Phnom Penh’s Nerd Night

What we say: 3.5 stars

Every other Monday Phnom Penh’s expat population gather together to share their obsessive hobbies, interesting career choices and celebrate all things nerdy. The events are held at venues around the city and each have six or seven speakers who cover topics ranging from yoga to Khmer handicrafts to obscure English words. The format is called Pecha Kucha – each speaker presents 20 slides, showing each one for 20 seconds. The format is particularly well suited to presenting visual arts and design, but can be adapted to almost any topic.

Revenge of the Nerds, Phnom Penh-style

The event is organized by Yi Wei, Mike Hahn and Roswell Thomas, a group who saw a need in the expat community – nothing to do on Monday nights – and have been overwhelmed by the positive response. In a city with few activities that are not alcohol-centric, Nerd Night is immensely popular. It’s more social event than intellectual assembly and they’re getting larger every time.

I caught up with Nerd Night organizer Roswell Thomas via email. One of his favourite presentations was Giaccomo Butte’s on teaching architecture to Khmer students. In his presentation, Giaccomo touched on Cambodian education and modern architecture, and “came up with some truly bizarre, profound little philosophical snippets” in less than seven minutes and with 20 slides.

One of the only gripes about Phnom Penh’s Nerd Nights is that the topics aren’t always purely nerdy. Roswell suggests that those who feel this way should step up and do their own presentation.

“A lot of people complain that some of these topics aren’t nerdy, that we should have more people talking about computers and engineering and stuff. We’re looking for more traditional nerd voices — if you want to talk about your favorite obscure materials science controversy or talk about your collection of vintage computer punch cards, send me an e-mail right away.” Roswell wrote.

“But the essence of “nerd” is passion, well-informed, or maybe over-informed. You are nerdy about something if you focus in on it in way too much detail, if you love it so much that you start talking about it and can’t stop when everyone around you is obviously bored. (This is why we have our 20 second time limit on all the slides). That kind of nerd energy is a joy to watch, and I think we’ve been very lucky to get so much of it together in one place fortnight after fortnight.”

They’re looking for speakers for upcoming Nerd Nights so if you’re going to be in town, it’s a great way to meet people and share the things you are passionate about. If you are interested in learning more about Nerd Night or giving a presentation, check out their Facebook page or email the Nerd Night team.

Upcoming Nerd Nights:
May 9 – 8pm, 98 Street 88 (near intersection with 75), Phnom Penh. Map
May 22 – 6:30pm, Meta House *Off usual calendar schedule to accommodate Khmer speaker line-up
June 6 – venue tbd
June 20 – venue tbd
July 4 – venue tbd
July 18 – venue tbd

About the author
Previously, Lina has been based in Oakland, California, New York City, Dublin and London. Lina spends most of her time thinking about food, travel and synthpop. She's currently based in Siem Reap.
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