"Do you want the short story or the long story?"  (Apologies
for any errors or omissions; MIT is not altogether a "clear

(some of you know that I was at MIT for ten years during
which I was involved in what was called the Communications Forum.)


We must first recognize that MIT was not started as a college
or a university.

It was started as a "trade school" and remains mostly such.  There
is strong pride in this.  Practicality is a premium.

Nonetheless, over time, "The Institute" has expanded to include
a Department of Humanities, and the author of _Technologies of Freedom_
-- about the ensuing communications technologies -- came from
Ethiel de Sola Pool who was enscounced in the Dept. of Political

So, for many years the MIT Communications Forum was headed by Pool,
and later by his assistant, Brian Kahin.  (Kahin went on to
edit works about the flourishing Internet under Lewis M. Branscom
(previously V.P. at IBM) at the Harvard Kennedy school, then on to
Washington under Clinton, and on to the University of Maryland.

In parallel to that, another program began around 1980 called
the "Research Program on Communications Policy (RPCP."  It was housed in
the Center for Policy Alternatives (Bldg. E40) and then became part
of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development (CTPID)
(a result, partly, of the election of Ronald Reagan and the national
shift to other economic priorities).

At about this point, Priest recognized that the intersection of
technology and society deserved its own focus, and formed the Center for
Information, Technology & Society (previously the Program on
Information, Technology & Society at MIT up to 1986).  This Center has
been funded by the U.S. Congress, the MacArthur Foundation, the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Cisco Academies, etc., see for more about these adventures.

During the '80s and early '90s there were sufficient funds coming
into RPCP that Lee McKnight headed various technology studies under that
umbrella.  But, by the mid-90s even that effort fractionated and
McKnight went on to the Fletcher School at Tufts (a position
previously occupied by Russell Neuman, a prior protege of Pool's).

RPCP continues under Prof. David Clark (previously Materials Science
Dept. and prior acting Director of CTPID).

Meanwhile, the Communications Forum moved to the Humanities Department
under the Directorship of David Thorburn, Prof. of Literature.

With Mary R. Markle Foundation monies, the "Media in Transition"
project began, with the idea of forming curricula at MIT on
this issue (see )

Henry Jenkins, author of various works about children, culture
and the Internet became Director of Comparative Media Studies (CMS),
see (my wife, Cathryn M. Mercier, Associate
Director of the Center for Children's Literature at Simmons College
is a strong "Jenkins fan.")

So, this leads us to this announcement of a CMS event at MIT:

Media in Transition 2: Globalization and Convergence
05/10/2002 to 05/12/2002
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

{Source:, Andy Carvin, DigitalDivide list]



P.S.  Mary!  Any written results of your "historical analysis"
of events at MIT  :)  ?

           W. Curtiss Priest, Director, CITS
      Center for Information, Technology & Society
         466 Pleasant St., Melrose, MA  02176
         Voice: 781-662-4044  [log in to unmask]
      Fax: 781-662-6882 WWW: