Ecologies of creativity: MIT Hacks

Posted by Ian on Oct 20, 2008 in blog | No Comments

With many businesses, governments and organisations hot on the search for young, creative, ‘lateral thinking’ talent, perhaps it’s time to rethink some of our traditional models of education and personal development. A recent talk by Sir Ken Robinson as part of the RSA’s Vision series called for a paradigm shift in the way we value alternative modes of creativity and thinking in education. For Robinson, he feels that the relegation of the arts to an extremely low level of priority in education and within cultural values is debilitating our ability to confront and think around critical issues we face today (e.g. climate change).
At MIT, there is a long tradition of ‘hacking‘. This is not about computers though. Interesting Hacks to Fascinate People: The MIT Gallery of Hacks describes a ‘hacker’ as:
‘someone who does some sort of interesting and creative work at a high intensity level. This applies to anything from writing computer programs to pulling a clever prank that amuses and delights everyone on campus.’
The tradition of celebrating hacking at MIT dates back at least to 1989, the first year logged in their online chronology. The hacks range from the installation of an ‘epiphany toilet‘ (seen below – after the series ‘Scrubs’) to zombie emergency chainsaws (seen above) to changing LED road sign messages. Some of the ‘hacks’ are amusing, while others border to the anarchic or anti-social. All of them celebrate intensely dedicated acts of creativity to change the world around us.
In facing the need for radical changes in our social conceptions and ways of living, perhaps we should cease to admonish alternative and ‘outside of the box’ activity. The tradition of ‘hacking’ may be one of our greatest assets we have in these challenges.

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