2021- a new era of MozFest

Sarah Allen

By Sarah Allen | Sept. 23, 2020 | Mozilla Festival

MozFest 2021

MozFest is an arc in our year where all the corners of the internet health movement gather together to raise the biggest issues facing our lives online: dis-information on our social media platforms, discriminatory algorithms, and a lack of safe spaces online for activists and activism. MozFest fuels the internet health movement, acting as a bridge across diverse intersectional movements. It is not a place or building, but it’s a community, in how we work together, how we support each other, and in our dedication to keeping the web open free, and healthy for all.

We started this year excited to move to a new home, with an extended timeline and intent to collaborate with our community to support and achieve Trustworthy AI. Now we are nearly through 2020, and while many things have changed our goals remain the same. But how the festival will achieve them is not how anyone imagined.

We’re excited to announce that the festival will begin March 8, 2021. Our Call for Proposals (CFP) for sessions will open October 26, 2020 until November 23, 2020 online.

MozFest 2021 will be a virtual event and open on March 8th

On the surface, this re-imagined festival will be the same MozFest we know and love: community curated sessions, art exhibitions, partnered events, and plenty of opportunities to meet new people over a beverage of your choice. However, it will all be online. We will center this online event around the principles of the festival: Participation, Inclusion, Community, and Experimentation.

Participation

The schedule will be busy with a variety of activities, designed with a slower pace in mind for attendees: moments for reflection, chances to join in your own time, take what you need when you need it. Like always, our Wranglers will curate sessions, and our community will facilitate moments of learning and movement-building around set topics. There will be a mix of art and cultural activities alongsidein-person hack-a-thons and panels.

Some formats, like sessions or partnered events, will be scheduled and will require registration for individual sessions. We do this to facilitate more direct collaboration between the session leads and the participants, keeping our "roll up your sleeves and get involved'' intentional design. We will give plenty of time ahead of the required registration, and are thinking of ways to distribute sessions across different time slots to invite the most global participation possible and make it easier even for people in the same time zone to attend sessions at different times due to their own scheduling needs. We will be encouraging everyone to stay connected during and post festival through our Slack channel, using session notes, or join our working groups.

Online facilitation is different from in person interaction; we miss the subtle nods of engagement through body language and the ability to read the room. Technology plays a positive role, we can connect from almost anywhere, but it can also act as an inhibitor when a lack of bandwidth, devices, or even a quiet space at home limits accessibility. We are committed to finding platforms, formats, channels, and documentation that provide participants from around the world with viable ways to take part in this virtual MozFest. We’re also planning for accessibility accommodations, like captioning and interpretation. We are keenly aware of both the positives and negatives of this new festival scenario, and are working hard to ensure MozFest doesn’t lose it’s fiery presence in the work towards internet health.

Inclusion

Of course an online MozFest will have to be organised differently than an in-person one in terms of timings and logistics. However, our dedication to inclusion as a core principle of community organising will not change. We have recruited a truly global cohort of Wranglers for MozFest 2021 and invited newcomers to the festival to serve as Wranglers, as well. We are excited for them to help us re-imagine this online iteration with fresh insights and advice.

This mix of MozFest veterans and newcomers joining us from across the internet health movement will help us ensure the continuity of our ongoing efforts to make MozFest a truly diverse and inclusive event for our movement, as well as hold us accountable for making more and more progress in this area every year whether we gather together online or in-person.

Picture of speakers during a live Dialogues and Debates online panel, with closed captioning Live Dialogues and Debates screening with closed captioning

Community

Our Facilitators will remain a critical part of the festival as we move to a virtual format. We will not be offering travel stipends as we are not asking anyone to travel to Amsterdam. That funding will go towards support of a different nature. For example, extra training before sessions, a new camera, or even a wifi booster. And of course, the MozFest team will provide workshops and resources to help facilitators prepare and feel confident in their own ability. We will help our community members connect with one another across a globally distributed network rather than up and down the floors of a building this year.

We are also expanding how people participate and share their work for MozFest 2021, from lightning talks, demos and essays. If you would like to participate as a festival facilitator by hosting an interactive session, you must submit your session idea via the Call for Proposals (CFP) opening next month, on the 26th of October. You can read more about our submission process on our website, which is updated weekly.

Experimentation

We are looking at formats that can be asynchronous, like films, demos, lightning talks – available to you to view on demand over the festival period. We want to offer a wide breadth of session formats across thematically focused Spaces, and aim to provide a variety of ways to learn, connect and collaborate for all disciplines and ages. Even with a jam-packed, busy MozFest schedule, we want to slow the pace down, and extend the length of the festival to improve attendee experience- and create moments of fun, and exchange.

We are not sure what form every session might take, but we are committed to providing our Facilitators and participants with the freedom, flexibility, and time to figure out what works for a virtual MozFest and all the people who will make it such an empowering experience online, as well as off.

The one thing we know MozFest does especially well is those hallway conversations with folks you do not meet in your normal day to day – from journalists, to nurses, from developers to community organisers. So we are creating "common spaces" through various platforms and giving you the ability to create your own emergent sessions and meet ups, keeping the work and the conversations flowing. With your help, we will also create social moments and will actively encourage you to host your own watching parties or local meet ups during the festival timeframe.

We are working hard to not recreate MozFest from London but build a new resilient festival that can prosper online for the next decade. One where the community can spend time, meet old friends and new allies, and get the work done.

Image of participants of an Irish soda bread class on zoom Irish soda bread making class on zoom

MozFest Local- a taster event

Earlier in the year, we optimistically announced that we were moving for the next three years to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. So to honour that commitment we will host a "taster event" for the community in that city called MozFest Local. We will work with local groups to create a short schedule of MozFest formats over a weekend. While you won't be able to virtually join these events, we do want to bring Amsterdam into the virtual festival. MozFest will be seeking to create little moments where the city is visible and part of the virtual event programming- whether through an art project, a studio tour, or dutch speakers on our Dialogues and Debates panels. This is all dependent on local guidelines and health and safety assessments. As we are all too aware, we are in a moment in time when so much shifts quickly.

We recognise that now, our lives in this moment are tough, emotionally rough and while the internet we love connects us, it is not without its issues. But we really need it right now. As J Bob Alotta shared in her blog about the festival narrative, this is a vital time for us.

Mozilla’s mission is to keep the internet open, free, and healthy for all. It is this mission that gathers us at MozFest, and our love for and willingness to fight the internet for that binds us together.

We hope to see you there,

Sarah Allen

Director, MozFest

MozFest is part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world. To learn more, visit www.mozillafestival.org.

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