Background & Purpose
The Sound of the City, a project of GESCI – African Knowledge Exchange (AKE), is a Living Lab (LL) project that aims to encapsulate through creative practice in digital arts technology, the vibrancy and currency of the contemporary Hip Hop scene in and around Nairobi. The participant-practitioners will produce a collaborative digital art work, while simultaneously up-skilling in three independent and relevant learning streams.
The project also entails an academic research component. Its purpose is to gather information and insights for co-creation of a transferable and international LL model, that advocates online tools and enables international stakeholders to participate. The research part of the project is designed to run from late November 2014 to end March 2015.
This blog is meant as the key hub for the collaborative research by the participants, instructors, potential users, industry representatives, as well as creative, technology, pedagogical, and other experts involved and/or interested in the project. The blog content is curated by Dr Minna Horowitz and MSocSc Vesa Saarinen of Aalto University’s Media Lab Helsinki, Finland.
Concept in Context: 3 Variables
The core design of the research part of the AKE Living Lab entails three basic features that frame the research design.
- First, the production of The Sound of the City has been designed to function as a ‘dual-purpose’ Living Lab, for education as well as for innovation. While most LL environments are based on co-discovery and co-learning, the AKE model is specifically envisioned to serve as an educational Living Lab that is focused not only on innovation but also building practical skills necessary for innovation. The research seeks to capture both innovative practices of collaborative ICT projects, as well as educational solutions that correspond to those features.
- Another core aspect for any Living Lab is that of co-creation at all stages of the processes. This means a ‘spiral’ process that includes many participants, for instance users and business developers, at the very first stages of idea formation, as well as all stages of (technological) development (not only at the later stages of prototype testing, evaluation, and so on). The research aims at building in situations early on (not only at a testing phase) where this kind of co-creation and feedback happens as a part of the study (e.g., in focus groups conversations amongst practitioner-participants and potential users, as feedback from a variety of experts, and so on).
- The third feature of the LL concept, especially central in the context of AKE, is that of involvement of a wider ecosystem (or, multiplicity of stakeholders). The research seeks to introduce elements that bring in insights and sometimes direct feedback from a variety of stakeholders beyond the AKE project and its direct ‘communities of practice’ and ‘communities of interest’ (e.g., the company partners, or the Ministries). Given that the ICT sector is at the outset international, the research seeks to include elements to test possibilities of broadening the network of stakeholders, for the benefit of the innovation and educational aspects of the final proposed LL model.
The research of the AKE LL brings together three distinct elements. First, it seeks to map the contextual aspects (from resources to existing knowledge and needs) in order to suggest a framework for mapping the first stages of (any) similar LL. Second, it will aim at capturing ‘significant events’ in terms of innovative approaches to innovative co-creation AND co-learning within the project, and at assessing their generalizability for similar LL processes. Finally, it will embrace an idea/l of a broad network of stakeholders as well as develop ways in which that network can be managed and utilized. The research is envisioned to tap into the specific network created for this research, from participant-practitioners to international industry experts, for future visions and opportunities.
The model proposed for GESCI – AKE will include recommendations for the LL approach, for research/background work needed to contextualize the model, for selection and involvement of partners (stakeholders), as well as for ICT and other resources. It will also address the question of management, ranging from knowledge transfer to intellectual property issues of collaborative innovation.
Core Methodology, Main Methods
The evident methodological solution for this effort is participatory research. The educational and innovative elements of the AKE LL may often be entailed in the very same practice, and that goes also in terms of the research components: While working, the participant-practitioners get to reflect upon their work and discuss it in various ways, with different stakeholders; while also learning and innovating.
The core methods are the following:
- Questionnaire to participant-practitioners, instructors, GESCI-AKE administrators, industry representatives and external professionals on mapping the context, including also their views on the core purposes, key questions, and practical approaches of the research.
- Objective: Overview of “what is now” for the communities of practice: their needs, their definitions of collaboration and innovation, their experiences of good practice. Background for 2. and 3.
- On-going “working diary“, i.e., documentation and conversation of the project process via this blog. That can include anything from structured conversations, images, music, videos, to informal chats to “expert insights” by visiting bloggers and other interesting stakeholders. The content can range from depicting the working environment to describing a break-through in innovation to mapping best daily routines, to testing an idea with invited commentators. The idea is to create a rich, curated yet informal platform for gathering material for “The Making Of… The Sound of the City”. The curation of the blog will aim at gathering material that will be used to formulate the final model, but that can also be used in a variety of other ways, e.g., for a multi-media presentation to illustrate the LL process when showcasing the final product.
- Objective: Collaborative research of “what is happening”. Self-documentation and co-analysis of the ongoing LL process, by the core stakeholders of the communities of practice (with some “prompts” from the research team); sharing of information and perspectives by the guest expert bloggers. Material for model, as well as the Showcase.
- The Showcase. The Showcase event to be organized in connection to graduation will also serve as an opportunity for researching multi-stakeholder innovation and interaction.
- Objective: Collaborative research on “what can be”. Testing the Showcase as a potential part of the LL model; creating an opportunity for collaborative scenario-building and brainstorming about the future innovation contexts for LLs.
These three basic methods will be diversified and deepened with specific research interventions as needed.
Please see our tentative draft schedule outline below, and details, including possible methodological approaches, here.
Please see our background notes of the Living Lab concept, its application in the GESCI-AKE Context, and its implications to the research design, in this slideshow:
(and downloadable here).
More about the Living Lab methodology, see the section of the blog on Resources.