I'm happy and honored to announce that I've been named the new executive director of the MIT Media Lab.

In November of last year, I was attending Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford, a very cool event where a bunch of folks from Silicon Valley go to Oxford to hang out with entrepreneurs, students and others. As often is the case with conferences like this, it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends.

Megan Smith, one of the coolest people I know, was there and we were talking about everything, which often happens when I see Megan. Suddenly, Megan said, "Would you be interested in being the Director of the MIT Media Lab? I'm talking to Nicholas Negroponte on email about that right now." I answered, "Umm. Yeah, of course!" Megan smiled and immediately started tapping into her phone.

A few weeks later, I was in Catalina Island off of Los Angeles trying to complete my Search and Recovery training in a kelp forest with terrible visibility. Between dives, wearing my drysuit, I took a call with Nicholas to talk about the position. The connection was terrible and we could barely get a sentence completed before our calls dropped - a kind of ironic failure in technology. I was able to express my interest and we agreed to try to meet and talk face to face.

Several months later, I found myself at the front entrance of MIT Building E14. It's an amazing building designed by Maki and Associates. Together with the existing Wiesner Building (designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei), the two buildings make up the MIT Media Lab.

As I walked into the building, I felt like a pilgrim from the Middle Ages entering a cathedral. I was in awe and a bit of shock wondering if I would fit into an "institution" like the Media Lab and MIT.

After a day of non-stop meetings with a bunch of the faculty and students, I realized that I'd found my tribe. Everyone was super-smart, driven, working on very cool stuff. They weren't afraid to try anything. There was extreme diversity but also a common DNA. I felt a sense of mission that seemed driven by the physical proximity created by the space and the empowering brand and legacy of the Media Lab. It created a power to think long-term with agility that I'd never seen anywhere else.

People talked matter-of-factly about getting sensors from this lab, maybe we need a tissue scientist, and robots from that lab, and visualization from this lab to take this research in this other direction.

It was a firehouse of interconnections and creativity - I was completely energized and felt totally in my element.

While a huge believer in the risk-taking and agility of Silicon Valley venture backed startups, I'd been exceedingly frustrated by the tradeoffs in long-term impact that we often have to make because of the nature of venture capital and the public markets.

Government and large company research labs can be longer-term, but are increasingly unable to move quickly enough or be flexible enough to tackle the high speed and complex problems facing us today.

I had created a life for myself that was scattered across non-profits, venture startups, relationships with large research institutions and networks of people all over the world in my search for long-term yet agile solutions.

John Seely Brown often talks about "The Power of Pull" - how instead of stocking assets and resources, we should pull them, as we need them. Instead of pushing intelligence, orders and "stuff" from the center, one should create a context where we can pull them from our networks. Instead of planning every detail, one could embrace serendipity and chart a general trajectory, pulling the things together in a highly contextual and agile way.

The Media Lab seemed like it had all of the right elements to tackle this problem and attract all of those people like us who thrive in the chaos and complexity that scares most people away. In addition to the people and the mandate to think creatively, the Media Lab had relationships and the ability to have even more relationships so that the impact and the outcomes could be realized in academia, the public sector, in venture startups, in large companies, in the arts, in journalism or in social entrepreneurship and non-profits.

I decided that if I was lucky enough to be offered the job, I would take it. I was, and I did.

In the press release announcing my appointment, Nicholas Negroponte, Media Lab co-founder and chairman emeritus says, "In the past 25 years, the Lab helped to create a digital revolution -- a revolution that is now over. We are a digital culture. Today, the 'media' in Media Lab include the widest range of innovations, from brain sciences to the arts. Their impact will be global, social, economic and political -- Joi's world."

I really felt at home for the first time in many ways. It felt like a place where I could focus - focus on everything - but still have a tremendous ability to work with the team as well as my network and broader extended network to execute and impact the world in a substantial and positive way.

One of my missions will be to integrate my network with the Media Lab so I urge all of my friends to get to know The Lab and its work through the LabCast videos ( http://labcast.media.mit.edu/) , the research areas on the website ( http://www.media.mit.edu/research ), but better, to come visit the Media Lab. Many of your companies are already sponsors of the lab, but I really want to make sure that we're spending enough time together so that our visions become one and the magic happens.

For those of you who aren't sponsors of the Lab, I urge you to come visit and hang out and consider joining the team. I sincerely think that the Media Lab has an essential role in providing context and innovation for the future and the first step is to make sure all of you are at the table and part of the conversation.

In any case, I'll be writing and talking about everything I'm doing at and with the Media Lab and I look forward to interacting with everyone at every level.

John Markoff posted on his blog, The New York Times, before I did! Thanks for the encouraging article John.

The Media Lab has a press release.

17 Comments

Gratz Joi!

As exciting as I'm sure this is for you. I think this is much more exciting for the future of the Media Lab. I cannot wait to see what happens when your network integrates to that tribe. I can't wait to come visit! =)

Congratulations, Joi, I wish you great success on this new venture!

- Runtimerror

Im doing B.tech(in sub electronics and telecommunication) in College of engineering pune,where mit media lab workshop happend last time in india. . Glad 2 meet u

Cool!
I am looking forward to see how the mml will transform now.

just cemented my decision to apply there. looking to simplify complexity. maybe i will see you around!

Wow! Wonderful news Joi - congratulations to you and Negroponte on such visionary thinking!

Oh man, I was just looking for something that might combine my interest in music, technology, academics and entrepreneurship, and this came up. This program looks pretty exciting!

Congratulations. For me a dream job would be just to set foot in there. This is exciting!

Dear,

What a great news-- hope to see you to tell all good stories at Aspen in aug, if you happen to come for the roundtable on technology
Meanwhile, enjoy the shaping of the Lab-- also, i was trying to connect to Pattie Maes ( a belgian too!- ) to seek ideas of collaboration between McKinsey technology work and the Lab-- would that be a good idea? let me know if you wish to talk about this
Regards!
Jacques

Very exciting, congratulations, seems like an incredible opportunity with the potential to do a lot of amazing things!

The Media Lab has long been an exciting center for advancing the entire nature of representation, text, expression and technology. Perhaps with Joi's leadership the political will become a seamless part of those other areas.
This is a very exciting moment for the learners of the world, from open source education to demand response learning.
Congratulations

Congratulations! I am thrilled both for the Media Lab and for you... Can't wait to see how the next decade unfolds.

Very cool, congratulations Joi! My son plans to go to MIT for robotics, he is only 12 now but I'm sure you will have made great contributions in the interim.

Congrats! I met with you once at Kiyoshi's office few months back.

Even though it is too late to say 'Congratulations!', I would like to say again that.
Congratulations!

Hopefully, you can enjoy your life project that is likely to be long-term and can give a big impact to our human beings' happy and successful life.

I hope to see you when I go there.

Just heard your interview on By Design, Radio National Australia. I enjoyed it immensely. Love the concepts of openess and 'pivoting'. What a brilliant appointment for the Media Lab. Congratulations

Mazel mazel

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