Stephanie Gerson is a left-handed Mexican-Jewish Libra, born in the year of the monkey and raised in the gorgeous San Francisco bay area. She has somewhat of an obsession with blindness: showering in the dark, playing drum kit blindfolded, and eating dans le noir. In August of 08, while at Burning Man, Stephanie fell in Love with someone from Providence. So in January of 09, she moved from SF, where she'd been working for illustrious technology theorist Howard Rheingold and doing social media strategy for an online marketing firm, to PVD, where she's doing product marketing and experience design for Thames & Kosmos, an interactive educational toy company. Oh and getting Pecha Kucha going, among other things. Stephanie aspires to be a new media experience designer, and to be able to explain what that means without words. If you're still curious, feel free to check her blog or not-really-a-website.
The past decade has seen the emergence of a species that’s not purely an event for professional networking and not purely a social function, but hangs out at their intersection. Perhaps because I do my professional networking in the info-tech community, or because I’m from the San Francisco bay area, or because tech people simply like having a good time (entirely plausible), I’ve observed its emergence most forcefully in the info-tech and internet fields. For example, SF Beta, San Francisco’s self-proclaimed “king of Web 2.0 mixers,” takes place not around a water cooler or in a conference room, but at bars and nightclubs:
“SF Beta is San Francisco’s largest monthly startup mixer…Some people come to our event to be social, some come to make business connections, and many come to do both.”
Then there are the events of countless tech-oriented groups and organizations, like SF New Tech, Girls in Tech, and Women 2.0; the soirees of the big dogs, like Mashable’s SummerMash tour; and even Techkaraoke, the happy intersection of tech networking and (yes) karaoke. And as the recent Phoenix article about the evolution of the tech community in RI celebrates, Providence has also witnessed the emergence of this species. There’s the Providence Entrepreneur Meetup, where entrepreneurs “mingle and socialize”; RI Nexus Open Coffee, a twice-monthly gathering of tech entrepreneurs to “talk shop, swap resources and connections, and get caffeinated”; the Providence PHP Meetup, social gatherings for PHP developers; and of course, the famed Providence Geek Dinners, monthly dinners allowing Providence’s digital innovators to connect, collaborate, and cultivate their leadership; among other social-techie/work-play events that you’ll find on the RI Nexus calendar.
So it makes sense that yet another creature of this kind is landing on the calendar: Pecha Kucha. (Wha?) Pecha Kucha is a monthly gathering for professional networking and sharing ideas that is meanwhile social, and oftentimes involves a few drinks. The format is 20 PowerPoint slides for 20 seconds each, producing 6 minutes and 40 seconds of what I cheekily refer to as PowerPoint performance art. It started in Tokyo in 2003, has since spread to 166 cities worldwide, and I'm bringing it to Providence for the first time next Wednesday, March 11th. (Find more details about the event here, and about the global phenomenon here.) Actually, a few Providence geeks (if I can take liberty to call myself that) independently yet simultaneously decided that it was time for Pecha Kucha in Providence - an indication that Providence is ripe for it.
Pecha Kucha originated with an orientation towards visual designers and architects, but its evolution has involved a branching out into other domains of creative activity. In cities with a longer tradition of Pecha Kucha, there’s a broader diversity of presenters – activists, animators, arbiters, chefs, coolhunters, critics, curators, digital natives, dreamers, entrepreneurs, fabricators, fashionistas, historians, hackers, makers, rabblerousers, scientists, techies… – but the experience remains primarily visual. And since we have such a budding info-tech and digital media community here in Providence, which is the professional community I'm most at home in, I’m calling out to all y’all to make Pecha Kucha yours, give it some of that 'umph' the Phoenix article was so excited about, and embrace it as yet another in that lineage of social-techie/work-play events.
Furthermore, as a prime opportunity to flaunt your latest project, pitch your latest idea (and lemme tell you from experience: squeezing your awesome project/idea into 6m40s is a formidable challenge and valuable skill), exchange business cards, and network, Pecha Kucha fits rather beautifully with the mission of RI Nexus’ to help the info-tech and digital media sector connect, communicate, and collaborate, and to nurture entrepreneurship and innovation.
With that, I heartily encourage the RI Nexus community not only to attend Pecha Kucha events, but to present at them! Next Wednesday feels frighteningly soon, but you still have a weekend between now and then (potentially snowed in), and I’d be glad to give you a pep talk if necessary (firstname.lastname@example.org). But either way, please join our Facebook group and join me in welcoming another opportunity for cross-pollination to Providence, as Jack Templin twittered and asked to RT, “in the worldwide phenom that is Pecha Kucha.”