Call for nominations: MIT Media Lab’s Disobedience Award

The Disobedience Award has closed.

The MIT Media Lab has opened the call for nominations for its third annual Disobedience Award. The $250,000 cash prize will go to a person or group to recognize individuals and groups who engage in ethical, nonviolent acts of disobedience in service of society. The award is open to nominations for anyone still living and active in any field, including the arts, academia, law, politics, science, and social advocacy. A diverse selection committee composed of experts in a wide range of fields will choose the winner(s) and finalist(s), who will be announced in November.

The criteria for the Disobedience Award include nonviolence, creativity, and personal responsibility: It’s about speaking truth to power, taking responsibility, and demanding systemic change.

“Disobedience can mean different things in different spaces,” says Media Lab Director Joi Ito. “Defying a formal process or deeply ingrained culture, such as we might see in academia and the sciences, looks very different from staging a nonviolent civil protest, or resisting political pressure. What these things have in common is moral courage, a willingness to take personal risk, and a commitment to a goal beyond personal gain.”

As head of the selection committee, Ito hopes to see nominations from around the world — from expected as well as unexpected quarters. Although the Disobedience Award was not intended to function as a popularity contest or commentary on specific controversies, Ito says, the annual nature of the award means that it will often reflect the zeitgeist of any given year.

Previous winners and finalists have included Mona Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards, physicians who fought to expose and correct the water crisis in Flint, Michigan; Tarana Burke and Sherry Marts, leaders of the #MeToo movement; the Standing Rock water protectors; a representative of the 2018 West Virginia teachers’ strike; and numerous advocates and defenders of immigrants’ rights and environmental protection.

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