For people who care about socially engaged, commons-minded tech innovation, there are few institutions in the world as bold and courageous as Medialab Prado, in Madrid. For the past ten years it has been a technology lab, an interdisciplinary forum, a space that welcomes public participation, a hub for citizen activism, and a host of provocative workshops and conferences. And yes, the Medialab Prado has also been deeply engaged with the commons paradigm as an important way of shaping a better, more socially constructive future.
Now, after a decade of fantastic work as a pioneering social/technological laboratory, the Madrid city council is threatening to let a giant telecom corporation, Telefónica, take over its new building. The municipal government – apparently clueless about the international stature and significance of Medialab – is in talks to let Telefónica use the brand new building that MLP moved into less than a year ago. Telefónica wants to open its own startup incubator there. The move would cast Medialab into limbo, without any assurance of appropriate space in a suitable location or adequate funds.
Many of us who participate in the international tech, P2P, commons or activist worlds are appalled at this recent turn of events. Doesn’t the Madrid political establishment recognize the immense value that Medialab Prado has for the city and Spain (and the rest of the world)?
Doesn’t it realize that Medialab is a magnet for the most exciting thinkers, technologists and social activists – a place that elevates Madrid’s reputation and Spain’s leadership in cultural and tech circles? After citizen uprisings in so many countries around the world, does the Madrid political establishment not appreciate the need to explore new models of social outreach and public engagement, as Medilab Prado does?