In light of the scandal, the stench of pocketed dirty money at the MIT Media Lab, it’s time I confess an act of fakery of actually no consequence (or to be honest only a shred of relevance).

I remember the incident well, but the timing eludes me as I found no flickr photos of the events around it (meaning it pre-dates 2004) nor any blog post (before 2003). The visits I do remember to MIT were in 2005 (I got to present there) and 2006 (an NMC meeting my first year working for them).

This was before those visits.

What I do remember was when I was then working as in instructional technologist at the Maricopa Community Colleges. I got sent to a conference in Boston, not presenting, and frankly, I remember it being on the periphery of of interests.

I have a vague recollection that it was one of the League For Innovation conferences, its Innovations one. I know I presented at one in New York City in 2005 about the Maricopa Ocotillo project (there’s a link to an old wiki that’s dead, so.. more archiving to do some day), but for some reason I was sent to one in Boston. I did find an old post whinging about being offered conference room internet connectivity for $750 and that in itself leading to a forward thinking comment from Stephen Downes.

But I am letting myself be diverted.

Yet my faulty human RAM told me I was in Boston, in the early 2000s, for a conference. It’s not like an organization with innovation in its name would have a web archive of it’s past presentations, but hey. Who needs them, I got the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, so I plugged in a 2002 archive link, and ZOOM! I found a page for the Innovations 2002 Conference in Boston that was March 15-17, 2002.

Old web page for the 2002 Innovations Conference. Broken image links but confirms a conference n Bostn=on
Innovation! 2002! Boston! This organization in 2019 will have no record of this event. But the Wayback Machine delivers.

I was a tad bored at the conference.

So I played hooky for a day, looked up the trains, and figured out how to get to Cambridge to maybe stroll around MIT. The place loomed big especially for the place known as the Media Lab. Where Negroponte ruled.

Iconic Building 7

Iconic Building 7 flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

I know it was late fall or early spring as I remember needing my warm leather jacket; this detail comes in later. And it was raining when I emerged at the Cambridge stop for MIT.

I had no idea what I was doing, and felt quite a bit out of my element, me just some instructional technologist at a community college.

I saw a building to explore and get out of the rain. As it happens, I walked into the Media Lab. I went down some stairs and hear noise from a room. I walked in. It was a big high space, dark but with lots of flashing lights. There were people milling around exhibits of various projects, like a big tech show demo session (what the boring conference lacked). I remember just walking around, watching, listening, tech projects I guessed where by MIT students.

It was rather fun to have stumbled into this.

After a bit I wandered up the stairs to a hallway (I think I really needed a restroom). A chipper lady with a clipboard asked me how I was enjoying the demos, and reminded me that were more at the _______ building she gestured down the hallway.

I said thanks, and then she looked me up and down. I was wearing likely jeans, t-shirt, and a worn brown leather jacket. No name tag. She looked at her clipboard, and asked me my name. I provided it. After sternly scanning the list, she informed me that these demos were only for donors to the Media Lab.

And obvious to all in the hallway, that was not me.

I apologized, and beat a hasty exit. I think I ran for the train back downtown.

So on my first visit to MIT, I crashed the Media Lab, and got tossed out of an event for their funders. If anything, it smacked of a true academic class distinction; who was I, some yokel from a Community College in a leather jacket?

I always thought this was a humorous story; this week, I am ironically a bit proud of my accidental Media Lab crashing.


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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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