For 25 years or so after it opened in 1985, Media Lab focused on multimedia computing and communications – the interfaces between people and electronics – and it came up with important new technologies such as the electronic ink used in the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. Such research continues to thrive but Media Lab is spreading its academic wings to address broader social issues, says Joi Ito, who became director in 2011 after an unconventional career as an internet entrepreneur and social activist in the US and Japan.
“We want to be anti-disciplinary – which means filling in the white space between disciplines,” he says. “City Science is a great example of something that brings together work from many fields across the lab. When you bring in kids who are interested in architecture, design, transport, energy, urban gardening, mobility and big data, you get a different way of looking at things.”
Higher education is almost always about honing your skills and research into one specific area. Media Lab is about the opposite, the juxtaposition of skills.