edited by Clare Butcher, Angela Plohman – The Future of the Lab

edited by Clare Butcher

Baltan Laboratories, ISBN 9789081583015, English, 2010
After the establishment of the MIT Media Lab in 1985 the concept of a “Lab”, meant as a space for research and experimentation with technologies and media in general, has evolved profoundly. If in the beginning the lab was a privileged space to use unaffordable tools, increasing access to technology has resulted in a shift towards the sharing of skills and visions as the primary focus. In its initial mission to research a sustainable Lab of the future, Baltan Laboratories organized an international meeting of experts in 2009, gathering thirty-five participants from various media labs, including experienced organizations from all over Europe and beyond. This book is a valuable outcome and is not simply a collection of texts, or a big report of the discussions. It presents a few commissioned texts (including a history of Labs by Edward A. Shanken), details a number of innovative concepts explained by the respective labs and explores the output of an unconventional “mapping” session, where ideas and thoughts were graphically composed. In addition, it provides a few case studies, including the cooperative project LABtoLAB, a network among five Labs. The effort to establish a larger and working network of Labs would provide a terrific infrastructure and the combination of a geographically broad network with local roots and involvement can make a real difference for users, better embodying a Lab’s function as an “interface for knowledge and learning.” “The Future of the Lab” is more than a predictive book; it can be used pragmatically as a sort of theoretical handbook, capable of inspiring the generation of Labs while informing about work already completed.