Reflections on Mozfest 2016


It was interesting (and fairly predictable,) to watch, this past weekend, as adults stood back and let the children play in the toy making area of the dilemmas in connected spaces’ garden. We had deliberately chosen not to be a part of the youth zone, the space we were automatically assumed to fit with due to the word play in the session proposal, precisely to reduce the assumptions of the space being dismissed as something just for children. It took a fair bit of persuasion and also invitations from the children themselves for some of the adults to join in and step out of their digital comfort zone and into the realm of real world play. A few turned up to the space with a pre-conceived idea and there was no stopping them creating their paper aeroplane game, which was enjoyed by many a passer by and inspired several catapulting contraptions to be created (with help from dads) during the Sunday! For those non-parent adults who did allow themselves to make something from their imagination, being allowed to just make anything, whilst being intimidating at first, became a moment of liberation from the culture of conformity us adults find ourselves surrounded by.

Play is intrinsically motivated, freely chosen and controlled by its participants; it needs no outcome, it needn’t make sense, it is a way to access a range of emotions, interactions, processes and situations in a world where we may not otherwise experience them. Play is not always fun- it can be heart wrenchingly cruel, terrifying, exhilarating or even plain apathetic. Play allows us to learn of the risks we are willing to take and to push ourselves to our limitations. Does the internet need a space to move away from the drive for others’ approval and more into a space for people to make simply for the process. It probably already exists, I’ve just yet to find a place where I don’t feel as though that space is specifically for children.

Tech for adult beginners who don’t want a job in tech:

Often the learning opportunities for the web such as popcorn maker, pi jams etc are designed for children. They are brilliant and offer the youth of today excellent ways to pick up life skills and gain control of their web presence. As an adult who gives children back at 3:30pm and has no electricity in her classroom (it’s outdoors,) I feel as though participating these kinds of things would be “a bit creepy!” I lack the excuse of being there so my child can learn and it’s not enough to make me want to have a family – I can play with Lego at work!

The evening courses I’ve found in rural Devon tend to be focussed still on using word processors or learning to code in a specific way to increase job opportunities.

I struggle with following more than 3 instructions and tend to go freestyle (as people who have had the misfortune to try my cooking will tell you when I try a new recipe!) It’s the freestyle part of my attempts at learning to code which are probably holding me back, but I have very little interest in creating a copy of a website I don’t even visit the real version of.

I think what I need to be able to learn is a coder dojo which isn’t aimed at under 18's, an adult free play space with actual real (patient) people on hand to help get over the next problem I encounter.

Mozfest is a place where I can find the help I need. It’s full of a wide variety of people. People who want to collaborate and share their skills. People who are happy to take a bit of time out to show others how it’s done, although take care to pick carefully so you don’t upset the hardcore who just want to create something amazing without distraction! Sadly, it only happens once a year so please forgive the speed at which I’m learning!