Medea as a platform for cross-fertilisation between sectors, disciplines and worlds

Here’s an interview with Karin Johansson-Mex, director at Medea, about the research centre and the ideas and visions behind it.

This post was originally published in the Medea publication Prototyping Futures.

KARIN: Medea is a research centre for digital media and co-production, focusing on multidisciplinary research and meetings across sectors. In all our projects, there is a mix of people coming from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines. We almost always work collaboratively with partners from outside academia.

We are currently working with three specific themes. One is Internet of Things (IoT), which builds on the work with the open hardware platform Arduino that has been developed by David Cuartielles, our colleague at Medea, and his team. The IoT theme also builds on the work done in Living Lab Fabriken where there has been a lot of focus on prototyping both physical and digital objects. Based on our experiences from Arduino and Fabriken, we realised that Internet of Things was going to be a research and innovation area with a lot of potential. We also realised that the knowledge that we have already gained from our previous projects could actually contribute to the development of this field, especially if we combined our previous research on interaction design with a living labs methodology, along with the research done at the computer science department at the Faculty of Technology and Society at Malmö University (e.g., see the project on Mobile services for energy efficiency in existing buildings).

Our second theme is Sustainability with a strong focus on social sustainability. This theme is based on the work done within Living Lab the Neighbourhood. A lot of work has been done in collaboration with the City of Malmö, e.g., to explore different models and methods to enhance sustainable social and urban structures. This work has sometimes been about looking for new models and tools within the digital realm, but not necessarily. The aim is rather to develop solutions for the city and the society, digital or not, developed in the context of the living lab, which is always based on collaboration with stakeholders and local communities starting out from a grassroots perspective.

The third theme we work with is Culture, which stems from the work that has been done in the Living Lab the Stage, which has had numerous experiments conducted on how to work with digital media and methods in the cultural sector: arts, poetry, literature, performance, music, video and film.

These three living labs are actually closing down since they were a part of an already completed project called Malmö New Media done in collaboration with Media Evolution and a range of other partners here in the region. All the great work conducted in the labs now serves a basis for the next phase of Medea, and the three themes that we continue to develop: Internet of Things, Sustainability and Culture.

If you look at our projects, there is a very big span and contrast between the partners we are working with. At Medea, we have found a method for working collaboratively with big companies and the public sector, in combination with smaller companies, organizations and NGOs. In the area of Internet of Things, we are currently working on a project about energy efficiency together with partners from the telecom sector such as Sony, Ericsson, ST Ericsson, IBM, E.ON and Schneider Electric. In the cultural sector, we work with smaller companies and more alternative “underground” communities. In the sustainability field, we work a lot with the City of Malmö and the public sector, as well as NGOs. This makes Medea a very creative and dynamic melting pot of different competencies, skills, interests and agendas with a lot of potential for cross-fertilisation between partners and worlds.

But Medea is also a meeting place, and therefore I think it is important that Medea continues with these kinds of matchmaking activities that we have done throughout the years, such as workshops, do-tanks, hackathons and seminars. At our event Connectivity Lab Live, we hope to attract people from big companies, as well as artists, students and people from the hacker communities. At this event, we want to bring people together to explore what technology can be all about and encourage people to go beyond their own fields of expertise and knowledge. We believe that a lot of creativity comes from such meetings and that cross-fertilisation is an important driver for innovation.

In the future, I envision Medea being a strong catalyst for ground-breaking and important research and at the same time also acting as a model for new forms of innovation based on cross-fertilisation between sectors, disciplines and worlds.

Image credit: Gonzalo Peña Rojas CC:BY