Note: I have posted the answers to my exam, which were completed entirely with 24 hours, because I hope they might be useful to other graduate students. These do not reflect the depth of my thinking on these topics and are not meant to be polished essays that I believe would otherwise warrent distribution.

PhD General Examinations

As part of the requirements for my Interdepartmental PhD at MIT, I was required to take and pass a series of general examinations. I completed these examinations in July 2010. My examination consisted of three written examinations in three topic areas and one oral examination on all three areas.

The three topic areas addressed the social scientific study of open and user innovation communities through – and with applications for – technological design. The objective is to inform a research program aimed at understanding the organizational and social structure around users' decisions to contribute to innovation communities – including free, libre, open source software, and peer production projects – through the evaluation of technological designs and with implications for the design of technological support systems.

The full text of the proposal as submitted, including the full reading list of about 300 books and articles, can be found here (PDF).

I was notified that I had passed each portion of written exams and the oral examination on July 20, 2010.

Main Area

The first area is the main area which covers technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategy (TIES) with an added emphasis on the study of open and user innovation. The reading list includes core texts from the study of the management of technological innovation as well as key readings from the closely connected literatures on entrepreneurship and strategic management. The list is adapted from, and represents a core of, recent generals reading lists from the TIES group at the MIT Sloan School of Management. It also includes a more focused set of readings from the social scientific study of user and open source innovation and free and open source software.

The written requirement was paper of publishable quality, as evaluated by Professor Eric von Hippel.

To fulfill the requirement, I submitted the following written work:

Social Scientific Grounding

The second area provides a disciplinary grounding in organizational and economic sociology. The reading list includes a set of texts from major streams in organization theory and the sociological study of organizations as well as a list of core readings from economic sociology. It provides a basis to understand the social structure underlying the organization of open and user innovation as well as a background from which to understand the fundamental sociological mechanisms through which these communities operate.

The written requirement was, a 24-hour written exam, administered by Professor Jason Davis.

To fufill the requirement, I submitted the following examination, completed during 24 hours:

Application to Technology Design

The third area is technology design for cooperation, community, and creativity. The readings focus on the study of design for computer supportive cooperative work as well as related research in the study of design for social media and social computing, and for creativity, learning, and innovation. The reading list emphasizes the social and organizational context of technology and its relationship to social structure and innovation in particular. The texts suggests ways to understand how information technology structures cooperative work, how these tools can be evaluated, and how they might be designed to more effectively facilitate innovation, creativity, and cooperative work.

The written requirement was, a 24-hour written exam, administered by Professor Mitch Resnick.

To fulfill the requirement, I submitted the following examination, completed during 24 hours:

Oral Examinations

The following text from the approved PhD program proposal describes the form of the oral component of the examination:

The oral examination typically lasts three hours. The session begins with a presentation (at most 30 minutes), after which the committee members ask questions to evaluate the student’s knowledge, understanding, and ability to think through issues and problems in the three selected areas. Examiners can also ask questions from related and surrounding fields.

My oral examinations were helped on July 20, 2010. Attendees at my examination included:

I spoke for about half an hour while showing this presentation material and then answered questions from the faculty for about 2 hours.

Readings and Material

For those studying for their won generals, or interested in the areas my examinations covered, I have made my study material available including: summaries of readings. This includes published summaries of more than two thirds of the readings on my list hosted on the website AcaWiki which is a website that collects summaries of academic articles on a wiki. Please feel free to read these, improve them, or add to them with similar related work.