In education, we see a trend toward putting more and more courses online. Students learn new material, do exercises, and watch lectures outside the classroom. They spend their time in class interacting with the professor and each other, using this valuable time for mentoring and collaboration. This is called the "flipped classroom." It has a double benefit: It provides courseware that the entire world can access freely, but also creates a much richer experience on campus, focusing time together on close interactions and building relationships.
Media Lab membership is going through a similar transformation. Increasingly, what goes on at the Media Lab is available online. This does not diminish the value of our work; rather it amplifies it. It encourages collaboration, funding, and feedback, and will put our work in the context of a global conversation around the grand challenges facing the world community.
This new openness gives us the opportunity to focus more of our valuable time with Lab members on important, personal interactions. The Lab’s greatest asset will always be the people generating the ideas. Our “flipped classroom” gives us a greater ability to grow a stronger network of Lab researchers and member companies–a network where we convene, build, and amplify ideas; address complex global issues; and develop new initiatives. It also encourages members to interact and collaborate peer-to-peer.
It's the shift in focus from content to context–from nouns to verbs–from consumers to participants. The Media Lab is creating a network–a tribe–of members.
Joi Ito is director of the Media Lab.