To survive and prosper social labs need to be less lab, and more social: helping people find their own solutions in unique situations rather than discovering universal laws to scale and to replicate. We need more labs. But we also need a mixed ecology of innovation spaces – the trans-disciplinary studio, the Utopian experiment, the engineers’ test-bed, the artists’ colony – blending the science and tech with the art and craft of the (seemingly) improbable.
Earlier this the cohort for the DARE Edition of Leeds Creative Labs gathered to present their journeys over the course of the last month.
The lab team’s motivation for the DARE Edition was to understand if the labs model could be as effective a catalyst for innovation in areas such as the arts, culture and performance. That this notion made us uncomfortable also helped us understand that it was a risk worth exploring. Indeed, the DARE Edition has already helped innovate the labs overall; our terminology for curated participants was previously ‘technologists’ but now we think of them as ‘creative innovators’. Continue reading
One of our favourite creative labs alumni, artist Dave Lynch, has also been involved in designing and producing a whole other creative lab programme, specifically to help artists and creatives find time and space to conduct R&D.
The second iteration of Dave’s Digital Media Labs took place as a week long residency in Barrow-in-Furness last September. Dave asked me to attend the final presentations and document my observations for later publication.
You can read a preview of my experience in a piece over at Medium…
In a park at the end of the world, I found the blended artefacts of ancient and new cultures — data staffs, knitted pixels, invisibility cloaks, messages suspended in the ether, sardonic software and code as poetry.
As we started to think about the final series of presentations by the cohort for The Hepworth Wakefield edition of the labs, we wanted to bookend Cory Doctorow’s thrilling provocation from our January launch, with an equally compelling message on the intersections between culture, art and technology.
I’m really excited to confirm that Leila Johnston, founder of Sheffield-based Hack Circus, will be presenting a keynote on Fantasy Technology & Everyday Magic at our closing event tomorrow afternoon.
I first came across Leila at FutureEverything’s Global FUTR Lab earlier this year in Manchester. Her work on Hack Circus is “dedicated to celebrating the entertaining and engaging side of inventive thought, whether that manifests physically with wires and batteries, or conceptually in artistic or philosophical ways.”
Leila’s perspectives seem to be a fitting coda for what we’ve been aiming to achieve with this edition of the labs, in remixing the gallery and discovering new futures for our cultural institutions.
Last November, Erica put together an evening of lightning talks to showcase the impact of various research projects at the University of Leeds, including two which originated in the Creative Labs…
Firstly, Simon Popple and I presented Pararchive and our progress from early conversations brokered by the lab in 2012, to an AHRC-funded 18-month research programme which is coming to an end in a few weeks time with the launch of our storytelling app Yarn.
When we started to think about the challenge with which we wished to frame the Hepworth Edition of the labs, we had a lot of ideas about culture-as-a-platform which led us to the OpenGLAM principles – good practices for galleries, libraries, archives and museums looking to embrace an open, connected philosophy.
Serendipitously I came across a talk by Cory Doctorow on this very subject and immediately we knew we wanted to have Cory’s ideas at the heart of our project and invited him to share those ideas at our launch event last month.
Cory spoke of the moral, political and democratic freedoms at stake across the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sector and how it could take the lead in ensuring that access to our cultural assets and heritage remain free and open; we’re hoping those ideas provide a compelling backdrop for our next cohort this Spring.