Mozilla Festival 2017 at Ravensbourne
This weekend I went to MozFest, Mozilla’s festival for advocates of a healthy, open internet. Held at Ravensbourne, in North Greenwich, the event explored the intersection of the web with civil society, journalism, public policy and art through interactive sessions.
This was the eigth MozFest; yet, it was also my first. I soon discovered that the festival, held across nine floors, consisted of talks, discussions and exhibitions about the health of the internet today.
Chupadados – The hidden faces of our beloved technologies
The first talk I went to was all about how our personal data is used. The talk was by Joana Varon from Coding Rights, who had personified the collection of data as a monster called Chupadados – Portuguese for “The Datasucker”.
According to Joana, the Datasucker makes us believe that the more data we give, the better our city, transportation, home and security will become. However, Joana explains through stories how this isn’t necessarily the case.
During the session, Joana talked through various examples of where data is captured. “The Mother and the Click”, for instance, is one story where she convinced a friend of hers to lower her privacy restrictions while she was pregnant to see how “Trackers” created a “Digital Fingerprint” based on the content that she visited, the devices she used and more. She found that, once the “Trackers” realized that she was both a woman and pregnant, they did not care about anything else. All marketing was focused on her pregnancy. Then, once she gave birth, all of the advertising directed at her was about weight loss and how to look beautiful after pregnancy.
Similar stories were described about dating apps and information about women’s menstrual cycles. The dating app example was particularly scary, as she told the story of someone rejecting a boy on Tinder. However, as both the girl and boy logged into Tinder on Facebook, Facebook suggested that they become friends on the network which led to the boy “Facebook Stalking” the girl. Joana didn’t just give bad examples though as on the Chupadados site, they also suggest some ways to protect yourself and to be aware of how your data is used.
Data Privacy, Security and Art
I spent the middle part of the day talking to artists about their work and how they are responding to the issues surrounding data privacy and security. A couple of interesting works that stood out to me were the Tactical Technology Collective’s Data Detox kit, which helps you review your online data usage and Paolo Cirio’s set of ethical questions that members of the public could vote on, such as: “Should the coders of algorithms with racial biases be legally accountable?” and “Should the documents leaked by Snowden be made available to everyone – not only journalists”.
I then went on to speak to a couple of great artists, who I will feature in a future TECHnique podcast. First was Documentarian and Commissioning Editor for Mozilla, Brett Gaylor and second was Media Artist and the producer of DataSelfie.it, Hang Do Thi Duc.
Digital Humanities and the British Museum
The final talk I went to see for the day was by various members of the digital team at the British Museum. They spoke in particular about the challenges the museum faces with copyright, especially with visitors taking photographs of museum objects every day.
The main example they used was to talk about creating 3D images of archaeological objects. Daniel Pett, Senior Digital Humanities Manager at the British Museum, explained how to create 3D images by taking multiple pictures of an object from different angles. The British Museum have actually created a number of these themselves and published them on GitHub and Sketchfab. He went on to explain that, “If you go to a museum and create a 3D model, then the museum has no control over it. If we create the 3D model, then at least we have some control over it.”
Yet, like many arts organisations, museums have challenges when engaging with technologies, as many organisations say “we can’t cope” or “we don’t understand it” when talking about technology. They explained how the relationship between arts organisations and technology is a continual challenge, which became apparent just last month when one curator at the museum Tweeted “We aim to be understandable by 16 year olds. Sometimes Asian names can be confusing, so we have to be careful about using too many” and received a number of complaints. Yet, change seems to be taking place as Loic Tallon, Chief Digital Officer at The Met, showed in his recent article that explained how “Digital is More than a department, it is a collective responsibility”.
The team at the British Museum argued that we should be creating experiences where people feel welcomed, excited and want to come back. They gave a few examples of where this has taken place, such as a Virtual Reality exhibition on Facebook and their African Rock Art digital journey.
Overall, I found the Mozilla Festival a very engaging and friendly event with a huge amount going on. Plus, it was open in every sense of the word.