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Considering Collaboration
in the Cloud 

How does technological innovation happen? It’s an urgent question, of course, for business leaders seeking new sources of profit and competitive advantage. But it’s also critical for policymakers trying to find a balance between boosting innovation and regulating markets for the benefit of society. 
 
According to Gerald Berk and AnnaLee Saxenian, opinion on the question falls largely into two camps. Some experts argue that innovation is advanced through intense market competition as companies seek advantage over rival firms and new entrepreneurs. In this view, antitrust actions that break up large firms can help maintain a competitive market. The other camp makes the case that big corporations are the players with resources to generate and scale new ideas, and so a minimal regulatory approach is best.
 
Recent rapid advances in cloud computing—built on open-source collaborations—provide a useful case study for rethinking those preconceptions. “To gain insights into the organizational conditions for innovation and its implications for policy,” Berk and Saxenian write, “we spent two years interviewing software developers, attorneys, entrepreneurs, foundation executives, and managers working on data transformation in the cloud.” What they found suggests a new set of policy tools that could be used to speed innovation and economic transformation.

What does the revolution in cloud computing reveal about innovation policy?

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Plus: Studying who uses a technology and how—including illicitly—offers a fresh perspective on the interactions between people and technology, argues José Ragas. And according to Trish Kahle, these studies can also provide insights into current and future moments of technological change
GALLERY
As an artist, Carrie Mae Weems has long used her work to investigate family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Among her latest work is the collection of posters and billboards called RESIST COVID | TAKE 6! Reflecting on this series, David Fakunle writes that Weems is very intentional in the way she elevates stories about COVID-19 that reflect the pandemic’s ongoing toll while nevertheless providing reasons for optimism
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Header illustration by Shonagh Rae.
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Issues in Science and Technology is a publication of Arizona State University and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
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