MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Program in Media Arts and Sciences

The development of the undergraduate curriculum in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) is now poised to petition the Committees on Curricula and Undergraduate Policy for approval as a degree granting program. The proposal will be that the new MAS undergraduate degree be offered only in conjunction with another department's bachelor's degree as part of a double major. The curriculum begins with Professors Negroponte's and Hawley's Introduction to Media Arts and Sciences, followed by a set of CORE subjects that include Signals, Systems, and Information for Media Technology (Professors Bove and Picard), Tools for Thought (Professors Resnick and Cassell and Dr. Brand), Story (Professors Davenport and Haase), and a forthcoming subject, Intentionality (Professors Richards and Pentland). All of these subjects are project-oriented, and serve as precursors to more advanced atelier-like instruction. The program also will require substantial participation in ongoing Media Lab projects, using the UROP vehicle. Approximately one hundred students attend the introductory subject each year. A large fraction of these then move on to the next level of MAS subjects. Currently, we are advising fifty students who are interested in Media Arts and Sciences undergraduate degree options.


Two hundred and twenty-seven applications for our graduate program were received this year, from which 33 were selected for admission (including 4 women and one underrepresented minority), 26 for the Master's program, and 7 for the Doctoral program. Our graduate student population this year consisted of 108 students (19 women, 5 underrepresented minorities, and 29 foreign students), of whom 62 were in the Master's program and 46 in the Doctoral program. Twenty-two advanced degrees were awarded during the year (seventeen S.M. and five Ph.D.). Twenty-seven graduate subjects were offered by the Program.

This year we offered ten undergraduate subjects. The number of active UROP students in the Media Laboratory was 161. Of these students, many pursue their undergraduate thesis research under our faculty's supervision. Three of the MAS faculty and Media Lab staff conducted freshman advising seminars or served as freshman advisors.


The Dreyfoos Career Development Chairs
Thanks to a generous gift by Alex Dreyfoos, Jr. '54, as of July 1995 we now have two new endowed career development chairs in Media Arts and Sciences. The first holders are Associate Professor V. Michael Bove, Jr. and Assistant Professor Michael Hawley (see below).

Assistant Professor Pattie Maes was promoted to Associate Professor of Media Technology effective July 1995. She also will hold the Sony Career Development Professorship. Professor Maes has become recognized as one of the world leaders in intelligent autonomous agents - a new field that attempts to understand and use the adaptive behavior of a complex integrated system consisting of a collection of intelligent devices.

Assistant Professor Rosalind Picard was promoted to Associate Professor of Media Technology effective July 1995. She also is the NEC Career Development Professor of Computers and Communications. Professor Picard's research interests include image texture processing, useful for finding pictures by their picture content rather than by their name.

New Appointments
Dr. Justine Cassell joined the Media faculty as an Assistant Professor. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1991, and came to MIT from Pennsylvania State University where she was an Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Psychology, and French. Her main research interest is the use of gestures in narrative communication.

Assistant Professor Michael Hawley will join the Media Arts and Sciences rank list effective July 1995, transferring from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. As previously mentioned, he will hold one of the new Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. '54 chairs. Professor Hawley's current research interest is in exploring personal interfaces that will connect everyday people to the emerging global digital infrastructure.

W. Daniel Hillis and Mitchell Kapor were appointed as Adjunct Professors in Media Arts and Sciences. Danny Hillis is the inventor of the Connection Machine and co-founder of Thinking Machines. His current interests include evolution, parallel learning algorithms, and how simple things produce complex behavior. Mitchell Kapor founded Lotus Development Corporation in 1982 and since his departure in 1987, has been engaged principally in policy issues raised by the growth of communication networks.


Marvin Minsky received the 1995 Rank prize in the field of Opto-electronics for his invention of the confocal microscope. The presentation, in May, was at the Royal Society of Medicine, London. He was also selected to receive the Joseph Priestly award in September 1995 at Dickinson College.

Alive, an artificial life interactive video environment headed by Professors Pattie Maes and Alex Pentland, continues to receive recognition, receiving the ArcTec Biennale prize (to Professor Maes and PhD candidate Bruce Blumberg).

Professor Tod Machover, head of the Media's Music group, was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France's highest artistic and literary honor.


Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds, by Mitchel Resnick (MIT Press 1994), is a lucid and compelling presentation of how the active construction of behaviors of self-organizing systems can stimulate new ways of thinking and understanding.

Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte (Knopf 1995), which was placed on the New York Times best seller list, reveals the present and future impact of digital technologies upon communications, society, and our way of life.

And lastly, we miss the guidance, wit and charm of Jerome B. Wiesner (1915-1994).

Whitman Richards

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95