Technology & Innovation

NOV. 22 - Second Savannah Geekend a Success

Category: Technology & Innovation

By Catherine Rendón
SBJ Staff


The Georgia Coastal Center on Fahm Street was transformed over the recent Geekend, Nov. 4-6, with a varied but, on the whole, youthful crowd. Once again, the Geekend was organized by husband and wife team, Miriam and Jake Hodesh of Thinking Cap, Inc., and Sloane Kelley of BFG Communications. Hodesh was recently named the Creative Coast’s Executive Director. Among Geekend’s main supporters were Ga. Tech Savannah and SEDA, who were Terabyte sponsors this year.

The Geekend brought a total of 625 persons together to compare notes on music and image sharing, computer languages, blogging and related topics. Some came from as far as British Columbia in Canada, Austin, Texas, New York City and Los Angeles. Many local institutions and businesses like Evoca, Urban Planet and others participated in making this Geekend memorable.

“The constant refrain here,” David Malouf, SCAD professor of Interaction Design and founder of the Interaction Design Assocation, said. “I don’t have to explain this. Everyone understands. Let’s geek out together! There was no apologizing for being a geek.” Malouf remembers meeting with Jake Hodesh at J.Christopher for breakfast some years ago in order to discuss the feasibility of creating a Geekend in Savannah.

Malouf admires Miriam and Jake Hodesh because he feels they embody a spirit of business, design and technology in a viable entrepreneurial way. “Technology is the focus,” Malouf conceded, but “where business and design overlap new things can be melded together.”

If “geek cred” was in evidence, so was “geek chic” and nowhere more clearly than in the person of Susan Isaacs. Isaacs successfully founded Paragon Designs, an advertising company 10 years ago with SCAD classmates Philip Joyner and Andrew Davies. Isaccs told the SBJ: “There is a radical change going on in the advertising industry where a lot of big companies are looking for small teams who are doing innovative work. And that’s what Savannah has in spades.” Isaacs added that the talent found in SCAD students is being lured away from Savannah by giants like Colorado’s Crispin Porter Bogusky, advertising and media factory.

There were over 48 presenters and sessions through this three-day event. The focus was not on corporate aspects of technology but rather on one where one could learn what individuals are doing with technology. Of course, some ideas which began small, have grown enormously, as evidenced by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. NBC.com chief architect Oscar Gerardo was the first keynote speaker of the conference while Noah Everett closed the Geekend with an inspiring talk. Twenty-six-year-old Everett, who was home schooled and now lives in Charleston, S.C., with his family, spoke about how a weekend project turned into a life-changing enterprise. He was speaking about Twitpic, a program that permits anyone to share photographs on Twitter.

Dr. David Frost, Director of Georgia Tech Savannah, introduced Everett and told the SBJ how impressed he was with this year’s line-up. Many students from Dr. Frost’s campus were present as volunteers at the Ga. Tech Savannah booth and running robots around the Coastal Center lobby. These students are involved in community outreach year-round, especially with the summer Lego Leagues as well as teaching school children scratch animation, an online computer software program which teaches animation.

Dr. Stephen Fleming, Vice-President and Executive Director of Ga. Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, gave another keynote address entitled, “Geekery and Innovation: Is this for Fun or Money?” in which he offered sensible and sobering advice.

Throughout the three-day conference the Coastal Center’s lobby served as a space for mingling and talking with fellow enthusiasts about a variety of social media. Sonia Singh, a PhD. student of biology at Emory, found the Geekend stimulating, as did Edgar Lituma Soto, a Georgia. State graduate in Micromeritics (the study of measuring particles). Lituma Soto was especially interested in “mobile technology and how it is integrated in our day to day life.” Another attendee, Peng Ngo, who works at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, found it exciting to hear Katrina Kibben of Monster.com and Mimi Chan, National Creative Director of CBS Outdoor Canada.

Volunteer teenagers like Tyler Meuse, a student at Jenkins with an after-school job at Abercorn’s Publix supermarket, was thrilled. The accessibility of speakers with participants was also notable. Meuse got to speak with Zachary Dominitz, Business Development Director of N.Y.-based Call2Action, whose mission it is to provide the go-to widget for any online cause campaign.

Nikki Troxclair, Ga. Tech Savannah’s Assistant Director of Communications, found a great sense of camaraderie throughout the event. Like Meuse and others, Troxclair especially enjoyed learning how socially involved individuals are using technology to make an impact on our daily lives. It is clear that events such as Geekends are essential for raising local awareness in the necessity of being fluent in as many aspects of technology and social networking as possible.

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