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Barbara Lindsey

Open university: Joi Ito plans a radical reinvention of MIT's Media Lab (Wired UK) - 0 views

  • They have a maker space in a church, a place where the kids can learn how to build a computer, a bike shop where they can learn how to do repairs. The kid who runs this place, Jeff Sturges, is awesome.We're sending a bunch of Media Lab people to Detroit to work with local innovators already doing stuff on the ground."
  • in which any bright talent anywhere, academically qualified or not, can be part of the world's leading "antidisciplinary" research lab. "Opening up the lab is more about expanding our reach and creating our network," explains Ito, appointed director in April 2011.
  • as Ito sees it, the formal channels of academia today inhibit progress. "In the old days, being relevant was writing academic papers. Today, if people can't find you on the internet, if they're not talking about you in Rwanda, you're irrelevant. That's the worst thing in the world for any researcher. The people inventing things might be in Kenya, and they go to the internet and search. Funders do the same thing. The old, traditional academic channel is not a good channel for attracting attention, funding, people, or preventing other people from competing with you.
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  • You can't actually tell people to think for themselves, or be creative. You have to work with them and have them learn it themselves."
  • "Being open, you're much less likely to have someone competitive emerge and you're also much more likely to find somebody who wants to come to work with you. Innovation is happening everywhere -- not just in the Ivy League schools. And that's why we're working with you guys [at Wired] too -- in the old days, academics didn't want to be in popular magazines. Openness is a survival trait."
  • It was, according to a 1984 briefing document by Negroponte, "designed to be a place where people of dramatically different backgrounds can simultaneously use and invent new media, and where the computer itself is seen as a medium -- part of a communications network of people and machines -- not just an object in front of which one sits."
  • As Ito sees it, the lab's mission "is to come up with ideas that would never be able to occur anywhere else because most places are incremental, directed and disciplinary".
  • There are lots of kids who are not happy with this massive consumerism, this unsustainable growth, but who have really smart science and technology values. That's a type of person we can draw into what I think will become a movement."
  • "We aim to capture serendipity. You don't get lucky if you plan everything -- and you don't get serendipity unless you have peripheral vision and creativity.
  • Our funding model allows our students to do anything they want without asking permission. It's like venture capital: we don't expect every experiment to succeed -- in fact, a lot are failures. But that's great -- failure is another word for discovery. We're very much against incrementalism -- we look for unexplored spaces, and our key metrics for defining a good project are uniqueness, impact and magic."
  • Ito set out some of his key principles. These included: "Encourage rebellion instead of compliance"; "Practice instead of theory"; " Constant learning instead of education"; "Compass over map". "The key principles include disobedience -- no one ever won a Nobel prize by doing as they're told," he explains later. "And it's about resilience versus strength -- you don't try to resist failure, you allow failure and bounce back. And compass over map is important -- you need to know where you're going, but the cost of planning often exceeds the cost of actually trying. The maps you have are often wrong. These principles affect and apply to just about any organisation."
  • In the old days, you needed hundreds of millions of dollars and armies of people to do anything that mattered. Today a couple of kids using open-source software, a generic PC and the internet can create a Google, a Yahoo! and a Facebook in their dorm room, and plug it in and it's working even before they've raised money. That takes all the innovation from the centre and pushes it to the edges -- into the little labs inside the Media Lab; inside dorm rooms; even inside terrorist cells. Suddenly the world is out of control -- the people innovating, disrupting, creating these tools, they're not scholars. They don't care about disciplines. They're antidisciplinary."
  • So when Ito was appointed, Negroponte wanted the press release headlined: "University dropout named director of Media Lab". "But," he says with raised eyebrows, "the fact that he didn't have a degree was buried near the last paragraph. That's the good Peter Thiel -- if you do drop out and do something creative, more power to you."
Barbara Lindsey

Open university: Joi Ito plans a radical reinvention of MIT's Media Lab (Wired UK) - 0 views

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Barbara Lindsey

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