Sowing the seeds of collaboration – The Library Lab as digital Incubator

New York City and The Labs – day 2: The NYC Media Lab, The MAGNET and Urban Future Lab

Written by Library Lab Fellow Michael Svendsen – project head of The Digital Social Science Lab (#DSSLucph) at Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library

As we found our ways to Downtown Brooklyn at day 2 of our NYC Lab Tour we were quite excited to pay a visit to Lab facilities outside the traditional Library Sector. This part of NYC houses the MetroTech Center which is the largest science and technology park of the United States. Our Danish Fellowship of Digital Labs group were so fortunate to get the chance to visit three labs and initiatives:

that today are hot spots of entrepreneural and innovative thinking all situated closely to each other in a very campus-like hub of creativity.

Our point of contact Amy Chen, seed project manager at NYC Media Lab welcomed our group and had very surprisingly hooked us with the a Danish conncetion, Tone Søndergaard, working at the Urban Future Lab for the Confederation of Danish Industry that runs a Cleantech Hub physical base here called House of Green.

Let’s make NYC the media Capital of the World – The NYC Media Lab

The NYC Media Lab was founded in 2010 as a collaboration between NYC Universities and digital media and tech industry and operates as a partnership initiative launched by the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The main goal of the lab is to drive innovation and talent development of students from New York Universities with seed money for short term digital projects to foster collaboration across a range of disciplines core to the future of digital media.


I think this is a very fruitful outreach model of organizing and incubating the bright digital talents of the future that also would be very useful to dig into and discuss at a both strategical and operational level in the Danish Academic Libraries. At the moment we strive to engage liaisons for outreach to Faculty and find new ways of collaborating as tasks move more and more to web services and participation in digital projects. Maybe it’s about time to involve partnerships at the other side of Academia as well!? At least the idea of facilitating and seeding digital research projects with competent staff and some minimal funding and at the same time educate students in fellowship programs and also match-making to potential jobs in the private and public sector seems very appealing.

MAGNET – the Media and Games Network

Our walking around in the cool study environment of MAGNET was really something different compared to yesterdays Day 1 visit at Columbia University. Here we found table games on the shelves instead of books and I think I counted close to one hundred projectors spread across the 7th floor of the building insisting on dynamic wall presentations and group work around the corridors. MAGNET works as a kind of learning commons and shared space for faculty staff and students across NYU with an interest in the intersection of culture and technology merging into nouvelle areas of digitalism.

At MAGNET the study of social science, game design, computer science and engineering becomes a beautiful melting pot of creativity and nouvelle experimental digital design.


The space design at MAGNET is wonderfully mobile, dynamic and is even co-designed by students of the participating schools which makes it ideal for learning and collaboration the way students actually work on their daily basis. That is the kind of ethnographic and collaborative approach that is ideal for the way we want to design the Library Lab and redesign the empty library space that is left behind by the decreasing acquisition of physical books and the storage hereof.

Urban Future Lab – Incubation, StartUP & Sustainablity

The last visit of the day literally took us up in the air to the top floor of 15 Metrotech in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and gave a stunning perspective of why and how NYC works with urban sustainability and clean tech incubation in the LAB to become the leading state of green economy and innovation in the US.

Analyst and Outreach officer Tone Søndergaard employed by the Confederation of Danish Industry presented the Urban Future Lab as a happy marriage of the NY City’s premiere clean and resilient tech incubator and a physical hub offering the clean tech leaders of tomorrow a lab facility to thrive- The lab also hosts a Danish state-of-the-art exhibition on green infrastructure initiatives  with a particular focus on energy, sustainable urban infrastructure, water, transportation, recycling of waste and solutions for providing better air quality.

These subjects are of course a bit outside of our library business, but the way the Lab fosters and offers support for research and entrepreneurial ideas are certainly relevant to the Library Labs. Every square meter of the Urban Future Lab is utilized to it’s maximum with gear, offices, devices and tech products and there is a feeling of caotic, though wonderfully harmonic sense of hard work labor as we saw small, often only 2-men companys work side-by-side with their clean tech inventions.

Lab with a view: NYC skyline view from The Urban Future Lab

Maybe the Danish Library Labs should book their next events here and come and present their results next year get valuable feed-back from engaged startUP audiences and the decision-makers of tomorrow. Who knows maybe the crown prince will drop by again for the official opening as was the case last year here in the Urban Future Lab of Downtown Brooklyn Triangle of Tech.

Thanks for a great Lab-day in Brooklyn!

The Fellowship of Data Labs and Tone Søndergaard at Urban Future Lab 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s