DEVELOPMENT AS ECOLOGY
ITP is different. More than just a school or a research institution, ITP is a creative ecosystem - a living and interdependent flow of people, projects, ideas and applications all dedicated to exploring and expanding the ability of real people to use media to connect to one another and influence the world around them.
This all happens in an environment more like a living culture than a hierarchical academy. An idea for a new computer language born to a student in one class might be picked up in another as the basis for a piece of software that is, in turn, applied towards a social networking application in yet another. That application may in turn allow for a collaborative project to be undertaken by students and teachers in two or three different labs, all under the supervision of a resident researcher developing his thesis project to the next level.
This spirit of ongoing and fertile collaboration is immediately apparent to any visitor to the Greenwich Village loft that houses ITP. Part gallery, part graduate school, and part computer lab, ITP is also an everchanging fun-house: projects audibly beckoning user interaction line the walls, clusters of students conspiring on projects fill the hallways and lounges, while researchers slouch over workbenches and computer desks soldering or recoding the latest iterations of their working prototypes for inventions they know in their hearts can change the way people relate to and through technology for the better.
Those of us who call ITP home have gotten used to a world in which creativity is in abundance, energy is undying, and enthusiasm for the creative process knows no bounds. While we long for partners in the journey, we’re also aware that every new ingredient changes the flavor of the mix. The tempatation is strong to accept research support from wherever it may come; more support means greater access to the knowledge and equipment of our partners, a chance to develop our projects to higher levels of polish, more professional opportunities for our graduates and additional prestige to continue attracting the most interesting students and faculty from around the world.
But we must also be equally responsible to the ecosystem we have developed, already, and take each successive step towards our own institutional development with care not to upset the existing balance between old and new, conventional wisdom and radical departure, or top-down guidance and bottom-up creative percolation.
As both educators and creative professionals, we fully recognize that the most valuable energy in our system is generated from the ground up by the yearly influx of 120 mostly young, energetic, professionally diverse students from around the globe. After all, they arrive at ITP with a lot of what the rest of us deem to be “wrong” ideas. The smartest thing we do at ITP is watch all these supposedly errant young creatives develop their ideas for themselves; we provide them with the crucial technical, artistic, or theoretical tools and background they need to actualize their dreams, and then learn from their trials, errors, and unexpectedly profound successes.
The imposition of a top-down or, worse, external reseach agenda might inhibit this precious wellspring of new ideas. The unexpected is the rule at ITP, making us a difficult fit for any precisely defined commercial imperative or even academic discipline such as design, engineering, communication, or computer science. That’s why ITP ended up as part of Tisch School of the Arts, which has a greater lattitude as well as greater tolerance for pursuits that tend to expose the false distinctions between disciplines more often than they fall into one. We feel we are writing the map at the same time that we are exploring the territory.