What Are Social Labs?

There is a rather tight consensus around the formal definition of Social Labs including various dogmatic declarations about what they are not, which have been strongly asserted, often by professionals with vested turf to defend. Although nobody is threatening this sacred ground, these professionals often lose sight of the fundamentals of their own constraints and violate them in their conceptual rigidity. That said, it does nothing to define Social Labs or what they do.


A Social Lab may be thought of as a Canvass of Information flowing through a Complex Dynamic System which is Experientially Adaptive via of Networked Agents, who Communicate Information and Act Environmentally to evolve this Networked Canvas. So in a sense this Framework (the Canvas) is something of an Artifice that affords us a data portal by which we assess our experimental collage. We extend the privilege of Canvassing data to all levels and all time-frames within the Laboratory of the Agential Networks. This definition may seem excessively abstract but will be sufficiently broad to avoid the cramped confines of dogmatism. Let’s look at some specifics as they apply to our purposes.

A Laboratory is traditionally seen as a space that is dedicated to research. For our purposes, ‘space’ exists in the material as available rooms within one of our institutional edifices but also includes neighborhoods and various dimensionalities of the Community (for instance: the Business Community, Community Leadership Councils, or Social Services Consumers). So for us, a space is a Conceptual Set with only liminally-defined boundaries yet enough definition to populate statistical data, in particular semi-observable Constants and the effects of a class of Variables as they Process through a System of Information. In this, Space is in fact Virtual.

Virtual Space (physical space inclusive) is amenable to cloning (reproduction) and processing via non-destructive effects and layers and, perhaps most importantly, more easily modeled. Finally, the variously effected channels can be blended  into a masterful tailoring to interoperate within a particular environmental context.

The strange beauty of this composition is that it arises autopoietically via the actions of the Agents themselves as they act and react (or not) within their networked subjectivities. The effects are self-organizing within the current variable constraints.

Traditional Social Labs are eager to include the word ‘stakeholders’. We do not feel that the ‘holding of a stake’ is sufficiently fluid to address the contemporary realities of transhuman sociality anymore. We do however applaud the implication of ‘meaningful positionality’ inherent in the holding of stakes. What then, is a virtual ‘stake’ and how does an Actor take hold of it? These are certainly good questions but not crucial enough to be addressed right here.

We are aware of the Futuristic sounding tone of this new dimension of Social Labs, however it is found to be imminently more practical  than the dogmatic version in these respects:

  1. It is vastly more affordable. Physical space is at a premium and will only become more so as time goes by.
  2. Alongside this economic efficiency we should place the cost of utilities and Insurances such as General Liability and Land and Property Tax. Currently, Virtual Space is largely untaxed and there is no shortage. Economies of Scarcity have little effect on Virtual Labs.
  3. Lorem ipsum…

Beyond the frankly economic practicalities of Virtual Space are various programmatic benefits which vastly outweigh the analog physicality in the following respects:

  1. Virtual worlds afford us all the beneficial opportunities outlined in the paragraph on Modeling (see above).
  2. The almost infinite diversity and fluid interconnectedness of Complex Adaptive Systems is beyond the scope of physical comprehension and already requires a conceptual magnitude inaccessible to material affordances. There is simply not enough money available to fund anything anywhere near the range of our simple and cost-efficient Labs at anywhere near the scientific ROI.
  3. Information flowing through a System is difficult, elaborate, and costly to analyze using physical instruments and would have been a prohibitive endeavor.

It may strike some readers as odd that we are employing the terminology represented by ‘transhumanism’ in our Lab programs for Social Services Communities, so let’s explore that a little here:

  • In the Virtual World, Individuals are Non-Physical Representations; Pixilated Character Projections taking the form of Avatars and Conceptual Thought-Forms, more akin to Logos and Personal Branding.
  • Contemporary medical and biological advances are rapidly converging on a post-human world of prosthetics, implants, and bio-engineered nano-therapies that already strain the boundaries of traditional modes of definition.
  • In the Mental Health arena, Multiples are a fact of life as are the prosthetic enhancements encountered in physical/medical disabilities and rehabilitation. In these times, the most humane Human Services are becoming sometimes ironically, more transhuman.
  • Virtual Reality affords us newer models of the essence of Being than the older dogmatic versions.

Our Social Labs were born of necessity from our commitment to the Leadership Context Initiative via our search for expansive service venues at affordable economies of scale. In addressing these factors, we were led to envision our Labs in forward-thinking ways that fell outside the scope of traditional legacy-type definitions. Our Social Labs quickly became advanced examples of cutting-edge Social Work.