Mozilla Festival 2012 volunteering recollections!

By Dimitris Stamatis

Friends in distant places armed with broadband communication abilities are an extension of your perceptual network. Their curated bits of information are invaluable and the fact that you need a reminder from a thousand miles away for something that is happening under your nose is amusing.
In one of these, nearly missed under the nose, experiences from Tirana to London I am informed about the latest Mozilla festival. An expression of interest, a brief briefing and a few weeks later an abrupt landing in the middle of a digital cornucopia in North Greenwich.

Faced with 9 floors, packed to the brim with events, exciting projects and enthusiastic people, you could easily feel disoriented and bemused just from the sheer amount of choices. The easiest of which was to follow the trail of candies, scattered on every table. Participants were grouped in thematic units, the most prominent of which revolved around open journalism, coding initiatives for children, physical transformations of the web and the powerful influence of gaming.

Jumping around floors, in-between volunteering tasks, you could get glimpses of the festival. Workshops in full swing, pieces of presentations, prototypes and impromptu collaborations. A group of fixated teenagers playing Minecraft (one of them covered in post-it notes with custom messages from visitors), an RC Zeppelin in floor 4, right next to the Arduino cocktail maker kiosk by the Mozilla Japan team (probably the most popular of the night). A deconstruction of selected platform games by distilling their most unique characteristics into a list of verbs.

Pausing to help with the decoration of arcade machines, created in the hackable games workshop. Bananas turned into input devices and musical instruments with the help of MakeyMakey kits. Wired and wonderful representatives from the infamous MIT’s Media Lab, creating gestural music with a pair of embedded electronic gloves.

Learning the process behind interactive visualizations directly from the newsrooms through the initiative of the Source project. Strapping a haptic feedback layer on top of a TV program, compliments of the BBC R&D team. An optimistic encounter with a Greek team of software engineers and their enhanced online Arduino programming platform. Harnessing public opinions for the creation of better hackerspaces and watching code jumping out of screens with the use of physical prototypes.

A frantic day is topped by an after-party at the Film museum, easily accessible by boat via the river Thames. An illuminated city contrasting the dark waters. There I spot the subtle punch line, napkins decorated with the Internet Explorer logo.

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