Although I do wish I could be as optimistic, I’m not exactly pessimistic. Ownership, data, choice, ethics and values all come to mind when thinking about this area and a possible future.
The Mozilla festival is something I’ve had the pleasure of attending almost every single year except last year for personal reasons. The festival always feels like something between a conference, unconference and a festival.
As most of you know, myself, Jon and Jasmine were Space wranglers for the Mozilla Festival. This meant we were given a big space to curate a schedule and program of workshops around the theme of Physical.
Right from the get go, we didn’t want it to be the 3D printed, Arduino fest of previous years. We carved together our thoughts into a call and put it on Lanyrd. The physical track became the open web with things track and took on a form asking questions of the things we connect to the web. I liked to describe it to others as whats the reason and existence of the thing? So a more critical look at Internet of things without getting negative.
Being a space wrangler included regular video calls, lots of collaboration in google doc, tons of etherpadding and narrowing down the open public call for workshops down to something more manageable. I can’t state how much work this really is, not only do you have go through them all and form some kind of schedule in your minds. But you also need to think about ones which don’t quite make the cut and discuss how to make it better or if combing sessions would work better? Its a lot of work and to be fair I wasn’t too sure how things were going to pan out.
Myself, Jon and Jasmine didn’t just want to have the sessions/workshops. We needed somewhere to show things off and being the creative people we are, wanted to do something a little different. Originally we thought about some kind of bar or cafe where people can feel comfortable and play with things in their own time. And somewhere along the line, it became the ethical dilemma cafe.
Ethical dilemma cafe
The ethical dilemma cafe, did include a space to show physical work in action and/or finished. Plus it included a physical dilemma of what people experience online all the time without really thinking. Having to decide between giving up data in return for smoothies and popcorn.
Give up data? You ask? Well we wanted to include a number of things/systems stealing/taking liberties with you’re data. We had planned a jukebox which would encourage you to feed it more personal data. It was going to be like a film I watched recently called 13 sins, lure you in with the small harmless data requests then request more and more till you felt slightly violated.
Instead in the lead up to Mozfest, we ended up with something even more interesting and more instant. Libby, Andrew and Jasmine created a system which sniffs the radio waves (802.11 space) around discretely positioned picture frames around the space. They also had a cameras to take pictures of people when there was movement.
The results were shown on a screen and more interestingly printed out on a dot matrix printer like a receipt of your time in the cafe space. The receipts came thick and fast as lots of people came flooding in with the promise of iot, smoothies and popcorn. We decided to hang some of them up, seemed fitting as we were airing peoples data in public.
Lastly Matt included a conversation recording system. Interestingly people didn’t really notice the microphones positioned around the space and were surprised when they heard their voices played back randomly.
We never quite got the rest of the concept up and running till Saturday afternoon, but that included terms and conditions for entering the cafe (just like the end user license agreements people never read), a clear line for the entrance and a web connecting the things together. Once those were in place and things got more interesting.
Some wrote “Popcorn and Juice with strings” and they were right. Tempting people with what they could have if they just agree to the conditions and step over the line was kind of fun. When pointing out the agreement, most people will stop have a read and then shrug their shoulders and cross the line. However some people would read it and actively turn 180 degrees and walk away. Some would hover around the line and look at the fresh popcorn and smoothies, wondering if it was worth it?
The ethical dilemma cafe served its purpose as many of the public caught on to the fact of free comes with strings. Positioning the popcorn and smoothie maker in direct view of the entrance, had the desired effect of people wondering straight pass the signs and taking popcorn.
Besides the dilemmas, there was also some live making, the physical playlist machine and penguin books Steven fry project (myfry).
I didn’t get a chance to go to many of the workshops unfortunately… The cafe was opposite the physical area on the mezzanine level while the rest of the physical sat on level 1 with mobile along side. Jon took the actual subtracks wrangling while myself and Jasmine positioned ourselves in the cafe. We had 3 subtracks within the open web with things track.
Once the furniture was rearranged in the cafe and workshop spaces, it all worked out great. I did get to show the Perceptive Radio at the Science Fair on the Friday, Dj on the Saturday night and attend a couple of workshops around the ethics of data and iot.
I do wish I had gone to more sessions and workshops but Mozfest was full of ideas people learning and sharing all over the place. One of the best examples was Stuart Nolan talking about the physicality of things (and entertaining people and himself in the cafe – Thanks for that Stuart!) and the security expert Babak who showed people the skill and (crack like) addictive nature of lock picking. So amazing was his session that hours and hours afterwards people were lock picking everywhere.
I actually stopped a lady and asked her how she was able to teach somebody else about lock picking. She replied, saying she picked it up from Babak and just found it fascinating so shared it on. The sharing on went on and on, that heck even at the ending/demo party people were still picking locks!
The Mozilla festival was stressful and I had to be careful not to get too stressed about it but now I’ve done it and learned from it, I think I could do it again next year with less stress and even more impact.
Massive thanks to the Mozilla Festival crew, and I’m sorry to Sarah, Misty and Michelle who put up with our crazy asks (What did they think when we asked for rope, padlocks and popcorn machines?) Their energy and positivity was crazy good. Almost no matter what the ask, they were ready. It was amazing to sit and think about what was achieved on the train home on Monday night. Big thanks to all the other space wranglers, people who stepped in and helped out on the days (Spencer, Natasha, etc), people helped get our kit to Ravensbourne (Elizabeth), those who helped with the ethical dilemmas (Libby, Jasmine, Andrew, Matt, etc). And of course Jon, who is amazing and kept me going with his insane ideas and drive to keep on going…
The combination of data ethics and internet of things was good but I think we only just scratched the surface. Look out next year, there maybe a lot more to come…! Oh and thanks for the Firefox phone, I’m actively using it as my work phone at the moment, look forward to developing for it soon.