MIT Media Lab

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Defiance, the bold resistance to an opposing force or authority, has been a catalyst for positive change throughout human history. Thoughtful defiance in any institution—governments, courts, labs, universities, businesses, or places of worship—means taking ownership of action and putting oneself at risk to advance society.

Galileo’s defense of the Copernican view of the universe led to his arrest for defying church doctrine. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s method of nonviolent resistance in the name of civil rights is just as relevant today as it was sixty years ago. When physicist Joseph Rotblat quit the Manhattan Project on moral grounds, the only physicist to do so, he was called a communist spy. Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai risked her life by standing up to the Taliban in defense of women’s rights. And marine biologist Rachel Carson, alarmed by widespread use of DDT, defied the biochemical establishment with her 1962 polemic, Silent Spring–and the human use of chemicals was altered forever. All are examples of defiance.

How do such acts become movements capable of changing the world? How do we build institutions that are resilient and open to defiance? How do we defy pragmatically and successfully as well as bravely? On July 21, 2017, the MIT Media Lab will host Defiance, an event exploring the impact of dissent. Activists, scientists, engineers, designers, legal experts, and leaders of institutions will probe the boundaries of nonviolent resistance for the benefit of a productive and healthy society.

During the event, the MIT Media Lab will present its first Disobedience Award to a person or organization that has engaged in an act of extraordinary disobedience while adhering to principles of nonviolence, creativity, courage, and responsibility.

The MIT Media Lab is committed to creating an all-inclusive event experience. If you plan to attend this event and have a special request that would make it more accessible for you, please contact events@media.mit.edu.

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