Computing That Serves

Designing sociotechnical platforms to support crowd innovation


Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 11:00am


Jacob Solomon


Mike Jones

Many scholars have touted the potential for crowd innovation, in which large decentralized groups combine their efforts to produce or evaluate new ideas or products. Crowd innovations are supported by emerging sociotechnical platforms that enable individuals to contribute resources such as content (e.g. Wikipedia), money (e.g. Kickstarter), or software (e.g. GitHub). In this talk, I present two projects that explore the design of sociotechnical platforms for crowd innovation. 

I will present a series of studies that show how very good ideas are often overlooked by a crowd of potential investors on crowdfunding websites, leading them to unnecessarily fail to obtain funding. I will discuss how the design of the crowdfunding platform plays a role in this inefficiency of the crowd's decision making, and how crowdfunding platforms can improve their design to ensure that good ideas are successfully funded.

I will also describe a project to develop a platform that will accelerate innovation in the development of health information technology by combining principles of crowd innovation, end-user programming, and open-source software. Using this platform, non-technical users can create and share small programs that integrate different systems to fill gaps in functionality, automate tasks, and serve other unmet user needs. For example, a user can write a program to automatically request a prescription refill when needed or file an insurance claim when a bill is received. I will describe an analysis of programs created by end-users of this platform and discuss how the platform can empower users to create more effective individualized health IT infrastructures.


Jacob Solomon is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan Medical School. He earned a PhD in Media and Information Studies in 2015 from Michigan State University, a Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction in 2010 from the University of Michigan, and Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Russian in 2007 from the University of Utah. His research combines social science inquiry with system building to study how socio-technical system designs affect user behavior and decision making. He has published work on the design of recommender systems, crowdfunding platforms, online communities, and instant messaging. His current work involves building and evaluating systems that support medical decision making by patients and healthcare providers.