Faculty Spotlight: Professor Kevin Crowston

Interviewee: Professor Kevin Crowston, Associate Dean for Research | Distinguished Professor of Information Science

What is your academic background?

I have an undergraduate degree in computer science (though it wasn’t called that) from Harvard and a PhD in information technologies from MIT Sloan School of Management. I taught for five years at University of Michigan Business School before coming to Syracuse University. 


Why did you decide to pursue your PhD in Information Technologies from MIT?

One of my professors when I was an undergraduate had done her PhD in that program and recommended I study with her advisor. Also, my father was a business school professor and had worked at MIT Sloan School of Management for a while and also recommended it.

What is your professional background?

I worked as a programmer for a couple of summers and am a silent partner in a small web development consulting company.

Based on your professional background, how have you seen information and data management in an organization change over the past years?

There’s a lot more information and it’s accessed much more widely, so it impacts more and more jobs.

How does your industry experience impact your teaching?

Web development projects raise all of the issues that are covered in systems analysis, but at a small and easily graspable scale.

What issues related to information and/or data interest you most?

How the increased capabilities of information and communication technologies enable new ways of working together. Technology is inexpensive and ubiquitous, which means that there’s more and more information that has to be dealt with.

What sets the iSchool at Syracuse University apart from other schools?

Our history as a library school means that we have a real focus on users, not just technology.

What class are you teaching for iSchool@Syracuse?

I will be teaching Information Systems Analysis for the online Information Management program. This course is about learning to look at the world in a structured and systematic way and then to record what you see in a form that can be shared with others.

What are you most looking forward to with this new cohort?

I think it will be a very different course with students who are working full time and who can bring their professional experiences to the course. So, I’m looking forward to learning from the class and supporting them to learn from each other. I study virtual work, so it’s interesting to see how the technologies can support people learning as well as working.

Please tell us more about your current research interests and projects.

I have several:

  • I and a number of students and colleagues have been studying citizen science projects for some years (those are projects that involve members of the general public as participants). We’re currently working on a system called “Gravity Spy” that merges human and machine learning.
  • I have another project looking at how coordination of teams can be supported via the shared work products of the teams, a process akin to the biological process of stigmergy. We want to understand how that process works in open source teams and then attempt to support it for other kinds of teams as well.
  • I have been studying open source software development for a number of years and am trying to wrap up what we’ve learned in a book.