Open Knowledge Festival 2014 Day 0 - The Tip of the Iceberg

Written on July 15, 2014

When I registered for Open Knowledge Festival, I had a broad idea of what the main themes will be and what types of people it might attract, but it wasn’t until I showed up at Kulturbrauerei this afternoon that I realized just how important this event is, at such a pivotal time in our data and knowledge history. And then I got *really* excited about being here.

The opening announcements included personal introductions from the main sponsors of the event, which included familiar names such as Google and the Partnership for Open Data, whose activities in the open data and open knowledge fields are well-known and welcome. The School of Data introduced their latest graduates of their training program, who will be carrying the work of the foundation in countries such as Peru and the Philippines.

I was happy to see also some interesting new players like Artists Without a Cause (AWAC), who have made it their mission to connect artists with organizations and thereby deliver the organization’s message through different visual and performance arts. As a geek-by-day-artist-by-night, I think it’s a wonderful collaborative project, and as an organizer I will definitely keep them on my books for future events!

The Kulturbrauerei spaces housed different booths and tables, including an animated GIF jam session (create your own animated GIFs on the fly!), but having derped and forgotten to bring my laptop, I was reduced to watching from the sidelines. In hindsight, it was probably for the best as I was in a very silly mood, which usually leads to some of my friends being at the butt-end of some very silly jokes. About them.

I did, however, get a chance to participate in an unusual session titled Politaoke (short for Political Karaoke), originated and run by Diana Arce from AWAC, and it was exactly what it sounded like: We got to pick from an interesting collection of political speeches and deliver the speech live with the words up on the screen. You know, like karaoke.

What I loved personally about this project is that it had speeches in different languages, and having toured with this project in Jerusalem in the past, Diana included a few options in Hebrew. As a native Hebrew speaker, I simply couldn’t resist, and I was very curious to see how the audience would respond to a speech in a language they didn’t know.

I ended up delivering a speech that actually wasn’t made by a politician, but by a young and fierce woman named Dafni Leef, who led the then-dubbed “social revolution” in Israel. Well, the other two options I had were both speeches by politicians that I’m not a huge fan of and therefore wouldn’t want to repeat their words. It’s very difficult to create good satire in Hebrew nowadays because reality.

I won’t go into the background details of this speech, your Google is as good as mine and that’s not the subject at hand, but I will say that despite the naturally-satirical nature of the Politaoke project, delivering this particular speech at this particular space and time turned out to be quite an emotional, almost cathartic experience for me, since it touched upon many of the reasons I no longer live where my Hebrew is of any use.

But I digress. After watching an Asian girl deliver a Barack Obama speech (talk about lyrical dissonance!) and two people, not one, deliver an Al Gore speech, I’ve had my fill of politics for the year and moved on to wander about some more.

Having had a very long day yesterday roaming around Kreuzberg in search for evening venues for the WTD EU Unconference this weekend (another small shameless plug never hurt no one!), I headed out to dinner (at a badass Greek place that totally deserves linking here) and a chance to catch up with my fellow documentarian David Hooker (one of our speakers at WTD this weekend).

And now, sleep. First keynote starts at 9:20. That’s AM, people.

Bis morgen, internets!