A couple of weeks ago, I had the incredible experience of attending the Mozilla Festival (10-13 June) in Amsterdam, and I’m still buzzing with inspiration.The event featured a lot of interesting sessions about AI and encouraged us to radically reimagine digital infrastructures.

Here’s the TLDR: We need to rethink how technology intersects with social justice, and MozFest was the perfect place to start that conversation.

Ecology & AI

One of the standout discussions was on the extractive practices of big tech, which are eerily similar to those of fossil fuel mining companies. The message was clear: we need to decouple capitalism and colonialism from our tech infrastructure. Just like the environment, our digital ecosystems need to be regenerative, not exploitative.

AI Policy & Activism

We delved into AI policy discussions, particularly focusing on upcoming legislation in the EU regarding public databases for AI platforms. This initiative aims to enhance transparency, allowing individuals to scrutinise AI use and challenge automated decisions. It’s a significant step towards empowering people with knowledge and oversight. Moreover, distinguishing between fully autonomous AI and human-assisted AI is crucial for effective regulation and understanding their societal impacts.

Data Journalism & Discovery

Mona Chalabi’s session on data visualisation and journalism was eye-opening. Her advice? Start with the assumption that you are wrong. Ego can be terrifying when handling data. She emphasised giving agency to data subjects to co-create data collection methods, which is a refreshing take on making data journalism more inclusive and accurate.

At Outlandish, we often conduct user research and discovery sessions to gather insights for designing digital solutions. What if we followed Chalabi’s lead and actively involved stakeholders in designing these data collection methods? By entrusting them with this role, we can ensure our approach is collaborative and better aligned with their needs and perspectives. This inclusive process not only enhances the relevance and quality of the insights gathered but also democratises our research efforts, leading to solutions that truly benefit our community and society at large.

Intersectional Feminism & AI

Using intersectional feminism as a lens to analyse and co-create AI was another powerful idea. It’s about ensuring that AI development considers all aspects of identity and systemic inequalities, making technology work for everyone, not just a privileged few. Here’s how it plays out:

  • Understanding diverse experiences: Intersectional feminism looks at how different identities (like race, gender, class) shape people’s experiences with technology.
  • Inclusive data collection: It’s about gathering data that reflects the full range of human experiences and identities. 
  • Bias detection and mitigation: With a predominant demographic of white cisgender men among AI developers, it’s crucial to actively identify and correct biases that may unconsciously influence coding decisions. 
  • Engaging communities: This way, technology reflects real needs and values.
  • Policy and ethics: Intersectional feminism pushes us to fight for policies that are fair and hold people accountable. This is super important to make sure AI benefits everyone, especially those who are often left out.

Data Centers as Critical Infrastructure

Data centres were also a hot topic. Often “sold” to local populations as job creators, the reality is these jobs usually materialise only during the construction phase and are often filled by migrant workers. The decision-making around data centres is highly undemocratic, affecting local communities without giving them a voice.

MozFest left me with a lot to think about. It’s clear we need to take a more critical and inclusive approach to technology if we want to create a fairer digital future. Let’s start reimagining our digital infrastructures to be more just, equitable, and regenerative.