Authors Meet Critics: A Conversation About Work, Innovation and Inequality

Type: Virtual Panel
Theme: Geographies of Access: Inclusion and Pathways
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Careers and Professional Development
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 50
Organizers: Nichola Lowe
Chairs: Nichola Lowe


In Uneven Innovation: The Work of Smart Cities (Columbia University Press 2020), Jennifer Clark argues that urban change driven by the technology sector is following the patterns that have previously led to imbalanced access, opportunities, and outcomes. The tech sector needs the city, yet it exploits and maintains unequal arrangements, embedding labor flexibility and worker precarity in the built environment. Technology development, Uneven Innovation contends, is the easy part; understanding the city and its governance, regulation, access, participation, and representation—all of which are complex and highly localized—is the real challenge. Clark’s critique leads to policy prescriptions that present a path toward an alternative future in which smart cities result in more equitable communities.

In Putting Skill to Work: How to Create Good Jobs in Uncertain Times (MIT Press 2021), Nichola Lowe starts with America’s employment problem—not enough good paying jobs to go around or clear pathways leading to them. Skill-based solutions are critical for addressing this employment crisis, but the transformational power of skill is frequently misunderstood. Too often skill is narrowly equated with educational attainment or oversimplified through measurement techniques. But for Lowe, the real power of skill lies in its uncertainty: reflected in the elemental yet enigmatic questions of who possesses skill, where it resides and whose responsibility it is to build over time. Putting skill to Work tells the stories of pioneering workforce intermediaries—nonprofits, unions, community colleges—that harness skills ambiguity to extend economic opportunity to workers at the bottom of the labor market. With renewed policy emphasis on skill development, these opportunity-rich solutions can be further expanded—ensuring workers across the entire educational spectrum contribute skills that drive innovation forward and share the gains they generate for the twenty-first century workplace.

This Authors-Meets-Critics panel brings Clark and Lowe into conversation with urban planning and policy experts Marc Doussard (UIUC), Joan Fitzgerald (Northeastern University) and Rachel Weber (UIC).


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Panelist Jennifer Clark The Ohio State University 15 8:00 AM
Panelist Nichola Lowe University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill 15 8:15 AM
Panelist Rachel Weber University of Illinois At Chicago 15 8:30 AM
Panelist Joan Fitzgerald Northeastern University 15 8:45 AM

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