A DJ Saved My Life: Lessons From the Director of MIT's Media Lab

Joichi Ito: There are different types of DJs.  The kind of DJ that I was, was a DJ that would take a lot of inputs, you know, 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?  And by playing music, you’re able to channel the energy from the room.  You’re kind of like a Shaman, you know, you’re really sort of influencing and supporting the energy and the activity in the room.  And a bad DJ will dissipate and destroy the energy; a good DJ will keep the energy going. 

The head of an ensemble is really trying to get the group to click.  It’s trying to take this energy and to turn it into something productive and forward and positive.  You’re not actually being creative in a certain type of primary sense, but you’re really being creative at the sort of institutional sense.  So in a way, I feel like I'm like a DJ at the Media Lab.  I'm not doing my own research, and there isn’t any one particular piece of research that I want to dive into and focus on exclusively.  The institution and the process of the Media Lab and the community of the Media Lab is my work.

I think what the world has a lot of is deep areas of expertise; what the world lacks today is agility and context.  All kinds of problems that we have today require all kinds of disciplines to come together.  And I think the key is to be able to get deep enough to figure out where to find the information.  It’s very much like the internet.  You don’t memorize information; you learn where to look to get the information.  And so our experts either know the information themselves or are deep enough so that they know where to find it.

And as a DJ, really what you’re focused on is you’re focused on the community, you’re focused on the people, you’re focused on getting the energies of all those people to work together and feel that kind of crescendo, that feeling of you’re in the zone, you are an ensemble.  To me, that’s been my life work, always, has been bringing communities together and making them high performance and functional.  And to me, being a DJ and being the Director of the Media Lab are essentially the same thing.  

 

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

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