Fostering digital participation through Living Labs in regional and rural Australian communities

 

QUT’s Fostering Digital Participation Project, which is employing a living labs methodology, held a two-day workshop in Brisbane as part of the Designing Interactive Systems conference on 4-5 June 2016.

“Fostering digital participation through Living Labs in regional and rural Australian communities,” is a three year research project funded by the Australian Research Council and managed at the Queensland University of Technology. The project aims to identify the specific digital needs and practices of regional and rural residents in the context of the implementation of high speed internet. It seeks to identify new ways for enabling residents to develop their digital confidence and skills both at home and in the community.

To build on this experience, a two-day symposium and workshop brought together researchers and practitioners from diverse backgrounds to discuss design practices and user needs in social living labs that aim to foster digital inclusion and participation. Day one consisted of practitioner and research reports, while day two provided an opportunity for participants to imagine and collaboratively design future digital participation strategies. The workshop acted as a Living Lab experience with the goal of identifying innovative and practical solutions that will foster sustained digital participation in regional and rural communities. Discussion included topics such as developing basic digital skills, youth entrepreneurship, community digital story-telling, and policy development.

A number of participants were from Brisbane, but others came from as far afield as Toowoomba, Townsville, Pittsworth, Melbourne, and Western Sydney, with international participants hailing from Nottingham, Cork, and Delft.

The program presented a variety of living labs projects from Australia and across the world. Tanya Notley and Amanda Third initiated the day’s discussion with a report on the “digital capacities index” as an indicator for possible directions to be taken by social living labs initiatives. This was followed by an introduction to the Fostering Digital Participation Project living labs experiences. The afternoon session included presentations on the development of digital infrastructure in Cork, Ireland, the establishment of a Young and Resilient Living Lab in Western Sydney to cultivate young people’s digital capacity, and a six-step workshop in Delft, Netherlands, designed to activate the hidden talents of young adult dropouts using the transformational role of digital fabrication. The development of digital skills in young adults from the UK and Brazil was also a concern in a project that used interactive artworks to foster digital participation and engage communities with issues of sustainability and climate change. These living labs experiences were rounded out by a project that investigates how emergent and innovative technologies have a role in engaging people traditionally absent from partnerships with health services.

Jock McQueenie’s closing presentation drew together many of the themes and issues that emerged in discussion during the day. Jock shared his experience in implementing community based projects that contribute to social/digital inclusion, encourage creativity, and provide jobs and professional development. The need to involve participants and partners in all aspects of project development, from conceptualization through implementation and evaluation, struck a chord with the living labs practitioners, helping to sum up a productive day of discussion.

In the workshop day that followed, participants built on the foundations of first-day discussion with an aim to address real-world problems with practical solutions that could be used in the development of future social living labs experiences. Ideas were presented and tested and relationships were forged, promising future partnerships and initiatives that draw on the social living labs model.

Workshop participants and invited contributors will contribute to a collection of essays, Digital Participation Through Social Living Labs: Valuing Local Knowledge, Enhancing Engagement, to be published by Chandos in 2017.

View the Workshop Photos

See more, including photos and videos, on the Fostering Digital Participation Project Facebook Page

By Michael Dezuanni

You can listen to ALLIN’s interview with Michael on SoundCloud

Video Series II

We’re into the third week of our video series on Living Labs. We promote the talks from our twitter account at @AusLivingLabs or you can follow directly from our youtube channel

We’re nearly at the end of the series of interviews with Professor Lars Coenen and Professor Annica Kronsell  about Urban Living Labs and their findings from the GUST project. You can find out more about this here

Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni has given us an overview of his digital participation Social Living Labs projects and more will be released this week. You can find out more about his project here

Coming up we this week we will hear from Associate Professor Sonja Pedell about the Future Self Living Lab and we have three more interviews from Living Labs in Europe that we’ll be releasing over the next few weeks.

We’ve had a few requests to turn these into longer podcasts that can be listened to in the car, etc. We’d love your feedback and to know what questions you’d like us to as that we haven’t covered yet.

Don’t forget to come to our symposium in Brisbane on the 5th June!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video Series!

The number one action from our symposium last year was to provide more cases studies and examples for the community. Today we launch our video series interviewing Living Lab practitioners in Australia and around the world. We’ll be talking about what are the key components of a living lab, case studies, examples of how they operate and get established, stakeholder roles and methods.  We have broken up the interview into bite size pieces between 5-10 minutes long.

Our first interview is with Professor Lars Coenen and Professor Annica Kronsell who both work on the Governance of Urban Sustainability Transitions project. In this video we ask the question what is an Urban Living Lab?

Video Link

 

 

Understanding Living Labs – A journey of discovery by Phil Donaldson

I started this journey on living labs through the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the attraction of end users being the critical part of the value proposition for signing up to the CRC and the establishment of  the Adelaide Living Lab. My role at the time was Director of Sustainability at Renewal SA. We gathered industry to understand what the issues where from the perspective of low carbon development what were the the barriers and the opportunities as such to start to articulate the type of research that would be beneficial to help the development industry drive a low carbon built form.

As part of the journey we applied and were accepted into the 8th wave of the European Network of Living Labs. A great achievement  which from my perspective could provide long term benefits to all stakeholders actors and enablers in the lab experience. I took on the role of a project leader, manager and enabler of the lab experience working with University staff and I must admit it was harder than I anticipated.

So I read reports, talked to people went to Amsterdam and Brussels, spent time with the CE of  ENOLL in Helsinki Jarmo Eskelinen, visited living labs in brussels, Amsterdam attended  the Community and Sustainability partnership conference in Brussels, went to the Amsterdam ENOLL summer school in 2014. At that event representing the Adelaide Living Lab and the CRC for Low Carbon Living I was invited to talk at the ENOLL council meeting and a panel on why would Adelaide – Australia want to be involved in the ENOLL network and how would a global network operate. Gareth and I were at the Summer school together and we put together the Australian perspective.

Gareth and I met virtually through an introduction from Stephen White program lead on Living LAbs in the CRC for Low Carbon Living when I discussed the opportunity to have a national network and we were on the same page – Gareth  then introduced me to Amanda, in Melbourne and I met Sonja from Swinburne and Rosa from RMIT in Amsterdam. As always it starts with a conversation and then has just grown from concept to reality.

In 2015 an invite went out to be part of the evaluation panel for the next wave of Living Labs on which I applied and was accepted to participate. My reason were 3 fold: to obtain broader understanding of living labs through meeting with experts and discussing the various applications; to experience and evaluation process for Living Labs to inform the Australian Network process; and, to establish Australia’s credentials in the world living lab community.

Gareth, Amanda and I had constant contact via skype exploring the formation of the network and establishing living labs in our areas. Amanda and I then went to Istanbul with the Australian Living Lab Network in its infancy and we presented on emerging themes of living labs in Australia.

What is a Living Lab?

Living Labs bring together public, business, government and researchers to co-create services, systems, technologies and social solutions to real-life problems, in real-life Living Lab on cardboardsettings. Living Labs “… blur the conventional boundaries of innovation, cutting across the traditional value chain” (Kristensson, 2012).

Living Labs can be used to support service,technology and social good innovations. An important characteristic of Living Labs is that users actively participate in the innovation process rather than being objects of observation. Mobilising inter-disciplinary expertise they are better able to develop innovations and services to address complex, systemic issues. Living Labs are oriented towards making a difference to real people in real life situations and are not bound by academic pursuit.

The original concept was developed in MIT, however it really took flight in Europe. Today the European Netowrk of Living Labs (ENoLL) plays an important leadership role for the Living Labs movement globally.