How H-STAR Works

The H-STAR Institute was housed in the Stanford Graduate School of Education and supports research, through organizations, grants and contracts, in areas at the intersection of the human sciences and technologies. H-STAR programs leveraged common interests across the different contexts in which information technology was used (e.g., learning, commerce, entertainment, work), the different motivations for research (e.g., designing information environments and studying their consequences), and the different technologies employed in information system solutions (e.g., computing, new media, mobile devices, networks, sensors).

Through its affiliated mediaX at Stanford University Industry Affiliates Program, the H-STAR Institute extended its research activities to include collaborations and consultations with industry, enabling the building of bridges that connected the best faculty and student scholars at Stanford to thought leaders from influential companies, to address questions of real importance within both academia and industry about the future of people and technology.

Research areas supported by the Institute included learning technologies, human-machine interaction design, pervasive computing including mobile devices, speech recognition, automated dialogue systems, collaboration technologies, entertainment and serious games, immersive virtual worlds and virtual humans, technology and the developing world, information and social network visualization, security and privacy, participatory media including web video technologies, simulation, law and information policy, and novel input and display devices. We engaged with other research centers on the Stanford campus that address related issues.


The Stanford Secret

The secret sauce that made Stanford the leading university in the world for the launch of successful, innovative startup companies (many of which have become world leaders themselves) is not a secret at all. What makes Stanford so successful is a tradition of innovative research that cuts across traditional disciplines, breaking down the barriers that separate them. Other leading universities have also promoted interdisciplinary research, generally by creating multi-disciplinary research centers, which hire cross-disciplinary thinkers. That approach can be highly successful, but it is not how we do it.

At Stanford we have always recognized the power of the traditional disciplines. Everyone in H-STAR was a world expert in a traditional discipline. Indeed, many in the institute work in traditional ways almost entirely within their discipline, and it is only by taking a step back that the synoptic campus-wide interdisciplinary picture emerges. Regardless of the degree to which H-STAR researchers were engaged in interdisciplinary projects, the metric by which their work is evaluated is that of their core discipline, within their home department.


Created by the researchers themselves

H-STAR was created by the researchers themselves, in recognition of the fact that the design and use of new technologies and the radical changes those new developments had made and continued to make the way we live our lives, present challenges that no single research discipline, or even a small collaborative group of disciplines, could properly address. The institute operated by fostering both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and university partnerships that (directly or indirectly) advance ideas about the role of technology in such domains as learning, commerce and entertainment, with the promise to improve people’s lives and solve social problems. The institute was driven by a steadfast belief in the inspiration and innovation that emerges at the intersection of practical problems and academic research, and in the boundary-crossing and conceptual collisions that occur between multiple disciplines addressing the same questions.


Join Our Community

Recognizing that interdisciplinary research could benefit from collaborations with researchers from outside Stanford, H-STAR looked to collaborate on a worldwide basis with universities, university consortia, government supported research laboratories, and organizations representing same results oriented goals. Engagement with researchers in industry and other organizations was also welcomed, and is normally facilitated by H-STAR’s through its affiliate programs – mediaX at Stanford University or ChangeLabs.

The unique nature of Stanford as the world’s leading incubator of new technology companies, coupled with a close relationship with Silicon Valley, meant that for research collaborations in H-STAR’s areas of focus, the value to the group could be considerable. Institutional collaboration with H-STAR automatically included membership in our renowned programs: mediaX at Stanford University, with its extensive connections to the technology industry; and ChangeLabs, with its sustainable transformation programs. In our experience such collaborations yield greater benefits when arranged through an appropriate technology advancement agency.


Types of Collaboration

Many research collaborations comprised single projects, and were arranged on a case-by-case basis. For larger collaborations, however, there were benefits and economies to be gained from a collaboration framework. H-STAR could negotiate broad collaboration agreements on a case-by-case basis, but such collaborations were most easily established — and much “re-inventing of the wheel” avoided — by adopting one of two standard program templates H-STAR had developed for research with other organizations and found to be successful: Visiting Collaboration and Project Collaboration. (These were technical terms. Both involve projects and both generally involve visitors.) Note that these templates provide the basis for a collaboration. Each may be enhanced or tailored to meet particular needs.


Working with Graduate and Undergraduate Students

H-STAR faculty were regularly involved in teaching courses and mentoring graduate students in the learning sciences and technologies programs of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, and their research preparation is commonly advanced through apprenticeship learning in research and development projects of H-STAR programs and grants.

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