Ready to MozFest??

Sarah Allen

By Sarah Allen | March 1, 2021 | Mozilla Festival

One week to go.

Are we ready??….almost….

I mean “ready” as you can ever be while opening an expanded, new era of a much-loved hour-long, fast-paced, on-demand event. We are excited and nervous but we are so looking forward to you joining us. As shared on previous blogs, we have centered this online event around the principles of the festival: Participation, Inclusion, Community, and Experimentation. As this is a new era, the start of a new decade, the festival is also designed to meet the needs of our lives, today – from home, where we work, and play.

MozFest 2021 is a global rolling event, live over 10 hours a day, for 12 days, designed to focus on global access rather than fast paced days. We want you to create your own schedule, joining us when your day allows, whether dedicated time slots, over lunch between meetings or catch up over the weekend. We have hour long sessions, bite-sized skill shares, weekend hackathons, an Art and Media section for on demand viewing, and a live Studio where for 15 minutes each day you can catch up on what you missed and hear from facilitators on what's upcoming. We have designed Fridays to be at a slower pace and chance for more social connections through the Commons Spaces and we have family resources to keep everyone busy.

There are lots of new elements to MozFest, but you will also find plenty of what, you know and love from familiar faces of our heroes behind #Mozhelp, plenty of space for emergent sessions, and those common space connections. Day one will be a rollercoaster for the core teams of Wranglers, Volunteers, production staff, and our brave, first-day Facilitators. Things are likely to break, tech will fail to meet all our desires, and we will forget to take ourselves off mute. But with your help, day two will be better – we will learn as we go, with your feedback, grace and patience.

To help us all prepare and understand how to MozFest in 2021, here's a little overview of what to expect from this year’s festival.

2021- Trustworthy AI

Our theme for MozFest 2021 is Trustworthy AI- AI seeking agency and accountability. This theme is seen across all activities at the festival, and curated under our Spaces, co designed by our community Wranglers. Think of Spaces at MozFest as mini-festivals. Within each Space, participants can find everything they need: interactive, community-led sessions, inspiring talks, art exhibits, and social spaces. Multiple activities are scheduled at any one time so that even within a Space, participants can choose their own adventure.

Spaces have been a core of MozFest for years, highlighting the biggest issues we see facing our line lives. Thematically focused topics that help us understand what a future of Trustworthy AI could look like. Explore over 500 sessions, art exhibits, talks, and skill shares each of our 2021 MozFest Spaces:

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Participation: Live and On Demand

As always, MozFest is about participation – about the exchange of knowledge, providing input and feedback on each other's work, and building for real change. In order to facilitate participation in this virtual world we have capped session registration at 30. So participants need to register for a session ahead of time, but we will release some extra "seats" for sessions on the day. We also are recording some sessions for later viewing and we will live stream those sessions suitable for that format. We understand that this can change participants' engagement within these sessions and it was a hard decision to make. We made this decision to increase access to sessions and help facilitate deeper and longer collaborations from sessions to continue after the festival.

Recorded and live streamed sessions will be clearly labeled with clear direction within sessions for participants to prepare for their level of participation.

Participants will have access to pre-recorded talks, podcasts, documentaries, and interactive art – all available under Art and Media and on your schedule. With experimentation at the fore, we have created activities to connect and meet the artists, and workshops to offer deeper learning. Some sessions will be happening while you are asleep and some will be in Dutch or Spanish with no translation. If Facilitators wanted to host sessions in other languages we said yes, and offered our support to help make that happen.

Discussions and workshops are held in Zoom using miro boards for note taking and co-designing. For those with low bandwidth, you can dial into a zoom room to participate. You’ll also be able to use a transcription service to assist with participation and will have the ability to turn off your camera to help with internet speed or privacy concerns.

The MozFest program will be available for 90 days after we close registration on March 19th, so there will be lots of time to catch up on what you missed or to stay involved in projects you particularly enjoyed. During those 90 days, we will facilitate additional sessions and talks supporting new collaborations to continue the great work started at the festival.

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Hallway Conversations and Connections

The unexpected, the chance encounters, and the hallway conversations are what we love most about MozFest and the hardest to re-create online. We wanted to create a feeling of being connected to more than a laptop. So we have created several Commons Spaces to help bring folks together outside of sessions, and make new connections. The MozFest community will continue to use Twitter and Slack to facilitate conversations and networking while introducing a new way to communicate: Spatial Chat. These social common areas provide a way for you to meet other participants, meet your Space Wranglers, attend demos, and just hang out. Spatial Chat aims to create a visualisation of the community, where participants can be both seen and heard, staying connected even though not physically together.

A New Virtual Festival

The simplicity of bringing everyone to a city and within a building is not with us this year – online participation needs constant direction, creative ways to connect, to see and be seen. We need to create moments that allow individuals to feel part of something bigger than themselves when they are sitting in front of a laptop at home.

MozFest has always been designed so that all participants play a role in the festival, whether in leading sessions, hosting conversations, and co-designing sessions. We actively encourage the emergent, the ever-evolving nature of the event to be reflective of those participating. Co-designing online and seeking to continue to foster the emergent in a virtual event is harder than we imagined but it relies on trust and community. Trust in everyone to host, connect, and create as a movement, rather than an individual. Trust in our Wranglers, our Facilitators in sessions, our Volunteers in #mozhelp, and our production teams. This year, we cannot stand over a balcony and watch the program unfold on the floors below – now so much will be hidden.

In order for MozFest to succeed, we need to trust in each other and bring grace with us in our participation.

The MozFest from London, is our guide but not our present: guiding us to trust in our community, remembering that together we are stronger. If this is not your first MozFest, some parts of the festival you won’t recognise or Spaces you love are not live this year. We ask that you come with that knowledge of how we organised before, and help us continue to evolve in this new and different era of the festival.

For 2021, MozFest hopes to be the community space we need in this moment, a manifestation of the internet we love and how we want it to operate – accessible and healthy. Over 13 spaces, just under 540 sessions, and nearly 650 facilitators across 12 days, it's ambitious. But it's built with hope: hopeful we can meet the needs of the community that is returning, hopeful we can create a space for people to connect and lift them out of their day-to-day, and hopeful for the future of AI, the internet, and us a movement – gathering momentum to create change to the future of our online lives.

And we hope to see you there! We'll be ready.

About the Author

Sarah Allen is the Director of MozFest and loves designing convenings for the global community to connect and collaborate with each other using the principles of open, movement organising, and federated design. These convenings empower the community to raise the most pressing issues they face in their online lives today and build solutions with other participants.

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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