WHO WE ARE
We are a full service consulting firm. We are passionate about computational products that inspire and empower people to create. We have spent the past two decades honing our craft of designing, prototyping, and building tools that appeal to diverse audiences. Our clients engage us to build applications and services for creative work in design, learning, and education. We shepherd projects from conceptualization to shipping.
We remain active in both teaching and research and strive to deepen our perspective and practice through our internal product development efforts, the fruits of which will debut in 2017. Our clients are the first beneficiaries of everything we learn in our internal projects. Two awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR Program funded the early prototypes of our upcoming product. And over the years, we have committed significant additional resources beyond that initial funding to refine our prototypes into a product that we feel is a reflection of what inspired the founding of our company.
We founded Media Modifications in 2006 out of a shared belief that there remains a great deal of work to be done to realize the creative and learning potential of computation. We came together to design and develop expressive computational tools that employ novel representations and interaction metaphors to offer new entry points into thinking about and working with powerful ideas from a wide range of intellectual and practical domains. Democratizing access to such tools and ideas is what drives us.
We bring to this collaboration perspectives shaped by decades of combined experience in developing new environments, resources and tools for: text-based, visual and tangible programming; digital design and fabrication; hardware prototyping and design; scientific and mathematical modeling; data visualization; tangible, tabletop real-time process and workflow modeling; storytelling; media authoring and remixing; robotics; computational art; historical modeling with imagery; game and toy design; exhibit design; STEAM teaching and learning.
We are particularly passionate about learning and education. Our early work at the MIT Media Laboratory foretold, and in many cases directly shaped, products and movements that invite people to experience and participate in shaping the future of learning and play. We are honored by the opportunities we have had and welcome new engagements that hold a similar promise for the world.
For every engagement, we assemble a special team of designers and developers which is led by one or both of our principals, Erik Blankinship and Bakhtiar Mikhak.
Erik Blankinship received his Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Laboratory. He also has an M.Ed. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a B.A. in English Literature with honors from the University of Maryland at College Park where he was a recipient of the Jim Henson Award for Projects Related to Puppetry. He has consulted for France Telecom, Motorola, Intel Research, and Ricoh Innovations on educational, assistive, and communication technology.
Bakhtiar Mikhak received his M.S. and Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics at the University of California at Los Angeles and his B.A. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University. His perspectives on teaching, research, design, and development have their roots in the MIT Media Laboratory, where he worked in the Epistemology and Learning and Lifelong Kindergarten research groups and then founded and directed his own research group, the Grassroots Invention Group. While at MIT, he was also the founding director of the Fab Lab program at the NSF Center for Bits and Atoms, and was a principal investigator and the technical director for the NSF-funded Playful Invention and Exploration Network. Bakhtiar has made significant contributions to the development of programming languages and digital construction kits that laid the foundation for the LEGO MindStorms Robotic Invention System, the PicoCricket Kit from the Playful Invention Company, and the MIT Scratch programming language. Bakhtiar’s dedication to expanding public access to exemplary resources for learning and education include his roles as a founding board member of the Community Charter School of Cambridge in Cambridge, MA and a principal architect of the Powder House Studios in Somerville, MA.
OUR ADVISORS AND MENTORS
We are fortunate to have access to luminaries in the fields of interactive media, computational design, and learning technologies for advice and critical review of the products and process of work.
Nicholas Negroponte’s perspectives on design of computational systems that amplify human capacity for creative expression, learning and understanding guides how we work and what we work on.
Seymour Papert’s seminal ideas on learning learning and design of tools that give powerful ideas power are foundational to our work.
Henry Jenkins’ ethnographic and historical analysis of the work of transmedia creators, who use media as building blocks for cultural appropriation and expression, drives us to expand the palette of material readily available for adaptation.
John Maeda’s persuasive advocacy by demonstration for simplicity in design of computational systems and experiences inspires the tools we create.
David Kleeman’s leadership in creating understanding and dialogue amongst creators (including writers, animators, directors, producers, and researchers), and audiences (including parents, psychologists, and educators) of international children’s media informs our approach to supporting communities around the use of cultural tools and ideas.
WHAT WE DO
When considering new engagements, we carefully consider both the nature and the extent of impact that our involvement can bring to a project or product. We are particularly proud of working relationships in which our team becomes an integral part of the conceptualization, design, and implementation process. So if you are interested in working with us, please keep in mind that you will get the greatest differentiated value when we participate in the product and project development process as early as possible.
We believe consulting engagements in which there is a shared vision for not only excellence in the execution of ideas but also the values motivating the project. Our best relationships are ultimately partnerships based on values. And they are often naturally long term engagements. With that in mind, we share two of our most impactful relationships as examples of our taste in selecting projects, our approach to work, and our belief in the quality of work that can get produced in great partnerships and working relationships.
We worked with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) foundation, and subsequently the Sugar Labs foundation, closely for six years. During the most intensive period of our relationship, in the first three years of the OLPC project, we worked on a wide range of projects that regularly required creative applications of a mixture of our varied expertise.
We participated in strategic planning and design meetings for the early versions of the hardware platform and the custom operating system, called Sugar, that was designed specifically for learning. We also created many demonstrations of the unique capabilities of the XO laptop for implementation partners and international funding agencies. These demonstrations, and the feedback from them, helped the foundation’s technology and design teams prioritize features.
OLPC intentionally instigated an important discussion about technology, learning and development by creating a concrete solution that made typically abstract dimensions of the policy debates very tangible, imminent and therefore difficult to avoid or ignore. We are proud to have contributed to their core mission and this important, enduring conversation technically, aesthetically, pedagogically, and operationally.
We worked with LEGO Education for three years adapting and marketing LEGO’s flagship robotics products. LEGO approached us when there was a clear market demand for their products by the linux community but they were not in a position to deliver at the speed needed. LEGO’s deadline was exacting — they needed a working version within months for one of their international customers who was planning a nationwide deployment. Fortunately, our expertise developing for the OLPC XO, strengthened by years of foundational research at MIT on the prototypes for LEGO’s Robotics endeavours, enabled us to deliver a winning product, replete with themed curricular material, for our client. We were asked to further assist LEGO in their sales meetings by traveling overseas to meet in person with education ministers.
The successful deployment of our work on LEGO WeDo led to a significantly more complex task: porting LEGO’s Mindstorms to Gnome Desktop OS on Linux. Aside from the version LEGO already shipped as a reference for general functionality, there was no way to proceed other a fundamental re-architecture from the ground up. Additional work involved creating a custom installation mechanism for their large deployment. Our work for LEGO Education resulted in robotics educational opportunities being made available to millions of children to further their creative and educational goals. We also worked with LEGO to create internal prototypes of LEGO Mindstorms apps and activities for tablets and phones.
For more information about our company or to explore how we can work together, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.