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Introducing the Media Lab

Don Undeen
September 27, 2013

Met Museum 3D scanning and printing Hackathon, June 1–2, 2012

«In the Met's Media Lab, we explore ways that new technology can affect the museum experience for our staff and visitors, in our galleries, classrooms, and online. As digitally mediated experiences play an ever greater role in our lives, it's important that museums—the great repositories of the world's cultural expression—stay abreast of these developments.»

There are two major trends I see that are the energizing force for our work. The first is the rise of digital tools that, for better or worse, lower the barrier of entry for creative production. GarageBand, iMovie, 123D Catch, MeshMixer, Max/MSP, Arduino; the message of all these tools is that you, too, can be a record producer, movie director, 3D modeler, interactive video artist, or robot builder.

In parallel with the development of new tools for creative production is the rise of a culture of "hacking" and "making," a do-it-yourself ethos that believes it's more fun to create than to consume. Central to this culture is a spirit of sharing, with everyone building on the work that's come before and passing our knowledge to new generations.

All of this means that it's a wonderful time to be a technologist in a museum. The culture of hackers and makers aligns with the traditions and mission of museums in many ways: it's in our interest to share information as freely as possible; our objects have long served as inspiration for artists working in various media; our education department runs art-making programs for people of all ages. As I like to say, everything in our collection was made by makers—master craftsmen, artisans, and visionaries solving creative and technical problems with the best tools of their day. Digital tools do not fundamentally alter this paradigm, they just make it possible for more people to get involved.

In the interest of furthering the conversation about the relationship between art and technology, my Media Lab colleagues and I will post articles designed to inspire you to Get Involved and Make Things. We'll post software tutorials that make intimidating tools accessible to neophytes. We'll interview our favorite creative technologists, to demystify their processes.

Most important, we want to hear from you. Is there a topic you'd like us to cover? Do you have a clever art hack you want to share? Are you mixing up images from our collection with digital tools? Are you making a 20-foot, robotic Madame X? We want to know! So stay tuned to these pages in the weeks and months ahead. We'll do our best to make it worth your while.

Don Undeen

Don Undeen was formerly the senior manager of MediaLab in the Digital Department.