Title: Do-It-Together: The Role of Crowdsourcing in Innovation
Speaker: Elizabeth Gerber (ME, Northwestern University)
Date: Wednesday, Jan 30th
Time: 12-1pm
Room: GHC 8102 


Innovation is critical to our economic and social prosperity. Yet acquiring the required resources is especially difficult for novice innovators, who lack competence and confidence. Crowdsourcing has the potential to change this. I present two projects. First, I present my latest research on crowdfunding and tools to support the exchange of resources from a distributed network of individuals online. Second, I present efforts to engage the crowd in ideation and decision-making. I discuss implications for the innovation process and crowdsourcing.


Liz synthesizes knowledge from social psychology, organizational behavior, human computer interaction, and human centered design to build tools for online and offline communities. The Breed Junior Chair of Design and director of the Creative Action Lab, she is internationally known for her writing on design process, crowdsourcing, and improvisation.

Her current research focuses on understanding the work of innovators both face to face and online. This work brings a unique perspective of contemporary practices such as crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, brainstorming, and prototyping, etc. - and provides a strong foundation for designing engaging social environments that promote innovation and leadership. She received her doctoral and master’s degrees in Management Science and Engineering and Product Design from Stanford, her bachelor’s degree in Art and Engineering from Dartmouth College, and has worked professionally as a designer of educational products and experiences.

Title: The Formation and Success of Online Creative Collaborations
Speaker: Burr Settles (Duolingo)
Date: Wednesday, Jan 16th
Time: 12-1pm
Room: GHC 6501

Whether it's making music, movies, or encyclopedias, collaborative projects in online communities are becoming more common. Yet we know little about how these creative teams form, and what leads to their ultimate success. In this talk, I will discuss a recent study of an online songwriting community called February Album Writing Month (FAWM.ORG). By analyzing four years of longitudinal behavioral data using a novel path-based regression method --- which performs random walks on the social network itself --- we can both (1) accurately predict collabs that will form, and (2) gain insight into factors affect how online collabs form, contributing to theory as well. Combined with a large-scale survey of community members, we find that communication, compatible but complementary interests, and slight differences in social status are major contributors to collab formation; and that an equitable division of labor is a key factor in its success.

[This research is joint work with Steven Dow.]

Burr Settles is a Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Duolingo, a crowdsourcing ecosystem that combines foreign language education and translation. He also runs the website FAWM.ORG, an annual songwriting challenge for musicians worldwide. Previously, he was a postdoc in the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon, and earned a PhD in Computer Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on interactive machine learning that resembles a "dialogue" between computers and humans, with applications in natural language processing, biology, and social computing. He recently organized workshops at the ICML and NAACL conferences on such learning strategies. His book Active Learning (a short introduction to the field) was published in 2012 by Morgan & Claypool. In his spare time, Burr also plays guitar in the Pittsburgh pop band Delicious Pastries.