Lindtner receives inaugural NSF convergence award

The National Science Foundation has awarded Silvia Lindtner, University of Michigan assistant professor of information, one of its first Convergence awards. The amount awarded is $99,185.00.

Lindtner will receive one of 23 awards for work to address societal challenges pertaining to work at the human-technology frontier. The NSF calls the awards announced today an “intentional approach to accelerating discovery.”

Lindtner’s research focuses on the culture and politics of making and technology entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on transformations in work, labor and the tech industry. Her research shows how making has drawn broad attention, from politicians, policy makers, investors and tech enthusiasts alike. Making is envisioned to address the pitfalls of the knowledge economy by transforming people from passive consumers into active producers of technologies, markets, and new social organizations. For instance, one of the fundamental promises of the maker movement is to empower everyday citizens to regain control amidst the rise of economic insecurity, precarious work, and technological black-boxing.

“Makerspaces, co-working spaces, incubators, and innovation labs have on the one hand enabled people to experiment with possible alternatives to existing capitalist structures of the tech industry,” Lindtner said. “At the same time, ideals of peer production, cooperation, and open source often do not sufficiently address gender, race, and class inequality.”

With colleagues Paul Dourish of the University of California, Irvine, and Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell, from Indiana University, Lindtner will bring together national experts in scholarship on digital labor and shifts in work, tech policy, industry, as well as people active in making and tech entrepreneurship. They will meet during a 3-day long workshop to shape future research directions and policy decisions.

Their project is titled "Making ‘The Future of Work’ Work: A Convergence Workshop on Experiments in Tech Work-Maker Culture, Coworking, Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship & Digital Labor."

Participant expertise in this project will span business and innovation; computer science; communication and media studies; digital labor and crowd work studies; sociology of work and labor; anthropology of finance; health and medicine; economics; education and learning sciences; human-computer interaction; computer-supported cooperative work; and cyberinfrastructure.

The goal of the workshop’s resulting written and visual materials will be to outline a strategy for research in the space of “work at the human-technology frontier” to address social, economic and political realities, including gender and class inequality, Lindtner says.

NSF says all of the newly awarded projects will foster Convergence to address grand challenges in the context of five of the foundation’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments,” a set of cutting-edge research agendas.

Those five ideas are: Harnessing the Data Revolution; Navigating the New Arctic; The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future; and Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype.

“NSF has supported cross-disciplinary collaboration for decades,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “Convergence is a deeper, more intentional approach to the integration of knowledge, techniques, and expertise from multiple disciplines in order to address the most compelling scientific and societal challenges.”

Throughout its history, the NSF has focused on addressing grand challenges within science and engineering. These challenges represent the greatest opportunity to strengthen the nation through scientific discovery, and meeting them will require sustained and deep collaborations across scientific disciplines, NSF leaders say.

Through its Growing Convergent Research at NSF portfolio, the foundation seeks to highlight the value of Convergence, the deep integration of multiple disciplines in order to advance scientific discovery and innovation. The Foundation first set of Convergence awards support workshops, summer institutes, and Research Coordination Networks (RCN).

Among the newly funded RCNs are projects that will:

•    Bring together students from materials research, physics, engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, chemistry and the social science for a Quantum Science Summer School. These summer schools will prepare transdisciplinary students to meet the challenges of the quantum revolution.

•    Tackle the challenge of jointly addressing both sides of the human-technology frontier in work settings that use intelligent machines, which have the ability to learn and interact with other systems and with humans. This RCN will leverage a multidisciplinary team focused on enhancing the benefits of technology in the workplace.

•    Bring together natural, physical, social, and information scientists with indigenous scholars and communities to advance understanding of how rapid socioecological change poses resilience and food security challenges for Arctic.

Posted August 29, 2017