All / Technology & Society

String, post-its and dancing bots: Mozilla Festival 2016

Yet another Mozilla Festival has come to an end.  This year I presented for the first time, delivering a session on network evaluation methodology.  The lead analyst for Mozilla’s Leadership Network, Arliss Collins, co-presented with me on Mozilla’s approach to network evaluation.  Before the session we both agreed that as it was a methodology session we weren’t expecting many people.  Maybe 15, maximum, if that.  Imagine my surprise half an hour later when I found myself standing on a chair to address twice that many!  I think it helped that my practical demo of what a network is involved sticky notes and string.  A truly hands-on activity will certainly capture the attention of anyone who is wandering around idly looking for a session.  For more about network evaluation, check out these publications by Network Impact.

While there were many excellent sessions at the festival (apparently twice as many sessions as last year for several of the festival tracks, in fact!), one of my favourites was Matteo Menapace’s “Making Bots that Make Art.” I’ve actually been trying to get a belly dance related bot project off the ground since last Mozilla Festival, where I ambitiously thought I could repurpose Michael Donohoe’s simple newsbot to gather and tweet new well-sourced dance information from specific academic sources and relevant news articles but I rather bit off more than I could chew with that one.  Matteo’s session is based on a simple bot creator called “Cheap Bots, Done Quick” and you can easily get started with your very own pet bot by following along Matteo’s session instructions here.

After a bit of floundering around trying to figure out how make another fact-related bot, I took a deeper look at Harry Giles’s elegant autoflâneur bot and realised I could make an instructor-bot for dancers using the same basic structure.  More on autoflâneur here.  My plan now is to ask dancers for the variables that should populate belly dance bot so its choreographic (and occasionally philosophical) instructions improve and reflect a true dance-based lexicon that seems natural to belly dancers.  You can see the current version of the source code which powers bellydancebot here. Please get in touch with suggestions for more choreography, descriptors, or thematic elements of dance!  Until then, please enjoy this instruction from the belly dance bot: