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The five project teams that participated in the pilot are described below.  To learn more about their experiences and work, see, where participants and Berkman staff blogged and shared documentation.

Several people have contributed valuable leadership and guidance to the process of conceiving of the use cases, and planning the pilot overall. They include, but are not limited to, Dean Martha Minow, Harvard Law School; Urs Gasser, Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Dean Michael Smith, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Dean Nitin Nohria, Harvard Business School; Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law School and Berkman Center for Internet & Society; and, Peter Galison, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Of course, the mentors and students themselves, as well as others contributing resources and expertise, are at the core of the initiative.

(1) Cataloging, Designing, Evaluating, and Developing Shared Practices Around Innovation Lab ("Creation Spaces team")
(2) Developing Big Data Analysis Tools ("Big Data team")
(3) Understanding Institutional Involvement in Student and Faculty Social Communication ("Team Social")
(4) HILT’s Digital Identity and Capabilities ("HILT team")
(5) Installation/Curatorial Space at the Harvard Art Museums ("Lightbox Gallery team")


(1)  Cataloging, Designing, Evaluating, and Developing Shared Practices Around Innovation Labs (“Creation Spaces team”)

  • Colin Maclay, Managing Director, Digital Initiative, Harvard Business School
  • Chris Bavitz, Manager Director/Clinical Professor, Cyberlaw Clinic, Berkman Center for Internet & Society/Harvard Law School

Description: Innovation spaces and communities have thrived in recent years, including independent centers and programs affiliated with organizations (such as philanthropic foundations, media companies, venture funds, and universities). They include maker spaces, labs, and accelerators that vary widely in terms of goals, resources, and methodology. These centers are typically focused on serving the needs of their communities and fostering the development of viable businesses. Many such spaces have emerged independently, ad hoc, often without robust mechanisms in place to evaluate their effectiveness and share knowledge with other centers or the innovation community as a whole. They typically conduct only modest amounts of research, if any, and may be in a position to invest only limited time and energy reflecting on their own experiences and examining the experiences of similarly-situated centers. From design to management to evaluation and assessment, innovation spaces and accelerators might benefit greatly from a broader and more developed sense of current policies and practices.

This use case sought to close a knowledge gap by engaging in strategic research geared toward identifying practices and trends and pooling knowledge about the role that innovation spaces can play in effectively promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. In so doing, the project looked for ways to identify opportunities for collaborations and cooperative resource creation that could extend the reach and efficacy of innovation communities broadly while also identifying additional productive and engaging digital problem-solving challenges within the Harvard community.


  • Pitch at the launch event (video)
  • Visits to Boston-based innovation/creation spaces (video)

(2) Developing Big Data Analysis Tools (“Big Data team”)

Description: This group focused on building a set of tools for big data analysis designed to enable researchers to organize, analyze, and understand collections of big data. The group worked primarily on problems and questions concerning data from EdX and HarvardX, but with an eye to developing tools that can be used by researchers and applied to many pools of data over time. Participation project required critical thinking about software engineering, interface design, research needs, and legal concerns. The legal component addressed privacy issues regarding big data, with particular attention to the implications of student data, including those of international students. Design considerations focused on exploring the design of a UI that is functional and attractive to researchers as well as external stakeholders interested in querying and analyzing the data.


(3) Understanding Institutional Involvement in Student and Faculty Social Communication (“Team Social”)

  • Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer, Harvard University
  • Misiek Piskorski, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
  • Joe Blitzstein, Professor of the Practice in Statistics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Melodie Jackson, Senior Associate Dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Description: This group explored the question of how Harvard students and faculty, respectively, use social media and (online) social spaces. Areas for inquiry included: (a) which tools are being used, and by whom, and how? (b) when does it make sense for Harvard to formally support or create a community space (i.e., have an organizing main account, administer the tool to the extent possible), and when does it make sense to leave things to form organically? (c) where do ethical and other questions emerge, about the role of the University in offering guidance on the use of such tools? What is the expectation of privacy of the community member? What is the expectation of support?

In order to explore this question, the group conducted research to understand the tools in use at Harvard by various constituencies and community members, including individual students across a range of disciplines including the humanities, student groups and governance organizations, and recent alumni. Ideas considered and explored included the “ideal state” of social media support (directories? basic classes? University-wide services like link shortening?), a benchmarking survey of other higher education institutions regarding their policies and support models,  a catalog of tools and online spaces used within the University, and conversations about norms that emerge in social media.


(4) HILT’s Digital Identity and Capabilities ("Team HILT")

Description: Through investment at multiple institutional levels—from grassroots efforts to academic leadership—the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) is dedicated to advancing learning and teaching at Harvard by:

  • catalyzing pedagogical, technological, and curricular innovation in the classroom and beyond;
  • helping to build community and connect individuals across institutional boundaries; and,
  • conducting, translating, and disseminating educational research.

Realizing each of these goals requires enriching HILT’s digital “identity” and capabilities. This project set out to strengthen and refine HILT’s online resources (e.g., multimedia features of grant projects, best practices of learning assessment, research findings), make them more easily accessible to the Harvard community, and develop online strategies for connecting individuals with complementary interests, experiences, or expertise but different institutional locations. Participants also thought creatively about mechanisms to enable HILT to foster learning and exchange about the outcomes of its grant activities, with the hope of making them easily accessible and usable by other practitioners, teachers, students, and community members. Finally, participants had the opportunity to formulate strategies that coordinate HILT’s digital and in-person outreach efforts.


(5) Installation/Curatorial Space at the Harvard Art Museums ("Lightbox Gallery team")

  • Jeff Steward, Director of Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technologies, The Harvard Art Museums
  • Jeffrey Schnapp, Principal and Faculty Director, metaLAB (at) Harvard, and Faculty co-Director,  Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Matthew Battles, Principal and Associate Director,  metaLAB (at) Harvard, and Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Description: The Harvard Art Museums are reopening in Fall 2014. Part of the remodeling includes a physical space with a “programmable” wall which is not yet committed to any specific function or mission. The space will also contain monitors and welcome technology; it may provide a place for installations, exhibitions, or activities.

This project conducted a design studio to generate a concrete, proposed scenario for programming in the space: what are creative approaches to technologically animating such a space? What can its role be in a museum? What should its mission be? How would it be curated? In addition to the practical use of the space, the team also engaged with broader discourses related to the role of the museum and archives, and the frequent disconnect between how an institution might be defined according to its presented collection, when much of its assets may be in holding and invisible to the public. (For example, ninety-eight percent of the Harvard Art Museums' works are in storage.) Additional guiding questions included: What does the collection really look like chronologically and geo-spatially? How could the collection serve as a better navigational tool for the museum staff? How does the nature of the collection accord with the institutional narrative of the institution? How might the technologically enhanced space enable new experiences of the collection over all?