PSFK Conference Speaker Interview: Ariel Waldman

The founder of Spacehack.org previews her thoughts on crowdsourcing and collaborative problem solving in anticipation of PSFK’s upcoming San Francisco conference.

Ariel Waldman will be one of the speakers at our upcoming PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO 2011. Ariel is the creator of Science Hack Day SF and Spacehack.org, a directory of ways to participate in space exploration. She is also an interaction designer and Research Affiliate at the Institute For The Future. Previously, she worked at NASA‘s CoLab program whose mission was to connect communities inside and outside NASA to help them collaborate with each other. In anticipation of her talk at the PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO 2011 titled ‘Hacking Space Exploration and Science’ in which she will discuss open source space exploration, we bring you a few thoughts from Ariel:

On October 6, you are going to talk about Hacking Space Exploration where you look at crowdsourcing to solve literally out of this world problems. Can you talk about one of the projects and the outcome?

There are a lot of great projects to talk about, so I’ll touch on one of the more recent ones. There was an open competition called ‘Mapping Dark Matter’ that asked for anyone to create algorithms that can measure dark matter better than the existing ones. Different types of people from around the world participated, but one of the best algorithms came from someone who applied the algorithms they use to study glaciers to detecting dark matter. That was definitely an unexpected result but it really underlines what great things can come out of simply getting different types of people together to see what they can create.

What is a key learning here for organizations outside the science community?

You don’t have to be part of the science community to actively contribute to science. I think there’s a tremendous amount of good that creative agencies have inspired in the technology industry that they could equally start providing to the science industry. Anything from building better data interfaces to wireframing a new platform for crowdsourcing to re-envisioning lab spaces.
For the organizations, internally, I think the key learning is to get different types of enthusiastic people together when brainstorming ideas. So, not just designers and copywriters, but pull in developers, accountants, project managers, marketers, etc. Even if an unexpected outcome doesn’t occur, often times you’ll get a better perspective on how to make your idea more accessible.

How do you see collaborative problem solving evolving?

I think given 10 years, it’s going to be something that a larger amount of people are fairly efficient at. Right now, in the science industry, you’re seeing massive amounts of people trying to collaborate — whether it be physicists on the Large Hadron Collider, citizen scientists generating data or NASA simply trying to work with engineers spread out around the world. For the time being, people are still navigating how to do this, so it’s a bit all over the place. But they don’t have a choice — they’re being thrown into the deep end of the collaboration pool and they’re going to have to learn how to swim whether they fail in the short-term or not.

Thanks, Ariel!
ArielWaldman.com
Science Hack Day SF
Spacehack.org
Ariel will be speaking at the PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO 2011. Come listen to like minds as they share their ideas to make things better on stage and off. Find out more about the full lineup of speakers at the PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO 2011 here.

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