Freyja Gallagher and Tammy Oler

Freyja Gallagher and Tammy Oler, Zeitgeist Co-Founders

Freyja Gallagher, Co-Founder
I had the privilege to work with the team that created Feed Magazine, one of the earliest web publications to cover digital culture.  However, my focus at the time was on the plumbing aspects of the operation, not the exceptional editorial content. I’m both proud and a bit embarrassed of the gnarly mass of PHP and MySQL that powered the site in its later years (and which I recently revived, along with co-founders Steven Johnson and Stefanie Syman and another Feed technology stalwart, Irwin Chen). Back then, I explicitly excluded The Digital from Subjects About Which I Was Passionate (which included playing in bands, bluegrass covers of ’80s songs, homemade pickles and cheese, wine, and obscure sub-genres of heavy metal). I resisted aligning my enthusiasms with my job for two reasons: being enthusiastic about what I did for a paycheck seemed like selling out, and because programming web sites seemed like a pretty dorky occupation.

Fast forward ten years, and I was ready to throw in the interactive towel.  At eight months pregnant, I was laid off from a position running product development for a men’s entertainment site. I spent a year at home getting to know my son and contemplating an Etsy seller existence. I rebuffed several agency offers from recruiters because I couldn’t imagine trading the authenticity and warmth of family life for big agency politics and days spent pumping breast milk in a teeny fluorescent-lit closet — all for a paycheck that seemed increasingly meager in light of the huge profit margins I knew my employers would be realizing.

Instead, I started to take on consulting jobs that allowed me to work from home most of the time. I began to circulate in networks of freelancers, consultants, solopreneurs, and virtual agencies. As I built my consulting practice, Eureka Digital Labs, I looked around for a co-working space, and found hundreds of nascent start-ups and digital micro-agencies proliferating and flourishing.   Instead of signing on for the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance, an army of digital visionaries was using acutely enterprising approaches to solve all kinds of problems. Armed with laptops, smartphones, and a sense of possibility, they were also grounded in the responsibility that comes with running a business. This was a community I wanted to be a part of – not only to build businesses with them, but to usher in a better and much cooler future, and to have fun doing it.

I went looking to see where this community might exist, and I found it fragmented everywhere. There are brilliant technology, design and business publications, scores of startups and established companies building ingenious software, incubators and co-working spaces, and new non-profits organized around realizing the potential of technology for urban planning, government, social change, and environmental transformation. What I didn’t find was a place where it could all come together. Last spring I started talking to Tammy Oler, digital culture sherpa, strategist, and friend, about how to realize just such a place. We’re waiting for the rest of you to get here to see what happens. I can’t wait.

Tammy Oler, Co-Founder
A decade ago, my background would probably be considered incongruous – and maybe a little strange. After leaving behind my Ph.D. in English, I worked in marketing and public relations for high tech companies before making the leap to non-profit management. I was also working on the side as a freelance writer, contributing articles on film, fandom, and pop culture to magazines and blogs. Along the way, I also co-founded a successful women’s roller derby league. In keeping with conventional wisdom, I worked hard to keep these different facets of my life as separate as possible. Through it all, I’ve been fascinated by technology and digital culture.

A few years ago, I realized that the diversity of my experience was actually a strength. It allowed me to develop a wide range of really effective strategies and programs. I was also inspired by the freelancers, virtual networks, start-ups, and digital communities I encountered everywhere. Three years ago, I mixed up all the stuff I’d been keeping separate and I went solo.

Zeitgeist started during a brunch with Freyja Gallagher. I had just gotten back from SXSW Interactive, and we were commiserating that there weren’t more awesome ways to interact – and learn from – the digital media community. So we decided to make one.

As an activist, I’m focused on bridging the digital divide and using technology to make social change. As a strategist, I use digital media spaces to build strong relationships for businesses, organizations, and communities. As a writer, I often explore and critique digital pop culture. As a geek, I think all of it is really cool. Zeitgeist is about all of these things, and I hope it will be about a lot more, too.