Reimagining Urban Living Labs: enter the Urban Drama Lab
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionUrban Studies. 2023, 1-22. 10.1177/00420980231187771
In this paper we introduce the Urban Drama Lab as a new manifestation of Urban Living Labs. We expand current debates concerning Urban Living Labs by contrasting and comparing them with knowledge and practices developed in the field of theatre and performance. This enables us to scrutinise the ways in which stakeholders, issues and interests are represented and, in exten- sion, performed in Urban Living Labs. We argue that this is important for two reasons: (1) because the current focus of Urban Living Labs on offering a real-world testing ground for urban experimentation constitutes a specific way of representing and performing stakeholders, issues, and interests, but that (2) questions of representation are seldom explicitly addressed because Urban Living Labs are seen to offer direct access to the real-world in a presumably ‘neutral’ set- ting. The Urban Drama Lab foregrounds that Urban Living Labs can never be neutral and free from structures of power but that they can set up a frame in which these structures can be scru- tinised, assessed and possibly remodelled and rearranged. We conclude that the Urban Drama Lab might enable a fuller understanding of how the Urban Living Lab may address not only com- plex urban challenges, but also how it might also engage better with the power relations, con- testations, conflicts and politics that are often at the core of these challenges.