The Disobedience Award is open to any living person or group who is or has engaged in acts of responsible, principled, ethical disobedience to authority, with the goal of benefiting society. It is a global award, open to all fields, such as science, politics, civics, law, journalism, medicine, human rights, and innovation. The award does not endorse acts of violence, terrorism, or reckless or dangerous behavior. The key principle behind the award is positive social impact.
Media Lab Director Joi Ito on how the award came to be: “You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told. The American civil rights movement wouldn't have happened without civil disobedience. India would not have achieved independence without the pacifist but firm disobedience of Gandhi and his followers. The Boston Tea Party, which we celebrate here in New England, was also quite disobedient.
There is a difficult line–sometimes obvious only in retrospect—between disobedience that helps society and disobedience that doesn't. I'm not encouraging people to break the law or be disobedient just for the sake of being disobedient, but sometimes we have to go to first principles and consider whether the laws or rules are fair, and whether we should question them.
I like to think of the Media Lab as 'disobedience robust.' The robustness of the model of the Lab is in part due to the way disobedience and disagreement exist and are manifested in a healthy, creative, and respectful way. I believe that being ‘disobedience robust’ is an essential element of any healthy democracy and of any open society that continues to self correct and innovate.”
Neither the Media Lab nor Reid Hoffman will dictate in any way how the winner uses the money.
No. The nomination form is designed for nominating third-party individuals or groups.
You can submit as many nominations as you like as long as they are not multiple nominations of the same individual or group.
A selection committee led by MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito. The panel will be multidisciplinary, and will include experts in civics and law, human rights activists, academics, and scientists.
No. And we held many, many meetings with lawyers, activists, and faculty members—people with experience in this space—on how to best present this award. This included members of the ACLU, Martha Minow, Dean of the Harvard Law School, and others we deemed to be the most credible experts in nonviolent, ethical disobedience.
We will not reward illegal behavior for its own sake, nor will we consider any people or groups whose activities pose a danger to the public. Our goal is to recognize a person, or group, taking responsibility for their actions, who in so doing may put themselves at risk of persecution.
Anything aimed at nonviolently and ethically challenging our norms, rules, or laws to benefit society. Proper scientific method and correct attention to safeguards during research are the top priority.
Disobedience is a fundamental tenet of unhindered scientific and humanistic inquiry. Examples of this include the work of Galileo, Gandhi, and Rachel Carson.
The award is funded by Reid Hoffman, a member of the Media Lab’s advisory council and co-founder and former executive chairman of LinkedIn.
Published papers, articles, blog posts, and any other materials you believe support your nomination. These may be in the form of links, PDFs, or other files.
No. This award has been in the planning stages for a long time, and was announced at the Media Lab’s Forbidden Research event in July of 2016. Moreover, we are seeking global nominations, and are particularly looking for nominations of unsung heroes doing difficult and important work that goes unrecognized.
We're looking for people who have long-term involvement in policy, science, the arts and social causes, so it's likely that the prize will help support those ongoing efforts. But, like the MacArthur award, we are not attaching any specific conditions. We are, however, offering our help from the Media Lab if we can find ways to productively cooperate on a recipient's efforts.
In such a case, an individual or key group within the broader movement would be identified, as we did with the Standing Rock Water Protectors in 2017 and the #MeToo movement in 2018.
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