Wired, which in the past has breathlessly promoted the Media Lab, has a sober article titled The Lab that Fell to Earth, an update on the Media Lab that's too long but well researched.
The Lab is sensitive about the cream puff stereotype and tries to gloss over projects that are ripe for lampooning. On my first tour, I'm hustled past the mock kitchen where the Counterintelligence group plays around with smart dishwashers.
I was a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab 1996-1999. I have mixed feeling about my experience there. I learned a lot but ultimately got so frustrated I bailed on the PhD and have never regretted it. The master's program was great, but the place lacks the academic foundation to be a good PhD program. And some of the stuff that went on there vis-a-vis students seemed borderline unethical.
Still, it was a fun place and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have done so much fun work there. And I'm proud to see friends continue doing great work there, like Cameron's Blogdex or Raffi's embedded networking work. The place was special, maybe it won't be forever.