5.3 Challenges and research questions

Innovations often arise at the interface of different disciplines. The experimental environments, where these disciplines can find each other, are an ideal place to get started. However, cooperation must be facilitated, and there is an important role for the creative industries, which can bring together stakeholders and stimulate creativity and creation by means of co-creation and participation methods (see also Chapter 3). Unfortunately, the effectiveness of experiments in the described environments on policy change and transitions has not been sufficiently proven, and little is known about the sustainability of the environments. For example, what is needed to make the step from experiment to implementation? In addition, the interdisciplinary approach to experiments also leads to paradoxes, which result in a number of challenges and research questions that could be placed on the agenda for this KEM. We distilled a number of challenges, with related research questions. First, a number of practical questions with regard to the design and interaction between the participants in experimental environments, and finally a number of questions that focus on validity, and thus also link to other KEMs in this agenda, such as monitoring and effect measurement.

Design There is a great diversity of environments and methods for designing experimental environments. Several organisations and networks are also involved in both the design and participation in the experiments, and knowledge is needed about the systems that must be set up to extract the relevant data. Since many of the environments described take place in daily life, it is important to carefully consider the role of participants in the study. Reflection plays an important role in the development of the environments and can be addressed at different levels. Participating in experiments in daily life may have an impact on the behaviour of actors who are in or use the environment, because they have to learn to deal with new situations. This is related to the attitude of a reflective practitioner (Schön, 1984) who reflects on actions and a continuous adaptation of the environment. The following questions can help define common frameworks for the different experimental environments.

  • What conditions must an experimental environment meet in order to generate new routes and directions?

  • How are actors stimulated to contribute to and provide feedback on large-scale development and implementation of prototypes?

  • How is information secured, clustered and made accessible?

  • How do actors experience a continuous experimental form and change in their daily life?

  • When and how can experiments from environments be scaled up?

Ethics Many of the questions above regarding the role of the actors in an environment, also lead to discussions about ethics and values. These are therefore a second challenge. When interventions are made in daily life, a very diverse group of actors must be taken into account, all of whom must be sufficiently involved and heard in developing a picture of the future.

  • When are experiments legitimised?

  • How do we ensure that (different) public value (s) are safeguarded?

  • How do we deal with knowledge production and innovation within planetary boundaries and how directive do these limitations become?

  • How do we deal with a society that is in a continuous experiment?

  • What does the research and design process look like when it relates to transformative innovations?

Time dimension A third challenge relates to the time dimension. First of all, it is important to consider when experiments take place. The zeitgeist must also be taken into account. There is also a conflict between current environments and future environments. It is (virtually) impossible to evaluate new propositions in a future context, and this is made even more difficult by the complexity and continuous dynamics of society. To what extent can people imagine that interventions are experiments, and are they able to envision how the proposition will affect their future actions? Especially because in the future the situation of both the person and the environment can change completely. A major scientific challenge is therefore to evaluate technology and interventions in the making in a world in the making, especially if propositions have been developed with the aim of achieving an impact in the long term.

  • How are constants and variables determined in an experimental environment in development?

  • How do you research the suitability, meaning making and significance of technology in the making related to future, complex societal challenges?

  • How do you acquire insights about experiences aimed at an unknown future context?

  • How can we make experimental environments suitable for the future?

  • How can an experimental environment test a new route and direction for ultimate feasibility and desirability?

Validity The final challenge concerns the validity of the described experimental environments. A point of discussion that is raised from different values ​​and frames of reference. While certain groups of scientists have a need for control, there is an opposing view from the creative industries that places importance on involvement and application in society. This creates a paradox, because a society cannot be modeled and therefore does not provide the control required for particular scientific research. There is therefore a need for different experimental environments, with different levels of control.

  • How can we push the boundaries of ecological validity while maintaining experimental control in everyday life?

  • What is the design, structure and validation of interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary methodologies and practices when so many stakeholders are involved in the research process?

  • What happens when society is involved as a researcher and how do we validate citizen-driven knowledge production and innovation in contexts such as Citizen Science?

  • How do you address and investigate complexity, ambiguity and continuous change, where even the research methods and results are not stable, because their meaning also changes over time?

  • Where does the experiment end and reality begin?

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