Post

2018 Disobedience Award FAQ

The Noun Project / MIT Media Lab

by Chia Evers

May 16, 2018

Frequently asked questions about the 2018 Disobedience Award

  1. Who is eligible for the award?
  2. How did this award come to be?
  3. What does “no strings attached” mean?
  4. Can you nominate yourself?
  5. How many nominations can I submit?
  6. Do my chances increase the more nominations I receive?
  7. When is the deadline to submit nominations?
  8. Who is selecting the winner?
  9. Isn’t this award an endorsement, implicit or otherwise, of illegal activity?
  10. How do you define “responsible”?
  11. How is this award funded?
  12. What kind of attachments are you looking for in the nomination form?
  13. When will the winner be announced?
  14. Will this be an annual award?
  15. Is this award a response to/an expression of defiance to the current political climate?
  16. What do you hope or envision the winner will do with the money?
  17. Who are examples of people who might win the prize if they were alive today?
  18. In case of a group win (Arab Spring, the Department of Energy heads who refused to name staffers who worked on climate change programs, Black Lives Matter), how would the award be distributed?
  19. Who do I contact with questions?
  1. Who is eligible for the award?

    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 benefitting 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.

  2. How did this award come to be?

    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.”

  3. What does “no strings attached” mean?

    We will not dictate in any way how the winner uses the money.

  4. Can you nominate yourself?

    No. The nomination form is designed for nominating third-party individuals or groups. 

  5. How many nominations can I submit?

    You can submit as many nominations as you like as long as they are not multiple nominations of the same individual or group. 

  6. Do my chances increase the more nominations I receive?

    No.

  7. When is the deadline to submit nominations?

    August 15, 2018 at midnight (Eastern Time).

  8. Who is selecting the winner?

    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. The list of selection committee is available.

  9. Isn’t this award an endorsement, implicit or otherwise, of illegal activity?

    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 non-violent, 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.

  10. How do you define “responsible”?

    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. 

  11. How is this award funded?

    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.

  12. What kind of attachments are you looking for in the nomination form?

    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. 

  13. When will the winner be announced?

    The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on November 30, 2018.. More details will be announced later this summer.

  14. Will this be an annual award?

    This our second award cycle, and we hope to continue after this second award.

  15. Is this award a response to/an expression of defiance to the current political climate?

    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.

  16. What do you hope or envision the winner will do with the money?

    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.

  17. Who are examples of people who might win the prize if they were alive today?

    Martin Luther King Jr., Rachel Carson, Jonas Salk, Ida B. Wells, Simone de Beauvoir.

  18. In case of a group win (Arab Spring, the Department of Energy heads who refused to name staffers who worked on climate change programs, Black Lives Matter), how would the award be distributed?

    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.

  19. Who do I contact with questions?

    If you have questions not answered here, email us at disobedience-award@media.mit.edu.