Thursday, November 17, 2011

Media, Freedom, and the Web: Civic Media at the Mozilla Festival

The Mozilla Festival on Media, Freedom, and the Web (Nov 4-6, hashtag #mozfest) was three days in London of "less yack, more hack" focused on journalism and media technologies. The attendees brought together a great convergence of organizations that care about journalism, media, social good, education, open platforms, and web technologies. The weekend held a rich schedule of design challenges, learning labs, and fireside chats, offering everyone opportunities to meet, plan, make, and reflect on media and the web.

The overall conference theme centered on protecting and nourishing a read/write web. During the final event, speakers emphasized the importance of supporting technology and cultures that people around the world can use to make content, tools, and games, rather than simply consume them. There was a general sense that beautiful but confined “walled gardens” and closed technologies diminish the open web–and, by extension, innovation. To preserve the open spirit and capabilities that flourish on the Internet, we must protect the ability to do things like view source code, remix content, and more generally learn how to make.

During the festival, the Mozilla and Knight Foundations announced the 2011/12 Knight Mozilla News Technology Fellows, including the Media Lab's very own Dan Schultz. The Knight Mozilla fellowships form an exciting open innovation initiative: fellows will be embedded software developers at Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Boston Globe, the Guardian, and Zeit Online. As they make technologies for their own news outlets, the fellows will also collaborate with each other to develop open-source technologies to advance the future of news.

Matt Stempeck and I went to the festival to collect ideas for an exciting new project at the Center for Civic Media: technology to track your media diet. Led by our director Ethan Zuckerman, this project will track the content that media organizations and bloggers publish over time, as well as allow consumers to set goals for their own media consumption (Ethan spoke about this at the Lab's fall 2011 meeting). At the Mozilla Festival, we asked journalists, film-makers, and developers to draw their media diet, and held a design discussion about nutritional labels for the news. I love the smiley face on Mozilla Foundation executive director Mark Surman's media diet. Mark also taught me a new word to use when praising others: lovebombs.

Lovebombs (noun, plural)

Example: "Major lovebombs to Michelle Thorne, Mozilla and Knight for a great conference!"

Matt Stempeck and some new friends

Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman's media diet

My favorite part of the Festival was the Hive London Popup for Teens, a series of sessions bringing together youth education organizations from across America and Europe. Instead of just talking with each other, we learned from each other by teaching young people in the same open space. I brought along Aago, a Center for Civic Media project for youth media production. I also had a lovely time introducing young people to Scratch. Before joining the Media Lab this year, I helped found a creative writing center in London, so it was fun to work with London teenagers once more!

Overall I had a wonderful time at the Mozilla Festival. We met some great civic organizations, hacking and yacking with a fascinating range of people. The Knight Foundation funds the Center for Civic Media, and I really enjoyed meeting people within the Knight-Mozilla circle.

The UK was my home for 5 years until I left London in July to join the Media Lab. I admit I felt wistful as I walked the streets I love so well. But surrounded by my new Media Lab colleagues, in the company of the exciting innovators at the Mozilla Festival, I am excited and inspired about what we can do together for media, freedom, and the web.

Here’s more:

Civic Media
"Civic Media Goes to London, Part One"
"Putting Voldemort into the Guardian: Remixing the News with Hackasaurus"
"Designing a Nutritional Label for the News at the Mozilla Festival"
"Discussion with Bilal Randeree on Liveblogging at Al Jazeera"

Nieman Lab
"Ethan Zuckerman Wants You To Eat Your News Vegetables"
"How Social Guilt can Change Our Media Habits or Just Make Us Lie About Them"
"Lessons from the Mozilla Festival: How the Knight and Mozilla Foundations are Thinking about Open Source"

Mozilla Knight News Tech Fellow Laurian Gridinoc: "Visualising my News Diet"

Knight Foundation
Knight News Challenge 2012 Preview
Highlights from the Mozilla Festival

Nathan Matias: "Technology Tent, Occupy London"

Open Knowledge Foundation: "Hacks and Hackers Gather to Write the First Data Journalism Handbook"

J. Nathan Matias is a first-year graduate student researching media consumption, creative learning, and community co-design at the Center for Civic Media.

Matt Stempeck is a first-year graduate student researching political identity and how people change their minds, at the Center for Civic Media.

Dan Schultz is a second-year graduate student in the Information Ecology group and the Center for Civic Media, researching tools to help people consume information more carefully.

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