FEST 2024 Programming
FWB Staff

Tue Apr 02 2024

FEST is distinguished by the brilliance of our speakers, collaborators, and the breadth of ideas they bring to campus. We sat down with FEST co-founder & Programming Director KD to chat about this year’s line-up.

Our programming at FWB FEST is distinguished by the brilliance of our speakers, collaborators, and the breadth of ideas they bring to campus. Unlike the many other conference stages throughout the year, we shy away from overcrowded panels that are optimized for quick takes. Instead, FEST mainstage is where you come to download fresh meta-narratives from the globally distributed cognition we call the internet.

Programming is curated by our beloved Programming Director, FEST co-founder, former membership lead, Kaitlyn Davies aka KD. Here’s what she had to say on this year’s speaker line-up.

The FEST24 manifesto identified validation as the overarching programmatic theme for 2024. How do you see this showing up in the speaker roster?

FWB and our members have always been early, and that means that we see it all— the good, the bad, and the things people don’t (and will never) need. Rather than asking ourselves how we “onboard the first million” or dwell on the “infrastructure” layer, I see the act of validating the resonant ideas and moving on from the rest as an important next step towards the better Internet the extended FWB community hopes for.

When programming FEST this year, it felt important to address the landmark Ws and Ls emerging technology has taken over the last three years, while still looking ahead at what’s next. Our initial speaker roster does just that— they too have always been early, and are interested in collectively investigating ideas that ring true.

Give us a high level of themes speakers will be covering. Are there throughlines in what people are itching to explore in 2024?

It’s hard to say what exactly people will dig into at this stage, because of the rapid fire pace of change that exists in the discourse and development of culture and technology. Perhaps some speakers will explore that pace, some may investigate secret third ways of being, others could be looking at stewardship and adoption as modes of propelling innovation. You’ll have to come to FEST to see :)

What is your approach to speaker & programming curation?

I alluded to in my previous answer, but we don’t work with premeditated programming tracks or prescriptive lecture topics. We approach thinkers, makers, and technologists we see working through their ideas in interesting ways. The best lecture topics are the ones that are top of mind for our speakers, and inevitably there ends up being some crossover, which reverse engineers a few overarching themes.

We’ve also adopted a framework we lovingly call ‘one-way, two-way’, which is our way of asking speakers to think of participatory compliments to their mainstage lectures. This framework has seen zine-making workshops, DJ sets, and guided meditations come to life, and allows for ‘two-way’ communication and connection between audiences and speakers.

Taking one step back, what different approaches do you have to programming FEST vs other conferences that are out there?

The FEST mainstage is reserved for boundary-pushing lectures and talks. Our speakers debut original keynotes that explore concepts and ideas on the relationship between culture and emerging technology. We like to avoid hard product shills and demos as there are plenty of better suited stages for this kind of programming throughout the year.

What are some speaker highlights from 2022 and 2023?

Hard to pick favourites so I wont, but!

Toby Shorin’s ‘Life After Lifestyle’ and fruit meditation, and Kei Krutler’s ‘Mediums of Memory’ and star-gazing session from 2022 are 2 excellent examples of our ‘one-way, two-way’ framework in action.

I still think about the gorgeous slide deck from Charles Broskoski’s ‘Here for the Wrong Reasons’ presentation, and Mindy Seu’s Cyberfeminism Index reading in 2023.

I loved to see a packed house for Taylor Lorenz’ ‘Extremely Online’ lecture last year after she attended as a festival-goer in 2022.

Let’s talk community submissions. Give us the high level of this program and why it’s important for FEST.

FWB FEST has had the unique pleasure of building our programme and reputation alongside a community. Most festivals have to imagine their community, wrangle their friends, and hope for the best in their first year. With FEST, the community predated the festival, and as such we had the responsibility of not only curating a lineup the community would be into, but curating the lineup with and made up of community members.

Since year one, we’ve opened up submissions to FWB members, giving the community the opportunity to put themselves forward for DJ sets, live performances, keynote lectures, pasta workshops, breathwork sessions… no idea is too esoteric, and I love watching the submissions roll in. I hope to bring more member submissions to life this year— third time’s a charm for making the tattoo station happen! Blood oath time.

About KD:

The word is you’re opening a bookstore? In Lisbon??

Yes! Well Read is a critically curious art & design bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal. I hope you’ll stop by when you’re next in town for a wine or coffee while you browse, our doors open April 2024.

What are you reading right now?

Modern Nature by Derek Jarman. I have been saving this read for years, felt like this spring season was finally the time.

What are your top 5 reads of the last year?

  • The Years by Annie Ernaux
  • Status and Culture by W. David Marx
  • White Girls by Hilton Als
  • I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
  • Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters

What are you listening to?

NTS, the Charlie Bones breakfast show, Erika de Casier, JFDR.

Snacks. Tell us about your favorite snack.

Portugal does amazing pastries. I’ve developed a small addiction to pastel de bacalhau since moving here.

Last question: What are you obsessing over/can’t stop thinking about lately?

Lynn Nottage’s American Spectacle course at Yale— American Spectacle has always begun with a field trip to the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, which is probably one of the longest-running sideshows in America right now. We also go to vogue balls, courtroom trials, and megachurches. The event that the students especially love, which I never would have anticipated, is wrestling. The athletes are master storytellers, and in some cases brilliant actors. What I’ve witnessed is that, by the end of the course, all the students, even if they began as very naturalistic, structurally conservative writers, are making work that is more playful, inventive, and open.

We’re thrilled to welcome our ongoing programming and festival partners in our quest for validation. If this excites you, give us a shout at partnerships@fwb.help to join the momentum of FEST24.

Music & sounds announcement drops in May. Buy tickets today at an early bird rate of $279 (!!!) that’s 30%-off the full FEST price.