29 May 2013
“I need to see human flesh,” says Grégoire, 24, an intern at ENAC, France’s national civil aviation school. But don’t worry, he’s no vampire. He’s one of the 7 people behind SpaceUp Paris, willing to devote a good portion of his free time to organizing this kind of ephemeral event. Provided that he can see, touch and talk face to face with his fellow participants. Could it be that new social media like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are just another means of escape from the virtual world?
More than 80 people - mostly thirtysomethings and almost equal numbers of men and women-turned up to the Ariane 6 kick-off session organized by CNES ahead of the actual event. Over the weekend, 150 people attended the SpaceUp at ESA headquarters in Paris. And on Sunday evening, the cloud of butterflies dispersed just as it had arrived.
But just what is a SpaceUp ? It’s an informal gathering instigated by a team of space fans who come brimming with enthusiasm to meet their correspondents, each with a mysterious code name. Over two days of spontaneous get-togethers improvised with the help of Post-its, they talk and listen. It’s nothing like a conference-more like an “unconference” in fact, in the words of Thomas, an event geared to generating discussion.
Ahead of the two-day event, CNES organized a welcome evening with 10 of its engineers, focusing on 5 themes to do with Ariane 6, the Ariane family and work at the Launch Vehicles Directorate.
Every 20 minutes, despite the constant stream of questions, the engineers moved to the next table where a new audience was waiting for them. The participants are small company bosses like Alex, over from the UK to build up his network of contacts, other engineers from research bodies like Xavier, sociologists like Claudia from Germany, journalists like Brigitte or an ESA project controller like Julio from Argentina.
“The beauty of social media is how they bring people together,” says Remco, a Dutchman with a hearty laugh-in other words, using new technologies to boost intelligence and knowledge.