Medialab Prado: Applying the Open Source Ethic to Civic Innovation
Improbable as it seems, there is actually a vibrant citizens’ research and development lab for innovation in civic life and culture. It has its own building, funding from the city of Madrid, and robust participation from activists, academics, techies, artists, policy experts and ordinary citizens.
Welcome to Medialab Prado in Madrid, Spain. It’s a very special institution that explores new forms of commoning on various tech platforms and systems. Billing itself as a “collective intelligence laboratory for democratic participation,” the lab pursues a wide-ranging agenda of R&D with great brio. In this moment of great danger to democracy, I find it inspiring that a serious, progressive-minded institution is boldly prowling the frontiers of experimental practice.
To showcase some of the amazing work that Medialab Prado does, I interviewed Marcos García, the lab’s artistic director, for Episode #7 of my podcast Frontiers of Commoning. Marcos is a wonderfully gracious fellow who exudes a reassuring calm despite a formidable responsibility in overseeing many ambitious, speculative projects. Let me offer a brief, incomplete tour.
An open data project is exploring new ways to use shareable databases in creative, public-spirited ways. The “Follow the Food” workshop, for example, investigated how to tell data-driven stories through journalism. It developed data visualizations about the food system so that people can better understand where their food comes from, and how and why that systems works the way it does.
The “Eating Against Collapse” project is trying to imagine scenarios that can get us beyond the current, unsustainable agro-industrial food model. Organizers solicited proposals for new models of agricultural production and distribution, and then ran a prototyping workshop for two weeks, along with an international seminar on the work, a public presentation of the prototypes, and an exhibition of them.