Social labs in universities: Innovation and impact. The case of Medialab UGR

Romero-Frías, E., & Robinson-Garcia, N.

Social laboratories, defined as experimental spaces for co-creation, have currently become the main centres of innovation. Medialabs are experimental laboratories of technologies and communication media which have co-evolved along with the digital society into becoming mediation laboratories of citizen experimentation, observing a confluence of both models. In the last years, these centres have expanded within the higher education context, generating new forms of innovation and posing the issue on how to measure the impact of such open spaces. This paper analyzes the origin and development of social laboratories in Spain. It first reviews their historical development since its antecedents in the 19th Century until the most recent initiatives. It focuses specifically on initiatives launched within the university context, highlighting their role as motors of innovation. Then, it presents the case of Medialab UGR, a co-creation and digital culture centre of social collaboration framed in the digital context. Finally, it offers a first approach towards the assessment of its social impact by using the Twitter and analyzes its capacity to mobilize and reach non-academic audiences. The findings show the plurality of actors involved in this type of networks as well as the difficulty and complexity of the task on the development of indicators that can comprise both, academic and social interests.