Living labs are a well utilised concept for design research, focused as they are upon fomenting a user-centred, open-innovation ecosystem and featuring a strong focus upon co-creation. Future Everything Festival” is unique among similar congregations in being the only festival which is part of the European Living Lab network and thus provides a fascinating case study for the ‘festivals as lab’ concept.
Future Everything have capitalised upon an inherent element of festivals - that they are a space where ideas and concepts on the cusp of emergence are showcased, and combined this aspect with an eye towards engendering a sustainable innovation ecosystem.
Festivals can be agile RND environments for real-world rapid prototyping, open innovation and user-led design. They are participatory spaces that nurture play, risk and community creation. Festivals are intermediaries between global creative communities, stakeholders and local citizens. They can be tuned to experiment not only in artistic content but in technology prototyping and city development.
Future Everything have pedigree in this respect; Manchester’s emergence as a pioneer of Open Data in practice is in no small part due to the provocation of ‘being an open data city’ posed by the FutureEverything Festival 2009. This year FutureEverything continued the trend, awarding the FutureEverything Prize to Macon Money, an innovative incorporation of game mechanics and local currency as an attempt to bridge social segregation. They adopted a hybrid approach to the artworks and projects they commissioned with the spectrum of diversity illustrated by OurTravel, an open data app which combined social media dynamics with transport Open Data and Intolight’s immersive media visualisation platform: Collective Hedonistic Environments Toolkit. It’s Future Everything’s ability to sustain the momentum of projects that emerge from the innovation labs which makes their approach notable.
To further the capacity of the Festival as lab, Future Everything have also devised the Festival as Lab toolkit, an open source methodology intended to make it easier for others to stage their own Festival As Lab projects:
The Festival As Lab Toolkit (FALT) is a method and set of tools for developing living lab research projects and for a new kind of relationship between a festival and its partners and host city. It uses the web to provide tools and open source methods for real-world technology rapid prototyping, open innovation and city development.