MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


Graduate studies in Media Arts and Sciences continues to flourish, with over one hundred students engaged in research within the Media Laboratory. Added to this population are another hundred-plus undergraduates per term as active UROPers - the largest population of any unit at MIT. This strong commitment to provide a creative environment for both undergraduate as well as graduate students is one of the reasons the Media Laboratory and its academic programs remain highly visible within the institute, despite our small faculty. Our subject offerings also serve to open doors to engaging experiences within the Media Laboratory, beginning with Professors Negroponte and Hawley's Introduction to Media Arts and Sciences attended by over one hundred students. This introduction is then followed by a set of "hands-on" subjects: Tools for Thought (Professors Resnick, Cassell and Brand), Story: Representation and Process (Professors Davenport and Haase) and Intentionality (Professors Pentland and Richards) as well as a host of other subjects that cover more advanced topics that aim to bring ongoing research into the classroom. The culmination and highlight this year of two of these advanced offerings will be Professor Tod Machover's Brain Opera, which premieres at the Lincoln Center in July. Currently our faculty are exploring other ways to further enrich the undergraduate experience.


One hundred and eighty-nine applications for our graduate program were received this year, from which 27 were selected for admission (including 6 women), 19 for the Master's program, and 8 for the Doctoral program. Our graduate student population this year consisted of 94 students (19 women, 2 underrepresented minorities, and 24 foreign students), of whom 49 were in the Master's program and 45 in the Doctoral program. Thirty-five advanced degrees were awarded during the year (32 S.M. and 3 Ph.D.). Twenty-two graduate subjects were offered by the Program.

This year we offered nine undergraduate subjects. The number of active UROP students in the Media Laboratory was 242. 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.


Assistant Professor Aaron Bobick has been named the LG Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Professor Bobick's research spans human and machine vision, integration of perceptual information, and symbolic understanding of visual situations, and he has pioneered the field of dynamic scene annotation.

Assistant Professor Neil Gershenfeld was promoted to Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences effective July 1996. Professor Gershenfeld's overarching intellectual theme is the relationship between physics and information. He has contributed in the field of complex systems, specifically the non-linear analysis of time series events.

Assistant Professor Kenneth B. Haase, Jr. was promoted to Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences effective July 1996. Professor Haase is noted for his work on using analogy to index, retrieve and organize very large scale databases of information.

Assistant Professor Mitchel Resnick was promoted to Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences effective July 1996. He has also been named the Fukutake Career Development Professor of Research in Education. Professor Resnick's research explores how new technology tools and media support new ways of thinking and learning. His group is creating new computational tools that help people (particularly children) develop new ways of thinking about systems-oriented phenomena (such as self-organization and emergence).

Dr. Hiroshi Ishii joined the Media Arts and Sciences faculty as an Associate Professor of Media Arts & Sciences and is currently supported by Interval Research Corporation. He received his PhD from Hokkaido University (Japan) in 1992, and came to MIT from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (Japan) where he was a Senior Research Engineer. His main research interest is the creation and development of collaborative workspaces that merge the video and graphics technologies.

Dr. John Maeda will join our faculty as an Assistant Professor of Computation Design effective July 1996. Dr. Maeda received his PhD from Tsukuba University Institute of Art and Design in 1996 and has already achieved international recognition for his design work.

Dr. Joseph Jacobson has also been appointed as an Assistant Professor effective July 1996. Dr. Jacobson received his PhD from MIT in 1992. For three of the past four years he has been a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, and over the past year he has been an Instructor in the Media Arts and Sciences Program. His research interest is in "electronic paper".

We are pleased that both Professor Marvin Minsky and Professor Seymour Papert will continue at half-time affiliation with the Media Laboratory and its academic programs.


Professor Stephen Benton, E. Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, received a Vinci of Excellence award in the 1995 Science for Art Competition sponsor by LVMH Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, Inc. Professor Benton was cited for his contributions to holography as an imaging medium, especially for inventing the silver "rainbow" or "Benton" white-light hologram, for developing methods for creating computer-generated holograms, and for inventing, with the Spatial Imaging group, the world's first interactive holographic video system.

Adjunct Professor Danny Hillis has been named the first Disney Fellow of the Walt Disney Corporation.

Honorary Doctorates were awarded to Professor Nicholas Negroponte from Ball State University and Professor Marvin Minsky from Connecticut College, Center for Arts & Technology. Professor Minsky was also awarded the Joseph A. Priestley Award from Dickinson College, Carlisle Pennsylvania.

Other Newsworthy Events

Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking and Learning in a Digital World edited by Mitchel Resnick with Yasmin Kafai (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 1996). This book further develops the intellectual underpinnings of constructionist theory - a theory for learning and a strategy for education.

Perception as Bayesian Inference by D. Knill and W. Richards (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Jerome B. Wiesner: A Random Walk through the 20th Century, directed by Glorianna Davenport and Cheryl Morse. This is the first hybrid CD-Rom/WWW site for 10/10 and also appears as a stand alone WWW Java Site with video.

Whitman Richards

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96