Bullet Points 2018

BIG PICTURE: Always looking for opportunity to work with a great team building significant things.

RÉSUMÉ: I recently moved from Mills College where I was Professor of Sociology and held the Lokey Chair in Ethics to USC where I am Professor of Teaching of Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation at USC's Iovine Young Academy. My appointment is in the Academy (teaching our capstone, The Garage Experience) with a courtesy appointment at the Law School (Justice Innovation Startup Lab and Legal Design Lab). At Mills I taught in sociology and in the public policy/business grad programs and was founding director of the Mills Innovation Lab along with being involved with the with a teaching portfolio including Simulation and Modeling for Policy; Design Thinking in Higher Education; Geographic Information Systems; Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software; Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods in Anthropology and Sociology; Theory, and Network Analysis.

DIFFERENCE: Experience in multiple disciplines and agility to move fluently between abstract social theory, whether humanistic or formal; hands-on policy design and implementation; math, code, and data; humans and design; business models, marketing, and hoohah.

BUILDING PROGRAMS: Just before leaving Mills I was working two programs. One was a set of programs folding computational and quantitative work into liberal arts disciplines that would tie together computational social science, digital humanities, and the art/technology nexus. The other was a program which was a version 0.2 of the program I’ve been helping to build at USC; I called it Technology, Business, and Design The idea was to use a liberal arts sensibility to transform a clumsy three-legged stool built on three professional/practical disciplines into the perfect vehicle for students who wanted both to think big ideas without being naïve and go out and change the world in the industries that dominate the SF and LA areas.

MAJOR21: I have been thinking a lot over the last five years about liberal arts for the 21st century under the heading "Majoring in the 21st Century," a play on words meant to question what it will mean to major in something, what it would mean to be a student OF the century to come, and what majors the liberal arts, broadly construed, should be look like. I’ve given a few talks, blogged for a bit, and maintain a wiki of ideas.

NOW-ISH: My current work could be characterized as a weaving together of ideas from design thinking, organizational science, computer science, and social science theory and methods to create pedagogy that supports design-informed innovation education and education innovation. It’s work that draws on my training as a sociologist, my BA in “Mathematical, Physical, and Computer Sciences” (read: math+physics+chemistry+computer science) and subsequent work in what we’d now call FinTech, digital humanities, data viz, and open data. Substantively, my teaching at the moment revolves around design thinking, the social organization of innovation, and building high-traffic bridges between business, design, and engineering.

RECENT OOOLALA I: The most attractive job listing I’ve seen recently was a position in an engineering school (joint with education) “in the area of simulation science, precision learning, adaptive learning systems, and associated technologies…our faculty is working to accelerate learning through the use of immersive virtual environments, serious games and multiplayer simulations.” I'm not formally qualified, but it was the kind of thing that gets my boat afloat.

RECENT OOOLALA II: Conversations at a university in the southern US about creating, perhaps from scratch, a computational studies program that would involve meaningful and rigorous digital work in conjunction with the liberal arts disciplines.

MAKE THINGS: What motivates me is thinking about NEW ways of teaching and collaborating across boundaries, rethinking how technology can be deployed in the disruption of education and how good social and human and design science can disrupt and facilitate excellence on the engineering side of the equation. I’m no longer satisfied being a social scientist or humanist who is commentating on science and technology; I’m about putting them together to make things. To give a practical sense of where I’m coming from, one of the ideas I’m playing with this semester is how we might develop an AI-based “flight simulator” for professional training (in this case, law) and how this could be connected with a complete rethinking of how we measure competence and readiness to practice in law schools and beyond.