December 29, 2008
The amazing MIT Media Lab alum John Maeda is the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design. And his first order of business is collecting information:
The collecting began the week he arrived, when he asked 600 high school students attending a summer art program to applaud for the vision of the university that resonated most with them.
“A lifelong education in art and design” got polite applause. “Fostering the next generation of talent” did a little better. Then he suggested: “Building a justifiable case for creativity in our world.”
“The response to that — it was like being Bono in U2,” says Maeda. “I began to understand why this calling came.”
The chairman of RISD’s board of trustees says:
“John said that he believes art and design will inform the 21st century as none other, that RISD has a real role to play in that. The analogy he used was MIT. Before World War II, MIT was a geeky science school. After World War II, with the explosion of science and technology, MIT’s role changed. And right now he sees RISD in a similar position.”
I love that proposition. I love it because I think somebody could pretty reasonably scoff at it. And if a proposition isn’t scoff-able, it’s probably not edgy and exciting enough.
Sounds to me like Maeda is talking about, among other things, liberal arts 2.0.
Read his tweets and RISD blog for a sense of how Maeda thinks and communicates. It’s really remarkable. I’ve been reading haiku lately and I see some of their spirit in him. Spare, observant — but with wit.