Regional Experiments for the Future of Work

[Funding Agency: NSF #1900722]

This research will develop a new line of regional experiments with computer-based economic development in the American Midwest, rooted in collaborations between government, industry, and universities to drive their traditions of manufacturing excellence into the next generation. The research will inform the development of sociotechnical interventions supporting bottom-up innovation procedures and emergent outcomes. Such implications will be informed by cutting edge research on data collection and analysis techniques. The project’s emphasis on marginalized or excluded stakeholders will offer insights on how to ensure such systems maximize stakeholder agency at all stages of the process. Research outcomes include the identification of transferable practices, policies, and frameworks. These will contribute actionable tactics on how to pursue innovation agendas in contemporary economic contexts characterized by the mobility of information, capital, and talent; emerging forms of work; and contemporary sociotechnical infrastructures. This research will also contribute methods to help researchers better understand stakeholder needs at the regional scale, with a particular focus on populations that have traditionally been underserved.

The project will include in-depth ethnographic research and stakeholder-driven engagements with the following two groups: (1) those who are at the forefront of conceiving, designing and implementing techno-urban experiments of fab cities, Internet of Things cities, and smart zones; (2) underserved and excluded populations, by conducting sociotechnical interventions with community stakeholders to advance their commitments to broaden participation. Specifically, this research will build self-efficacy through the clarification of an urban area’s own regional advantage. The project will do so through (a) skill building, including building skills with new technologies such as digital fabrication; (b) developing community’s capacities to act in a collective way, supporting democracy and self-determination; (c) regional knowledge production and dissemination, including successful community models, actions, and communication tactics; and (d) including diverse actors in spite of their different histories, legacies, aspirations, and concerns, that is, fostering a sense of community in using information technology to build a better future.