Innovation is critical to our economic and social prosperity. When we think about innovation, we often think about the outcome – the innovative ideas – yet it is people who develop, modify, and implement these ideas.  Innovation work can be a challenging endeavor. People must work together to navigate ambiguous problem contexts, overcome setbacks, and persist in the face of the status quo.

In the Delta Lab, my students and I study and design collective innovation, a shared scalable process that uses social media to tap into diverse, large scale networks to develop and implement of novel and useful ideas. I am currently focused on innovator incubators, integrated learning environments that support authentic learning about the basics of innovation.

We do so, by using multi-method research methods including longitudinal ethnographic field studies, participant observation, surveys, network analysis, research through design, and controlled laboratory studies to study collective innovation.   We use this research to develop theory, systems (ex. digital lofts, incubators) and methods to support innovators on and offline.

PhD Students

Julie Hui is a 4th year PhD student who studies how social computing can support novice designers in online creative communities. She is supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  Prior to Northwestern, she received her B.S. in Physics with a Minor in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2011.

Mike Greenberg is a 4th year PhD student who studies how innovators understand and use social capital online. He is supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Prior to Northwestern, he worked as a researcher the American Museum of Natural History abd received his B.S. in Physics from Brandeis.

Emily Harburg is a 2nd year PhD student who studies how social computing can motivate decision making for novice innovators through scaffolding.  She is supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Prior to Northwestern, she worked at Disney Research and received her B.A. in Anthropology from Harvard.

Daniel Rees-Lewis is a 2nd year PhD student who studies how civic innovators learn through analogy in online learning environments. He is supported by the Northwestern Cognitive Science Advance Fellowship. Prior his PhDc, he was a learning designer at Design for America and received his M.S., in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and a B.A. from the University of Sussex



Dontcheva, M., Morris, R. R., Brandt, J. R., & Gerber, E. Combining crowdsourcing and learning to improve engagement and performance. Conference on Human factors in computing systems, 2014 ACM Press

Easterday, M., Rees-Lewis, D. Gerber, E. Design-Based Research Process: Problems, Phases, and Applications. International Conference of the Learning Sciences, 2014

Easterday, M., Rees-Lewis, D., Fitzpatrick, C. Gerber, E. Computer Supported Novice Group Critique, Design of Interactive Systems 2014, ACM Press

Hui, J., Gerber, E., Gergle, D. Understanding and Leveraging Social Networks for Crowdfunding: Opportunities and Challenges, WIP, Design of Interactive Systems 2014, ACM Press

Hui, J., Gerber, E., Dow, E.  Crowd Based Design Activities: Helping Students Connect with Users Online. Design of Interactive Systems 2014, ACM Press

Miller, R, Zhang, H., Gilbert, E., Gerber, E.,  Pair Research: Matching People for Collaboration, Learning, and Productivity, Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2014, ACM Press

Hui, J., Greenberg, M., & Gerber, E. Understanding the Role of Community in Crowdfunding Work, Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2014, ACM Press


Gerber, E., & Hui, J. Crowdfunding: Motivations and Deterrents for Participation, Transactions on Human Computer Interactions, 2013 (to appear)

Hui, J. Greenberg. Gerber, E.  Understanding Crowdfunding Work: Implications for Support Tools, Computer Human Interaction WIP 2013

Greenberg, M., Hui, J., Gerber, E. Crowdfunding: A Resource Exchange Perspective, Computer Human Interaction WIP 2013

Greenberg, M., Hariharan, K., Gerber, E., Pardo, B., Crowdfunding Support Tools_Predicting Success & Failure, Computer Human Interaction WIP 2013

Dow, S., Gerber, E. Wong, A. A Pilot Study of Crowds in the Classroom, Computer Human Interaction 2013, ACM Press.

Kittur, N., Bernstein, M., Nickerson, J., Gerber, E., Shaw, A., Lease, M., Zimmerman, J., Horton, M. Future Of Crowd Work, Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2013, ACM Press.

Gerber, E. Design for America: A Network For Students and Designers Solving Real-World Challenges,

Morris, R. Dontcheva, M., Finkelstein, A. Gerber, E. Affect and Creative Performance On Crowdsourcing Platforms, Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction Conference, 2013


Hui, J., Greenberg, M., Gerber, E. Easy Money: The Demands of Crowdfunding Work , Segal Technical Report 2012

Gerber, E. Does Crowdfunding Fail the Most Promising Entrepreneurs, The Huffington Post

Gerber, E. STEM Students Must be Taught to Fail, US News and World Report

Gerber, E., Martin, C., Braunstein, J., Kramer, E., Carberry, A. Innovation Self Efficacy: Development of A Measure, Frontiers in Education. 2012

Morris, R., Dontcheva, M., Gerber, E., Priming for Better Performance In Microtask Crowdsourcing Environments, IEEE Internet Computing, 2012

Gerber, E. & Kennedy, C. Supporting Creativity in Web-Based Services, International Journal of Design, Vol. 16 (1), 2012

Gerber, E., Olson, J., Komarek, R. Extracurricular Design Based Learning, International Journal of Engineering Education, 2012

Leonardi, P. Beyene, T. & Gerber, E. How Managers Use Multiple Media: Discrepant Events, Power, and Timing in Redundant Communication, Organization Science, 2012

Gerber, E. & Carroll, M. Psychological Experience of Prototyping, Design Studies. Vol. 33 (1), 2012


Lewis, S., Dontcheva, M., & Gerber, E. Affective Computational Priming and Creativity, Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2011, ACM Press

Gerber, E. The Psychological Experience of User Observation, International Conference on Engineering Design 2011 Proceedings

Gerber, E. Tech Break Ups: A Research Method for Understanding People’s Attachment to Technology, Proceedings of Creativity and Cognition, ACM Press, 2011


Gerber, E., McKenna, A., Hirsch, P. & Yarnoff, C., Learning to Waste – Wasting to Learn? How ot Use Cradle to Cradle Principles to Improve the Teaching of Design, International Journal of Engineering Education, 2010

Bao, P., Gerber, E., Gergle, D., Hoffman, D. Momentum Getting And Staying On Topic During A Brainstorm. Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2010, ACM Press

Chung, H. & Gerber, E., Emotional Storyboarding: A Participatory Method for Emotional Designing for Children, Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Design & Emotion, 2010


Gerber, E., Prototyping: Facing Uncertainty Through Small Wins, Proceedings of International Conference on Engineering Design 2009

Gerber, E. Using Improvisation To Enhance the Effectiveness of Brainstorming, Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2009, ACM Press


Gerber, E., Improvisation Principles and Techniques for Design, Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2007, ACM Press


Gerber, E., Relations in Design Thinking: A Case Study of a Social Network. In K. Mark Weaver (Ed.), Proceedings of the Sixty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (CD), ISSN 1543-8643