Action Learning: MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Media Lab launch new viral political action seminar 


Pro-democracy and non-partisan, students to explore intersection of technology and society

Cambridge, Mass., September 14, 2017—MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT Media Lab today launched Viral Political Action, a seminar that will explore recent social, behavioral, and political analysis with the goal of creating a new set of grassroots tools and applications to enable diverse populations to become politically active mobilizers.Open to all MIT students, Viral Political Action will place them at the intersection of technology and society, with a weekly dinner discussion and a project unit where groups will design, build and test viral organizing apps. A rich mixture of renowned guest speakers, including elected officials, leading academics, political journalists and authors, will participate in the program by sharing their deep subject-matter expertise.

“The MIT philosophy is hands-on experimentation and learning,” says Simon Johnson, Professor of Global Economics and Management at MIT Sloan and co-creator of the seminar. “The collaboration between MIT Sloan and the Media Lab will empower students to build technology that will strengthen the legitimate voice of democracy – a system of government based on the belief of freedom and equality between people.”

With students from diverse political backgrounds, Prof. Johnson – who has worked on policy issues with political leaders on both sides of the aisle – stresses that the course is pro-democracy and not partisan in any way.

MIT Sloan School of Management is one of the world’s top-ranked business schools; the MIT Media Lab is world-renowned, interdisciplinary research lab devoted to projects at the convergence of technology, multimedia, sciences, art and design. The cross-disciplinary collaboration brings together MIT Sloan’s renowned expertise in business and analytics, with the Media Lab’s deep knowledge of technology prototyping.

The program, too, is an extension of MIT Sloan’s pioneering Action Learning ethos, in which students receive on-the-ground opportunities to put classroom theory into practice.

"The last election cycle taught us that most pollsters, commentators and strategists got it wrong,” says Andy Lippman, a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab and co-creator of Viral Political Action. “They were out of step with the techniques and styles of thought of the electorate.  And to this day, we don’t fully understand the impact of new and old media or the import of propaganda.  Now we have the chance to rebuild political organization from the ground up and test it in the real world.  In 2018, we are not having a national election, we are holding 435 local ones.  This course will develop up to 435 different ways to promote local mobilization and get out an informed vote.”

Viral Political Action builds upon FiftyNifty, a Media Lab initiative to encourage people to build social networks and participate in political discourse.

About the MIT Sloan School of Management

The MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world.

About the MIT Media Lab

The MIT Media Lab transcends known boundaries and disciplines by actively promoting a unique, antidisciplinary culture that emboldens unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas.

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