Research & Development

Posted by Jasmine Cox, Ian Forrester on

Mozilla Festival or Mozfest, is a unique festival experience. There are few places where you can feed so directly into the festival line up and have the unrelenting belief that everything will work within the whirlwind of people, activities and strewn paper.

Fresh from last year’s superb successes including creating a pop-up Ethical Dilemma Cafè, and our collaborative work with IRFS getting nominated and shortlisted for a design award; Ian and Jasmine joined Jon Rogers from Dundee University to curate a space at the festival again this Autumn. We called this space The Global Village, giving a combined home to the festivals two major themes: technology and community.

The building blocks we used to create our Global Village were square cardboard boxes, cheap and recyclable material that gave us a delightfully prototype/ scrapbook-y visual style. Jasmine worked alongside a fantastic set designer to prototype a vision of the future across an entire floor within Ravensbourne College; the setting for the festival.

Within our Global Village, we hosted 4 areas - a library, garage, kitchen and a garden which included a gathering space called a Banyan Tree.

Strips of beautiful indian fabric created the shape of the Banyan Tree in the Garden

These were host to more than 32 workshops, talks, and impromptu sessions over the weekend. Each area was co-curated with some excellent industry and academic partners; designswarm, Dundee University, MET Office, and Unbox Festival.

The Library entrance complete with 360 GoPro rig

R&D played host to the Library, with a focus on making it a connected, warm and comfortable place. Our ambition was to connect and aggregate the festival's many different activities together into physical books. Those physical books were printed, bound, and put on the shelves for other festival-goers to read and share. It was a physical manifestation of the visualisations you tend to see at conferences involving tweets, blog posts, Flickr albums etc.

 One of our aggregated books, with recent weather information, blog posts, & pictures

As part of our Library theme we asked other organisers and spacewranglers to suggest reccomended reading for the festival - these were books and magazines that have inspired them, or changed their outlook personally or professionally. The book list was vast and varied so we asked Ravensbourne to order and borrow as many as possible, which were then added to their existing college library after the festival. Akin to handwritten recommendations in bookshops, we issued each book with a printed library card containing the name and a quote from the book's advocate. This added contextual information to the physical objects, and you can see the whole fascinating book list here.

 A selection of highly praised books

R&D UX have been kicking-off a piece of work thinking about the future of media experiences in the home (HomeLab). Questions we have been asking are:

  • How might media, and the ways in which we engage with it, change in the future?
  • What experiences, objects, & services need to exist to support living well in the home of the future?

Over the festival weekend the Library inside our Global Village hosted a number of exhibits exploring homes and connected objects of the future. Jasmine & Ian were joined by Libby, Maxine, Rhia and a group of media psychology students from Salford University to analyse these ideas with help from people attending the festival. We made 'cardboard sketches' examining ambient media, playful automation, live connections to nature and novel interfaces. The pieces presented were flotsam of the imagination, and it is now our task to turn these mis-shapen flights of fancy into resolved demonstrations of the futures we want to experience. The kinds of places we want out children to grow up in.

Augmented Telescope for viewing the familiar/ not so familiar - made by Libby

Alongside the provocations we created and exhibited over the weekend, our neighbour was the Kitchen. The space curated by designswarm explored the future of the heart of the home through lenses such as gender roles, food production, and consumption.

Alex Deschamps-Sonsino hosts a lunchtime debate over zero carbon lunch in the Kitchen

In the Garage, we got our hands dirty and made sure that the passionate project space for half-baked messy work lived up to it's name! With Dundee University we orchestrated a makerspace take-over, complete with prototyping action using 3D printers, Raspberry Pis, and the BBC Micro:bit. A very popular area was the corner occupied by a Micro:bit-enabled foosball table by Spencer Marsden.

Micro:bit foosball

The festival overall was bigger, better and thankfully a little bit calmer than last year, you can view some of the official photographs here: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

BBC Research & Development love MozFest and have committed to the 2016 festival. Our focus will continue to centre on media experiences in the home and 'The ubiquity of content'. We'd welcome collaborative partners/ interested parties to work with us building our Global Village vision for next year.