product. She provides examples of individual creators as well as broader trends and the democratic tools that are driving them, some of the conservative backlash and what we can learn from it.

View the video recording of this talk.

2014: Cory Doctorow

On November 20, 2014, Cory Doctorow spoke on "I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: the dystopian war on general purpose computers and what you can do about it." Cory Doctorow ( is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger, the co-editor of the weblog BoingBoing and the author of the YA graphic novel In Real Life and the nonfiction business book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free. His young adult novels include Homeland, Pirate Cinema and Little Brother; his adult novels include Rapture of the Nerds and Makers. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group.

View the video recording of this talk.


2013: Shwetak Patel

On October 30, 2013, Shwetak Patel spoke about "Your Noise Is My Signal: Applications of Computing to Energy and Health." Patel is an associate professor in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, where he his research interests are in the areas of human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, sensor-enabled embedded systems, and user interface software and technology. Patel received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2011 (popularly known as the "genius award") and is a Sloan Fellow who received the TR-35 award in 2009. View the video of his talk by following this link.

2012: Mimi Ito

 Mimi Ito spoke on "Connected Learning" on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Ito is an international expert on mobile technologies and new digital media in everyday life. A cultural anthropologist of technology use, she is a leading authority on how social network technologies are shaping society. She is professor in residence, department of anthropology and department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. View the video of the talk here.



2011: David Weinberger

On Monday, October 3, 2011, David Weinberger spoke about the sheer quantity of networked knowledge that is changing the nature of knowledge itself. He presented a compelling vision of the future of knowledge in a connected world in this talk, "Too Big to Know: How the Internet Affects What and How We Know." View the video of this presentation here.


2010: Aza Raskin

Aza Raskin, former head of user experience at Mozilla Labs and creative lead for Firefox, spoke at the John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society on "Your Life Experiences, Brought to You by Coca-Cola" on Thursday, September 30, 2010. View the video of his presentation by clicking here.

2009: danah boyd

 On October 13, 2009, danah boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, spoke on “Youth-Generated Culture: Growing Up in an Era of Social Media.”

2008: Brewster Kahle

The founder of the Internet Archive ("Wayback Machine"), Brewster Kahle, spoke on "The Closing of Library Services...The Opening of Library Services," on October 22, 2008. 


2006: Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson, Wired contributing editor and best-selling author of numerous books on the intersection of science, technology, and personal experience, including Everything Bad Is Good for You, spoke on "Why Gaming and Learning, and Why Now?"

2002: Elizabeth Daley

 The Steven J. Ross/Time Warner Professor and Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Elizabeth Daley spoke on "Screen as Vernacular: Expanding Concepts of Literacy."

2000: Lawrence Lessig

Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, a founder of Creative Commons and the author of several books on law and cyberspace, spoke on "Architecting Innovation" at the inaugural JSB Symposium in 2000.