It’s called South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals, written “SXSW” (like the compass point) and for the worlds of music, film and the interactive web, the big sign says it all: “The future starts here.”
I’ll be updating MediaBullseye.com from my places in the interactive web side of things, but clearly, there is overlap between the three tracks of the conference that shuts down some 16 city blocks in downtown Austin, Texas each March.
A quick overview: Last year there were over 1,989 music acts on 88 stages; 260 film screenings to over 50,000 viewers and the interactive conference had over 10,740 participants. Originally called SXSW multimedia (remember that old word?), the event has morphed to cover the evolving web that is, in a word, interactive. SXSW is the obvious place where Twitter among others gained favor with the movers and shakers who are creating the Brave New Web.
No doubt, the people at SXSW are the people you want near you and crafting your web strategy. The real question becomes would you listen to them if they worked for you, or would you discount them as “too webby.” This is the place where the, in the words of Roald Dahl via the Arthur O’Shaughnessy poem: “we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” These are the people, and I’m proud to be among them.
The people I’ve met are customer-centric, profit-aware are in the process of changing the world. Not changing it to their liking, but evolving the world to enable non-profits and profits alike to do great things. They come early to their sessions (to get the plugs to repower their cell phones and notebook computers). For the record, front seats and rear seats fill up at an even rate. Seats near outlets to power computers, cell phones, cameras, etc. fill up even quicker.
Companies at the trade show portion of the event are huge and range from Google and Microsoft to the Nevada Film Board. I’m writing part of this in the “UK: Connecting for Creativity” lounge in the middle of the activity.
Sure, there must be more than 500 parties sponsored by everyone from the Pepsi, Nokia, Adobe, major online social news site Mashable, and the like. It’s networking Heaven and nearly everyone is a rock star in their own right with great credentials.
This year, a lot of the future lies on your cell phones. The buzz is all about geolocation: using your phone’s GPS abilities with online networks to accomplish things. I’ll be speaking with a number of companies working on these projects, and letting you know what the future looks like. Some of these companies you know: Facebook and Google, both with major announcements ahead, and others that you’ll be hearing about soon.
Another area getting large attention is enabling positive things to be done. From the homeless to food pantries, these people feel a huge social responsibility. Even the popular New York-based Gym Class Heroes, performing at the USTREAM party added the message in the closing number with their trademark mix of rap and rock.
Danah Boyd of the Microsoft Research New England and Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet gave an impassioned Opening Keynote address of the importance that security and privacy must play in the roles of the attendees.
“Each of you, as designers, as marketers, as parents, as users need to think through the implications and ethics of your decisions; What it means to debate someone’s privacy, or how your presumptions of what they are doing with public material actually affect them.”
“You are shaping the future. How you handle the challenges of privacy and publicity will affect a generation. Make sure you are creating the future that you want to live in.”
The future starts here, and it looks bright.