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Papers Released On Media Lab in Ireland

Tensions Between Irish Government, MIT Contributed To Shutdown

By Kelley Rivoire

NEWS EDITOR

Media Lab Europe in Dublin, Ireland, which was closed in January due to a funding shortfall, suffered from a rift between MIT and Irish government officials, according to a Feb. 24 article in The Irish Times.

Papers released under the Irish Freedom of Information Act on Feb. 23 describe both unpleasant working conditions at Media Lab Europe and details regarding a failed last-minute move to save the partnership, according to the article.

Alleged plan to save lab rejected

The Irish government reportedly proposed an agreement days prior to the announced closure, which was never signed, to provide Media Lab Europe with as much as three million euros per year. The agreement, however, would also have stipulated that MIT both export degree programs to the Irish laboratory and waive payments due from the Irish government, according to the article.

The recently released papers reportedly indicate that although Media Lab Europe had requested nine million euros in emergency funds last year, the Irish government had assessed the true funding need to be as high as 35 million euros.

Report critical of Media Lab

Among the recently released papers was a Strategic Plan from May 2004, which described working conditions at Media Lab Europe as “hell” and “chaos,” with “inmates running the asylum,” poor management, and conflicts between MIT and the Irish government, according to the article.

Media Lab Europe was founded in 2000 as the European arm of the MIT Media Lab, specializing in digital technologies, according to the Media Lab Europe Web site. It was closed on Jan. 14 because the Irish government and MIT could not come to an “agreement on a new funding model for the organization,” per the Web site.

The lab was initially funded by the Irish government and was intended to become financially independent through funding from corporations. The failure of this to happen led to the generation of the Strategic Plan to the government and MIT last May, according to the Web site.

Media Lab Asia, located in India, was created in 2001 and closed in 2003.