We attended Mozfest this weekend – and as we still do not even have anything web-related to show (hopefully next year) – we were there to gain inspiration and really push our thinking forward.
The Mozilla Festival is a radically “open” geek paradise, where hundreds of people from around the world came to co-create and share ideas and tools, including online media, gaming, educational tools.
We left really challenged to build a truly open community (which we will get to in our second post), but we also left with some lingering disquiet with blindspots in the “politics” of the community.
This post is intended to be a contribution to the “writeable” society and intended to start a conversation, so please read on and let us know what you think.
Joi Ito’s speech to the plenary was a provocation – reminding people that there are massive forces and powers opposed to openness and making. You can watch it here (skip to 25:40).
We know that Mozilla’s interest and core business is building software for what it calls the “open web” – this is an eternal, powerful rallying cry.
But what about a sustainable web? (We use the word, already abused in corporate circles, for lack of a better term). No question that in policy terms, Mozilla stands for net freedom and defending the infrastructure(s) that will sustain the open web.
But there is another sustainability, which has to do with the physical resources we use and related human impacts. And Joi was very adamant that Mozfest represents a political, fight-pumping pushback against the throw-away society – he said “this is a conspiracy of amazing people who are trying to overthrow the traditional society of consumerism.”
We were just about to raise our fists in the air too, but… Did we miss the punchline?
Yes, DIY culture and making have revolutionary potential, but to make and to write we rely on hardware and energy, we rely on finite resources.
Software is one of the more invisible elements in the accelerating “throw-away” cycle of production, consumption and discarding of electronics. Issues like CPU resource use, compatibility, support for older versions – these all have real human and environmental impacts.
In circulating during the three days, we did not stumble upon conversations about this kind of sustainability.
Obviously at an event where rapid innovation (“fuck it, ship it”) is the central driving force, these questions could be deemed a buzzkill – but surely an eye for sustainability tradeoffs could become one of the many “ninjaskills” of the future?
And there are so many inspiring education initiatives that focus on teaching coding skills – Coder Dojo, Code Club, and Apps for Good to name a few. Our question is: how can we avoid training a voracious corps of writers, makers and coders whose “no limits” attitude also unquestioningly applies to finite natural resources?
Perhaps it is still possible to inject what Brazilian technologist André Lemos called in 2001 “development of a critical thought and disquiet in relation to that which they sell us as the newest, best thing, that will just rot in front of us…”