Open Lab has a longstanding interest in the connections between technology and political activism and engaging local communities in decisions that affect them. In the summer of 2016 this research expanded to Greece, with the opening of Open Lab: Athens.
The financial crisis has led to huge changes to Greek society, including the development of a solidarity movement. Open Lab’s first ‘lablet’ aims to work with this movement to design and develop technologies that could facilitate more solidarity structures.
Open Lab has traditionally favoured participatory and embedded research, and OL: Athens is a further example of this: university researchers are working directly alongside citizens and solidarity groups.
OL: Athens is led by Vasilis Vlachokyriakos from Open Lab, in collaboration with researchers from universities across Europe, including Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Swansea University from the UK, Hasselt University in Belgium and Saarland University in Germany. OL: Athens also includes developers to design and develop technologies in collaboration with solidarity groups. The lablet also receives funding from the EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre at Open Lab, Newcastle University.
In addition to working with technology, the OL: Athens researchers will work closely with local communities. Volunteering and engaging with people involved in the solidarity movement forms a key part of the researchers’ work.
Athens provides a unique opportunity to learn about self-organisation and solidarity movements, and OL: Athens aims to combine the issues and values of the solidarity structures with the development of technology. Vasilis explained: “With the establishment of a local lab in Athens, we sought to begin to develop a collaborative relationship with these groups with the intention of assisting the development of technologies that would support them in their day-to-day activities.”
Currently the lablet is focussing on schools, health care, food provision and local democracy, although the specific areas of research will be determined by the solidarity structures that exist.
Eirini Schoinaraki worked as an intern at OL: Athens during its initial months. “During the past few years, Greece has experienced a long list of changes and is currently experiencing a new period of changes not only on a political / economic level but socially and culturally as well,” she said.
“This has led to an increase in solidarity movements within Greece and I strongly believe that technology will help in facilitating these changes by enabling citizens to progress their ideas and actions. That is why I believe that the initiatives and support provided by OL: Athens can bring about a good change and positively influence Greece’s solidarity movement growth.”
For more information please contact Vasilis Vlachokyriakos.