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Red Burns Memorial Videos

Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell

As the new semester is about to begin, I write with sad news. After a long illness, the legendary Red Burns, died peacefully in her home Friday afternoon, surrounded by family.

Red, (nee, Goldie Gennis), and dubbed “The Mother of Silicon Alley,” was the Chair at ITP from 1982 to 2010. Under her leadership, ITP faculty, students and alumni have been the driving force behind the digital revolution that has swept downtown Manhattan for the past thirty years.

To say that ITP has changed our lives is in an understatement. Red created a DNA for ITP, that made the department synonymous with innovation and change. She balanced a blend of bedrock guiding principles with an adaptive, resilient spontaneity that encouraged whimsy, play and the fortuitous encounter.

As a result, ITP has graduated alums who developed everything from Foursquare to the New York City MetroCard Kiosk and subway car seats to an app currently in use in the Sudan and Uganda to find lost children.

ITP was Red’s idea of a twenty first century Bauhaus, a place where the engineer encounters the poet, the dancer discovers the computer programmer or the architect partners with the painter. She believed that in inviting the most exciting students from a mix of disciplines, the department could form the core of a vibrant creative community in which the unexpected can happen. She believed that technology was a tool in the service of ideas and people and because people and ideas drove technology forward, the environment had to be as social as it was rigorous.

Red led a stellar faculty from multiple disciplines, forged creative partnerships with institutions and organizations that offered challenging problems, and created post-graduate research opportunities for ITP’s most exciting alumni. Over the years, under Red’s leadership, ITP faculty developed and honed ITP’s key components: a few essential foundational courses; an unsentimental faculty review of the curriculum at the end of every academic year; the willingness to disassemble the physical space to accommodate new ideas, new proximities, new pedagogical approaches and the pursuit of their own groundbreaking research.

In 2002, Red received the prestigious Chrysler Design Award—one of literally dozens and dozens of awards and encomiums she received in her lifetime. (the ITP web-site has posted the complete list). The Chrysler Award, at the time, was the interactive world’s Pulitzer Prize. I remember that the year she won was also the year that Steve Jobs won. The Award recognized Red’s brilliance and forward looking design that included the selection of faculty and students, the curriculum, the creative partnerships, the research fellows and the game changing projects and people that kept pouring out of the department. That was 2002; over ten years later, ITP, that also boasts one of the school’s most successful business models, has only gotten better.

ITP kept getting better and better because of Red’s unrelenting drive to move the department forward. She gave herself about five minutes to enjoy whatever Award she was receiving and got back to her no nonsense style of perfecting and honing the good into the best.

Red had an ethical core that anchored her to her values and nothing could derail her from her principles and beliefs. She could be as generous and kind as she was demanding. And, as everyone who knows her will say, even as she told the truth directly, fearlessly, and succinctly--as she was wont to do--she did so with wisdom and insight.

Red’s family have been stalwarts and part of an extensive network of support that Red enjoyed outside of Tisch. To Cathy, Barbara, Michael, her children, three grandchildren, Daisy, Sally and Olive, I extend my deepest condolences and thank you for everything you have contributed to Red’s work at the school and the university.

In what was to be her last week, I sent through Red’s daughter, Cathy, a note that described to Red yet another great article in the NY Times about ITP. The note read in part: “Your handprints are all over everything in ITP and at Tisch and NYU. We all walk taller and more determined and bend and sway at the right points because of what you've taught us. I know you are under the weather, but I am sending this message to say we miss you. But we feel you living all around us.”

I know that we will all want to celebrate our remarkable colleague and her extraordinary legacy. The school and department, working with the family, will organize a memorial service in the coming weeks. In her honor, ITP has established the Red Burns scholarship fund, at .

Mary Schmidt Campbell
Dean, Tisch School of the Arts

TBS in Japan, TBS in Japan
In Memoriam: NYU ITP Founder, Professor Red Burns

Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS)’s Study Abroad program with NYU was established in 1989 with the purpose of training “creative professionals with the expertise and global skills necessary in the multi-media era.” Over the years, twenty-four TBS Research Fellows have attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts, including six from TBS-affiliate local TV stations. Red Burns, who passed away on August 23rd was a key player for the success of this study abroad program. May she forever rest in Peace.
-- Tae Fujita ,Head of TBS Human Resources Development

“To the ‘Godmother of Silicon Alley’ ”
Each year, world-renowned dot-com companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft receive well-trained graduates with innovative ideas from Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). Red Burns was the Founder of this program – known globally for a curriculum which places an emphasis on “whim, unexpectedness, and playful spirit.” When her husband passed away in 1970 and she was left to raise her family of four children, she became intrigued by the Sony Portapak camera. She experimented with it, creating a two-way television system that allowed elderly residents of four cities to interact with each other. ITP was born as a place to explore the intersection between “CREATIVITY x TECHNOLOGY.” Since then, hailed as the “Godmother of Silicon Alley,” Red has since sent out 3,000 graduates into the creative world. In 2002 she won the “Interactive World’s Pulitzer Prize” at the Chrysler Design Awards along with five other awardees, which included Steve Jobs. Assuming the position of TBS Chair of Tisch School of the Arts in 1997, Red took our visiting research fellows under her wing each year. The last time I saw her, in spring 2013, she was toying with the radiant red hair from which she got her nickname, racking her brain as to how to further stimulate the young people around her. I’m filled with deep feelings of gratitude and respect for her.
-- Norico Wada, Senior Producer of TBS Global Business Development

During my time at NYU, I approached Red with a wild idea: Having completed all of my credits within a year, I wanted to pursue a Masters Degree before returning to TBS… It was an unprecedented challenge, and she fired back with persistent questions to test my commitment.

Finally she said “I believe you,” then rushed off to persuade the school and the department. A long-awaited graduation came around and… Red approached me with a big grin and said to me, “You did it.” She was already in her 80’s then. She was poker-faced, succinct and to the point, never known for joking around, but had a clear vision that never wavered, and she cherished each and every individual student. She was loved by all.
-- Madoka Higuchi, TBS Marketing & Promotion Center (2006 Fellow)

“You can do it! Whatever you want!!”
When I went to Red with my request to take classes in the Stern Business School, those were her words. This was the message she repeated to all her students, “Nothing is impossible. Believe in yourself, and keep at it.”

Learning the technology was only a small part of making our dreams come true. Her fearless way of living was an inspiration to us all. Had it not been for her, I would not have written my book, and my partner would not have found her dream job. Professor Red, your life was always ‘red with passion!” May you rest in peace.
-- Shinsuke Yamawaki,, Producer of TBS prime-time weekly news magazine ”7 Days Information - Newscaster” (2007 Fellow)

She always listened patiently to my broken English. She constantly checked in with me to ask whether I was getting used to living and studying in America. When I presented a controversial piece about the A-bomb which challenged the common belief that it was a justified act, she praised me highly for my work. She was a great educator and leader who encouraged us to do what we want, follow our passions, and she tried hard to make our paths easier. May she rest in peace.
-- Hidekazu Furuya, Senior producer of TBS Variety shows (2008 Fellow)
Karen Haight, ITP 1998 (my de facto class) and 2000 (my official class)

I THINK OF THE FURY of a mother hen -- intensely protective of her brood and her program -- deeply caring -- and effective as all hell. A force to reckon with.


Red delivered the following caution during her first-semester lecture: "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I've found endless applications for this advice -- including (albeit rarely) against itself.


I believe Red said she went to the gym, and worked with a personal trainer. In any case, I do recall her urging us to cultivate physical health. The value of that advice increases with each passing year.


Red shot back any idea I put to her. It felt like a boomerang style of interactivity. Was she sometimes non-helpful? Was her feedback, always direct, sometimes brusque? I think Red wanted us to occupy, with her, the status of Force to be Reckoned With.

Case in point:

I happened to share an elevator ride with Red when the newly-doubled-in-size facility opened, in 1997. I felt awkward, and compelled to avoid silence, so I shared my observation that we students were clattering through the pristine space with all the mindfulness of ball bearings.

"This new floor needs a proper inauguration," I suggested.

"Good idea, Karen," said Red. "Do it."

And another:

Circa 2000, at an ITP show. I was a recent alum. Red was receiving greetings as she stood chatting with a very tall 30 something guy (who turned out to be Steven Johnson, the author). I approached.

"Red, could I tap you for career advice sometime soon?"

She fixed me in her sharp, steady, blue-eyed gaze.

"I can't advise you on that, Karen," she snapped. "You can."

(And then, luckily for me, she added some friendlier encouragement.)

(p.s. I think she was dead right.)


Surely Red was instrumental in designing how students interacted in class. Intensive, small-group collaboration was baked into the ITP mindset, a feature of nearly every course. Every few weeks, a new project. For every new project, a new group. Multiplied by three or four courses per semester.

Again and again, project-focused groups came up with ideas that were different from, and better than, what any single member might have generated on her/his own. And while these entities were fleeting, they engendered many enduring friendships. Was that Red's intent, or just a happy byproduct?


I remember Red's fierce and practical love, which anchored the ITP community after one of us suffered a serious accident. It radiated from her emails on our then-nearly-new student listserv.


And I recall how Red didn't seem to mind one bit when, at an alumni event a few years after graduation, Chris Sung kissed her full on the lips. Though I did detect a blush...
Jack Rosenberger, Managing Editor, CIO Insight
Justin Davila, ITP staff
all of my stories will remain private, between her and me, except that there were stories, and i miss her already as big as the sky, you crazy redheaded life-changing monster.
Nancy Garcia and Nick Hasty, ITP 2008
Red really meant a lot to us.

When I got to ITP, I was a dancer/musician/english major. Basically, I was the token dancer in the program. And Red was very attentive and helpful. I asked for dance rehearsal space, and she (and you) went out of her way for me. She's a busy woman, but she was willing and open. She listened. And she also busted balls - and I liked that about her. I appreciated that. That's part of being a teacher, and a student, and a leader. Holding people accountable, and standing up for them. Nick and I met at ITP, and we've been married a little over two years now. He's also an ITP alumni, from the same year. And so we not only owe our careers to the program Red built (he at and I at, but also our marriage. And we are SO happy, and I think that would please Red. And maybe her family too.

Red not only helped build careers, but also loving, lasting, solid relationships.

Cheers and love to Red and her family. From our family,

Nancy and Nick
Susan Ettenheim, ITP student
It was in 1998 and then again in 2012 that I came face to face with Red Burns. I felt her presence and saw her at almost every ITP show twice a year as I walked from project to project open eyed, furiously taking notes. I have been an admirer from afar of her energy, her smarts, her presence and her vision.

"Luckily, Talent Show May Help Web Developers Keep Their Day Jobs", read the article in the New York Times on April 6, 1998. That was the evening that to help raise money for the Web Development Fund, I danced and sang as part of the Cybergrrl team on the stage at Webster Hall and Red Burns, one of the judges, was levitated by the Great Fredini. In that article, she was referred to as "the closet thing to a spiritual adviser the new media scene has…" She was a judge that night but as the author of the article said, it wasn't about winning as much as about the community. As always, Red Burns was there, leading with spirit, fun, and vision, going where others didn't even have the nerve to consider.

In the spring of 2012, I needed to take a big leap in my life. I thought of Red Burns. I walked into ITP and ended up becoming part of the class of ITP 2014. In the fall, I held my breath and got up my courage to talk to Red Burns at any chance. Because of life and schedule conflicts, I am now on leave but I do hope, in the not too distant future, to return and complete the degree. In the meantime, with the best memories of Red Burns, I am studying as much as I can and daring to go, in the spirit of the program that she led, on the search for the recently possible.
Dana Plautz, Provided research funding to ITP
I met Red Burns when I was looking for interesting research projects to fund when I was at Intel, back in the day. We developed a wonderful friendship filled with honest discussions, wonderful meals, and some great gossip. Several times I stayed at Red’s apartment when I was giving a lecture or coming to an open house. I loved that we had to be back in time to watch “The Sopranos” together. She was human, no pretense, and she made me laugh. I especially got a kick out how she would whack the kids on the head with her papers if they didn’t introduce themselves properly during the open houses. She created something at ITP that no other program I had visited had, true collaboration. She was one of a kind and I will miss her.
John J. Kelly III, Alumni
John J. Kelly III • Red was a instrumental part of my life, my career and my future. Not only did she lead the team to build a world class educational center, but she was always available to me, a part of what I was doing, concerned about my education and a supporter of my vision. Because of her and others, I have become more successful than I ever could have imagined and she encouraged me to imagine a future with me in it. Her mark will always be stamped on ITP and I am so happy that Dan carries the torch of excellence forward. If there will be a memorial service, please let me know. May her god welcome her home ,and may she rest in everlasting peace. SO MOTE IT BE ..
Jonny Goldstein, ITP 2004
Red was an amazing woman. A down to earth visionary. What she built at ITP was and is unique. And the lives she touched are uncountable, given the ripple effects of human relationships and amplification effects of technology. I drew a little picture at the
Julie Corman
From the moment I met Red Burns, when I arrived at Tisch as Chair of Grad Film in 1999, she made me feel welcome and that I could do whatever Grad Film needed to be done.
Whenever I saw her at a meeting or in her department for her student shows I got the same message from her.
Here's what she could do - anything she wanted to do and that is what she made her students believe they could do.
A couple of months ago, when in New York, I spoke to Red for the last time, having no idea she was ill. She said her schedule just didn't fit mine but that she very much wanted to see me and would I please call next time I came to New York.
Well, Red, I am with you now as you continue to be with all of us whose lives you have touched and made better.
With love,
Julie Corman
Barbara Steinberg, ITP 2000
"Don't take courses in online community. You know that already. Take what you don't know and make the creative connection."

When I did my presentation in her class, she called me "the soul of ITP."

I moved to California and did the first online community in multimedia on the web. It became the precursor to Google Hangouts. She was my teacher. She taught me how to learn, how to think creatively about technology. The root of my life's inspiration. Thank you, Red. I love you. Rest in peace, and in glory knowing how many hearts you set free to fly.
Richard Allen, Chair, Cinema Studies
Red had a great sense of humor. We sat next to each other at Tisch salute every year. The Tisch dancers would come on (we love them of course), whom we sat behind and very close to as they performed. She would make a wise-crack and get me laughing. It got to the point that she didn't have to say anything. Or we shouldn't have sat together, like kids who should be separated.......
Susan Sandler, alumni
When Red interviewed me for the Program in 1985, she told me they would chew me up and spit me out because I was a marketer, not a techy or artist, and that I should think long and hard about moving from Chicago to NY to attend. She accepted me with my promise that I wouldn't be a push over. ITP changed my life. Thank you Red. RIP.
Adele Madelo, ITP 1996
I credit Red with instilling in me the importance of being the master of my own universe. Like someone said earlier, Red wouldn’t tolerate any crap from anyone. That included being anything less than professional. She taught me how to be on time and made me realize just how long simple tasks like walking from point A to point B took. She also taught me that the principles of good design, structure, and clarity were paramount. I saw that her grit earned her respect. With this teaching ingrained in me, I strive to bring these qualities into my classroom every day, and I can credit Red with many successes I’ve had as an educator.
Sharon Chang, ITP 1997
Last year, after dinner in a beautiful spring evening, I offered to walk Red home.

ME: “It’s such a beautiful night. Let me walk you home.”
RED: “No. I’m walking you home.”
ME: “But we will reach your building first.”
RED: “That’s not true.”
ME: “Fine. We’ll just walk together for a while.”
RED: “Fine, but you are not walking me home.”

Then we reached Washington Place, where I could turn left onto Mercer if I was heading home.

RED: “You need to turn here.”
ME: “No, I’m walking you home.”
RED: “Why are you so stubborn?”
ME: “I’m the stubborn one here?”
RED: “I don’t need you to walk me home.”
ME: “I ate too much and I need to walk more. Let me walk with you.”
RED: “Fine. Walk with me. Don’t eat so much next time.”

Red, I wish I could have another dinner with you. I would have stuffed myself with enough food to walk you to the gates of haven.
John Maeda, President of Rhode Island School of Design, ITP Friend and Fan
A few days ago, I got the sad news that Red Burns passed away. She was the warmest (when you needed it), the meanest (because you deserved it), and the smartest (without making you feel stupid) leader around. Red was also the most non-academic-y of the academic leaders I have known, and she always made me question the nature and stereotypes within the academy. Red fit no stereotype I knew of — and for that reason she was a beacon of uniqueness and possibility for us all. .

You will be missed, Red. Thank you for telling us all the truth — because we definitely needed to hear it. Your advice to me was always consistent, and because of you, I know what to do and not do. What not to do, is to not let you down. Red, thank you.
John Petit, ITP 1988
For me it is hard to think of ITP without Red. Red never let me get away with any crap and always pushed me to do better. She was a good leader and she will be with me always.
Frank Rimalovski
I had told Red in advance that I would be bringing my then 14 year old daughter Lila to the Winter 2010 ITP Show. Shortly after arriving at ITP that afternoon, Red spotted us from across the room. Red made a (slow) beeline to us, introduced herself to Lila and then took Lila by the hand. Over the next 20 minutes, she gave Lila a tour around the 4th Floor of her favorite 6 or 7 projects at the Show, engaging Lila in conversation about each one along the way.

That was classic Red…She knew how to make everyone feel special and valued. I think that was one of the secrets of her success in unlocking the creativity in so many.
anonymous, ITP 1998
Red helped me during the Asian financial crisis. Without her help, I would probably have dropped out from ITP, gone back to my country and never finished my degree. Thank you, Red!! I will always be grateful to you forever!!
Amnon Dekel, ITP 1996
Red: "Most of the learning at ITP takes place in the corridors"
Paul Dougherty, asst. teacher NYU TV-Film 1974
In 1974 when many were still in the sway of 60s and being 'laid back' - Red was incisive and crisp, she had no tolerance for flaky people and I loved that about her. Red was the living bridge between the (analog) Radical Software era of the 70's and its digital fulfillment in the 90s. So many in that 70's cohort thought they would change the world, she actually did.
Matt Parker, ITP 2009
My time as a resident researcher at ITP was winding down when I got an email announcing Red was stepping down as the Chair. As much as I was happy to see Dano taking over, it was sad to think of Red not being at the helm of ITP.

I was thinking about this as I was walking to the elevator, where I noticed Red walk down the hall with a box full of stuff.

"Cleaning out your office?" I joked.
"You think you can get rid of me that easy? I'll always be around here." she said.

And she always will.
Rosalie Tanaka, ITP 1999
Red's first words to me in 1997: "You know that getting into ITP is harder than getting into med school, don't you?" Ah Red, a firecracker if there ever was one! You will be sorely missed.
George Agudow, ITP Staff
Mike Uretsky
Red was a dear colleague. We had numerous conversations when I was Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Technology. She was a true inspiration -- always thinking creatively, out of the box, but never losing sight of reality and the needs of students. She will certainly be missed on both professional and personal levels.
Wendy Cohen, Red's assistant, 1983-1990; ITP grad 1990
I met Red in 1975, when she was Director of the Alternate Media Center and we were working out of offices at 144 Bleecker Street. I came back to work for her in 1983, just after she took over the chairmanship of ITP, and I watched her transform that department from a datacom-centered program into the artistic, creative powerhouse it is today. Many of the people who are still there arrived when I was working there, and I am sure she inspired them as much as she did me. She was a true visionary and a remarkable woman, and I can't think of any person who has influenced my life more.
George Agudow, ITP Staff
George Agudow, ITP Staff
George Agudow, ITP Staff
Jody Culkin, ITP 2003, ITP fellow, ITP camper, former ITP faculty
Chris Jennings, ITP 2008
The first time I met Red, I had gone to the ITP department at NYU in December to ask if I could take a building and materials class to help me design a prototype for a computer peripheral I had been contemplating. Red and I spoke for about 15 minutes in her office about various projects and ideas, and then she looked at me and said, "Chris, I like your energy. You should probably just apply for the program." I walked out of her office a little taken aback, wondering if I had just signed up for another Master's Program. The next month I started mid-year at ITP. Everyone was really confused about why this guy just started showing up at classes in the middle of the year. It completely changed my focus and direction and to you, Red, I will be eternally grateful for the faith you placed in me.
Mike Cohen, ITP 2011
Best memory of Red for me was during my thesis Q&A. She asked if she could open the door of my project to which I had the only key and is meant to stay shut. I responded with "not even you can open the door" and she gave me a smile.
Patricia Merino Price, ITP 2000
I am deeply saddened by Red's death. I truly imagined she was one who could not die. She was so strong and her life force so filling. She was like a divine spider who knit this silver web of a playground for creative minds to fall into, bounce around in, and recreate with her.

I am saddened because without Red, I would not have understood that there was such a space for dreamers and explorers. ITP was a utopia for me, at a time when I was trying to understand what path to venture into. She created a path for those who resist paths. She built ITP and said, here are the tools and people you can make new roads with. Create, and set others free.

I remember on the day I was going to present my thesis, Dan-o was sick, so Red took his place to review it. I was so nervous because the Empress of ITP was going to judge the culmination of my education in her land. She who had inspired companies and industry. We sat down, I showed her my concepts and wireframes. She asked questions, I answered. At the end of the conversation she said, "This is why we have ITP. Congratulations. You have graduated."

She said some other nice things, but time has faded all the details. I just remember that feeling of realizing that even though I had just graduated, and I was no longer going to lab everyday, I would always be hers. I was going to continue to walk in the world as if anything was possible if you could sketch it out, test it out, and play with it with others.

Oh Red, thank you. ITP friends and community, thank you. Red you are missed, and you are everywhere.

Patricia Merino Price
Michael Colombo, ITP 2012
I was lucky to have been a part of the last Applications class that Red taught, and also lucky to have been a student who Red took an active interest in. If we saw each other on the floor, she would ask how I was doing or what I was working on. It made me feel that much more welcome.

After a few months at ITP there were some things happening in the school that were unexpected for me. I wrote Red a long-ish email expressing my concerns. She simply answered, "Come see me in my office."

I told her I was surprised that there was much more of an emphasis on programming than I thought there would be, and that my main interest was in making things. Her answer was, "Well then when you graduate you'll get a job making things." She was absolutely right.

I also was disappointed in the way the shop was organized at the time-- there were many areas that could have been improved. Again she gave a quick and succinct answer: "Be the change you want to see." It's a paraphrase of a Gandhi quote (see the
George Agudow, ITP Staff
George Agudow, ITP Staff
George Agudow, ITP Staff
A nice New York Times interview with Red from 1994:

Sound Bytes; Going Interactive, Creatively

By J. Greg Phelan
WHEN she saw the first portable video camera in 1970, Red Burns recognized the potential of the new technology to enable people to make their own documentaries. It was a defining moment that changed her career from a film maker to a creator of interactive tools.

Over the next two decades, she used a grant from the National Science Foundation to create a two-way television system that allowed elderly residents of Reading, Pa., to interact with one another and "visit" community sites like the city center, Social Security office and local high schools. The system is still used.

In 1979 Professor Burns helped start the Interactive Tele-communications Program at New York University, where she is the chairwoman of a graduate program with 150 full-time students devoted to learning how to create new interactive media. The faculty is composed of adjunct professionals -- artists, designers, and software creators.

Professor Burns's projects include the production of a CD-ROM on Chaos Theory with HarperCollins and a research project with Nynex called the Electronic Neighborhood, an interactive television program combining narrowband (telephone) and broadband (cable) communications.

Question. What is the motivation for a program in interactive tele communications?

Answer. People come here for one purpose -- to understand the possibilities of this new form. I don't see them coming here as a prelude to a career. These technologies are going to change all the time. They're really going to have to understand the fundamental nature of the technologies and the possibilities. And we look for ways for the technology to be applied in very human ways.

Q. Is technical obsolescence a problem?

A. No, because it's not about technology. We're not a trade school. We're training people who have to learn to navigate in a world of change. If there's anything constant, it's change. It's not like you open somebody's head and pour in a skill.

Q. What characteristic do you look for in prospective students?

A. Curiosity. This field isn't here yet. It's just developing. You have to be an adventurer, an entrepreneur. We accept people who have never touched a computer, who have never looked at video. We're more interested in people's approach.

Q. How does the program contrast with traditional computer science?

A. We're in the Tisch School of the Arts, which is primarily interested in creative communication. In computer science, they might see the arts as frosting on the cake. We see the arts as absolutely essential in the mix that's going to create new form. We don't have classes where a professor sits up at the front and teaches how to use a computer. People learn that in the labs on their own.

We're also a professional school. There are ethical and aesthetic issues, and ways of looking at how one creates an original piece of work.

Q. What do you think the "killer" application is going to be?

A. I don't think there is going to be one. It was McLuhan who said we always look through the rearview mirror. We're looking at what we've always looked at before, which was the big application or the big audience or the big statement, because we're basing our audience on cost per thousand.

What I'd like to see is a network that's open enough for people to be able to design their own uses, much the way they use the telephone. It's too early to talk about whether it's educational, whether it's social or whether it's entertainment. These categories that people feel the need to define really get in the way. Red Burns Born: Ottawa; "in the predigital age." Education: Apprenticeship at National Film Board of Canada. Current position: Chairwoman of the interactive telecommunications program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Noncomputer reading: "Six Memos for the Next Millennium," by Italo Calvino. Family: Four children: Wendy, Michael, Barbara and Catherine. Ideal vacation: Tuscany region of Italy. Favorite movie: "Grand Illusion." Computer: Macintosh. E-mail address:
james powderly, itp 2002
In 2001, at the end of my first year at ITP, I got sick. My Crohn's disease was exacerbated by stress and my own lack of attention to my prescribed meds. One morning I woke up and couldn't stand or walk. My girlfriend rushed me to the NYU hospital and they put me in the emergency room awaiting a doctor who was qualified to see me. 15 minutes after I arrived, and before a doctor had surfaced, a surprised nurse brought me a giant brick phone and said "you have a phone call". Shocked that anyone would even know I was there, I answered the phone. It was Red's voice on the other end, with its usual timbre somewhere between grandmother and sand paper. "James. What's the situation?" I explained what had happened, told her I was sorry I couldn't make it to work (I was a graduate assistant on scholarship) and asked her how she knew I was there. She ignored my question and cut right to the point, in a way totally characteristic of her style, telling me she would be there within the hour. 10 minutes later she arrived in the company of her friend, a female Buddhist Monk. They waited with me a few more minutes until a doctor arrived. It was obvious from the situation that the doctor had come because of her intervention. She pulled him aside and talked to him in private. He came back into the room with a mixture of fear and laser focus on my case. I've never experienced such personal attention from a doctor before or since. Minutes later I was admitted, quickly given a room, provided personal attention during my two week stay and given special equipment, transportation and out patient care. Throughout the process Red stayed in continuous contact with my caregivers, taking a more active role than is probably legal. From that moment on she never treated me like a student again. I was family and bore the gifts and responsibilities that a family member has to their kin. She put my mother in faculty housing while she came to NYC to take care of me and called me anytime I missed a doctor's appointment. My academic advisement meetings with her were always henceforth a combination of intellectual and physiological survey and interrogation. When, a year later, I missed work and neglected my duties, she (and Ben Gonzalez) prevented my justifiable firing. This was at least the third time she saved my life.

We were all under her wing. Hundreds of students every year. She fought for us all in ways we would never see and fought with us to hone our skills and ween us off our childish arrogance and pride. I loved her, respected her, feared her and needed her as much as I have ever needed anyone in my life. I owe her more than I can express. She is certainly the most qualified guardian angel to ever pass through the gates of heaven. Red, please look after my daughter, Ada. I hope she grows up to be like you... though those are shoes almost impossible to fill. But she already has your red hair. Red like fire.
Amnon Dekel, ITP 1996
Red changed my life, as a person and as an educator. One idea I have stolen from her and have used for years: Red: If I am successful, then my students will allow themselves to fail. Only by going out on a limb will they be able to innovate. Only by not being scared o fail will they be able to truly succeed. Staying safe will get them nowhere.
Francois Grey, ITP Adjunct 2012-13
I walked into Red's office two years ago. I didn't know a thing about her or ITP. I'd just read a book by Clay Shirky. Well, at least the intro, which mentioned he worked there. I wanted to hang out in New York, and I wanted to teach citizen science. It was is something I had never taught before and was not sure could be taught at all. After a chat with her and DanO, which probably lasted less than half an hour, I was in. No background checks, CVs, reference letters. Just a personal decision, based on her intuition that this was a topic likely to stimulate the eclectic students that ITP selects every year.

For me, ITP is the Yin to MIT Media Lab's Yang. Student projects are whimsical rather than practical, The faculty is there to support the students, rather than the other way round. The students themselves are a mishmash of artistic technological neophytes, and geeks in search of more meaningful challenges. They're not all off-scale geniuses, indeed some come with very little in the way of conventional academic qualifications.

All of this is Red's secret sauce. And the space Red and her team designed for them, with its old wooden floors and benches, busy workshops and cozy lounges, is uniquely warm and nurturing, a far cry for the high–tech metal and glass that Media Lab and others technophile teaching centers use to project modernity. As Yasser Ansari has put it to me, ITP is a place where you are allowed to fail - repeatedly - and to learn from that failure.

Goodbye Red, and thank you for creating something so beautifully unusual and slyly subversive as ITP.
Michael Hawley
The first time I met Red I was a graduate student. It would have been around 1988 or so. A mutual crazy friend of ours, Ken Phillips ( wanted me to co-teach a seminar on creative technology in Red's atelier. It became a routine. Years later, I held hands with Red on the couch at a private memorial for Ken. That was in the fall of 2000.

By then, Red had gotten into the habit of luring me down every fall or winter to give an evening lecture to her class at ITP, always a pleasure, always an honor, and always the same blissful routine. After class we'd walk to a favorite restaurant and catch up, almost always just the two of us. Red always wore that slick leather jacket. Her first questions were always personal, and usually about Nina in the last seven years — her priorities were always on the ball.

And after dinner, I'd walk her back to her apartment. She would insist that I just let her go on by herself across Washington Square, and in turn, I would insist that we walk together to the front door of her building. Which we did so I could thank her properly with a hug.

I have endless other stories — fun times in Dublin, or at the EG conference, or at concerts (she came to hear me play at Steinway Hall and immediately sat right down with my mother to "figure everything out" as she put it). But I loved our little annual routine at ITP the best, enjoying Red in full flower in her own paradise.
Shinsuke Yamawaki, ITP 2009
Red never said stop. Just told us do and believe yourself. Sometimes it's difficult for me to find what I want to do. But her existence is good example to know how human beings could find their way and Do it! I really appreciate we could see her footsteps. Thanks!!
Chris Jennings, ITP 2008
The first time I met Red, I had gone to the ITP department at NYU in December to ask if I could take a building and materials class to help me design a prototype for a computer peripheral I had been contemplating. Red and I spoke for about 15 minutes in her office about various projects and ideas, and then she looked at me and said, "Chris, I like your energy. You should probably just apply for the program." I walked out of her office a little taken aback, wondering if I had just signed up for another Master's Program. The next month I started mid-year at ITP. Everyone was really confused about why this guy just started showing up at classes in the middle of the year. It completely changed my focus and direction and to you, Red, I will be eternally grateful for the faith you placed in me.
Dean, ITP 2008
I remember dyeing my hair into this screaming bight red (and after the landlady had shamed me as she caught me on my way out) I bumped into Red later that day in the hallway, and she'd naturally remarked: "I like your hair Dean!"
Bobby Genalo, ITP 2012
It was no mystery that Bobby enjoyed to play foosball at ITP. Indeed, even Red knew. She would see him playing this student and that, celebrating wins and smiling in defeat. During his final semester, however, Bobby had very little time for foosball with his thesis work and outside commitments taking their respective tolls. It was during this period that, one afternoon, as Red was making one of her famous silent exits from the floor, that she spotted Bobby standing alone near the foosball table. Without breaking stride she remarked, "What's the matter? No one wants to play with you?"
Paul May, ITP 2012
I first met Red during my impromptu interview for ITP. Cliona and I were visiting New York for just one day. We were engaged, and spent the morning buying our wedding rings in the diamond district. We stopped by ITP for a tour with George Agudow.

Red heard that I was on the floor, and called me into her office. She asked Cliona to come in too, and found a comfortable chair for her to sit in while we talked.

"So, I've read your application and I can't make head or tail of it."

Any idea that this was going to be a casual chat went out the window. She proceeded to grill me for a solid hour about what I had written, why I wanted to come to ITP, what my ideas were.

Truth be told, I didn't know exactly why I wanted to come to ITP. I was worried that I was becoming a talker and not a doer. I wanted to make things again. I was interested in health and the human body. Instead of just saying that, I had written thousands of words of the worst sort of bullshit.

Red called me out, and I had very little to say for myself.

Afterwards, Cliona and I sat quietly eating a slice of pizza in the corner deli. I was grumpy. How dare she do that in front of my future wife!? Maybe ITP wasn't for me. (Cliona rightly pointed out that I should have expected her to interview me, or at least talk to me, if I was visiting all the way from Ireland).

Anyway. I got into ITP. I got to make things again. I got to meet the most wonderful people. I learned and grew more in two years than I had in the previous ten. I got to do all of this thanks to Red.

I had many more encounters with her over the years. She took an interest in some of my projects, and made sure I talked to the right people about them. She was constantly working to make sure that our work was as good as it could be, and had the maximum impact.

Whenever I start to lose my nerve, or I feel myself drifting into excuses, I think of my interview with Red. I summon some of her clarity, and I get myself back on track.

Red Burns changed my life. Thank you Red.
sally applin, ITP 1992
Red was like an interdisciplinary tornado of knowledge and power.

She got things done, she moved things, changed things, made us go.

We were all better for it.

RIP Red.
Ari Joseph, ITP 2010

One of the first assignments at ITP is known colloquially as “the M5.” The assignment is an apparent tradition, though much like all traditions at ITP, no one tells you how long it’s been around or who came up with it. ITP, strange as it is because it is so known for being perpetually innovative, loves a tradition, and in particular loves a tradition that appeared seemingly from the ether.

Your task during “the M5” is simple: board the M5 bus at LaGuardia Place and Houston Street in NYU’s temporally-transient home of Greenwich Village, and ride the bus until you reach the George Washington Bridge at 181st Street. Observe your surroundings, and report back.

I’m going to spoil something for you: this is the best kind of assignment. This assignment tests not only conceptual aptitude, but executional aptitude. It doesn’t tell you how to report back your findings, nor does it tell you how ambitious to be, nor how to contextualize your work. The assignment asks you to experience something, reflect upon it, and create something in response to it. Your ability to create an interesting reflection or narrative based on your findings is entirely up to you.

And what’s the best part? Here’s a hint: everyone receives the same grade. What grade would you think everyone received, given what you know of ITP? Did we all receive A’s, because ITP is known as a supportive environment where there is no failure and experimentation is encouraged and we collaborate to a fault? Did we all receive F’s, with the goal of pushing us to always strive for more, to question our abilities, to demand more of our capacity to learn? Did we receive C’s to reflect the constant mediocrity of work that gets produced, and to challenge that while attending ITP for a brief two years?

It’s a trick question, because the M5 assignment is ungraded. There, in your first class, you learn your first lesson: that how you feel about an assignment about ITP is often reflective of what you put into it. This M5 assignment–a stupid assignment about a bus that I grew up taking, or a terrifying request of me to explore a city I’ve never visited before in a language I don’t speak well, or a new glimpse at my everyday commute home–is a mirror of our capacity to learn, and it sets the course for the next two years.

The name of the class for which the M5 assignment is typically assigned is called “Applications of Interactive Technologies.” The class name is often short-handed by its 110 members (or the entire first-year class of ITP) as “Applications.” This isn’t out of laziness; it’s out of a continual understanding that whatever comes after the word “applications” is almost always on the cusp of being irrelevant: applications of computer animations, applications of micro-controllers in robotics, applications of computational media, applications of video as a form of self-expression, etc.

The only constant is the word application. You can’t learn the right way to use an Arduino, or the right way to use Processing, or the right way to use a Sony Portapac, or the right way to use a Pic card, or the right way to use Macromedia Shockwave, or the right way to use javascript. An application only makes sense within the context of a problem (“I want to help refugee family members be able to reunite with one another more efficiently”), or with a message to communicate (“I want to remind people who unexpectedly become caretakers that they aren’t alone”). “Applications” is a reminder that without a problem to solve or a message to convey, a skill is void of meaning and direction.

When I was at my group interview for ITP, a horribly frustrating process that I embarked on while jetlagged upon return from Turkey after having a fever of 104 degrees, someone asked Red Burns a fairly typical admissions question: “How big is the incoming class?”

Red responded, as she always did, directly and with little hesitation: “110.”

Someone more exasperated than I asked, “Well then how many people apply?”

“More than 110,” Red barked. The group, longing to understand what they were getting into and wanting a damn convincing reason for going, was not impressed. That was the last time I saw many of those people, and the first of many times I saw a few others.

We asked other questions like who of note had graduated from the program, or what the average alumnus of ITP did after graduating. The answers were equally unfulfilling. Red only answered matter-of-fact questions, with brief answers and the occasional hand gesture.

I don’t fault Red for saying what she did; in fact I remember it fondly. But in time her seemingly-trite answers conveyed something more: that our heroes were not to be past denizens of the fourth floor, now successful artists or captains of industries still to be formed. Our heroes were to become our classmates, who at that very moment were building the future out of yarn and LEDs and jQuery and beetles and maracas and almost anything else imaginable.

As I mentioned earlier, ITP counter-intuitively relishes its traditions: its Thursday nights out, its peer learning sessions, its sacred bi-annual shows full of real blood, sweat and tears, and so many more. As with most matters of faith, questioning these traditions often resulted in unknowing glances or shrugs. They come from the ether.

The ether was once thought to be the invisible force that kept the universe together, an elegant theory that was based in limited science and incomplete observation. We now almost universally refer to it as gravity. Red was ITP’s gravitational pull and its ether. She was grounded, and she was myth. She kept us honest, and pushed us for more. If she’s no longer here, then what holds us together?

Gravity is a force, not a phenomenon. ITP began as a cult of personality, and became an institution of repute. Red is no longer here, but she leaves behind the invisible machinations of a universe that still feels her pull keeping it all together.

rich lappenbusch, itp 93
Red I have faith you have the afterlife jacked in & are somehow streaming it all in. I showed up in a full suit and tie for an art school interview with a business degress and YOU gave me a shot & forced me to think in new ways & I am a better man for it. My life has been forever changed by your commitment, spirit and spunk. God bless you and your family. RIP #RedBurns
Jonah Brucker-Cohen, ITP 1999
I first met Red during my interview for ITP back in 1996, and since then I've stayed in contact with her through my time at ITP, my post-ITP life as an Interval Fellow at ITP for two years (1999-2001) with Dano and Tom, and later as a Research Fellow at Media Lab Europe in Dublin where she was a board member during the time it existed.

I met her a few times for breakfast in Dublin while she was in town for board meetings and have fond memories of the stories she told me about her deep and personal connection to Ireland because it was the place where her brother was buried after World War 2 and she had visited it many times since his funeral.

Red was always supportive of me and my work, including sending me get well soon letters (along with other ITP staff) to a Dublin hospital where I was sick for weeks, and helping me get on my feet after my return to NYC a few months later by offering me classes to teach at ITP and even space to work on the 4th floor.

As everyone knows, she was deeply committed to ITP, one of the strongest willed people we ever knew, and most of us (like me) probably never believed she could pass away.

I'm hoping someone will write a biography about her life, highlighting all of her accomplishments and her relentless drive and passion to change and challenge the tech community in NYC for the better.

I'm remembering a quote she said while I was at ITP - something like this:

"We don't teach software at ITP, we teach you everything you need to know about why it should be better and how to change it by taking risks."

This directive about "Taking Risks" was the main message I took from my time to ITP and it echos a bit with the quote from Steve Jobs that was recently included in the movie about him which I think is a quote that Red would really admire as well - I've pasted it below:

"When you grow up you, tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

- Steven Paul Jobs

R.I.P. Red Burns - you will be missed!
Dave Miller, ITP 2012 adopted son
Red cultivated students, faculty, and staff to create an atmosphere without compare, who welcomed me in as an outsider and made it possible for me to become as George would say, the 'adopted son'. Her brilliance shows in the products of the community: Processing, Arduino, the books written by professors and students, the glorious projects, and the business ventures that take flight.

While I didn't interact with Red nearly as much as I would have liked to, having her compliment me on graduating and moving on to continue my education was one of the great honors of my life.

I will always consider her an inspiration, and hope that if I continue in academia I can channel her values into the environment where I am.