people doing strange things with electricity

dorkbot is a monthly meeting where people share their creative work. Started at the CMC in 2000 by Douglas Repetto, dorkbot meetings have spread around the globe.

dorkbot website archive

What is dorkbot, exactly?: Each dorkbot is different and is driven by the needs and interests of people in the local community. But generally, the main goals of dorkbot are: to create an informal, friendly environment in which people can talk about the work they're doing and to foster discussion about that work; to help bring together people from different backgrounds who are interested in similar things; to give us all an opportunity to see the strange things our neighbors are doing with electricity. dorkbot isn't really a forum for formal artist talks or lectures, but rather a chance for diverse people to have friendly conversations about interesting ideas.

The organizers of Pixelache 2008 asked Douglas to talk about dorkbot's "organisational strategy". Here's what he had to say.

Frequency: How often will you hold meetings? Some dorkbots have meetings every month, others just a few times a year. It's a lot of work putting the meetings together, and in smaller cities is can be difficult to schedule enough speakers. You don't want to burn out!

Locale: If you are in a smaller city or town, you might want to consider collaborating with people in other nearby cities/towns. Maybe the dorkbot meeting can travel to a different location each month, or maybe you can all pool your resources for a couple long-form meetings each season.

Venue: Is there a place to hold the meetings? It can be very convenient to have the meetings in the same place each time. Often an art gallery or performance space will be willing to donate their facilities for the occassional meeting. If you know someone connected to a university you may be able to get a space through them. It doesn't have to be a fancy space!

Equipment: Do you have access to presentation equipment? At the least you'll probably need a video projector, a small sound system, and a network connection. A laptop computer can also make things easier on the presenters. As with the venue, it's best if you can use the same equipment at each meeting. It can be very stressful trying to track down a video projector the day of a dorkbot meeting! Often the venue you use will have A/V equipment you can borrow.

$$$: dorkbot is a non-$-oriented organization. dorkbot meetings are generally free events, so you need to be careful about spending lots of money to produce them! Several dorkbots sell beer and/or food at the meetings to help cover their costs. Make sure you talk to the venue before selling anything. donates web space, email lists, etc. to the local dorkbots, so there is no administrative cost associated with setting up a new dorkbot.

Meeting Format: dorkbot meetings are rather informal. There are usually two or three presentations (about 20-30 minutes each) per meeting and sometimes very short "lightening" presentations from audience members. The specific format is up to each organizer to decide. You'll probably have to play with your format for a few meetings until you find something that works well in your context. One thing to keep in mind is that the dorkbot format works best for informal, conversational presentations on a particular work or topic, rather than formal artist talks or lectures on a body of work. 30 minutes isn't much time, so focused presentations work best.