As someone who worked in the non-profit and policy world until just three months ago, I am used to conferences with clear tracks and themes. I am used to standard panelist and moderator formats with time for Q&A at the end. I am used to a clear delineation between presenters and the audience, where the presenter is there to share information, and the audience registers and pays to absorb this information.
But MozFest isn’t a conference.
It’s a global convening of people from all angles of the internet health movement: technologists, builders, policy makers, researchers, artists, civil society, activists, and more. This multidisciplinary, global audience meets at MozFest, but not just to listen to each other speak on panels.
MozFest 2023 as a Global Sandbox
It occurred to me recently that MozFest is like a global sandbox. People from different backgrounds convene, meet each other, learn from each other, experiment, and then collaboratively build something that survives long past MozFest itself (so, maybe better than a sandbox ;))
One-sided presentations are essentially forbidden, and all sessions are designed to be participatory so that there is no power differential between those with the proverbial ‘microphone’ and those who registered to attend. In fact, the microphone doesn’t belong to the session presenter at all. At MozFest, the session presenter is called a “Facilitator”, and their job is to facilitate and co-design conversations with all participants. The approach is not necessarily linear, and there is space for new ideas to be sparked and carried forward post-event. Co-creation and co-design are the name of the game here.
Virtual “Experiences” at MozFest 2023
MozFest Experiences in particular are a unique offering that I am looking forward to as someone participating in MozFest for the first time.
This year, we have two streams of “Experiences”:
Radical Inclusion: This Experience will focus on embracing the diversity of humanity as it relates to creating Trustworthy AI and a healthy internet for all. As someone who has done inclusion work in the past, the AI lens on this work is fascinating to me. The Radical Inclusion experience will entail:
- Audiovisual/multi-media artwork
- Workshops including ones on online safety for vulnerable communities
- A Zine Fair and Exhibition, along with a party where you can meet the Zine creators from around the world
- Other virtual experiences centered on human connections
AI and Cosmologies: This one blows my mind with its invitation to explore “intelligence” across disciplines, worldviews, wisdoms, histories, and spiritualities. The Cosmos Experience seeks to open up the ways in which building trustworthy AI is fundamentally relational through questions such as:
- What is the connection between AI sentience and our attitudes towards the planet? (AI Sentience & Deep Ecology: Rethinking our Philosophy of Nature by Star Spider)
- What happens when we give control over our organic faculties over to algorithms, and how does this impact our social fabric? (AI Ethics with the Lens of Buddha by Rupa Singh)
- How can an AI protect, preserve, restore and safeguard the cultural heritage we inherited from our ancestors, with a focus on the wisdom of elders of the West African Hausa community? (Meet KOWA – An African Ancestral AI by Aishatu Gwadabe)
I have probably attended hundreds if not thousands of Zoom meetings since the pandemic, but what excites me about MozFest is the unique formats with which information is shared, discussed, and ideas are exchanged. Suffice to say, I can't wait to attend my first MozFest, and to see all the new ideas and projects that are sparked out of this convening in less than 7 weeks!
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.
Sign up for the MozFest newsletter here to stay up to date on the latest festival and internet health movement news.
Seher is Mozilla’s Wrangler Program Manager on the MozFest team. She has a deep interest in the intersections of democracy & tech, with a focus on those under-represented in both.