The MIT Media Lab Crowdsources Disobedience

Attention all disruptors. The nomination period is now open for the first MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award, which will recognize effective, responsible ethical disobedience across disciplines and around the world. The prize is a disruptive $250,000 in cash, no strings attached. The Media Lab’s objective in bestowing the award is to build awareness and support acts of productive disobedience.

Of course, the Lab is not looking for just any disruptor. The Disobedience Award will go to “a person or group engaged in an extraordinary example of disobedience for the benefit of society.” The organizers note that societies and institutions have a tendency to lean toward order and away from chaos. While structure has its place, they note, it can also stifle creativity, flexibility, and productive change.

“You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told,” says Media Lab Director Joi Ito. “The American civil rights movement wouldn’t have happened without civil disobedience. India would not have achieved independence without the pacifist but firm disobedience of Gandhi and his followers. The Boston Tea Party, which we celebrate here in New England, was also quite disobedient.”

Submit Disobedience Award nominations by May 1

The Lab is inviting the public to nominate any individual or group credited with taking a personal risk to affect positive change for the greater good. A screening committee of activists, scientists, designers, and engineers will review the nominations and select the honoree. Nominations close on May 1, 2017. A short list of nominees will be announced prior to the announcement of the winner. The winner—as well as the winner’s initial nominator—will be flown to Cambridge to attend the ceremony.

“I like to think of the Media Lab as ‘disobedience robust,’” Ito says. “The robustness of the model of the Lab is in part due to the way disobedience and disagreement exist and are manifested in a healthy, creative, and respectful way. I believe that being ‘disobedience robust’ is an essential element of any healthy democracy and of any open society that continues to self correct and innovate.”

Learn more about the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award.

Read about disobedient role models.

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