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The Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking is pleased to announce Shawn Rickenbacker as a Taylor Senior Fellow for 2016-2017. Rickenbacker is an architect and creative technologist whose work focuses on the convergence of digital and physical space and its relationship to the human experience. As the co-founder of a research and design consultancy, Urban Data + Design, Rickenbacker uses data and research to help clients make human-centered decisions that are ethical and empathic in an increasingly technological world. Rickenbacker was selected as a Finalist in 2012 for the PopTech Social Innovation Fellowship, “a one-of-a-kind Fellows program designed for one-of-a-kind social innovators who have the talent, passion, and potential to change the world”. As a Taylor Senior Fellow, Rickenbacker will use his architectural background and social innovation experience in the classroom to explore the topics of equity and technology. In the spring, he will teach a SISE elective course titled “Humans and Machines” to explore technology’s role in human experience and the relevance of cultural competency in innovative technology. Rickenbacker hopes to facilitate discussions with students on how to foster cultural sensitivity when using and creating new technology. Questions students will grapple with include:

  • How can low and middle-income earners participate in the quickly evolving economy which depends on technology that remains inaccessible to them?
  • How can innovators who participate in technological advancement allow lower income people to augment the new technology era?
  • What is artificial intelligence and a cultural corpus? How do those concepts affect the human experience?

Human training of machines is critical as technology grows, and this course will offer students training on vital topics so that they can contribute to solving complex issues on the nexus of technology, cultural competency, and human ethics.

Rickenbacker holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University, a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia, and a Certificate in Advanced Interaction Design from NYU. He has lectured throughout the US, Canada, London, Helsinki, Barcelona, and Havana on his research and professional work. His work has been featured in The New York Times, CNN International, Global Architecture, and Fast Company, among others. He has previously taught in London at the AA, Ohio State, and Syracuse University. Rickenbacker is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Design where he teaches design studios and spatial physical computing. He also heads the Futures Interaction Lab, a Motorola funded design research lab, conducting research on the convergence of digital and physical space. In April 2015, he was the organizer of the Motorola/PennDesign Symposium Non-Discrete Architectures: Digital Prosthetics, Connectivity, and Augmentation, which explored the evolution of new spatial design paradigms addressing the multidimensional world and the culture of technology, including coding, data, spatial networks, robotics, and augmented space.

A frequent lecturer at design schools across the nation and in several countries, Rickenbacker has lectured and made presentations at the City University of New York, City Age, Washington University, University of Michigan, Syracuse University, University of Virginia, University of Illinois-Champagne/Urbana as well as in Barcelona, Helsinki, and Havana.

For inquiries about Shawn and his work at Taylor, please contact For more information on the course contact Lars Gilbertson, NewDay Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and Professor of Practice in Biomedical Engineering, at

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