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'Party your brains out' rings true at Mindshare

The monthly mix of socializing, science and art marks its 50th event with a splash.

May 12, 2012|Ramie Becker

Like a mind-expanding twist on TED Talks served with Burning Man-informed alt-culture, L.A.'s monthly mix of science, art and socializing known as Mindshare has drawn steadily increasing numbers since its inception in 2006. Now, with 50 events since the first gathering, the minds behind Mindshare are throwing a weekend-long celebration at Lot 613 downtown.

Whether viewed as a night of mindful debauchery, a cultural salon with sex appeal, or a booze-filled bacchanal that stimulates the cerebral cortex, there's no denying the Mindshare events have made their mark on the city's social scene. But it wasn't always this easy to find a hip mixer full of rocket scientists and bioengineers in this city.

As with so many ideas worth sharing, Mindshare sprang from its founders out of necessity. "I was totally bored of the bar scene and other typical social outlets in Los Angeles," said event co-founder Douglas Campbell. "I needed something like Mindshare to be authentic to my personal needs."

Campbell attended the TED conference in 2005 where he met someone of similar mind in 23-year-old Adam Mefford, who was then a student at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Campbell soon immersed himself in the creative melting pot of the Brewery Arts District. "At first it was just 30 or so of us in our loft [at the Brewery], a projector and some booze, " Mefford said of their earliest Mindshare events.

Although they took their inspiration from what they saw at TED, the direction for Mindshare gradually began to shift. "It started as a focus on the content shared by the speakers from the stage," said Mefford. "But as Mindshare evolved, we realized it was the sense of belonging and connectivity that kept people coming back."

Mindshare 50 will be packed with presentations that include such topics as the video game industry and biophysics, all connected by the theme "What's next?" The talks run all day Saturday, with an after party ensuing. Sunday's events include smaller group activities, such as mountain hikes and hacker seminars. (A complete list can be found at mindshare50.com

With the help of 19 eclectic artists and data design innovators, the event space will also be transformed into an art gallery with displays from Syyn Labs, Carlos Moncada of the SCI-Arc installation Chroma[RED], and Dezso Molnar, co-founder of the Gyrocycle company Molnari. Naturally, the gallery's purpose goes beyond eye candy as almost every installation will be interactive, such as Eric Gradman's computer vision art piece that detects visitors using XBox's Kinect system and creates swirling images with their bodies.

Whether it's the conversation-starting name badges or the Syyn Labs' interactive game pieces, Mindshare events are carefully orchestrated to break down social barriers, and encourage random encounters through play and experimentation.

But for many of Mindshare's attendees, there's more to its appeal than just cocktails and big ideas. As attendee and speaker Alex Lightman puts it, "It's like 'Cheers,' but everybody knows your name, genotype, phenotype and enterotype."

Generally centered on tech-savvy 20- to 40-somethings, these mash-ups of the social and intellectual pursuits have grown around the city, and now there are several similar events happening around town, including Ignite LA, the Collab Project and de Lab (design east of La Brea).

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calendar@latimes.com

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Mindshare 50

When: 7 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: 613 Imperial St., Los Angeles

Cost: $49 to $249

Info: www.mindshare50.com

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