Living labs are an increasingly important experimental research and innovation method that engage users as co-creators of new technologies, products and services in open real-life communities and settings.
They are part of a new trend to involve users more actively and earlier in product development rather than to develop new technologies in closed laboratories distant from users. A lot of hopes are invested in this new form of knowledge production, particularly when it comes to complex technological systems and smart technologies, which are the concrete realization of living labs that we focus on in this project.
In spite of living labs' great promises, we know very little about their effects, the involved researchers and participants, and the experiences and imaginative horizons that they bring about. Living labs do not only bring users into product development but also product development into society and make their potentials, controversies and possible conflicts a public and political matter. This research project aims to first explore the knowledge practices implied in living labs as a research and development concept for the production of future technologies and analyse the complex interactions between different agents involved in the setup and functioning of living labs (researchers, technicians, public institutions, private companies, citizens, etc.). Second, we will develop an interventionist ethnographic approach, so that living labs can function as political platforms to deal with technological matters of public concern.
The project operates at the intersection of anthropology, science and technology studies (STS) and co-design.