Ray Garcia

Executive in Residence & Visiting Scientist at MIT Media Lab 2008/2009

rgarcia at media dot mit dot edu 


I am available for consulting work related to these experiences.

Contact me at rgarcia at alterwork dot com  for Alterwork LLC


For my complete CV see http://linkedin.com/in/alterwork

For info on MIT Media Lab see http://media.mit.edu

Center for Future Banking see http://cfb.media.mit.edu


To follow is an auto-biographical narrative of my activities at MIT Media Lab.


Prior to joining MIT Media the Center for Future Banking (CFB) I was active in providing counsel to Jeff Carter, the visionary and courageous executive leader at Bank of America, the main sponsor for the Center.   Jeff was instrumental in breaking through monumental barriers in an industry that resist change and it is his determination and persistence that made the Center for Future Banking possible.  Leading up to my official involvement I contributed to the efforts to generate ideas and concepts, some of which became provisional patents for Bank of America.  The formation of Center for Future Banking is a major milestone and accomplishment for banking industry when its full vision is realized.


I was hired by MIT Media Lab Center for Future Banking (CFB) in August 2008 as an Executive in Residence then transitioned to a Visiting Scientist March 2009.   Center for Future Banking had several mid-level banking Executives visiting the Media Lab trying in understand the academic environment and in particular the MIT Media Lab.  I was hired to help formulate the research agenda for Network Economies and demonstrate how to engage with the faculty and students in a manner that would be constructive while guiding the activities toward commercially viable innovations that can be adopted by the financial industry in the future.


Given the differences in cultures between banking and academia, banking with its insular operational control over the activities of its executives and its difficulties with producing any significant market innovations, and, academia with its traditions of tenure and need for autonomy from commercial interest and intellectual integrity, the potential for misunderstanding between these parties was great.   I was hired by Center for Future Banking for my experience in five relevant areas, banking, innovative entrepreneurship, venture consulting, technical product development, and academic research.  This unique combination of experiences allowed me to understand the needs of all constituents and find research opportunities that would be of mutual interest while being academically interesting and commercially useful if the research was to convert into products through a technology transfer process.


The first two months involved assessing the capabilities of the two large and established institutions, MIT Media Lab Center for Future Banking and Bank of America, its sponsor, both with stellar reputations for excellence in their respective areas.   The common attributes, were long traditions of practice, desire to achievement, recognition of performance, desire for inquiry and insight, aspirations for future improvement in society.   The differing views were in the methods and techniques for pursuing research and innovation and the length of time needed to uncover any significant findings.  Research applies a scientific method to its analysis whereas businesses operate primarily on intuition and judgment.  While large corporations have adopted Six Sigma quality control these are mostly mis-appropriated to human dynamics and often fall short of fully designing experiments and conducting the statistical analysis due to the vagaries of instrumenting human activities.   Reconciling the difference is primarily a training and development task for the Center for Future Banking for which I engaged in actively during the first few months by guiding and advising Executives on how to best acquire an understanding of the research process and how it might be applied to commercial problems. 


During September 2008 I engaged with other corporate sponsors at the Media Lab as well as other departments within MIT.  During that process, while in discussions with another research scientist, Stephen Miles, from the MIT Auto-ID Lab, we conceived of a novel use of mobile devices and near field communications ( NFC ) to address a gap in the information flow between health care providers, retailers, patients, and suppliers.  We drafted a provisional patent for Augmented Reality Retail on our invention and submitted it to Center for Future Banking ( CFB ) sponsor for evaluation.  That patent is under review and may be the basis for a consortium of cross industry participants to formulate a strategy to address the fragmented information exchanges amongst their respective systems.  This was done with the MIT Auto-ID lab and is related to previous experience and expertise I had with my own NFC payments and loyalty company, Smart Systems Technologies.


In October 2008 I organized an event Situated Social Networks Design Charette .  A charette is term from architecture for an activity where imagination is provoked through demonstration and dialog.  The event was attended by over 70 people from, banking, faculty and students from the Media Lab, city government officials, companies providing interesting applications in Situated Social Networks, and MIT IT staff interested in using the campus as a living lab.  The event was organized with Alex Sandy Pentland and Andy Lippman, both tenured faculty at MIT Media Lab.  The outcome of the event was to bring together the interest of the various constituents and demonstrated mutual interest in pursuing research that would impact societal changes and recognized the opportunities that emerging social networks in physical spaces would afford researchers, government, and commerce.  The event spawned many subsequent activities that are on-going and has brought together interest that previously did not have a forum for engagement.  Center for Future Banking ( CFB ) was the catalyst for this activity and has continued to pursue goals of the day in its activities.


In November 2008 I defined and drafted a presentation to help train corporate executives in how research is conducted and where it may intersect with the desire for business innovation.  I used my own research interest in Network Economies as an example and elaborated on this line of inquiry in a historical context suggesting what the implications may be for business.   This activity initiated active discussions on a related research topic of Communications Markets which is a broad term I use to include knowledge, prediction, persuasion, and decision markets.   This re-framing of the discussion raised many questions that I am pursuing in my own research efforts that include involvement of MIT Faculty, Students and a large corporation.


In December 2008 the CFB Research Description was established with specific activities underway.   I subsequently defined a broad based research agenda description that captures the long term goals for CFB.  The agenda describes the framework for CFB research proposals and grants and is applicable to the research community at large.  It was drafted to solicit interest from many disciplines that may contribute to establishing a research track for Service Science.  This area has formerly been scoped by the MIT ESD department in cooperation with IBM but our use of the term is an abstraction and removes any specific technical implementation treatment as indicated by IBM.  Service Science focuses on understand the system dynamics of any information intensive producer to consumer interaction.   This applies to CFB and its concerns for the Banking industry but generalizes the line of inquiry into macro themes and capabilities such that the research can be applicable to other service oriented industries, for example the Health care Industry.


During the fall 2008 semester, to demonstrate how an Executive may engage in an academic setting, I participated in providing assistance to students in Roz Picard's pattern recognition class.  I arranged for a source of real-world data from the Peer to Peer Lending company Prosper.com, and provided it to the students for a research project.  I met with the researchers periodically to help formulate the line of inquiry. My engagement provided value to the researchers learning process as well as demonstrated how these activities might provide direct value to Center for Future Banking and its sponsor.  The results from the class project revealed findings that had not been previously known in the financial industry about Peer to Peer lending practices.   The projects produced reports that were presented to bankers interested in this topic. ( Peer-to-Peer Lending Analysis Conclusions )  CFB invited speakers to its bi-month talks to address this topic.  Two academic papers have been submitted to peer review conferences.  A quantitative analyst from a major global bank is now engaged in doing further analysis for their institution.  The company that provided the data, Prosper.com, was given a presentation and it provided insights that had not be previously available.  The data sample continues to be used for further study and research.  I have frequent discussions with the two Teaching Assistants in the class on their respective Phd. work and have provided feedback and contacts that are helpful to them.   I have provided students a reference for their Phd. application to the Media Lab, and other students in the class, I continue to make myself available to assist in their research activities.  This is the kind of engagement that is needed to be effective and serve to satisfy both the learning needs of the students, research pursuits, and show promising commercial value to the sponsors of Center for Future Banking. (for academic papers see: SIG Comm Workshop Social Networks in Peer to Peer Lending , SIG KDD Social Interactions in Peer to Peer Lending )


During the Spring 2009 semester, I was an advisor in Jhonatan Rothberg NextLab class, a team of students working on creating a Mobile Banking solution for rural Mexico.   Jhonatan is a Telmex research scientist resident at the Media Lab who started the Next Billion program.  His work is an excellent example of how MIT Media Lab sponsors may engage to provide real solutions to difficult problems that are both commercially sustainable and socially responsible.  The student meetings have provided insights into business and technical problems that I would not have otherwise considered and therefore while I am advising them I am likely learning as much from the challenges as any useful information I may provide.  One of the teams, Dinube was the runner up in the highly competitive MIT 100k business plan contest.  With this  experience I am now considering designing a course on participatory action based innovation practiced by technical start-ups for which I have spent a portion of my career doing and therefore can speak with experience and some authority.  This would be a variation of the Next Lab course with a slightly different emphasis. 


During February 2009 I drafted an Alliance Framework for Center for Future Banking and have attempted to put it into practice.  CFB needed to expand its scope and sphere of influence to encompass other researchers within the MIT community as well as other Universities.   It also needs to attract the best minds in Banking and Finance who are practicing professionals and have the credentials to work as research peers with the MIT community.   While the commercial experience for many academics is scarce their is an interest in accessing the resources that large corporations have in terms of populations of workforce and consumers and the data that is generated around the social-economic activity.   Corporations, in particular Service oriented companies, lack the intellectual talent outside of a few isolated areas like the Quantitative community, but there are exceptions.   Finding those people who have banking and academic experience will be necessary to help CFB evolve from its beginnings to a world class center for research that has real-world application.  The strategy is underway so it remains to be seen whether it will meet with resistance or be accepted and allow for CFB expansion by attracting other sponsors. (As of Oct. 09 a second major global bank was to join thus the alliance framework may prove to be viable in creating a neutral grounds for competitive banks to collaboration on mutually difficult problems.)


Other activities during the Spring 2009 semester include a presentation to MarieJose Montpetit and Henry Holtzman class on Social TV.   I presented to the class the topic of Retail TV and its emergence as a new advertising medium.   I presented at the research@ML March 2009 event in four sessions, Gestural Interfaces panel with Hiroshi Ishii and Jamie Zigelbaum, CFB Research panel with Deb Roy and Jeff Carter, Interaction Model, Aesthetics of Computation with Henry Leiberman .  I started to formulate a categorization for Communications Markets based on discussions with Marshall Van Alstyne, an Information Economist at Boston University and the Sloan School Center for Digital Business.


In June 2009 I was invited by John Clippinger to participate in a symposium at Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society titled Cloud Law.  This was part of the formation of the LawLab collaborative.  In preparation for the event I co-authored an Op-ed piece with Jeff Carter titled “An Unorthodox View on the Future of Banking”.  Since the symposium was concerning Law I submitted to Op-ed pieces that were related to the commercialization efforts of the zonebee.com project where we have oriented the research to first commercialize an application for the legal community.  The Op-ed’s on Law are “When Technology blurs Human Values” and “Cloud Law: Can it be engineered?”.


The summer of 2009 was spent understanding the challenges of research commercialization and drafting a proposal for an alternative to the current strategies available at MIT.  The main focus of attention was the gap between the research artifacts and the needs for service oriented industries to have products and services than scale.  My contention is that the venture community may have an opportunity to fill the gap by engaging the researchers early, while they are still within a University setting and work with the corporations that express an interest in the implications of particular research that may impact their industry.  The components for engaging the venture community are present at the Media Lab but they are not yet oriented to satisfy the expectations of Venture Capitalist.  See my proposal for MIT Media Lab commercialization for one means of seizing this opportunity.




My research interest includes several areas that are relevant to Center for Future Banking but may also be applicable to corporations in any service business.  My interest is in exploring the methods and techniques in research using the latest computational capabilities available with high-performance computing and the adoption of easy to learn tools coming from scientific computing.   I am also interested in mix method research that uses both quantitative and qualitative analysis to formulate novel experimental design.  


These are a sampling of the research questions I am interested in:


1.      Social and Economic Networks - How do networks emerge?  What are the inherent value systems and constraints under which they form? How are knowledge shared and problems solved within social networks?  What are the micro-economic forces at play?

2.      Life Long Literacy and Group Decision Making - How do people learn to make important life decisions that impact their opportunities from the social engagements and information sources they have available?  What are the cultural forces as work?  What methods could be used to experiment, model, simulate, predict, inform, improve, group decision making within families, friends, co-workers, and communities?  How does literacy change throughout ones life and how is it inter-generational?  What are the 21st century literacy that need to be learned and taught?  What are the educational psychological models and cognitive models that help inform personal and family decisions and how do social value systems influence the choices and expectations.
3.      Scaling the Service Innovation Process (designing the business and its wicked problems) - Service companies lack the analogous research activities that are prevalent in product companies and therefore do not have a science of service to create and build a body of knowledge.  The research methods and processes for converting research findings into innovative services requires a discipline to be formulated, tested, and disseminated to be effective within a large scale global company.  Can these service innovations be co-generated between the consumer and producer such that they evolve into a synergistic relationship?


I am considering organizing a class at one of the NYC Universities on entrepreneurial execution instead of the typical focus on business planning.  The year long involvement at MIT Media Lab was interesting and confirmed much of what I had learned about research processes, what motivates the students and faculty, and the challenges of commercialization by corporations or entrepreneurs of research artifacts.  It has taken several years of effort to accomplish such a commercialization with zonebee.com at the University of Arizona and I suspect a similar time horizon will be needed for much of what I encountered at MIT Media Lab.


My related research activities are with the University of Arizona, where I maintain an appointment and advise a team of researchers on technology issues of experimental design.   I have co-authored peer review academic papers; WITS 2006 Web Comprehensibility and WI 2007 Website Comprehensibility .  The research was transitioned into a commercial entity http://zonebee.com in Oct. 2009 and is actively being sold.


I will pursue consulting projects and engagements related to the research activities and welcome solicitation for work that may be suited to my experiences.  Please contact me with interest in research collaborations.   I am interested in pursuing commercialization of research from MIT and University of Arizona, and looking for suitable corporations or venture investors that would like to consider this opportunity.



Due to confidentiality of some of the research activities I omit the specific names of people and companies.   Anyone interested in collaboration and needing more information should contact me directly and I will provide if appropriate and within the guidelines of the various agreements.


Page last changed October 2009