Medialab Prado
a Methodology for Collaborative Prototyping

Laura Fernández

Medialab Prado, part of Madrid’s municipal arts department, is aimed at the production, research and dissemination of digital culture and the area where art, science, technology and society intersect. 1 Medialab Prado has several on-going programmes, all of which are free and open to the general public; two of their initiatives are discussed here.

The Interactivos? programme, launched in 2006, is an open research and production platform for creative and educational uses of technology, facilitating collective creation using open hardware and open software tools. Its goal is to experiment with the use of electronics and software in art, design and education projects. The Visualizar programme, which started in 2007, explores the social, cultural and artistic implications of data culture and proposes methodologies to make them more understandable, opening up opportunities for participation and criticism.

Medialab Prado organizes international events  EVENTS in the context of its programmes, using a hybrid form that combines production workshops, symposiums and final exhibitions to showcase the results. These initiatives take place in Medialab Prado’s new facilities, which provide a versatile space for reflection, research and intensive collaboration.

In that space, several projects previously selected from the responses to an international open call for proposals are developed in interdisciplinary working groups, consisting of the author of the initial proposal and all the people who are interested in collaborating. Over a three-week period, the members of each working group work in consultation with expert advisors to develop prototypes; at the end of that period, the results are presented and displayed in an exhibition.

The process is open to the public from beginning to end. Participants are encouraged to prepare proper documentation for their projects, both during and after the workshop, and to publish the results and source code under licences that grant access to and distribution of the knowledge produced by the working groups. Medialab-Prado offers a range of tools to facilitate knowledge  KNOWLEDGE exchange on the projects, including forums, wikis, blogs and a code repository.

The methodology developed by Medialab Prado has been used to carry out fifteen workshops so far, in which 140 prototypes were developed by more than 900 participants.

Low-cost, DIY Methods of Digital Fabrication

During the Interactivos?’09 Garage Science workshop, a RepRap 2 machine (a self-replicating 3D printer for rapid prototyping)  REPRODUCTION was built at Medialab-Prado by a team of nine people. Inspired by RepRap, Zach Hoeken Smith from NYC Resistor started the MakerBot project, 3 an iterative design process that resulted in a low-cost 3D printer which can easily be built from a kit. In January 2009, Medialab-Prado organized a workshop to build and start using a MakerBot, with the aim of gathering a local community that can continue working on those two projects.

Text Digitization Workshop

In May 2010, a digitization workshop was held with the aim of covering the full scope of activity related to text digitization using free and open technologies. Inspired by DIY Book Scanning, 4 this workshop was about digital mark-up, editing and publishing, as well as the promotion of digital content.

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