Week 111

Maddie gives a (very positive) account of the Mozilla Festival in London.


I’ve been away for most of the last three weeks on various trips, one of which, notably, was to the Mozilla Festival in London. Here I would like to pay homage to the great work of Michelle Thorne, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and all the others who helped put this wonderful event together.

MozFest can’t really be called a conference in the usual sense: its structure is looser, and better able to adapt to the particular interests of the people attending. The thing that made MozFest great was the friendly, accessible, open atmosphere. The setup wasn’t rigid at all, and we were encouraged to swing by any workshop that interested us, and dart out again if there was something else we didn’t want to miss. Coming in halfway through a session wasn’t a problem, since others would fill you in on what was happening. There was no elitism and nobody was judgmental. You simply tried things, chatted, tried more things. Workshops and sessions were described minimally on the schedule, and so were allowed to evolve in unforseen directions.

To give an example, our friends Louisa Heinrich and Martin Spindler conducted a session on hacking the city, or exploring ways to improve the quality of urban life. We jumped right in, throwing post-its on the walls, splitting quite organically into groups, quickly getting ourselves deep in conversation with perfect strangers, and scribbling notes on large pieces of paper. One group tackled quality of life in terms of health services, and devised a way to make use of already-present infrastructure to take better care of the elderly and the sick: repurposing the postal service to include not only mail pickup and delivery, but also checking in on customers’ wellbeing. At least one member of that group fully intends to continue developing the idea and to implement it. (My group was working on culture – our final idea involved laser beams, robotic bumblebees and Weavrs – we went a bit “off-piste” as one participant put it.)

I also saw Joi Ito speak for the first time. He talked about his emancipatory experience with learning on the internet. One line of his really stuck with me:

Education was something other people did to me. Learning was something I did for myself.

This embodied the spirit of the event: we were all stopping and starting wherever we liked, learning together or alone, and relying heavily on our own motivation and initiative, with minimal lecturing and instruction. We were given the resources to go exploring on our own.

More on the topic of digital learning to come.

Author: Maddie

Maddie is a strategist and researcher. She spends much of her time on the think tank side of Third Wave, and enjoys getting into the details of many different topics at once. Through this foraging for information, she finds ways to apply knowledge from one field in new, seemingly disparate ones, both in client work and other research. She holds an interdisciplinary BA in Computer Science, Linguistics and German, and has previously worked at VCCP and at the Science Gallery in Dublin.