EMF 2016

2016-Aug-10, Wednesday 10:46 pm
chebe: (Default)
[personal profile] chebe
EMF happened last weekend. I went, with some of the tog people, but not with tog. It was a really good weekend.

It's difficult for me to describe what EMF is. Because it is simply too big now. There was somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people, camped in one large field. With five stages, several workshop tents, villages, bars, food vendors, and a giant beanbag-filled lounge tent. Every person attending will have had different experiences, some even seeming to be from completely different events. It's large. There's a lot on. And it's utterly surreal.

If you've been to any of the maker faires, then EMF can be described (as one of the other attendees said) as a large faire, only instead of explaining your ideas and projects to regular people you're showing them off to other makers and hackers. There's a level of engagement, of enthusiasm, of sheer energy, that is difficult to gather in other places. It's a bit like a temporary Never Never Land, full of grown-up techie toys, organised and run entirely by volunteers. Large inflated bunny filled with neopixel strips that you can change the colour of by tweeting it. Really tall LED tower game. Pong made physical, with giant paddles and fire. A podium that made fire dance to music beats. Bbqs, fire pits, self tending bar robot. Amazing micropython badges. An incredible wifi network with over 64 access points, a beautiful dashboard, and nearly two terabytes of data transmitted. Electricity to your tent. Hot sunny days, clear starry nights.

Reality is proving just how hard an act EMF is to follow.

You can check out photos, and watch the talks. It will give you a flavour, but it isn't the same as being there.

EMF tries really hard to improve diversity. The talk submissions were anonymised, there are outreach programs, although most of the budget this year went on providing free child care and child-friendly activities all weekend. The crowd was diverse. From technically inclined hippies, to socio-political revolutionaries, big thinkers, artists, dreamers, and techies with a sense of adventure. All kinds of hair styles and colours (a greater display than even at Download), piercings, tattoos, outfits, styles, accents. There were beautiful people of many genders, pride flags flying high amongst the villages (and even a pride flag app for the badge), people with visible disabilities (including one sight impaired person teaching other people how to walk around with the cane), and people of colour. Representation more than likely wasn't equal to the general population, but it is one of the most diverse techie gatherings I've ever seen. It's clear they try, and that they will continue to try and be even better next time.

On a more personal note, I brought my newly acquired Repeal jumper. It was actually too hot to wear it, so most of the time it was around my waist (print out). I wore it through Dublin airport, Gatwick airport, and back again. All around the camp, and then worn properly at night (when too dark to get a photo). It was the wrong audience, no-one knew what I wanted to 'repeal'. A few asked, some were horrified, they'd always viewed Ireland as close to paradise. Others I simply told it was a divisive topic, and those that it was for knew what it meant, and hopefully they'd be comforted by it. Which led to discussions about how this is many peoples favourite kind of tshirt/jumper.

NottingHack fire pit
Photo by tdr

It was a replenishing weekend. Fun, energising, and completely exhausting. I want to go back.
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