I spent the past couple of weekends getting my geek on at Electromagnetic Field, a camping festival for hackers and makers, and Nine Worlds, a fan culture convention that covers everything from Joss Whedon to roller derby.
EMF camp has been running every two years since 2012 but I’d never made it along before: it’s usually on the weekend before the Brighton Mini Maker Faire when I’m in full on event production crunch mode, so I was excited to finally be able to go this year. There was a big contingent there from my hackspace, Build Brighton, and I got to catch up with some old friends and meet a few people I’d only previously seen on mailing lists. I’d foolishly volunteered to do a talk on my masters research on the maker community (slides to follow hopefully) so I arrived on the Friday morning and set up camp with the South London Makerspace and Create Space London crews, then got my talk over and done with at 2pm. Although I was terrified it ended up going pretty well and I got some great questions and feedback from the audience.
I spent a lot of the rest of the weekend making the most of being in a field in the sun during the day and dancing to chiptunes and violating rule zero at night, but I also made it along to a few talks. Some of my favourites were Sarah Wiseman pointing out the flaws in computer interfaces in movies, Matt Smith and @__freakyclown__ recounting adventures in lockpicking and corporate infiltration, and Ben Dornan on sound-based illusions. I also spent a lot of time crewing a starship simulator in the Dutch camp, playing Johann Sebastian Joust in the dark, shooting zombies in House of the Dead, drinking cocktails poured by the Nottinghack barbot and getting excited about SHA next year. Some the campsites put some major effort into their entertainment–the whole place was basically like a mini Burning Man in a field in Guildford–and there were new shiny things popping up all over the weekend (literally: a lot of the installations made heavy use of LEDs). After being rained out at Download a couple of months ago I also really appreciated the luxury of having power and internet running directly to our campsite, and made the most of it by making cheese toasties on a George Foreman grill and handing out tea and coffee all weekend.
Nine Worlds was a bit of a change of pace. I was volunteering with the tech team so there were some pretty intense 14-hour work days, but I love working behind the scenes at events and seeing what goes in to putting them together. Thursday was a bit of a crash course in event tech while we built the main stage, hoisted the lighting rig and set up the AV kit in the panel rooms, then we spent most of the con troubleshooting sound issues during panels and talks and setting up for the evening performances. I did catch a few panels on religion in horror films, femslash fan fiction and Eurovision fandom, and got to see Laurie Penny tell stories about technology and meet the awesome Roz Kaveney who edited ‘Reading the Vampire Slayer’, possibly my favourite collection of academic writings about Buffy (yes there are multiple collections of academic papers about Buffy and I own several of them).
But mostly I learnt loads about tech which is always fun. At the moment it’s looking like Nine Worlds 2017 is clashing with SHA in the Netherlands, which sucks as the hacker camp and geek con ended up working pretty well as complementary events, but I’ll definitely be going to one of them next year. And after manning the lighting desk during Saturday night’s Joss Whedon Singalong I’ve got a whole new interest in event lighting (now I just need to get some experience in stage lasers to round it out) 🙂