Celebrating an Intersectional Internet
The most common way I describe myself is “I’m an opera singer turned computer programmer.” This ALWAYS surprises people (and probably most of my coworkers if they are reading this except for the fortunate few who’ve ever done karaoke with me). The problem with this statement is that it essentially means that I can only be one of these at a time. I’ve learned that if I’m around artists, bringing up tech solutions will usually be met with a blank stare. In the same way, nobody wants to hear a Brahms aria or a critique of the musical, Cats at a tech conference. I’ve been conditioned to believe these parts of myself to be either/or but never in the same place at once.
A coworker who knows my background once commented that I’m a “reluctant performer” for not belting high C’s at a team retreat dinner, but in all honesty my conditioning into the tech environment is to leave anything that makes you “other” at the door.
So you can imagine my gleeful shock and amazement when I participated in MozFest for the first time in 2016. If I had to describe MozFest in a sentence it would be “what happens when a tech conference and a circus have a baby.” Walk in and instantly be greeted by streamers and giant colorful posters announcing all the spaces and wonders to befall you - the building more akin to a labyrinth leading you into portals of wonder; each station more tantalizing than the last. Do you try your hand at programmable fashion or video game puppetry? Relax at a vr headset crafting stations or go on a privacy and security scavenger hunt? But the moment that I’ll never forget from my first day at MozFest was following the sounds of symphony music only to be surprised by a table of children on ipads being conducted. After years of seeing my passions constantly separated, here were the seedlings of a future where music is allowed to adapt and grow in new ways. It brought tears to my eyes.
MozFest was the first tech oriented space I encountered that not only allowed, but WELCOMED all the intersectional diversity that makes up our digital world. This welcoming environment is not only evidenced through the incredible lineup of mostly female and POC speakers, but Spaces dedicated to “queering MozFest” and neurodivergency. In short, MozFest is a great reflection of the internet: a place of ideas, learning, connection and, most importantly, play.
MozFest has truly become a place where one can bring their full selves to the space, where we don’t leave politics or race or gender at the door. And while each MozFest I’ve experienced has been touched by major global political issues from Brexit, to Trump to Bolsanaro to Brexit II: (we actually maybe have to implement this now oh wait let’s push it off a little further) and now the pandemic, MozFest remains a light in these darkest of times for me for I know I am surrounded by SO MANY people around the world who are fighting for a better future. While MozFest may not be filled with as many IRL circus pageantry this year, I’m still excited for this event as a time to learn, connect, and share with others dedicated to an intersectional internet.
Speaking of a more intersectional internet, I’m incredibly grateful to work directly with our Mozilla Fellows + Awardees year round who focus on designing trustworthy AI systems with cultural considerations in mind. You can look forward to many of them presenting their work, running workshops, or wrangling digital spaces/events at this upcoming MozFest and as always, you can check out the latest updates of our fellows and awardees work on our website.