Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pecha Kucha Chicago, March 2013

Some thoughts about Pecha Kucha (not pronounced as you'd's p'chAH k'CHAH), a quarterly creative idea-sharing night here in Chicago and in cities around the world. I'm writing about it here because it is a forum for sharing information in a story-like form in a social setting--something to think about for when I finally manage to pull together H.E.A.R. Chicago, my edu-ideas forum.

Pecha Kucha takes place at Martyr's, one of my favorite bars and entertainment venues. The dynamic transparency of the digital age has so fuzzied the walls between our work and personal lives, for better or for worse, that it seems entirely natural learn about local strangers' professional passions in a bar. (I would add here that separating personal and our professional lives is actually pretty new, isn't it? We weren't able to do that until we had enormous urban centers and a cultural stance shaped by the priorities and patterns of industrialization.)

The hosts for the evening were Chicago Pecha Kucha organizers Peter Exley (pictured left) and Thorsten Bösch. I'll let the Pecha Kucha website's FAQs explain further:
PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images...
The presentation format was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture. The first PechaKucha Night was held in Tokyo in their gallery/lounge/bar/club/creative kitchen, SuperDeluxe, in February, 2003. Klein Dytham architecture still organize and support the global PechaKucha Night network and organize PechaKucha Night Tokyo
While it was originally a way for architects and designers to concisely convey what they are thinking about, anyone can present now, on subjects personal or professional:
PechaKucha Nights are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps -- just about anything, really -- in the PechaKucha 20x20 format.
I tweeted during the presentation using the hashtag , though these tweets are long buried by now, I'm sure. Here's a link to the lineup from the evening, and here's a three-point summary:
  • Topics varied widely, from a pair of performance artists' snaps documenting installations to a neuroscience professor's history of frontal lobotomies. 
  • Presenters' purpose also varied widely; a few geeks geeking out about their objet d'geekery, a few non-profit organizers hoping to raise their profile, and a few of those intensely charismatic folks who are dearly entertaining to listen for six minutes and forty seconds but whom you're glad you can go away from afterward.
  • The presentations were all quite interesting and well-paced (or at least, enough so to listen to for six minutes and forty seconds--I think that's part of the beauty of the format), though some were better than others, naturally.

Would I go again? Sure. Am I thinking about pitching a presentation? Absolutely. :-)

*And I mean "geeks" in the best sense: folks really really into and knowledgeable about a subject; wonks.

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