Joi Ito

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Joi Ito
Joichi Ito Headshot 2007.jpg
Ito in 2007
Joichi Ito

(1966-06-19) June 19, 1966 (age 53)
ResidenceBoston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma materTufts University
University of Chicago (attended)
The New School
Keio University PhD
Known forBlogging, Moblogging, Creative Commons, MIT Media Lab
RelativesMizuko Ito (sister)

Joichi "Joi" Ito (伊藤 穰一, Itō Jōichi, born June 19, 1966) is a Japanese activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and director of the MIT Media Lab.[1] Ito is a professor of the practice of media arts and sciences at MIT[2] and a visiting professor of law from practice at the Harvard Law School.[3]

Ito has received recognition for his role as an entrepreneur focused on Internet and technology companies and has founded, among other companies, PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan. Ito is the chairman of the board of PureTech Health.[4] Ito is a strategic advisor to Sony Corporation,[5] and a board member of The New York Times Company,[6] the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,[7] the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,[8] and General Partner of Neoteny Labs.[9] Ito writes a monthly column in the Ideas section of Wired.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Ito, c.1981

Ito was born in Kyoto, Japan. His family moved to Canada and then when Ito was about age 3 to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, in the United States where his father became a research scientist[11] and his mother a secretary for Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., now Ovonics. Company founder Stanford R. Ovshinsky was impressed with Ito, whom he thought of almost as his son. Ovshinsky helped Ito develop his interests in technology and social movements, and at age 13 gave him work with scientists, saying, "He was not a child in the conventional sense."[12]

Ito and his sister Mizuko Ito, who is called Mimi, spent summers in Japan with their grandmother who taught them traditional Japanese culture.[13] At 14, he returned to Japan when his mother was promoted to president of Energy Conversion Devices Japan. He studied at the Nishimachi International School[14] and for high school, the American School in Japan in Tokyo.[15] Ito also learned "street language, street smarts, and computers". One of few Japanese using modems before deregulation of networking reached Japan in 1985, Ito had found The Source and the original MUD by his teens (and by 26 was working on his own MUD).[13]

Ito returned to the United States to attend Tufts University as a computer science major, where he met, among others, Pierre Omidyar, later founder of eBay.[16] Finding his course work too rigid and believing that learning computer science in school was "stupid",[16] Ito dropped out of Tufts to briefly work for Ovonics. Ovshinsky encouraged him to return to school. He enrolled at the University of Chicago in physics but dropped out on discovering, in his opinion, the program at Chicago to be more oriented towards producing practical engineers than towards teaching an intuitive understanding of physics.[12] In the Fall of 1985 he became the first student to register for a pioneering program of online courses offered by Connected Education, Inc., for undergraduate credit from The New School for Social Research.

Ito received a PhD in Media and Governance from Keio University in 2018.[17] His dissertation, The Practice of Change, is available online.[18]

Ito is one of Timothy Leary's godsons—a close non-traditional family-like relationship, an idea said to have been conceived by Leary for a few of his friends.[19][20] Ito's sister is Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist studying media technology use, and the musician Cornelius is his second cousin. Ito currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Mizuka Ito (née Kurogane). Joi and Mizuka had a daughter, Kio (輝生) on May 11, 2017.


Ito became a disk jockey working in nightclubs in Chicago such as The Limelight and The Smart Bar and to work with Metasystems Design Group to start a virtual community in Tokyo.[13] Later, Ito ran a nightclub in Roppongi, Japan called XY Relax with help from Joe Shanahan of Metro Chicago/Smart Bar. He helped bring industrial music from Chicago (Wax Trax) and later the rave scene, managing a DJ team and visual artists, including importing Anarchic Adjustment to Japan.

Ito in a 2008 Creative Commons panel discussion

Ito was the Chairman of Creative Commons from December 2006 until 2012. He is on the board of Digital Garage,[21] Culture Convenience Club (CCC),[22] Tucows,[23] and EPIC,[24] and is on the advisory boards of Creative Commons and WITNESS. He is the founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Neoteny Co., Ltd. In October 2004, he was named to the board of ICANN for a three-year term starting December 2004. In August 2005, he joined the board of the Mozilla Foundation[25] and served until April 2016. He served on the board of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) from March 2005 until April 2007. He currently serves as a Board Emeritus for OSI.[16] He was a founding board member of Expression College for Digital Arts[26] as well as the Zero One Art and Technology Network.[27] In 1999, he served as the Associate to Mr. Mount (the executive producer) on the film The Indian Runner.[28] Ito also served as a Board Member of Energy Conversion Devices from 1995 to 2000.

Ito is a venture capitalist and angel investor and was an early stage investor in Kickstarter,[29] Twitter,[30] Six Apart, Technorati, Flickr, SocialText, Dopplr,, Rupture, Kongregate, Fotopedia, Diffbot, Formlabs, 3Dsolve and other Internet companies.[31][32] A vocal advocate of emergent democracy and the sharing economy, Ito is a doctoral candidate in Business Administration focusing on the sharing economy at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University. He is the author of Emergent Democracy.[33] Ito is Senior Visiting Researcher of Keio Research Institute at SFC.[34] In May 2011, it was announced that Ito's company, Digital Garage, will provide PR, marketing, product marketing research and market research for Linkedin Japan.[35]

Ito is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, an Emergency First Responder Instructor Trainer, and a Divers Alert Network (DAN) Instructor Trainer.[36]

In recent years, Ito has become critical of what he sees as Japan's inward focus. He stated in a 2011 interview that he thinks Japan needs to look internationally if it is to continue to be "relevant".[37]


Ito has written opinion editorials for the Asian Wall Street Journal[38] and The New York Times[39][40] and has published articles in numerous other magazines[41] and newspapers. He has had regular columns in The Daily Yomiuri, Mac World Japan, Asahi Pasocom, Asahi Doors, and other media sources. His photographs have been used in The New York Times Online,[42] BusinessWeek,[43] American Heritage,[44] Wired News,[45] Forbes,[46] and BBC News.[47] He was on the early editorial mastheads of Wired and Mondo 2000. He has authored and co-authored a number of books including Dialog – Ryu Murakami X Joichi Ito with Ryu Murakami, and "Freesouls: Captured and Released" with Christopher Adams, a book of Ito's photographs that includes essays by several prominent figures in the free culture movement.[48] He has hosted televisions shows including The New Breed and SimTV shows on NHK.

He is currently the host of a TV show called "Super-Presentation" airing weekly in Japan on NHK.[49]

Recognition and honors[edit]

Ito was listed by Time magazine as a member of the "Cyber-Elite" in 1997. He was also named one of the 50 "Stars of Asia" in the "Entrepreneurs and Dealmakers" category by BusinessWeek[50] and commended by the Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for supporting the advancement of IT in 2000.[51] He was selected by the World Economic Forum in 2001 as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow"[52] and chosen by Newsweek as a member of the "Leaders of The Pack (high technology industry)" in 2005,[53] and listed by Vanity Fair as a member of "The Next Establishment" in the October Issue, 2007[54] and 2011.[55] Joi Ito was also named by BusinessWeek as one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web in 2008.[56] On July 22, 2011 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his role as one of the world's leading advocates of Internet freedom from the University of Oxford Internet Institute.[57] In 2011, with Ethan Zuckerman, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers, in which he stated the Best idea is "Users controlling their own data".[58] Ito received the degree of Doctor of Literature, honoris causa, from The New School in 2013.[59] On March 11, 2014, Ito was inducted into the SXSW Interactive Festival Hall of Fame.[60] He was a TED speaker at the March 21, TED2014.[61] In 2014, Ito was awarded the Golden Plate Award by the Academy of Achievement.[62] On May 17, 2015 Ito received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Tufts University.[63] Ito was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April 2017. [64]On May 11, 2017 Ito was awarded the IRI Medal.[65]

MIT Media Lab[edit]

The New York Times reported in April 2011 that Joi Ito was named to be the director of the MIT Media Lab. His appointment was called an "unusual choice" since Ito studied at two colleges, but did not finish his degrees. "The choice is radical, but brilliant," said Larry Smarr, director of Calit2.[66] Ito officially began his role on September 1, 2011.[1][67] He was appointed Professor of the Practice of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, effective July 1, 2016.[68]

Nicholas Negroponte, Media Lab's co-founder and chairman emeritus, described the choice as bringing the media to "Joi's world".[69] In an interview with Asian Scientist Magazine, Joi Ito discusses his vision for the MIT Media Lab, and how he likes the word “learning” better than the word “education”.[70]

As part of his work at the Media Lab, Joi Ito is a part of the emerging dialogue around the ethics and governance of Artificial Intelligence, teaching a course on the topic with professor Jonathan Zittrain and co-founding the Council on Extended Intelligence with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). [71]


  • Ito, Joi; Howe, Jeff (2016). Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1455544592.
  • Ito, Joi (2008). FREESOULS: Captured and Released. ISBN 978-0982029121.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "I'm finally "officially" the Director of the MIT @medialab and here's my first blog post on the new Media Lab blog:". Joi Ito's Twitter Stream. September 1, 2011.
  2. ^ "Media Lab Director Joi Ito Appointed Professor of the Practice in Media Arts and Sciences | MIT Media Lab". Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  3. ^ "Joichi Ito - Harvard Law School". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  4. ^ "PureTech - Our Team". Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  5. ^ "Press Release: Selection of Board Member Candidates". April 28, 2017. Retrieved 2013-06-21.
  6. ^ "Joichi Ito and Brian McAndrews Join The New York Times Company Board of Directors".
  7. ^ "Joichi Ito, Trustee". Archived from the original on 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  8. ^ "MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito to Serve on MacArthur Board".
  9. ^ "Team – Neoteny Labs". Archived from the original on April 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  10. ^ "Joi Ito". Wired. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Fisher, Lawrence M. (August 2006). "The Ambassador from the Next Economy". strategy+business. Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. via Internet Archive. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  13. ^ a b c Kelly, Kevin; Rheingold, Howard (July–August 1993). "The Dragon Ate My Homework". Wired, the Condé Nast Publications Inc. (1.03). Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  14. ^ Rheingold, Howard (2000-11-01). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. The MIT Press. p. 227. ISBN 0-262-68121-8.
  15. ^ Interview (2004-08-24). "The World Wide Blog". Ubiquity, Association for Computing Machinery. 5 (25).
  16. ^ a b c Elaina Hamilton. "Joichi Ito Education". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  17. ^ "慶應義塾大学学術情報リポジトリ(KOARA)". (in Japanese). Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  18. ^ Ito, Joichi. "Practice of Change". Practice of Change. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  19. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  20. ^ "". Timothy Leary Archives Blog. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
  21. ^ "Digital Garage Corporate Information". Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  22. ^ "CCC Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  23. ^ "Tucows Board of Directors". Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  24. ^ "EPIC Advisory Board". Electronic Privacy Information Center. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  25. ^ "About the Mozilla Foundation". Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  26. ^ "People at Expression:Joi Ito". Expression College for Digital Arts. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  27. ^ "ZERO1 Board". ZERO1. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  28. ^ "The Indian Runner (1999) Full Cast and Crew". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  29. ^ "Kickstarter Fesses Up: The Crowd-Sourced Funding Startup Has Funding Too".
  30. ^ "Twitter in Japan". Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  31. ^ "Joi Ito". Joi Ito's Wiki. Archived from the original on 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  32. ^ Joi Ito Crunchbase
  33. ^ Ito, Joichi (June 28, 2003). "Emergent Democracy (Version 1.32)". Socialtext. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2010. and Lebkowsky, Jon; Ratcliffe, Mitch (2005). Extreme Democracy. pp. 13–39. ISBN 1-4116-3139-0. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  34. ^ "Program: Electronic Media – Challenges and Opportunities" (PDF). Higher Colleges of Technology. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-30. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  35. ^ "LinkedIn Has Value Preposition to Succeed in Japan, Digital Garage to Help | Penn Olson". 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011. Joi
  36. ^ "Joichi Ito LinkedIn Profile". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  37. ^ Wilks, Jon (May 31, 2011). "Joi Ito: The Interview". Time Out Tokyo. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  38. ^ "Japan Reform and Recovery". Joi Ito's Web (blog). April 7, 2002. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  39. ^ Ito, Joichi (August 7, 2005). "An Anniversary to Forget". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  40. ^ Ito, Joichi (September 18, 2007). "In Japan, Stagnation Wins Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  41. ^ "World of Warcrack". Wired. June 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  42. ^ Markoff, John (May 31, 2007). "For Jobs and Gates, a Night to Reminisce". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  43. ^ "Entrepreneurs for the Ages". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  44. ^ "The Birth of EBay". Archived from the original on 2007-09-06. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  45. ^ Schiffman, Betsy (November 6, 2008). "Twitter CEO on How the Company Will Make Money: Ummm". Wired News. CondéNet. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  46. ^ Griffiths, Daniel Nye (January 16, 2012). "It Takes Tweets to Tango – Murdoch, Kutcher, the ur-Jack and the dangers of Twitter". Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  47. ^ Waters, Darren (April 24, 2008). "Stark warning for internet's future". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  48. ^ Freesouls
  49. ^ "スーパープレゼンテーション|Eテレ NHKオンライン". Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  50. ^ "The Stars of Asia (int'l edition)". BusinessWeek. July 3, 2000. Retrieved 2007-09-16.
  51. ^ "The Markets Are Stupid. The Current Internet Valuations Have Very Little to Do With the Actual Value of the Companies". Joi Ito's Web. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  52. ^ "Economic Forum Entrepreneurs – Japanese put on list of world's 100 young leaders". Kyodo World News Service. February 3, 2002. Retrieved 2007-09-27.[dead link]
  53. ^ "Leaders of The Pack (high technology industry)". Newsweek International. April 25, 2005. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  54. ^ "Vanity Fair (Re) Discovers Tech". Vanity Fair. October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  55. ^ "Vanity Fair Next Establishment 2011". October 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  56. ^ "The 25 Most Influential People on the Web: The Adviser: Joi Ito". BusinessWeek. September 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
  57. ^ "Director of MIT Media Lab Joi Ito Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute". July 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  58. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". November 28, 2011. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  59. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients". 2013-05-24. Archived from the original on 2013-03-24. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  60. ^ "SXSW Interactive Festival Hall of Fame Honors Top Industry Trendsetters: 2014 Inductee is Joi Ito". Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  61. ^ Instead of futurists, let’s be now-ists: Joi Ito at TED2014
  62. ^ "2009 – 2014 Golden Plate Recipients". Academy of Achievement. Archived from the original on 2014-10-14. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  63. ^ "Commencement 2015: Biographies – Joichi "Joi" Ito". May 17, 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  64. ^
  65. ^ "Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab Director, Awarded the IRI Medal". Retrieved 2017-05-26.
  66. ^ Markoff, John (April 25, 2011). "M.I.T. Media Lab Names a New Director". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2011.
  67. ^ Kirsner, Scott (April 26, 2011). "MIT picks Joichi Ito, Japanese venture capitalist and entrepreneur, as new leader of the Media Lab". (The Boston Globe). The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  68. ^ "Media Lab Director Joi Ito Appointed Professor of the Practice of Media Arts and Sciences". June 2016. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  69. ^ "Joichi Ito named director of MIT Media Lab". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. April 25, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2011.
  70. ^ Chan, Juliana (May 2, 2011). "Newly Appointed MIT Media Lab Director, Joichi Ito, Talks To Asian Scientist". Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  71. ^ "CXI - Council on Extended Intelligence | IEEE-SA & MIT Media Lab". IEEE CXI. Retrieved 2019-01-14.

External links[edit]