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Disobedience Has Its Award

Civil disobedience gets its due with the creation of a special award that was announced at last week’s Forbidden Research symposium at MIT.

News & Analysis

As one whose early early political education, after I was old enough to quit listening to my father and think for myself, came largely from the various civil disobedience factions in the 1960s, it’s heartening to see that disobedience now has an award. So far it’s one off, but if successful might be repeated and perhaps be awarded annually. The award will also offer the recipient more than mere accolades, as it’s attached to a $250,000 prize.

MIT Media Lab Disobedience awardThe MIT Media Lab Disobediance award was announced at Thursday’s Forbidden Research symposium at MIT and was later the subject of a blog post by Joi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab. The cash comes by way of a donation from Reid Hoffman, the executive chairman of LinkedIn, who evidently has some disposable cash after last month’s announced deal that will see Microsoft taking control of the social site he co-founded for $26.2 billion.

According to Ito, the award “will go to a person or group engaged in what we believe is excellent disobedience for the benefit of society. The disobedience that we would like to call out is the kind that seeks to change society in a positive way, and is consistent with a set of key principles. The principles include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. The disobedience can be in – but is not limited to – the fields of scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights, and the freedom to innovate.”

Michael Petricone with the Consumer Electronics Association, has tweeted a suggestion that the award be named in honor of hactivist Aaron Swartz. On Tuesday, Mike Masnick seconded that notion on Techdirt. I’ll gladly throw my hat into that ring. MIT owes him at least that much.


  1. Andrew McGlashan Andrew McGlashan July 27, 2016

    Okay, I say we have two very good candidates for this:
    — Edward Snowden AND Julian Assange.

  2. Naryfa Naryfa July 28, 2016

    Aside from few genuine trials, this will evidently breed idiots, doing stupid things, under the excuse of “chasing the reward in civil disobedience”.

    Credit to MIT for being clever enough to stir up societal wake-up, even so subtle.

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