Tagged: Bernardo Gutiérrez

The Madrid P2P Commune

Here’s our translation of Bernardo Gutiérrez’s love letter to his home city, a place that’s still surprisingly alive and vibrant in the midst of the austerity meltdown affecting southern Europe. 

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Amidst the nebulous boomerang of history, the 20s live on as a red postcard of a burlesque cabaret in Dadaist Berlin. The 40s bring back an echo of immigrant tango dancers in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The 80s’ vinyl soundtrack is filled with screaming punks from #post-industrial London. And the 2010s will be remembered for its occupied squares, vibrant streets and political-cultural creativity. It will be symbolised by Madrid. In a few years’ time, some will recall the tumultuous political situation, the police brutality or the unemployment, but the image that will go down in history is a vigorous, intensely social city with an open, cross-cutting, oblique, politicized public space connected to the world. The 2010s will be synonymous with a city that was self-governed by its citizens, driven by a gust of social innovation and unparalleled dynamism. The postcard, scattered with raised hands, will read: La Comuna de Madrid.

Madrid’s Communemore spread out, diverse and cosmopolitan than the Paris Commune of 1871will be remembered as the birthplace of communication-action, action-thought, thought-prototype. Madrid as effervescence in the streets and on the web. Madrid as a territorial collective imagination and breeding ground for techno-political projects, processes and actions. Madrid as a glocal people’s lab that looks to the world while including it at the same time. But it’s not all assemblies, actions and protests at the Madrid Commune. This city, whose network weaves across the whole of Spain, is also hatching a body of theory around these new practices. A bastard, remixed, promiscuous theory. A practice theory. “The commons has become an area of exchange, where the traditional commons meet free culture,” says researcher Adolfo Estalella, contextualizing his text in Madrid. And herein lies a little secret.

Since the late 90s, the Madrid free culture movement has become intertwined with social movements at squat centres such as El Laboratorio. While Berlin squatters remain rooted in punk aesthetics and conventional anti-fascism, the thirty-odd squat social centres in Madrid (Centros Sociales Ocupados) are creating a new horizontal, aggregate, online world. A new world imbued with hacker ethics that distorts the frontiers between off- and on-line, blurring the borders between countries and nation states.

These social centres are different. They are extensions of the occupied squares of spring 2011. Centres that merge the notions of inside and outside. Centres whose actions reach every urban space. Sure, Madrid had never had so many squat social centres, but the quantity isn’t what makes this new era in the city unique. What does La Comuna de Madrid taste like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like?

Captura-de-pantalla-2013-05-31-a-las-09.47.36

Image: illustration by @Ciudad_basura y @maralpel for the #OPENmadrid seminar by ThinkCities.org

On the one hand, some of these venues transcend the definition of a squat social centre. They are more than that. They’re something different. The most paradigmatic example is La Tabacalera, an old factory handed over by the government to social movements in the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiés. La Tabacalera, which defines itself as a self-managed social centre, is a space that would fit into the partner state theory developed by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation. The Esta es una plaza [This is a square] process, a self-managed park supported by a collective blog, has also had the consent of public authorities for many years. The partner state puts the governance of its spaces at society’s disposal. A networked, peer-to-peer, person-to-person society that self-organizes outside official institutions, but without rejecting them. This is what is happening at the Madrid Commune.

On the other hand, the spirit of the 15-M movement is creating a new kaleidoscope that is erasing the conventional squat from our collective imagination. From Patio Maravillas to La Morada in the neighbourhood of Chamberí, or the socio-cultural, liberated, self-governed centre El Eko in the area of Carabanchel, Madrid’s new social spaces are aggregate, diverse, plural, hybrid. And they don’t revolve around the old epicentre of “anti-system” antagonism. They are inventing and prototyping new worlds without having to frontally destroy today’s world. They build things, connections, processes, without antagonism. And the participation is much more intergenerational than it used to be some years ago. Madrid’s so-called Yayoflautasthe elderly of the 15-M movementrehearse theatre plays at La Tabacalera, for example. The relation to technology has become far more intense as well.

In all these spaces, we see glimpses of the new world written in jargon and acronyms. An interesting text by Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas [Breeding Ground for Citizens’ Initiatives] in Madrid uses terms like DIY (Do it Yourself), CO-, #, WIKI, MIDDLE-OUT, PRO-, P2P, DIWO (Do it with Others), SLOW-, CROWD-, DIT, @, OPEN, NET- or BOTTOM-UP to describe the new realm that is emerging in the city. Jargon and acronyms are commonly used in digital culture in an attempt to define horizontal, cross-cutting, networked, collaborative practices. So, what does the Madrid (P2P) Commune taste, sound and smell like?

An imperfect definition of a P2P (peer-to-peer) city would go something like this: a city whose nodes (streets, squares, parks) can be interconnected without passing through the centre. Person2Person. Square2Square. Park2Park. At the Madrid P2P Commune, the nodes/neighbourhoods have been reconnected using a logic distinct from that of city centre vs. outskirts. One of the great innovations of the Madrid P2P Commune lies in its open-air spaces. The 15-M movement’s early TomaLosBarrios initiative, which moved the Puerta del Sol encampment to neighbourhood assemblies, strengthened the already existing Comuna.

Ever since the late 90s, the skin-shedding has been gradual. All the 15-M movement has done is multiply and speed up the process. The Madrid P2P Commune began to take shape with the urban recycling/redefining of BasuramaZooHausLeft Hand Rotation or Boa Mistura. And with Zuloarks’s free license, low cost, temporary process-furniture such as the superbench or #Savethedinosaur. And with urban interventions by Todo por la Praxis, with their guide to Self-governed Urban Voids and their physical hacks such as the Guerrilla Bank. And with neighbourhood fabric regenerations by Paisaje Transversal. And with post-it galleries on walls and bus stops by La Galería de Magdalena.

The 15-M movement—the unavoidably common screensaver—invigorates the squares with political thought and action. A hundred political assemblies are held at Madrid’s P2P Commune today. The street, according to Adolfo Estalella, is not just the place where politics is exercised but also the political method itself. Henry Lefebvre’s “right to the city” is reborn day after day in Madrid, constantly mutating and recycling itself in the streets and online.

The above mentioned project Esta es una plaza paved the way to the hybrid city (digital networks + physical spaces). The Twittómetro, which took Acampada Sol assemblies from Puerta del Sol to the Internet, or the real time map of #Voces25S, created that digitalogical, physital, cybrid watercolour painting. Madrid’s P2P Commune is a city made of atoms and bytes, both virtual and analogical. Madrhybrid, as in a profusion of citizens’ streamings on PeopleWitness (a project born in Barcelona), or people wandering the city streets as they communicate with WhatsApp groups in real time, or a ThinkCommons.org session, where a virtual gathering of people from around the world is screened at a physical location.

The living city dreamt up by American Jane Jacobs, an icon of the humanization of urban planning, inhabits the hybrid P2P Commune of Madrid or the hashtag-action #BarriosDespiertos [awoken neighbourhoods], or initiatives such as El paseo de Jane [Jane’s walk], an urban walk-movement aimed at weaving together human networks in neighbourhoods. Madrid’s P2P Commune is a lively, bastard, interracial, profound, poetic, sexy postcard. University professors occupy the public space with 500 classrooms in just one day, including streaming and online coverage. And strangers meet in parks, squares or blogs at Desayunos ciudadanos [the people’s breakfasts].

Image: El Campo de Cebada

Image: El Campo de Cebada

So, what does Madrid’s P2P Commune taste-sound-smell like? Like the social life at El Campo de Cebada, recently granted the Golden Nica award by Ars Electrónica in the ‘digital communities’ category, El Campo de Cebada is an outdoor space, transversely and horizontally governed by its neighbours, where permaculture, beta architecture and free culture blend with an inspiring intergenerational-racial-cultural coexistence. At Madrid’s P2P Commune, the question isn’t so much what to do but how to do it. That’s why the city-world is devoted to the new concept of how-toism: the crux of the matter lies in the transversal, inclusive, interdisciplinary, heterogeneous processes and methodologies used.

Madrid’s P2P Commune is copyleft (free to copy). Its squares are copyleft. Anybody can sit down and talk, film it, share it with the world. Film your square. Copy it. Upload it to the MediaTeletipos cloud. The self is reborn in the we. Much to the annoyance of fanatical neoliberal individualism, this P2P Commune is DIWO: a Do it With Others, collaborative city. Fundación Robo isn’t a person. There are no leaders, no faces. It’s just us. The songs are collective. They are tranferable. In DIWO Madrid, the classic Bici crítica—a collective bike ride with no particular destination—transmutes into the Plano de Calles Tranquilas [map of quiet streets] or into a bar and co-working space called La Bicicleta, which began as a crowdfunding project. You can’t do it alone. You can with friends.

In the Madrid of the 80s narrated by singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina, “the sun was a butane gas heater” and there were “syringes in the lavatory”. Unemployment. Junkies. Beer-drinking rock. At the Madrid Commune, there is unemployment, but the trans-, the co-, the inter-, the plural take precedence. So does the RAM Culture, a new cultural paradigm based on exchange and relationships rather than accumulation. Do it with others. Share books at Bookcamping.cc. Exchange your time at the NOCKIN bank. Share an Internet connection with your neighbour at WIFIS.org. Drink free knowledge at the Traficantes de Sueños bookshop/publisher. Lose yourself on a hacker sightseeing tour at the Loginmadrid project, where each local person functions as a password that allows the visitor to explore different neighbourhoods. Madrid’s P2P Commune tastes-smells-sounds like serendipity, random encounters, open culture, cross-over innovations.

In the early 90s, Madrid was still that “sea of tar, domain of the state” that the heavy metal band Barón Rojo ranted about. A #PostMetropolis divided into a centre filled with institutions and a working-class periphery emotionally disconnected from the heart of the city. Today, Madrid’s P2P Commune is a maze of interconnected public spaces that grows and mutates on the margins of governments and institutions. It shares ideas, it co-creates. It doesn’t rely on the Establishment, but doesn’t antagonize it either.

The city is simply reborn without asking for permission to occupy its inert or vacant spaces. At the San Fernando market in Lavapiés, for example, books are sold by the kilo at La Casqueria and vegetables coexist with free software. The city reconfigures itself crosswise, cross-border, asymmetrically. At open seminars such as Hack the Academy Studio, where academia tears down its walls and allows citizens to participate. At La Mesa Ciudadana [The Citizens’ Table], experts, amateurs, architects, artists, multidisciplinary networkers and city hall technicians get together to cook-think.

Image: Arquicómics workshop on the relation between architecture and comics.

Image: Arquicómics workshop on the relation between architecture and comics. 

Madrid’s P2P Commune is the birthplace of the concept Extitución [Extitution]. If institutions are organizational systems based on an inside-outside framework, extitutions are designed as areas where a multitude of agents can spontaneously assemble. Liquid, flexible, inclusive, itinerant, post-it extitutions. Extitutions such as Intermediae, forged with free software and transversal participation, which sometimes holds its meetings-debates at the Matadero, but also at various other urban locations. Extitutions such as MediaLab Prado, which offers its body to communities, cooks open science, yawns multiple prototypes, transforms citizens into sensors (see Data Citizen Driven City) or its façade into a shared, recoverable, playable screen.

Spanish poet Antonio Machado once described Madrid as the breakwater of every Spain. In the 2010s, Madrid is a revamped breakwater of every square, continent, language and network. Toma la plaza. Take the square. Nationality is irrelevant. La Comuna’s area of debate is the world. Within the hyperlocal there is a global beat. People protect immigrants from the police. In common spaces—whether it’s La Tabacalera, El Campo de Cebada or MediaLab Prado—multiculturalism is the rule. And a growing galaxy of intercultural projects based in the city, such as Lab Latino, Inteligencias ColectivasRed Trans Ibérica or Curator’s Network, connect affect networks throughout the planet by developing projects in other countries.

If this ungovernable city of layers—multicultural puzzle; national, micro-macro-cry—were governed by bright politicians, they would have already turned such effervescence into the “Madrid brand”. Madrid would be reliving La Movida all over again, a cooler Movida than that of Almodóvar. Or a Movida 2.0, designed to attract tourists, which would end up watering down the initiatives.

All the better if nobody takes over the narrative. Let it be a volcanic co-creation with no name. An almost invisible, choral, subterranean river. Let Madrid’s P2P Commune be a soft, yet constant, breeze; let it be rhizome; an ocean where glocal affect navigates amidst the macroeconomic storm. Let La Comuna P2P de Madrid be at least barely understood a few decades from now. Let it go down in history as the first stone, the prototype that—square by square, word by word, concept by concept—gradually replaced the old world without anyone even noticing.


Article translated by Arianne Sved, edited by Susa Oñate – Guerrilla Translation!

Original Spanish article 

This translation has also been republished on:

Prehispanic 2.0 – Latin America’s P2P Roots

This short piece, written by Bernardo Gutiérrez, defines and describes a number of traditional terms and practices, originating in Latin America’s indigenous cultures, which find their mirrors in the modern P2P and commons lexicon.  This piece originally appeared on Yorukubu.


The native peoples anticipated the much-touted sharing economy by a few centuries. While the current global crisis pushes capitalism towards an irreversible mutation, our vision of a post-capitalist future is remarkably similar to the pre-capitalist origins of indigenous America.”

The sharing economy is on the rise. Crowdsourcing (the externalization of process to multitudes working online) is on the lips of every guru. Crowdfunding, or collective financing, is making its mark in areas like culture. The P2P Society, as presented by respected figures like Yochai Benkler and Michel Bauwens, is more horizontal and participatory, goes beyond strictly economic returns, and may be the light at the tunnel of oppressive, dark capitalism.

The commons, the common good and common resources are all the rage; co-working is no longer a passing fad, but a real thing. Of course, there are those who’ll only give credit to these new practices/realities when they’re recommended by a Silicon Valley icon, and only if they’re accompanied by an English name.

Here’s the paradox: Words like “the commons” already exist in Spanish, and have existed since Antonio Nebrija published the first Spanish dictionary in 1492. And, surprise: If we look at Pre-Columbian American traditions, we can see that the indigenous people were already practicing forms of crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and other 2.0-era participatory dynamics. The arrival of African peoples, with their strong collective traditions, also turned America (particularly Latin America) into a spectacular commons-based territory. Pre-capitalist America was as cool and chic and 2.0 as it gets, right? And it still is. The native peoples anticipated the much-touted sharing economy by a few centuries. While the current global crisis pushes capitalism towards an irreversible mutation, our vision of a post-capitalist future is remarkably similar to the pre-capitalist origins of indigenous America.

A warning to skeptics: I’ve cooked up a quick overview of some of the terms and collaborative practices of Latin America’s indigenous communities. Anyone can remix this or complete the list as they like; without a doubt, it’s just an approximation.

Tequio: Tequio is a very popular type of work for collective benefit in the Zapotec culture. Community members contribute materials or labor to carry out construction work for the community. This could take the form of a school, a well, or a road. An individual can never be the sole beneficiary of tequio. It has a touch of crowdsourcing, a little crowdfunding and a lot of commons built into it. Tequio is still practiced in some Mexican States. In the State of Oaxaca, tequio is protected by state law. There are other terms for similar practices such as “gozona”, or, “a mano vuelta” (changed hands) labor.

Potlach: Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest carried out an exchange ritual that is, in practice, identical to the peer-to-peer file sharing of the Digital Age. Potlach, as used by the Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakiutl peoples was P2P through and through. Potlatch isn’t exactly barter. The communities distributed food (principally seal meat and salmon) and wealth to other tribes that hadn’t had a plentiful season. Here’s an important detail: some European colonizers became remarkably rich thanks to potlatching. The same as those superstar artists who, according to some studies, benefit from file sharing amongst users, even though some insist on calling it piracy.

Guelaguetza: The guelaguetza tradition, from the Mexican State of Oaxaca, can be described as cross between a potlatch and a tequio. The term describes “a reciprocal exchange of goods and services”. Its practice is woven from the reciprocal relations that tie people together. It’s the starting point for family and even village and territory-wide cooperative networks. The guelaguetza also evolved to a syncretic sort of celebration held in the town of Oaxaca.

Minga: Minga is a Quechua term defining an ancestral mechanism for collective work that’s very common in Ecuador and the north of Perú. The common objective is always more important than any individual benefit. Collaboration trumps competition. In effect, it’s 100% reminiscent of crowdsourcing or a commons-based economy. It’s no coincidence that Cultura Senda, a collective for the promotion of networked cultures, has held workshops in Quito called “Open Minga”. Minga, according to Cultura Senda’s own description, “implies the challenge of overcoming selfishness, narcissism, mistrust, prejudice and jealousy; the misfortunes that regularly allay collective work and social mobilization.” In fact, “it implies learning to listen and to comply, while making proposals”.

Ayni: Ayni is a term with a meaning that’s closely related to minga. It describes a system of work and family reciprocity among members of the ayllu (a community working on collective land). It is commonly exemplified in the sharing of tasks such as agriculture, shepherding, cooking or house construction. The tradition is still alive, not only in many peasant communities, but among the mestizo populations of Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. Any Time Bank or hours exchange system, such as those of the Spanish 15M movement, could, in essence, be described as an ayni.

Mutirão: This is originally a Tupi term used in Brazil to describe collective mobilizations based on non-remunerated mutual help. Wikipedia’s Brazilian Portuguese definition for mutirão is very telling: “An expression originally used in field work for the civil construction of community houses where everyone is a beneficiary and offers mutual help through a rotating, non-hierarchical system”. It’s often used to describe collective, unpaid actions such as park, street and school maintenance. There are plenty of words that also describe this sort of communal action: muxirão, muxirã, muxirom, muquirão, putirão, putirom, putirum, pixurum, ponxirão, punxirão and puxirum.

Córima: The Rarámuri people of Mexico’s Chihuahua mountains use the word “córima” to describe an act of solidarity with someone who’s having trouble. Not offering córima to someone who needs help is considered both a breach of an obligation and an offense. The definition could also describe “the practice of the common good”. It’s not really related to charity, as the Rarámuri are as far removed from Catholic morality as you can get. The utmost authority overseeing all village decisions is a community assembly, much like what we’ve seen in the 15M movement, Occupy Wall Street and Mexico’s #YoSoy32.

Maloka: Maloca (or maloka in Portuguese) is an indigenous communal house found in the indigenous Amazon region of Colombia and Brazil. These are cohabited by different families. They share their workspace, like any modern co-working space. Property is collective, as in Europe’s squatter communities. They live, in effect, by and for the commons. At night, the maloca becomes a knowledge center where stories, myths and legends are told. The tents present at Tahir Square in Cairo, in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol or in Zuccoti Park, New York during Occupy, are the modern techno-digital versions of the Amazon’s collective houses.

Article translated by Jane Loes Lipton and Stacco Troncoso – Guerrilla Translation!

Images by Ministério da Cultura Brasil under Creative Commons license

This translation has also been published in:

 

Medialab Prado: 10 Years of Social Innovation

The following article, written by our good friend Bernardo Gutiérrez, looks at MediaLab Prado, a very special hybrid space in our hometown, Madrid. This translation features additional original content by the author (not originally published in the Spanish media article), citing MediaLab as one of the spaces where the initial gestalt of the early 15M movement was collaboratively created. It has subsequently been republished in Shareable magazine, and the website for The 2013 Economics and the Commons Conference.

MediaLab PradoImage adapted from an original at Nómada Blog

It seems that “lab” is the word making the rounds amongst innovation buffs these days . Maybe the term “laboratory” isn’t the most appropriate analog, given that its dictionary definition, “a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed”, falls short in describing the present day use of “lab”, and what these spaces are about.

This divergence of terms originated with the foundation of the first Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 1985, a space characterized by its convergence of technology, multimedia art and design. However, in recent years, MIT’s model seems obsolete and at a standstill, especially when compared to a newer and more relevant generations of labs. Madrid’s MediaLab Prado, currently celebrating its tenth anniversary at a new location -la Serrería Belga– stands out as the premier reference points for labs worldwide.

So, what is a lab, exactly? A technical laboratory? A multidisciplinary space open to the public? Rather than nailing down one definition, it may be better to observe some of these labs worldwide, and notice the local idiosyncrasies. Any city eager to reinvent itself and adapt to the networked society invests in an urban lab, such as the Laboratorio Procomún in Rosario, Argentina. Cultural centers like, for example, Ljudmila Media Lab (Liubliana, Slovenia) are currently mutating into places where the artistic paradigm goes beyond art objects.  Digital art spaces, such as the prestigious Eyebeam in New York, are recycling themselves following collaborative models. All of the above share a common source of inspiration: Medialab Prado Madrid.

This could likely be said about many other institutions, labs, universities and cultural centres around the world. Any city would be proud to host something like a Medialab Prado. What is it about this media lab’s DNA that makes it so desirable in areas as diverse as technological innovation, culture and civic participation?

Captura-de-pantalla-2013-04-18-a-las-07.12.11The key to MediaLab Prado’s success may be held in a definition first proposed by José Luis de Vicente: “it’s a community incubator”. In fact, both words, “community” and “incubator”, have been the trend amongst Silicon Valley circles and community managers alike. It’s also worth noting that, as terms, they are seldom seen together. And, as Juan Freire and Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí express in their book “Manifiesto Crowd”, in the age of networks, innovation walks a different path. “The factories that were churning out companies in the 20th century are dead. The 21st century is witness to the birth of spaces for collective innovation”. An incubator lacking a community will never be enough. This is the reason why a lab – both in its physical and digital realms – needs to be an open platform. And that is precisely why MediaLab Prado has become such a a relevant space for coexistence, innovation and mutual co-creation.

MediaLab Prado is both a physical and a digital platform. Physically, it’s a space where anyone can walk in, while online it functions as a laboratory for connecting ideas. MediaLab Prado is an interdisciplinary workspace for creation and innovation. And here’s an important detail: its strength doesn’t reside in its own programming, put together by stewards and specialists. It lies instead in the various working groups, projects and encounters collectively cooked up by the citizen communities who frequent Medialab’s headquarters, or participate in its digital channels. Every Friday, for example, there’s an open lab where anyone can collaborate with anyone else in the creation of new projects.

Another defining feature is its focus on prototyping – another digital culture and IT term. Prototyping culture doesn’t seek definitive or finished products; instead, it prefers to function in a transparent and collective  manner, employing open projects in a constant, citizen-fueled process of improvement. All in all, MediaLab Prado has become a catalyst for culture, technology, networks, science, education, and innovation.

Evidently, MediaLab Prado’s official areas of competence are both necessary and relevant. Interactivos? (a laboratory for creative and educative technological applications) Visualizar (data and citizenship visualization) or its Commons Lab (transversal investigation centered on the Commons) are clear international reference points. Additionally, self managed working groups, such as “Funcionamientos: Diseños abiertos y remezcla social” (Functioning: Open design and social remixes) or “Género y Tecnología” (Genre and Tech) are just as influential. MediaLab Prado cannot simply be described as a  “Cultural Centre”, as it is so much more than a building populated with works of art or technological infrastructures. It’s a connector, a hub, a platform for the collective intelligence that is transforming industry, economics, technology, education and art throughout the whole planet.

In fact, it’s been one of the citizen hubs where civic activism slowly forged the 15-M/ Indignado movement that heralded Occupy Wall Street and the global revolution. To give an example, in early 2011, while Spanish mass-media ignored collectives such as Democracia Real Ya or Juventud sin Futuro, the Redada Encounters in MediaLab Prado transformed an incumbent and collective -as opposed to hierarchical- form of web activism into a palpable phenomenon. Open code practices, now essential to modern activism, have always been central to MediaLab Prado.

Serreria Belga

The challenges in this new chapter in MediaLab Prado’s history are undoubtedly many. One of the most important will be channeling corporate innovation and navigating new economic paradigms. At a time in which The Economist, no less, dedicates its front page to the sharing economy, MediaLab Prado is in a better position than many. By developing its own trajectory, it could well become a great catalyst for the future networks of innovation, open culture and citizen intelligence that will soon be needed in Europe. In fact, connections established within MediaLab Prado in these last few years have given rise to projects and citizen start-ups such as MLP, Play the Magic, Open Materials, Hackteria, Lummo, Muimota, Máster DIWO, Ultralab and Data Citizen Driven City, amongst many others. Certain working groups, like IoT Madrid (Internet de las Cosas) or exhibitory projects such as Impresoras 3D: Makerbot y Reprap clearly lead the way to the future.

Living at a time when most of the world’s population is concentrated in cities, urban innovation may well be MediaLab Prado’s greatest challenge. It’s no coincidence that some of the most influential labs in the world, such as CityLab in Cornellà, Barcelona or the BMW Guggenheimlab in New York, are focusing their efforts on urban innovation. This is the reason why Medialab Prado’s new location at the heart of historic Madrid is so essential. Its urban vocation is most evident in working groups such as Ciudad y Procomún, the new Ciencia Ciudadana (Citizen Science) station or projects like Hacer barrio or Quality Eggs.

The history of Barrio de las Letras -or “writer’s district”- where Medialab Prado is currently located, is another key facet. The scientific institutions of the 18th Century were responsible for the first major developmental push in Madrid, which then led to the expansion of Barrio de las Letras. During this time, the city witnessed the construction of the Botanical Garden, the Astronomical Observatory, the Academy of the Sciences (which now houses the Prado Museum) and the General Hospital (currently housing the Reina Sofía Museum) and the “Gabinet de Máquinas” a demolished Industrial Engineering museum from that era and situated quite close to the old Army Museum. All of this frantic building activity took place in less than 3 decades. MediaLab Prado´s new location in the Serrería Belga, an old abandoned industrial building, is another telling metaphor of an industrial era that left so many urban carcasses in its wake.

In summary, the conversion of an old,  abandoned, industrial space into an citizen innovation lab in the same area where literature and science flourished in centuries past, is a promising metaphor indeed. MediaLab Prado is one of the closest examples of the new Partner State proposed by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation. A State which guarantees the necessary space and resources to activate a P2P society’s collective intelligence for the improvement of the Commons.