I had dinner this evening with an old friend. She and I were reminiscing about something that had happened soon after we first met, when we were both very young. We were both attending a panel discussion about the MIT Media Lab, which at the time was fairly new.
On the panel were assembled the senior faculty of the MIT Media Lab, including such luminaries as Marvin Minsky. At one point they were fielding questions, when a young man stood up and said, rather indignantly: “You people are dangerous. Thanks to folks like you, one day we will all be tracked — our identity, our whereabouts — and there will no longer be any privacy.”
Marvin responded by saying, rather dryly, “We have gathered together some of the best minds of of the world to study media technology. You are very welcome, if you like, to gather minds together for the purpose of studying anti-media technology.”
My friend and I had thought that this was a marvelous suggestion, and we immediately set about working out what would constitute such an “Antimedia Lab”. We quickly realized that possibilities abounded. For example, there was a project at the Media Lab called “Put That There”, consisting of an interface that allowed people to interact with a computer using voice and gesture. We figured that an antimedia lab should discourage people from talking to and pointing at their computers, so we devised an anti-media project called “Put That Away!”
Similarly, the Media Lab had a project called “Transmission of Presence”, whereby a person, thanks to the miracle of computers and networks, could transmit a sense of their physical presence across great distances. In reality of course, it’s more common to find yourself face to face with somebody you would really rather not deal with. An Antimedia Laboratory should aim to render such an inconvenient person undetectable. Hence our anti-media project: “Transmission of Absence”.
We had lots more of these ideas. Alas, our wondrous Antimedia Lab never got beyond the brainstorming stage.
Which may be a good thing. I guess history will decide. 😉