MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


For the 1996-97 academic year, the Program in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) enrolled 111 graduate students. In addition, more than 200 undergraduates registered in Media Arts and Sciences classes or actively engaged in research activities at the Media Laboratory.

During the year, we continued to explore several options that would enable us to expand the scope of our undergraduate educational program. We are working with other departments (most notably Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry) to find a mutually agreeable way for Media Arts and Sciences to offer an experimental freshman program. Our hope is that this effort will be a first step toward instituting a Media Arts and Sciences undergraduate program sometime in the near future.


The Program in Media Arts and Sciences received 205 applications during the 1996-97 academic year. From these, 42 new students (including 9 women) were selected and enrolled: 36 for the master's program, and 8 for the doctoral program. This represented a 56 percent increase over fall 1995 admissions.

The total MAS enrollment of 111 included 23 women, 3 underrepresented minorities, and 28 foreign students. Of the total, 58 were master's candidates, and 53 were doctoral candidates. Thirty-one advanced degrees were awarded during the year (23 SMs and 8 PhDs). Thirty-five graduate subjects were offered.

For 1996-97 we offered nine undergraduate subjects. In addition, five Media Arts and Sciences faculty members and staff conducted freshman seminars or served as freshman advisors. The largest undergraduate presence at the Media Laboratory continued to be UROP students. More than 240 undergraduates participated in UROP research projects at the Laboratory. Many of these undergraduates pursued their undergraduate theses under MAS faculty supervision.


Bruce Blumberg, who recently completed his PhD with Pattie Maes in the Laboratory's Autonomous Agents group, joined the Media Arts and Sciences faculty as an assistant professor in October 1996. Previously, Professor Blumberg held positions at Apple Computer, Inc., where he was product manager for the original Apple Laser Writer, and NeXT, Inc.

Assistant Professor Bruce Blumberg was named the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Professor Blumberg, whose research focuses on creating lifelike virtual creatures, is one of the chief architects of the Media Laboratory's ALIVE project, and creator of Silas T. Dog, the Laboratory's favorite virtual pet.

Assistant Professor Justine Cassell, head of the Media Laboratory's Gesture and Narrative Language group, has been named the first AT&T Career Development Professor of Media Arts & Sciences. Professor Cassell's research focuses on endowing "things" with social and communication skills. Specifically, she studies how artifacts such as interface agents and toys can be designed with psychosocial competencies, based on a deep understanding of human linguistic, cognitive, and social abilities.


Professor John Maeda was awarded the 1996-97 Tokyo Type Director's Club Gold Prize for 10 Morisawa Posters exhibited at the Ginza Graphic Gallery in August 1996. Professor Maeda explores the relationship between visual form and various sensing media in order to develop a reliable means for creating computer-human interfaces that not only communicate, but are also aesthetically engaging.

Professor Pattie Maes, a pioneer in software agent development, was named one of the 1997 "100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum.

Seymour Papert, LEGO Professor of Learning Research Emeritus, was named the winner of this year's NEC Leadership Award for Education by the Smithsonian Institution. He was cited as "an outstanding model for young people who are eager to learn how to contribute to their society."


Professor Seymour Papert published a new book, The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap (Longstreet Press, 1996).

Professor Tod Machover's latest CD, Angels, was released on the Erato/Warner label. This recording was a collaboration with Joel Cohen, a specialist in early music, and director of the Boston Camerata.

PhD candidate Paula Hooper, studying with Seymour Papert in the Laboratory's Epistemology and Learning group, was awarded one of six Warren Weaver Fellowships granted by the Rockefeller Foundation. She has been invited to join the foundation's School Reform Program during a one-year residency in New York City.

Jon Orwant, a PhD student in the Laboratory's News in the Future group, published Perl 5 Interactive Course (Waite Group Press, 1996). He also founded Perl Journal, a quarterly magazine devoted to the Perl programming language.

Bernd Schoner was awarded three top honors (the Henry Ford II Prize, the Springorum Medal, and the Otto Junker Prize) by the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) in Aachen, Germany. Schoner, who first came to the Media Laboratory as a visiting student from RWTH, is now a PhD candidate working with Professor Neil Gershenfeld in the Physics and Media group.

Michael Travers's 1996 PhD dissertation, "Programming with Agents: New Metaphors for Thinking about Computation," was one of two nominated by MIT for the Association for Computing Machinery's Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Alex Pentland

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97