By Julià Vicens (Eurecat – Technology Centre of Catalonia)

MediaFutures is a project characterized by encouraging the collaboration of actors with, apparently, different interests to tackle shared societal challenges. If we take a look at the selected projects in the first open call, we find start-ups with a citizen-oriented culture, artists with a data-driven art portfolio, or scientists working together with artists (and vice versa).

Collaboration is fundamental in very different aspects of our society. In science, for instance, the cooperation of scientists from different fields is fundamental to understanding collective and complex problems such as climate change emergencies or the multiple impacts of a pandemic. Sometimes, this collaboration goes beyond the scientific community and it is established with citizens or (affected) communities. 

A recent editorial in Nature, Research collaborations bring big rewards: the world needs more, emphasizes the importance of public participation in the research process, “not only the [importance of] investigators that appear on the papers and project grants”. Two classic examples of this fruitful collaboration between scientists and communities are the Flint water crisis, led by LeeAnne Walters and Dr. Marc Edwards, and Grassroots Mapping, a project by Public Lab, in both cases the impacts are not only scientific but especially social.

The collaboration between artist, technologist and scientist also has great potential. Virginia Gewin published an article exemplifying some scientist-artist collaboration that goes beyond engaging and educating the general public about science. There are multiple science, technology, and art residences such as Arts at CERN, STARTS Residences, or IRB artist in residence program. From the collaboration between artist and scientist can emerge new ideas, questions, methods, and, of course, new ways of public engagement that would not be possible without this association.

City and Science Biennial in Barcelona

The second edition of the City and Science Biennial took place in Barcelona in early June. This event, organized by the Barcelona council, has multiple activities spread all around the city and aims at bringing science to the public debate. Science has always been relevant for our lives, but, now especially,  in times in which the public is looking for answers, it seems even clearer. Understanding the relationship between science and technology with cities and citizens is fundamental to understanding the multiple impacts on society and our particular life. We would recommend the dialogue: “Three dialogues and six perspectives about city, participation and science” from the 1st Biennial edition, as well as a roundtable about art, science, and technology: “Hybridising art, science, and technology: beyond disciplinary boundaries?” from this recent 2nd edition. In the same line, we strongly recommend to explore the online artworks of the exhibition Art at CERN: when arts and particle physics collide.

From our research perspective, we establish a close collaboration with artists and open the participation of citizens in the research process to boost new ideas and perspectives in a horizontal way. This way, we expect, among other things, to generate discussion about the use of data, and particularly, the impacts of misinformation in society.