Friday, November 16, 2012

Making Connections @ MozFest 2012

Is it even possible to describe the beautiful maelstrom of joy and creativity we experienced at the Mozilla Festival last weekend?  Three days of learning, design, and making across nine floors at Ravensbourne University left me feeling like I had fallen into a ball pit overflowing with magic beans from Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. Creative ideas were growing fast in all directions.

At the same time, the festival offered fascinating insights into how Mozilla facilitates their amazing community energy around transformational change towards an open Internet of makers.

Our Part in the Mozilla Festival

At the festival, the Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten group offered a variety of sessions on creative learning:

The Mozilla Festival also brings together a community of bloggers, journalists, and documentary film-makers to share idea and collaborate.

During the festival, I enjoyed liveblogging with the Mozilla team, finding out what young people made during the festival, and documenting Joi's keynote on Sunday. The high point for me was an amazing team effort with Matt, Rebecca, Paul and others to photograph and document every project during the festival's closing Demo Party. Inspiring!

I want to especially thank Gunner and Michelle Thorne for running a truly wonderful event, and for offering ongoing, supportive advice on how to facilitate great sessions.

Organizations as Networks
Mozilla is one of the organizations I point to when I talk about what it means to be a network and a platform rather than just an institution. To illustrate what I mean, consider the story of PopcornMaker, a video editor for the open web.

During the Sunday morning plenary, Brett Gaylor told the story of Popcorn.js, which started as a college student project. It has now been used in high-profile productions such as NFB’s One Millionth Tower, PBS and NPR’s 2012 election coverage, and more. In 2011, the creators of Popcorn.js brought it to the very first Mozilla Festival. A year later, they came to London to premiere One Millionth Tower. Now in 2012, PopcornMaker opens up open video creation to anyone on the web. Here's their story:

This year, I'm taking away three big lessons from Mozilla and PopcornMaker:

  • Networked organizations facilitate moments for innovation to arrive from the edges to meet the inspiration and connections to succeed. At #MozFest 2011, the popcorn.js developers found film-making partners to develop projects like One Millionth Tower.
  • Networked organizations offer innovators the structure they need to build and ship good products. In addition to connections, Mozilla supported Popcorn through bug tracking, a release schedule, and publicity to turn a great idea into a solid technology.
  • Platforms turn great hacks into visionary, transformational paradigms. Popcorn.js was a library for software developers. By creating PopcornMaker, Mozilla is extending its vision for an open, writeable web to video online for anyone.
As a grad student at the Media Lab, where Joi is re-imagining the Lab as a network, I'm excited to share inspiration and collaboration with such an amazing community. In all the creative unpredictability of the #MozFest's bag of magic beans, I think we're going to see some very tall trees grow.

Further Links:

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

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