Medialab-Prado

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About

(Sourced from Medialab Prado's website [1] )

Medialab-Prado is a program part of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism of the Madrid City Council. It is conceived as a citizen laboratory for the production, research and dissemination of cultural projects that explore collaborative forms of experimentation and learning that have emerged from digital networks. Medialab’s Goals are:

  • To enable an open platform that invites and allows users to configure, alter and modify research and production processes.
  • To sustain an active community of users with the development of these collaborative projects.
  • To offer multiple forms of participation that allow people with different profiles (artistic, scientific, technique), levels of specialization (experts and beginners) and degrees of implication, to collaborate.

In order to achieve those goals Medialab-Prado offers:

  • A permanent space for information, consulting and encounters, attended by cultural mediators, who explain the nature of the space and connect different people and projects with each other.
  • Open Calls for the presentation of proposals and the participation in the development of collaborative projects.
  • Activities Program that comprises workshops, seminars and debates, as well as the meetings of different work groups, exhibitions, conferences and other events such as concerts and performances.
  • A work atmosphere dedicated to the encounter, cooperation and exchange, where there is room for life and affects; and informality and closeness are appreciated.

There are several on-going programmes, which are as follows:

  • Interactivos? [2]: creative uses of electronics and programming
  • Inclusiva.net [3]: research and reflections on the network culture
  • Visualizar [4]: data visualization tools and strategies
  • Commons Lab[5]: trans-disciplinary discussion on the Commons
  • AVLAB [6]: audio-visual and sound creation

Most activities are registered in video and can after be seen and downloaded in this website

Medialab-Prado is a Program part of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism of the Madrid City Council. It has its origin in the 2000 at the Conde Duque Cultural Center. In 2002 takes the name of MedialabMadrid and in 2007 moves to its current location at the Plaza de las Letras in the basement of the old Belgian Sawmill. From then on it has been named as Medialab-Prado, referring its new location near el Paseo del Prado. After its renovation, in April 2013 the Old Belgian Sawmill opens to the public and becomes the headquarters of Medialab-Prado.

FAQ

(Source: Medialab's Website [7])

What types of activities are carried out at Medialab-Prado?

Medialab-Prado holds intensive workshops for collaborative project production, training workshops, theoretical seminars, talks, presentations and roundtables, gatherings on experimental music and live audio/video, as well as meetings for research groups and work groups on a variety of subjects. In addition, the Medialab-Prado space open to the public Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 9 pm and Saturday from 12pm to 9 pm to attend activities, consult documentation related to its projects and get support and information from cultural mediators.

What kind of space is it?

Medialab-Prado is currently based in the recently renovated buiding of the old sawmill "Serrería Belga", located in the centre of Madrid very closed to the Prado Museum.

It is a space for dissemination, meeting, documentation, research and production around digital culture where projects and ideas are developed from an experimental, interdisciplinary perspective, aiming to include a variety of types of users in these processes.

Who is it for?

Medialab-Prado’s activities are for everyone, regardless of any professional or specialized background in a given area. Its users are students, professionals and amateurs from a wide range of fields including art, technology, design, engineering, physics, biology, history, sociology, anthropology, education, and communications.

Medialab-Prado serves as a hub among people with different backgrounds and common interests, enabling all types of synergies that often prove the potential and creativity inherent in working together.

What is a cultural mediator?

Cultural mediators work as dynamizers at the Medialab-Prado space. They offer orientation to the public and users, facilitate contact between people and projects linked to Medialab, gather documentation and make information available to users about ongoing programmes and current activities.

When and how was Medialab-Prado created?

Medialab-Prado is a programme of the Madrid City Council’s Arts Area (Área de Las Artes del Ayuntamiento de Madrid). Created initially in 2000 as Medialab Madrid at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque, it moved in September 2007 to its permanent location in the Plaza de las Letras in the lower level of the Antigua Serrería Belga (former Belgian Saw Mill), which is currently under renovation. At that time, its name was changed to Medialab-Prado, a reference to its new location near the Paseo del Prado, close to the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. In April 2013 Medialab-Prado moves to the Serrería Belga renovated buliding.

How can I receive information on activities?

We will send you information via e-mail if you sign up for our weekly bulletin, or through your web search engine if you subscribe to the RSS feed.

You can also follow us through social media: Twitter, Facebook and Meetup.

I don’t live in Madrid. How can I take part in Medialab-Prado’s activities?

Via our Web site, you can keep up to date on the activities and projects being carried out and also see documentation and recordings of presentations and lectures.

Many of our activities are broadcast live via streaming. When this option is available, it is announced on our Web site.

Moreover, throughout the year, several open calls are announced to participate in international project production workshops. For these two-week workshops, Medialab-Prado covers travel and lodging expenses for selected projects and papers. For those who participate as collaborators and do not live in Madrid, lodging is available in shared rooms at a youth hostel.

Can a group visit the space?

Yes, although we suggest you let us know ahead of time so the visit does not coincide with an activity and also to ensure that the cultural mediators can properly attend to the group. For school groups, universities or any other group with an interest in a specific activity, contacting the cultural mediators ahead of time will also make it possible to work with the teacher or educator to adapt the contents and format of the visit to the group. Contact: mediacion [arroba] medialab-prado.es.

Can I do an internship at Medialab-Prado?

Students can do a non-paid internship or develop a research project in Medialab-Prado. In order to do so it is mandatory to sign an agreement between Medialab-Prado and the institution that the student belongs to.

The following departments accept professional interns: Audiovisual Dpt, Communications Dpt, Technical Dpt or Project Development Dpt, depending on necessities and circumnstances at the time of the application for the requested period of time.

Students who wanto to develop their own research project related to any of the lines of work or activities of Medialab-Prado, they will be able to use all the available material and resources, as well as take part in the development of the activities.

Discussion

A Lab Without Walls

  • Article: A Lab Without Walls. A Proposal to Reshape a Policy for the Commons. By Antonio Lafuente, Andoni Alonso, Marcos García.

URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/fcrw/sites/fcrw/images/A_lab_without_walls.pdf

MediaLabPrado (Madrid) gathers a group of scholar and activists to study how to make visible and understandable the commons. For more than 2 years different approaches have been taken and the main criteria has been collaboration and openess. This approach emulates laboratory practices that is the reason for the name: Commons Lab (Laboratorio del Procomún).

It is often said that a family, a hospital, or a river are social laboratories, as they give rise to relations or conflicts that make it possible to understand all or part of the social environment of which they are a part, or which they help to create. Thus, by looking at a fragment of the world, it can be seen in its entirety, which is to say that several variables are sufficient (those that make it possible to plan, structure, and order) to gain a general understanding or a view of the global situation from a local perspective.

Upon choosing the variables and adopting a protocol that makes it possible to carry out these simplifications without seeming capricious or arbitrary, several identifying characteristics become clear:

•Communitycentred: a collective understanding of the world or, in other words, working toward a world made by everyone, a shared world.

•Analogue: to simplify it so it fits on a map, an outline, a graph, or an image, or, in other words, to create an order that is accessible to everyone

•Experimental: to recognize the tentative, experimental, provisional nature of the process or, in other words, to recognize that it will have to be reviewed often by many people in order to make it reliable.

In sum, a laboratory serves to make hidden (or blurred) aspects of reality visible, as well as to bring together fragments scattered about the surroundings, which is why many anthropologists and sociologists affirm that in practice, a laboratory creates reality. That is why it is no surprising that reality can be seen as a laboratory or that a laboratory can be seen as a place for the production and reproduction of reality. That is, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish where the laboratory begins and ends, or where its borders are. That is so much the case that when one speaks of a laboratory without walls, it does not mean working toward something that does not exist or the latest “new thing”, but rather recognizing the difficulty in drawing the line separating what happens inside or outside.

Protocols

The key lies in those protocols that make data relevant or, in other words, shared. There are many types, given that they comprise a set of rules (or conventions) that are perfectly adapted to the object (matter, subject, problem, issue) in each case. However, they all share a common feature: they automate functions, which means they are not personalized (there is no protocol for the genious), but instead can be applied by anyone who has received the proper training (or discipline). The protocol creates a community of people who use it, which fosters a common language, as well as tested and legitimated devices, and even standards for the use of space. That is why there are so many workshops that looks the same, as in the case of health centres, botanical gardens, law firms, and photo studios. That is, in addition to the regularity we see among oceans, mountains, and jungles, there is that of institutions that study them, or, to repeat what was said above, where they are created.

If this reflection is correct, priority must be then given to the tasks of automating functions and building a space that reflects the nature of the activity we intend to develop, including protocols and practices. Speaking of protocols implies identifying the threshold of rigor and the commitments voluntarily agreed upon as a standard for behaviour which will serve as the shared world that constitutes us and that we help to constitute. A laboratory is a common space that creates a community out of those which use it.

Community

Community is a key notion, although it must not be linked to any organic, ideological, or belief connotations. There can be, and always have been, distributed communities or groups formed by strangers, created on the basis of a particular subject or a problem.

They are called affected or concerned groups, all the groups that become visible when a new technology (such as a test, an intervention, or a survey) separates them from the rest, assigning them a technoidentity (for example, people with asthma, false limbs, or motorized vehicles) that could be into question. In other words, a laboratory does not need to comprise people whose beliefs coincide. It is essential, however, that it be connected to other nodes in a network configured on protocols that ensure the circulation of objects among nodes that do form part of a community: they share and create a common space in a network throughout which the objects that are constituted by (and constitute) them all (which are discussed and evaluated) move. In sum, there is no community without the rigour (respect for the agreed upon protocols) enabling the production of objects able to move among diverse cultural and spatial fields. And if they do not move, if there is no interoperability, the commons sustained by (and sustaining) the community cannot grow.

Commons

There are no commons without a community, and vice versa. But who do the members of the laboratory represent, reciprocally? Who feels represented by what is being done there? The laboratory is not a coffee break conversation or an academic seminar. Its function is not to clarify concepts, nor is it to make friends or build a career. There is no question that it fulfils the function of forging connections among people and things, be they “col-LABORATORs” (colaboratory), occasional users, concepts, spaces, or books. Its primary function is not that of the delegated spokesman of nature or the state, as the Moderns and those who supported the French Revolution said, respectively. However, iIts foremost objective is to make emerging communities of those concerned visible: give them a voice, give them time, give them experience, give them technology, give them means, and give them words.

The Laboratory is not to think about them, but instead to think through them. Furthermore, given that it does not imitate all its historical and anthropological characteristics, our laboratory is inclusive, not closed to the eyes and presence of the public, quite the opposite, as is aim is to involve them in the configuration of the world.

The commons is created and recreated, connected and reconnected: it is born from the interaction of those concerned who miss something that is being denied to them, which they took for granted, as an inalienable legacy. The commons is a state of emergence (as it is unpredictable and urgent), arising from the empowerment of those affected who claim rights that have been threatened or destroyed. The commons erdeems the public from their condition as subjects/consumers and fragments society into communities that resist reality. There are no commons without a community: making it visible is the task of the laboratory.

Dynamics

These ideas can be used to transform the usual seminar format into a lab of ideas.

Organizationaly we address the need for an open and collaborative environment. Our primary objective is to create a structure where both research and production are processes permeable to user participation. To that end, MedialabPrado offers a permanent information, reception, and meeting space attended by cultural mediators. Also it makes open calls for the presentation of proposals and participation in the collaborative development of projects.

Some current projects working with this model are:

•Audiovisual Periodicals Archive as part of the Commons, coordinated by Tíscar Lara. It reclaims the right to access to and use of the audiovisual archives of the media and promotes the search for ways to make them freely available, given that, to a certain extent, they are producers of our historical memory and collective psyche.

•Obsoletes, by Basurama. A project conceived of by the Basurama collective for the research, creation and dissemination of creative systems for transforming technological waste, which is understood as all types of electronic devices, storage formats, or hardware that have fallen into disuse or become impaired: computers, peripherals, magnetic tapes, motherboards, etc.

•Free Legal Ontology, coordinated by Javier de la Cueva. Proposal for building a free legal ontology to create a structured database that will comply with the principles set forth by the Open Government Working Group.

There are many other active projects currently underway at the Commons Lab which are listed in the appendix to this document.

Proposing an Ontology for the Commons as a Lab Task

One of the unsolved questions about the Commons is how to make a comprehensive picture, a inclusive map, of an issue so varied and manifold: the commons embraces practices old and new, from ICT inovations to environmental issues or the new laws on patenting and copyright. In our opinion that picture would be of great help in identifying, classifying and locating the aspects, elements and conflicts that comprise the commons.

Our proposal from the Commons Lab is to create a collaborative context to accomplish that theoretical task. To create a map or graphical description using three different coordinates: categories, elements and attributes.

We have considered 4 basic categories: body, nature, urban, digital. Each of them has three subclassifications (elements): for instance the body comprehends parts, functions, and representations.

Also there is another classification according to attributes: kind of good, kind of threat, kind of management, time scale, spatial scale and the nature of the good that each commons shows. Somehow we imagine a three dimensional way of locating particular commons. There is also another key element for this classification. We use the semantic web to classify automatically and through the web the different commons. Using free software, using tags and metatags it is possible to use the digital commons to render the picture we are pursuing. Using the net means different important issues: first it empowers and broadens the depth of the task and, at the same time reclaims the Internet as another digital commons. Carrying out this project requires also collaboration of many different people, from scholars to activists, from theoreticians to practitioners.

Findings

  • The development of the Commons Lab has evolved from a seminar format where members’

unpublished working documents were discussed to an open laboratory format in which various specific projects are carried out with the participation of any collaborator who wishes to join in, including amateurs, academics and professionals. Projects are received through open calls, followed by calls for collaborators. The groups’ work is carried out online (via mail lists and wikis) and mainly through periodic onsite activities and meetings.

  • The recent start-up of the Mexican Commons Lab (Laboratorio del Procomún México)

(http://www.ccemx.org/procomun/) is also a step ahead for the project, given that it offers a wider field of study, enables the sharing of common problematic issues, and contributes what is particular to each local context.

  • Lastly, discovering a need to establish an overall theoretical framework for the commons has been

identified as significant for the Lab, which has led to a proposal by one of the work groups to create an "ontology for the commons".

Challenges

  • Broaden the network of collaborators interested in taking part in the creation of the Ontology for

the Commons and also study to what extent the Lab can contribute to other similar initiatives.

  • Include various approaches and perspectives in the creation of the Ontology, taking into account

the broad, plural and elusive nature of the concept of the commons.

  • Discuss and find the most suitable methodologies for the creation of this Ontology, which enable

the inclusion of amateurs, academics, activists and professionals in the same forum."


From Places for Everyone to Places for Anyone

Luis Moreno-Caballud :

Under the Ambiguous Umbrella of the Public Sector: Medialab-Prado: Institutional protocols for the participation of anyone


“Medialab Prado is a ‘program of the Arts, Sports and Tourism Area of the Madrid City Council,’ self-defined more specifically as ‘a citizen laboratory for production, investigation, and diffusion of cultural projects that explore forms of experimentation and collaborative learning that have arisen from digital networks’ (Medialab-Prado). Medialab introduces itself, therefore, as a type of experimental public cultural institution that departs from classical models like the library, the museum, or the auditorium. Nor does it prioritize the publication or distribution of written culture, unlike the tradition of associative bookstores or ‘social center libraries’ from which Traficantes de Sueños and the other nodes of the Fundación de los Comunes arise. Instead, it takes as a reference those ‘forms of experimentation and collaborative learning that have arisen in the digital networks’ to institute something like an attempt to ‘translate’ certain aspects of digital culture to the physical realm.

In this sense, Medialab’s support for procedural aspects, for the opening of infrastructures and processes of cultural production, for the search for formats alien to the modern culture based on the division between authors and public, is still more explicit—which doesn’t mean that it is necessarily verified with greater intensity—than that of the model of activist research collectives, self-training, and publication proposed by the Fundación de los Comunes. These collectives come from the world of social movements and, of course, they have encountered the explosion of technopolitics and networks along the way. But (at least with regards to its self-representation) Medialab perhaps drinks more directly than do other collectives from these latter founts, which carry inscribed within their own DNA the centrality of procedurality and open collaboration.

The model of meaning production in social movements, on the other hand, has traditionally depended more on ideas like ‘alternative information,’ which continue to stipulate the need for a ‘public.’ It has also revolved around militant and activist figures as centers from which that meaning could emanate, although all this may have changed considerably with the intensification of the logics of ‘anyone’ around the 15M movement.

Perhaps Medialab’s most paradigmatic activity is what has been called the ‘collaborative project development workshop’ or, simply, the ‘prototype workshop.’ This activity occupies the central position that in other cultural spaces would be occupied by book publishing, research seminars, informational conferences, art exhibitions, or musical and stage performances. It is a model inspired by the collaborative practices of open-source software and experimental technology, and has been formalized as a protocol with very precise organizational guidelines. First, Medialab sends out a call for projects, always with a very broad conceptual frame. For example, the premise of the most recent one is ‘Madrid, Urban Laboratory: Practical Infrastructures and Tools for Theorizing Shared Life.’ Each call is backed by three advisors chosen by Medialab, who in turn choose about ten projects to participate in the workshop.

Once these projects are chosen, 50 collaborators are convened to participate in the development of the ‘tools, platforms, and actions’ the projects propose as concrete objectives. Thus, in the example mentioned, these 50 collaborators, who are admitted on a first-come-first-served basis, will work to ‘prototype’ anything from ‘a low-cost, noninvasive electroencephalograph (EEG) to use as a BCI (brain-computer interface)’ to ‘a proposal to help the public administration understand and standardize civic initiatives that use public space as a commons’ (for example, urban orchards in vacant lots), including ‘a mobile application that helps locate accessible and adapted places’ for people with diverse functional needs, or a historical tour, all the way up to the present, of the Barrio de las Letras ‘straight from the hands of its inhabitants and users through testimonies and photographs.’

The workshops take place in intensive sessions, in this case in two phases of six and three days respectively, and are sometimes accompanied by other reflection or exhibition modules. For instance, in this case an international conference will be held between the two phases. There is also a whole series of telematics and material infrastructures available to the projects, which can make use of Medialab’s digital tools and physical space during the months that separate the two phases of intensive work.

In this way, a framework is established to provide continuity for the processes. At the same time, it also inherits the typically pragmatic vocation of open-source software programmers or those who experiment with technology, who are accustomed to working on concrete objectives for which the ideas must be proven. It should be kept in mind, on the other hand, that although collaborative workshops are perhaps the main paradigm for Medialab’s activity, they are not by any means the only one. Perhaps not so unlike what happens in the CSAs—and anthropologists Corsín and Estalella have indicated the permeability and proximity of Medialab to the world of community self-management—an everyday routine is established that is rich in encounters and heterogeneous situations, going beyond the logic of the regularly scheduled events or intensive work sessions. In this regard, Medialab has been able to construct a network of participants or daily users of its infrastructures that enjoys a quite unusual autonomy in public cultural institutions, which typically rely very heavily on timely proposals from their management teams.

Furthermore, all this is not at all accidental or ‘improvised’: in Medialab there is a constant process of reflection about this very atypical institution that has been created and is constantly seeking to improve itself. The working group ‘Thinking and Doing Medialab’ indicated, in this respect, that perhaps one of their greatest challenges was precisely the creation of greater continuity for the cultural processes that Medialab facilitates or drives, as well as broadening the communities participating in these processes. Towards this end, permanent ‘Workstations’ were recently established, allowing Medialab’s most eminently productive and procedural functions to be operational at any moment, without depending so much on the routine scheduling of intensive prototype workshops.

So Medialab’s very condition as an ‘experimental’ institution reinforces, in a certain sense, that aspect of open cultural infrastructure creation—which is also inseparable from community culture projects like Traficantes de Sueños—with the creation of protocols, such as these ‘Workstations,’ designed solely to intensify it. But Medialab has also produced other protocols more directly dedicated to dealing with the no less central question of the possibility of anyone’s participation or, more precisely, of the possible empowerment of anyone’s abilities. (In this regard, they may have an advantage over the community culture institutions, which may not always be so well supplied with sophisticated tools.) Medialab’s basic official objectives already include ‘offering different forms of participation that allow the collaboration of people with different backgrounds (artistic, scientific, technical), levels of specialization (expert and beginners), and degrees of involvement.’ But I think the most significant thing about it is the importance that Medialab gives to the figure of its ‘Mediators,’ now associated with the ‘Workstations.’ Their function is specifically ‘to respond to the needs of different types of publics and users: from general information and consultation to training, material resources, and spaces for listening and meetings,’ as well as ‘to explain the nature of the space and to put people in contact with people, people with projects, projects with projects.’

In dedicating this particular effort to, say, ‘getting someone through the door’—i.e., in giving priority to welcoming and listening to the various needs and desires of potential participants—Medialab is explicitly offering support not only for collaboration, but also for inclusivity and plurality. In recognizing the importance of ‘beginners’ or ‘amateurs,’ Medialab is trying, it seems to me, to tear down those barriers between those supposedly ‘in the know’ and those who are ‘in the dark’—barriers bequeathed to us by the tradition of artistic, technical, and scientific disciplines with which, at the same time, Medialab is officially affiliated.

This all has to do with something that in principle does not exist so concretely in the tradition of CSAs or other community cultural institutions: the desire for universality associated with the public arena, the vocation of being just that: ‘a public service.’

However, in Medialab’s case it also has to do with a particular interpretation of the public arena, which Marcos García, the institution’s director, clarifies very well:

- “The difference between a public project that is for everyone (the general public, a homogeneous entity) and a public project that is for anyone is one of individuality, of personalization. It means paying attention to the particular needs of each person who comes; that is, helping each one of them develop their unique abilities.”

(http://mloa.cch.kcl.ac.uk/index.php/mlo/article/view/102/126)