Situated Knowledge Utility and Emergence in Tai O Village: A living lab in the back-loop of COVID-19

Daniel Keith Elkin, Chi Yuen Leung, Xiaolu Wang, Markus Wernli

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


This paper concerns ongoing work of a living lab operating in Hong Kong, specifically addressing regional development change in Tai O Village. Tai O is a former fishing village transitioning into a tourism role with an aging population and degrading, culturally significant architecture. Researchers from design, social sciences, surveying, and tourism development fields comprise the living lab, with research objectives to understand change in Tai O and experimentally test social innovation approaches that afford Village stakeholders input and agency regarding its future. This paper addresses questions about the back loop of systemic collapse inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Living lab members adopted situated knowledge production as a central experimental technique in Tai O. Researchers employ multiple data gathering techniques to support a collaborative governance regime and address change in Tai O Village. Given that these efforts frequently address tourism-driven development, COVID’s disruption to global tourism raises questions regarding situated knowledge production’s utility and emergence in Tai O. Do generative, collaborative social innovation opportunities arise from the living lab’s knowledge production experiments in the back loop phase of global tourism cycles? Kevin Grove’s book Resilience, which distils much of Crawford Stanley Holling’s writing on systems complexity into tools for understanding urban transitional change, informs the living lab’s experimental work. Kirk Emerson, Tina Nabatchi, and Steven Balogh’s writing on collaborative governance informs the living lab’s experimental collaboration model. Martina Angela Caretta’s and Luke Bergmann’s writings on situated knowledge further inform the living lab’s methodology and analysis included in this paper. Methods used in living lab projects include public workshopping, focus groups, questionnaire, digital monitoring, and design prototyping, depending on data to be gathered in Tai O Village. The paper contributes to knowledge by documenting practice in a social innovation living lab. Researchers will present data gathered in the course of living lab projects, including findings from ongoing projects in Tai O Village. Previous publication on the living lab’s work addresses system complexity in urban development in general and in Tai O Village in particular. Complexity theory informs the living lab’s experimental methodology and appraisal of data as bounded knowledge production within complex systems. COVID-19 particularly affects Tai O, placing pressure on the global tourism system meant to support the Village in the future. As such, the living lab’s ongoing work addresses the conference theme as documentation of ongoing practice experiencing the back loop of complex systemic cycles.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Social Innovation Research Conference 2021
Subtitle of host publicationEnabling the change! Social innovation and enterprises for a better future
PublisherUniversita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Sept 2021


  • Complexity
  • Smart City
  • Systems dynamics
  • Systems management
  • Stilt House Communities
  • Development
  • Tai O

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Development
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration


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