Edmonton’s eleventh Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on the University of Alberta campus (if you’re new to Pecha Kucha, read this). More than 600 people attended the event which featured ten presentations on a variety of topics. As usual, attendees were asked if this was their first ever Pecha Kucha Night and most of the hands in the audience shot up. It’s great that Edmonton NextGen continues to reach new people, but I do wonder where everyone else has gone and if they ever come back!
In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN11:
- Jeremy Derksen, Adventure Writer
- Chris Samuel, Lawyer/ Starcraft Enthusiast
- Ryan Saunders, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering and Co-Founder of ABCampusTec
- David Papp, Technology Advisor
- Darren Wagner, PhD Student, University of York
- Wendy Caplan & Wade Kelly, Educators
- Larry Retzlaff, Senior Planner, City of Edmonton
- Joshua Le, Business Student, University of Alberta
- Jeff Senger & Paul Cabaj, Co-Founders of SPARK
- Karen Unland, Journalism Educator and Consultant
The range of topics certainly seemed a lot broader than at PKNs past, with everything from Starcraft to Raw Denim. Generally I think the themed evenings work better, though I suppose there are hits and misses with both approaches. Last night had its share of both.
Jeremy Derksen kicked things off with a bold statement, saying “Edmonton is a great place to have an adventure.” He argued for the consideration of urban adventure as we build the Edmonton of the future, and pointed out that risk can be healthy. I loved that he touched on graffiti – provide a legitimate space for it, and I think you get rewarded. Chris Samuel was up next with his introduction to Starcraft and the world of competitive gameplay as a sport. He taught us that there are official leagues, commentators, heroes, and everything else that you might expect with other professional sports. His highly entertaining presentation probably had the most tweeted phrase of the evening, apparently adlibbed on the fly: “Nerds come in all shapes and sizes.” Ryan Saunders gave a nice introduction to ABCampusTec, though the presentation was basically just a commercial for the organization. I really wanted to like David Papp’s presentation – he did a phenomenal job of bringing energy and passion to the stage – but I personally found it difficult to get past the fact that he was basically saying “look at how much traffic my site got” for 20 slides. I was also looking for the social media experiment, but it never came. Darren Wagner closed out the first half of the show with perhaps the most controversial presentation of the evening, a look at “nature’s naughty bits” though it was more of a historical look at how human societies have displayed genitalia.
In a change from past events, door prizes were given out right before the break (Sharon suggested it may have been so that the winners were more likely to still be in attendance). If the opening presentations didn’t entertain you, Ryan Jespersen most certainly did. He was responsible for handing out the prizes, but of course, he had fun with it. He’s totally at home with a microphone in his hand – there’s a reason this has become his segment at PKN. I think @squiish said it best: “Ryan, you made door prizes pleasurable for the losers too.”
While the Myer Horowitz is a great venue, it doesn’t work so well for drinks. That’s a picture of the one and only one bar at the break. If you were patient enough to get a drink, my guess is that you didn’t have time to drink it before the second half started up again! It was great to see two local beers on offer though, Alley Kat and Wild Rose.
First up after the break was the duo of Wendy Caplan and Wade Kelly. As soon as they started their presentation – “4000 friends and 140 characters: Redefining our Social Lexicon” – I tweeted that I didn’t want to be preached at about Twitter and how it doesn’t bring people together. While their presentation was an interesting recap of long-forgotten behaviors (like taking film to the store and waiting weeks for it to be developed) I thought it was probably delivered at the wrong event. A large number of people in the audience met and became friends precisely thanks to the new tools and technologies Wendy and Wade were questioning. Larry Retzlaff was up next, to talk about Transit Oriented Development and the guidelines the City is currently developing. Important topic that I hope more Edmontonians get engaged with, and as far as awareness goes I suppose the presentation was a success, but when we’ve had outstanding TOD-as-LEGO presentations in the past, it sort of missed the mark. Joshua Le’s presentation on raw denim was interesting and educational, though it was somewhat similar to David’s – a recap of how far and wide word of his project spread. Jeff Senger and Paul Cabaj were up next, to talk about cooperatives. I learned that 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, but unfortunately I didn’t take much else away from the presentation. Karen Unland had the final presentation of the evening, a passionate discussion of what journalism needs now. I thought she did a great job of balancing humor and seriousness to get her message across.
The crowd favorite of the evening was probably Chris Samuel’s really unique presentation on Starcraft. I know I’m curious about the viewing parties that are held at local bars! It seems as though each PKN usually has a particularly memorable quote or phrase. With PKNX, it was “magpie town”. I think Karen’s quote (she had lots of great ones) was probably the winner last night: “French kiss change. Hump change’s leg!” Those were probably my two favorite presentations, though I quite enjoyed Jeremy Derksen’s as well.
Other thoughts: I think NextGen might have set a record last night for starting so close to the advertised time! The Edmonton Journal once again livestreamed the event, but a number of technical issues made it a less than smooth experience for viewers. This PKN was the first in Edmonton to be held at a venue that has already been used – PKN5 was at the Myer Horowitz back in October 2009. The event featured music by DJ Blue Jay and a visual art showcase presented by Timeraiser, coming up on October 15. There’s a great collection of photos by Dave DeGagné, the event’s official photographer, here. You can see my much crappier ones here.
NextGen is currently planning Pecha Kucha Night 12 for February. Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for updates!