I attended Pecha Kucha in Vancouver this past week. It was a great collection of presentations about "living in the real digital world." According to the organizers, "We've moved from an 'either, or' world to an 'and' world. The real and the virtual become more intertwined everyday, but one without the other is just not that interesting."

About Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha originated in Tokyo in 2003 as a way for designers to meet and show their work. Now it has chapters all over the world and is about all kinds of creative endeavours. Each presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds each (6 mins, 40 seconds per presenter). It keeps things moving and allows for lots of perspectives.


The qualities of great experiences are pretty much the same whether you're online or not.

Michael Gordon, a Vancouver senior city planner, showed this best and gave what might have been the best presentation of the evening. (The evening was full of good presenters, so this is saying a lot). His presentation was a journey through Vancouver on a skateboard, where people can:

  • Be spontaneous (like jumping off your skateboard into a pile of leaves)
  • Have chances to play (like joining kids skipping rope in the street)
  • Cruise along spaces with aesthetic beauty (like the seawall by skateboard or otherwise)
  • Engage with each other (cars clog up the chances of this)


  • Signs starting with the word "No" should be few and far between (they get in the way of having fun)
  • Order should be maintained by security guards who laugh and play with us instead of interfering with our fun

Listening to him was an inspiration to participate in creating a fun city. Online or offline, I'd love to work, play, and live in the spaces he's had a hand in designing.

Most of life's great and meaningful and exciting experiences still take place offline, but the online world helps us share and create these experiences like never before.

Lots of examples about this. Here are just a few.

  • Kevin Vallely presented his adventure to the South Pole that was shared online and inspired street kids in the US
  • Mara Branscombe used Facebook to help coordinate and teach people the dance for a dance in the streets flash mob during the 2010 Winter Olympics
  • The Cultch is doing all kinds of neat things in using technology for the audience and actors to interact with each other

The virtual world is not as "less real" as the offline world as we used to think.

  • Ryan Opina presented about online personas and asked: "Who are we designing for?"
  • Is it the big guy we see eating a burger in fast food restaurant, or his slim, warrior-like, attractive female avatar?
  • Does the offline persona really say more about a person than the online one?  
  • Lauren Bacon's presentation also asked if online conversations have a reality to them that doesn't exist offline.

The purpose of online and social networking tools is to amplify the good human experiences we want to share (and not detract from them).

This was highlighted best with the juxtaposition of hearing great examples of online applications doing great things, while being annoyed with one at the same time — the live Twitter feed from the audience of the presenters during their presentations. It was front and centre, very big, hard to ignore, and distracted from the presenters themselves. I'll admit I was curious to know what other people were thinking up there during a few points. But it felt more like everyone in the movie theatre was using a  microphone to share what they were saying to their neighbours, rather than focusing on the movie.  

I think we're still figuring out the best way to use new technology and tools, and it was an interesting experiment. Kind of like when people were so enamored with automobiles they would eat inside them at drive-in restaurants.

Thinking about our relationship with cars can actually give a lot of insight into our relationship with new media tools and how to use them:

  • They've allowed us to do things we never could before
  • People often have a love, hate, or a love/hate relationship with them
  • Once a novelty, they've blended into life in a way we take for granted
  • There are many different ideas about how much or little we want of them, and how to use them
  • Intelligent use of them makes a lot of good experiences possible

Interested in attending a Pecha Kucha presentation?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the presentations online. I highly recommend the whole Pecha Kucha experience though. As it tends to sell out in Vancouver you should get your tickets early!