Joel Gustafson

I’m a junior at MIT pursuing computer science and mathematics. I’m a big fan of Lisp, Alan Kay, and Bret Victor, and tend to overuse words like “relation”, “projection”, and “space”. I can recite most xkcd comics from memory (including the alt-text) and love petty semantic debates.

I care about a lot of Big Ideas, and want to make computing universally accessible to everyone as a medium and an art. I believe in direct manipulation of data, augmenting human intellect, and dynamic, interactive documents, unlike most of the ones you’ll find here.

Some of my projects are a bit weird (that’s deliberate) and some of my heroes are a bit eccentric (that’s unfortunate). I only hope they’re thought-provoking.


In summer 2016 I started working at CSAIL with Gerry Sussman and Jack Wisdom to redesign the online notes for 6.946: Computational Classical Mechanics. The project is spiralling out of control and into a full Scheme programming environment in the browser, with an emphasis on graphics, mathematics, and mechanics.

Before that, I was with the Viral Communications Group at the Media Lab as an undergraduate researcher. I’ve worked on several projects, but mostly with Travis Rich on PubPub, a platform for free and open academic publishing. PubPub emphasizes radical transparency, hosts curated grassroots journals, and weaves a connected mesh of rich, digitally native documents. I worked on interactive visualizations and Xanadu-style transclusions that would make Ted Nelson proud.


Check out my complete road map, complete with degree audit details. I’m (usually) Course 6-3, Courses 6-3 & 18G, or just Course 18C, depending on the phase of the moon and the observed states of entangled roommates.


These are just a few of the people who continually inspire me with the depth of their perception and the extent of their vision. Maybe someday we’ll realize their dreams, but until then, with ideas that are still radical, we fight on.

“The visual arts are the imitation of life, but the computing arts are the imitation of creation itself.”

Alan Kay

“There is no ‘Technology’. There is no ‘Design’. There is only a vision of how mankind should be, and the relentless resolve to make it so.”

Bret Victor

“The key thing about all the world’s big problems is that they have to be dealt with collectively. If we don’t get collectively smarter, we’re doomed.”

Doug Engelbart

“Most people are fools, most authority is malignant, God does not exist, and everything is wrong.”

Ted Nelson

“Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.”

Gerry Sussman

Code Aquarium

An incomplete selection of battle scars: