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Setting up Living Labs: Expectations, possibilities and interests

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:10 authored by Ricardo J. Dias Carolas
The long-term healthcare challenges caused by an ageing demographics have led to the proposal of two dominant strategies to tackle the issue. One sees technology as essential to successful care provision, and the other promotes democratic and civil participation to develop solutions adapted to the real needs of people. Living Labs appear as valid (but by no means exclusive) ways to merge these two approaches. So far, Living Labs have been described as experimental, participatory and real-life contexts, where multi-stakeholder collaboration and open innovation are promoted and where users are able to actively influence the innovation process. However, the promised democratic, open and participatory principles advocated in theory do not appear to be matched in practice and a critical approach seems to be missing from the existing literature. This thesis focuses on Living Labs developing independent living solutions and extends the understanding of Living Labs beyond simple description of who does what and when in the process. The aim is to offer a critical in-depth account of how the process of setting up a Living Lab develops. Following a qualitative research strategy and drawing upon concepts of Actor-Network Theory and Sociomateriality, this work presents three case-studies to understand how Living Labs are set up. The results offer a new perspective of Living Labs as heterogenous arrangements of human and non-human elements that do not exist in and for themselves but are, instead, the product of the links established between the heterogenous elements that temporarily sustain them. Whether they are open, real-life, participatory and democratic settings is never a guaranteed result, but a product of the heterogenous relationships established between different elements, in their own material and social contexts, at particular moments in time.



Anglia Ruskin University

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