The democratization of Technoculture and its labs

Ramon Sangüesa has been busy documenting an ongoing research on the new “labs”. He tried to characterize what it means for an organization to portray itself as a lab and then connected this with the democratization of Technoculture. He has developed some aspects of his research a a paper for the Catalan Review of Anthropology, special issue on “Technoanthropology”.


A homey corner of technoculture: Fablab Amsterdam. Photo: R. Sangüesa cc-Attribution

Here you have the full text in English (.pdf). And here, the abstract:

“The culture that emerges from the computational impact, technoculture, defines a huge innovation and change movement where the concept of design reaches very radical dimensions and consequences. New identities and institutions arise. Among the latter ones, the “Lab”  has been used as a fuzzy descriptor of a multitude of actually rather different entities. It also has been identified as a space to accommodate and promote requests for the democratization of the current changes. This popularity of the “lab” requires some clarification, since the very concept of “laboratory” has exploded under the impact of “the digital”. We contrast these new laboratories with earlier forms of the lab organization. We compare them against technological practices and new forms of innovation and research that are specific to technoculture. This allows us to identify problems and shortcomings of these new “labs” with respect to their ability to contribute to the democratization of technoculture. It also helps us identify new research opportunities in the intersection between technology, design and the social sciences”.

The paper reviews:

  • What technoculture is and how it changes the way that knowledge is created and research performed in our society.
  • What are the core processes of technoculture and how they affect the “public sphere” directly.
  • Why it is important to democratize the control of the “technocultural overflow”.
  • Different frameworks to trigger this democratization.
  • How the democratization of this process takes place or could take place within a wealth of “labs” inspired by the science lab, the industrial lab and the design lab but that are different from each one of this three organizations.
  • How the new”labs” replicate the type of design knowledge that started in the second half of the XXth century in centers that, for lack of a better name, can be called “digital technology research labs”: Xerox PARC, MIT Media Lab, MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, for example.
  • All these forms of the lab were closed organizations with little connection with “the public”. In contrast, media labs, fab labs, living labs, hack labs, makerspaces and world wide labs have an intense relationship with “non-experts”.
  • Each one of them offers different possibilities as spaces where technoculture can be democratized through the appropriation of the process of research and innovation that are distinctive of “the digital”.
Enjoy it! Comments welcome!

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