The MIT Media Lab partnered with Mozilla and the Knight Foundation to showcase “exciting media innovation projects” at South by Southwest on Saturday Night. Partygoers received much more than the technology they bargained for, however, receiving racy wristbands instead.

Adeline Koh, a visiting faculty member at Duke and assistant professor at Richard Stockton College, published a picture of the wristbands the crowd was receiving on her blog, expressing her distaste with the caption, “WTF MIT MEDIA LAB?!?!?”


The image spurred shocked follow-up comments, including, “Gosh, why aren’t there more women in tech?? Shame.”

On Monday morning, Director Joi Ito addressed the issue himself, leaving this note on the MIT Media Lab blog:

We appreciate all of the feedback we’ve received about the party we hosted at The Parish Underground on Saturday night at SXSW. While we received a lot of positive responses, we want to address an issue with the wristbands that were given to people who came in the door. They were offensive and in no way reflect the sentiments of the MIT Media Lab. These wristbands were provided by the venue, and while we didn’t realize what was printed on them until after they’d been handed out, we should have prevented the situation from occurring in the first place.

The Media Lab is firmly committed to supporting women in the sciences, computing, arts, and engineering. We don’t like – and certainly don’t want to support or disseminate – offensive messaging. We appreciate those of you who noticed the wristbands and pointed them out to us; please accept our sincere apology.

If Ito really had his way, we imagine he would have passed out wristband sensors from MIT Media Lab spin-out Affectiva instead.

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