Impressions of SXSWi 2013
This is the sixth year of the SXTXState project and my ninth year attending Interactive. As I slowly make the transition to Music, after an afternoon of rest, rejuvenation, vitamins and hydration, I thought it would be a good time to capture some of my overall impressions of the event. The three main themes that I recognized were:
Serendipity – This was a core theme of several panels, particularly the one entitled The New Serendipity featuring Kevin Rose, Digg founder currently of Google Ventures; Joi Ito of IT Media Lab; EFF Founder John Perry Barlow and Colin Raney of IDEO. How can we make things happen? Is it luck? This panel discussed that your luck is a function of the work you put in. You have to make opportunities for yourself, cultivate contacts and focus on the long term, in order to make that serendipity, what seems to be random and fleeting, happen. I like the agency associated with this approach, and it is good for students to understand that this is how you take charge of your future. There is much potential for serendipity at SXSW, with the leagues of humans who attend (attendance > 30k for Interactive) and even more potential to follow up and foster these connections after.
Maker, Drones and Hardware – With Bre Pettis delivering the opening keynote, the stage was set for a focus on 3D printing and modeling. There were all kinds of cool gadgets being discussed and sensors and drones were the topics of several panels. But hardware is only as good as the software that controls it, so I am hesitant to speak of it separately. Makerbots have great potential to disrupt and decentralize manufacturing, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds. Personally, I look forward to the day when I can design my own clothing and home furnishing and “print” them out myself.
Nothing quite parallels SXSW. Over the past several days, I, and more importantly my students, saw Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Elon Musk, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, scholar Henry Jenkins, Craig Newmark (the Craig!), Gary Vaynerchuk, Tumblr’s David Karp and people from organizations as diverse as Google, Yahoo, NYT, WNYC and more than my brain is able to retrieve at this point. Students were able to pursue their own interests, whether it be data, food, entertainment, non-profits or startups and push out of their comfort zones to be introduced to new and exciting topics that we will no doubt be addressing in the future. As you look around this site, you will get a sense of the wonderful opportunity these students have experienced. I am deeply proud of the hard work they each put in to make this a quality project, in design, content and functionality. My hope is that these memories will become part of them, so that when they are in professional or interview situations in the future, they’ll be able to retrieve some of the progressive pearls of wisdom we’ve been exposed to this week. I also hope to see them speaking on their own SXSW panels in the future!
I want to thank the staff of SXSW Interactive for once again curating an outstanding program. I feel fortunate to live in this community of passionate professionals who are committed to delivering the best event, year after year.
I also want to thank all you lovely people who took the time to speak to my students and attend events associated with this project. With your help, they have created a massive body of content that demonstrates our presence and participation.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank SJMC director Judy Oskam for her support of this project, as well as AEJMC and the Knight Foundation for funding the activities surrounding our Ushahidi deployment at sxtxstories.com. Faculty Jon Zmikly and Jacie Yang provided great support and camaraderie for us during the event as well.
I’m still a bit in denial that it’s all over, but ready for a break to let some of this settle. I have a lot of plans for integrating into my curriculum and research and feel a great sense of renewal to propel me through the next year. I really look forward to hearing my students impressions of the overall experience.
The slideshow below captures some of our key moments. We had a lot of fun! See you all at SXSW Interactive 2014.
Last, but not least, former student and SXTXState project alum Dale Blasingame who is covering SXSW for KSAT in San Antonio, filmed this video of me on the last day, addressing some of the criticism of SXSW. Thanks Dale!