On April 25 the MIT School of Architecture and Planning announced Joichi “Joi” Ito as the new director of the MIT Media Lab. An interview with Ito on his first day of work aired this week on WBUR Boston.
A leading thinker on innovation, global technology policy, internet and society, Ito is board chair (and previously served as CEO) of Creative Commons, the non-profit organization that develops tools to encourage legal sharing and reuse of intellectual content. He also serves on the boards of the Mozilla Foundation, WITNESS, and Global Voices, channeling his advocacy of internet freedom and emergent democracy.
Ito has been an internet pioneer since 1994, when he founded a Japanese internet company that became Digital Garage. He went on to found PSINet Japan and Infoseek Japan, the country’s first commercial ISP and commercial search engine, and was an early investor in more than 40 companies, including Flickr, Six Apart, Last.fm, Kongregate, Kickstarter and Twitter. He was founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Neoteny Co. and is a general partner of Neoteny Labs. He is an affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and in Japan he is senior visiting researcher at Keio University SFC Research Institute and a part-time lecturer at Keo Graduate School of Media Design. He has lived and worked for extended periods in Japan, the United States and the Middle East.
Ito is the fourth director of the Media Lab, which was founded by Nicholas Negroponte in 1985. The lab applies unorthodox research approaches for envisioning the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life. Lab designers, engineers, artists and scientists work atelier-style, conducting more than 350 projects that range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to new tools for learning, to innovative modes of transportation for sustainable cities.
Ito succeeds Frank Moss, who was director of the Media Lab for the past five years.
“The thing about world-changing innovation is that it’s totally unpredictable,” said Ito. “By abandoning traditional disciplinary divisions, encouraging risk-taking, and creating a research environment that embraces serendipity and ‘the Power of Pull,’ the Media Lab comes up with the type of hybrid innovations that address the complexity and speed of the current global challenges. I remember when my sister was about five years old and was asked what she was interested in, she said, ‘Everything!’ I think if you ask that same question around the Lab, you’d get the same answer from many. That’s the magic of the place, and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about joining with the Lab’s faculty and students to become part of a uniquely empowered creative team that is changing the world in a substantial and positive way.”
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