Between digital tools, palms and LEGO – the decor of Digital Social Science Lab

At The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library, we’ve made some great progress over that last couple of months with the creation of our Digital Social Science Lab (DSSL) which is due to open January 2016:

1) We got our inspiration tank packed with great stuff from The New York City Labs

2) We’ve talked to tons of faculty members and students and got our comprehensive list of software and digital tools ready and will soon begin looking at skill upgrading for the staff connected to the lab

3) Our first event and pre-opening, Digital tools in social sciences, was a remarkable success and further four events has been scheduled (even though we’re not open yet)

In these days we are looking at the decor and setup of the actually physical space of DSSL and I’m pretty thrilled about were this is going.

The basic concept: Functional, flexible and a little bit of wow

The lab it self is about 80 square meters and located in the basement. Just a few months back it was home for the biggest collection of physical books in the faculty library. This massive body of knowledge has been moved to remote stacks and will soon be replace with a whole different kind of knowledge creation.

The fundamental concept of the physical lab setup is that it will have to functional and flexible. We want The Digital Social Science Lab to be used for a wide range of activities on digital tools and methods: workshops, instruction sessions, data sprints, lectures, hack-a-tons, group work and single work so we need most of the decor to be able to be move around to set up different settings for different events. Besides that we want it to be functional when it comes to technology and daily use: wireless connection to the presentation tools, no big pool of spaghetti wires on the floor an so on. And then we also want to integrate a little bit of wow into the decor – just because we really like wow. Below is what we have decided on so far.

The Palm Wall

From the beginning we wanted the lab to have some kind of visual identity. I talked to good library pal and graphic ninja on my LIS journal REVY, Henrik Dybdahl, and he suggested a palm theme… ‘palms is really hot these days’ he told me. I like palms very much but I wanted something that lasted longer than hot of the week and my first association with the palms in the lab was the music video to WHAM! hit Club Tropicana and I was not sure that was the right match for our work with digital tools. But then we saw some sketches Henrik made and it look so classy and awesome and we realized that the palm connection was pretty valid since the faculty library is located in the old Botanical Laboratory right next to Botanical Garden and The Palm Wall was a reality. We got it put up just last week and it looks like this in panorama:

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The Palm Wall of Digital Social Science Lab

Besides looking unreal awesome The Palm Wall also got a functional feature: It’s build up by different aluminium plates which opens up to the side so the wall can be used for presentations – up to three at the same time if you use mobile walls to divide them.

The palm leaves opens up and voila – ready for some presentation on digital tools

The Stairs, The Stage and The Mozilla Factory Space

I always had a thing with stairs. They are just great to sit on, to talk on, to think on, to look out on the world from and – obvious – to take you up and down. From The Spanish Steps in Rome to Vanlose Stairway by Van Morrison – stairs are magic. So we gonna have us some stairs but they will not only be for sitting: They will be build up hollow so there will be storage room inside them for hardware, extra chairs, various presentation tools etc. Besides that I believe there will bring a great dimension into the lab.

Draft of the stairs by Line Hvidbjerg

Made in the same type of wood we will get a mobile stage which can be used for various kinds of presentations (when it’s not in use it will just be an extension of the stairs) and a lifted floor for workstations based on NOSIGNER’s ‘Open source furniture’ concept for Mozilla Factory Space – it’s practically and functional because you can hide wires under the floor, it looks good and I’m totally in love with the concept of open source furniture.

The Mozilla Factory Space based on the concept of open source furniture – note the lifted floor

The LEGO Corner

LEGO is one of the greatest things in the world, period, and it can be used for both play, innovation, creativity and serious learning activities and at the faculty library we’ve been using it to connect with new students by the making of a stop-motion LEGO Library movie. So obvious we are gonna have a LEGO corner in Digital Social Science Lab with thousands of bricks which can be put together in various ways – just like the data that is collected and analyzed in the lab.

Actually we are not the first library in the world with a LEGO corner – check out what an awesome approach The Rutgers Art Library has come up with: Lego Building Fosters Creativity on Rutgers Campus

The Anthropological Turntable

5 years ago, when I was first employed at The Copenhagen University Library, I started at The Library at Department of Sociology. In my application for the job I pitched an idea of ‘Foucault’s Corner’ – a corner in the library with a big cosy chair, some sociological journals and a turntable with french jazz. I never came to realize this idea but the library was build together with The Library at Department of Anthropology and they had a great collection of anthropological records with different kinds of african throat singing and even lectures and various anthropological topics that for some reason was recorded on LP. The LP’s are just in storage now but we are gonna take those records, set up a good chair, some anthropological journals, a turntable with headphones and give the students some throat singing. We might gonna expand the collection with that french jazz I never came around.

We also got a plan for a fish tank full of fish. Because fish is nice to look at an because FISH rimes with GIS.

It’s sure gonna be a great summer of lab decor at the old library.

The very first sketch of Digital Social Science Lab dated november 2014 – note the stairs, the LEGO and the turntable.


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