The Disaster That Was Media Lab Europe

from the clash-of-cultures? dept

Some details are leaking out about what was happening over in Europe that resulted in the massively overhyped MIT Media Lab Europe to close last month. Basically, it sounds like a combination of a two things: unrealistic expectations and a culture clash — the same things that meant a similar media lab in India was shut down as well. The European media lab was launched with great fanfare and great expectations a few years ago by those who thought they could simply transplant what had worked in Boston to Ireland. The problem was that American companies had seen the US version of the media lab for many years and knew its track record. Also, US companies seem more willing to sponsor such things as a kind of “why not?” investment in creative entrepreneurialism. Europe still isn’t quite as entrepreneurial (though, thankfully, some are trying to change this), and to think that companies in Europe would immediately jump up to fund the lab was a mistake. The second issue was even more of a cultural issue, where new management looked at the lab and explained the problems (oh so descriptively) by pointing that the lab environment was “hell,” “chaos” and “inmates running the asylum.” This could, in part, just be the somewhat laissez-faire attitude towards research that is more common in the US, but can certainly seem problematic to those who are expecting real, direct ROI — or those who need to justify a government budget, since the lab was funded in part by the Irish government.

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Comments on “The Disaster That Was Media Lab Europe”

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nonuser says:

media lab made more sense in pre-WWW days

Back in the days of 386/486 PCs running your choice of 16-bit Microsoft operating systems and 256 color 800×600 was the highest res video. Few people had a net connection at home, while corporations made do with T1 or T3 connections. And there was no vast repository of open source projects. So it made sense to have a lab filled with UNIX workstations staffed by graduate students to look into the possibilities of integrating audio, video, telephony, animation, and AI into the computing experience.

In short, I think their moment has passed… not necessarily anyone’s fault (well, except for maybe the AI part, which was overhyped).

euman says:

Media Lab

Ummm, where are all these wonderful products that the Media Lab produced? The MIT Media Lab is *vastly* over-hyped : it’s bunch of pampered, too rich, grad students playing about. We could all do that given the money. They produce some fun stuff, but very, very little of it has ever proved to be mainstream useful

Negroponte is an idiot too.

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