What's the Big Idea?
“The world is full of expertise,” says Joi Ito, Executive Director. “What it lacks is agility and context.” Watch here:
The mission of the Media Lab - symbolized by its glass walls - is to mitigate the isolating effects of specialization by creating a common space where brilliant people in every field can share ideas, English major to mathematician. (One team built a sensor for Yo-Yo Ma’s bow using technology that was later deployed in automobiles.)
The difficulty, of course, is encouraging people to take risks and contribute, even when they’re not 100% sure of themselves. Putting it all out there often, as hard as it may be, often produces the most surprising, counterintuitive results. So it helps that the executive director is a former DJ.
“To me, being a DJ and being the Director of the Media Lab are essentially the same thing,” says Ito. A DJ surveys the scene of a party and makes snap judgements about what to play based on the context. How many people are at the bar drinking? How many people are on the floor? What kind of people are in the room? What time of day is it? Success depends on whether you can correctly interpret individuals, anticipate their reactions, and ultimately bring a disparate group together as a cohesive whole.
“You’re kind of like a Shaman,” says Ito. “You’re influencing and supporting the energy and the activity in the room. A bad DJ will dissipate and destroy the energy; a good DJ will keep the energy going.”
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.