Why Radius? A letter to friends of the Technology & Culture Forum

This letter first appeared in the Technology & Culture Forum Annual report for 2013-14.

Recently I ended up at a dinner party with a local media personality, a man with an excellent reputation among Boston intellectuals. He asked me about my work and listened attentively as I described the birth of the Technology and Culture Forum in 1964, when Episcopal Chaplain Mike Bloy created a space for MIT faculty to discuss the meaning and impact of their work. It's a story I love to tell, because I am proud to join this legacy of fifty years of conversations about the questions that matter most.

Back at my office, I was flipping through our archive of past programs and a name caught my eye. My dinner companion led a forum for us not so long ago, but he showed no glimmer of recognition when I spoke about the Technology and Culture Forum.

People respond with enthusiasm to the quality of our programs, but outside the circle of our supporters, collaborators and friends, there is little awareness of who put this great panel or speaker series together. After decades of excellent work building relationships on campus and publicizing our events, the name just doesn't stick in people's minds.

When Mike Bloy convened that first faculty seminar, putting technology and culture together was a fresh idea. Scholars were just beginning to break down the illusion that science and technology exist on a separate plane of objective reality, free from cultural assumptions or moral concerns. Now we look around the MIT campus and see an abundance of research into the connections between technology and culture: the Program in Science, Technology and Society, the Technology and Policy Program, the Program in Art, Culture and Technology, and more.

We believe it is time to reintroduce ourselves to MIT and the wider community. We have something unique to offer in our passion for ethical questions and our skill in bringing diverse perspectives together. This work is too important to get lost in the mix of a busy campus.

Beginning in the fall of 2013, we met with students, alumni, staff and faculty who are connected to the Technology and Culture Forum. We asked them what was most valuable about our history and our current work. Using the insights we gained, we worked with professionals with expertise in naming, marketing, graphic design, social media and web design to develop a new identity for the program.

We are pleased to introduce to you Radius, a program devoted to "exploring ethics at the center of science and technology. The name and the logo design express our commitment to finding the moral center of scientific discovery and technological innovation. They also share our vision of conversations that welcome every possible perspective, allowing us to get a true 360-degree view of any question.

It is always strange to begin calling something by a new name, especially when it is an institution we know and love like the Technology and Culture Forum. Even for those of us closest to the naming process, it took several weeks of talking about the name and looking at logos before Radius really took hold. We invite you to try out the new name with us. We believe you'll find, as we did, that Radius is a fresh and exciting way of saying what we have always valued most about this work.