SXSW: That’s a Wrap
Now comes the time at the end of SXSW where I try to summarize the past two weeks of inspiration, insanity and exhaustion. There are so many high points, it’s hard to focus on just a few, and I am sure that clarity will emerge more over time. First of all, having graduate students be able to attend this event for the past 10 years has been amazing. For them to experience first-hand the scope of innovations that we talk about in class is such a unique opportunity. This year, students heard from and spoke to luminaries like Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, David Karp of Tumblr, Internet inventor Vint Cerf, tech aficionado Robert Scoble, social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Senator Cory Booker, and many, many more. The big trends for this year to me were virtual reality, artificial intelligence and diversity. There were panels on coding and emerging roles that often integrated diversity issues, like the fantastic one called Product Mavericks: Top Tips from Women Who Build. Venture capitalist Chris Sacca also integrated diversity in his talk where he addressed Silicon Valley problems.
VR was all over the place, and there were some fantastic projects and examples. But I still think it is a few years out in terms of mainstream storytelling potential and acceptance. I think it’s somewhere between Robert Scoble’s prediction of one year and Gary Vaynerchuk’s of 20. I think the user devices will need to be much less unwieldy than the current headset market. That said, the projects one can view and explore on a phone are starting to take off.
I was inspired by Beats 1’s Zane Lowe’s keynote (watch it!) and the panel on designing community spaces, featuring “Austin royalty” Liz Lambert of the Hotel San Jose, Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse and Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. I was amazed at League’s response to a question from an out-of-towner asking exactly what is Alamo Drafthouse, and he humbly said that it was a movie theater that serves food and drink. I had to rush up to the questioner afterward to let her know that Alamo is sooo much more than that.
Within a few feet of each other in the Convention Center on Friday, I got to see Rachael Ray speak about her SXSW Feedback party, Garth Brooks discuss his relationship with Amazon’s streaming service and a performance by one of my favorite bands Spoon. That’s SXSW in a nutshell. So much convergence all around, so much talent within inches of you at all times. I got to see Garth perform on Saturday night at Auditorium Shores, which was a giant Austin singalong, and I saw some old favorites, like Cotton Mather, and some good new acts, like Australian band Castlecomer.
— Cindy Royal (@CindyRoyal) March 19, 2017
Students on this project did 50+ posts on this site from March 10-15, made 2200+ tweets using the #sxtxstate hashtag and posted on our Instagram and SnapChat accounts. Two students from last year presented on panels they proposed (that’s the final project for this class). Sara Shields talked about How Technology Has Impacted Graphic Design with Adobe’s Paul Trani, and Joshua Morrison moderated the Virtual Life’s a Drag: Queering VR panel. Personally, I spoke at SXSWEDU and SXSW Interactive, and TXST Lecturer was also on an EDU panel about Experimental Learning: Teaching Tech Outdoors. I was happy to see alumni represented, as Anna Tauzin Rice who is now Vice President of Marketing and Innovation at Texas Restaurant Association on panel on innovation in the food industries. And I thoroughly enjoyed the screening of the film Disgraced and proud that it was produced by SJMC alum Josh Shepherd.
We hosted our annual Taco Party and participated in the Texas State Innovation Lab and Reception. We experimented with a new mobile storytelling platform called Evrybit. Students got a good dose of what it means to be innovative on the fly!
When Hugh Forrest opened the event on March 10, I took note of a couple positioning statements. He said “SXSW is the intersection of art, technology, inspiration and surprise.” Later he said it’s “where creative people come to achieve their goals.” These comments prove that the direction of SXSW is more than just convergence of the three traditional platforms — interactive, music and film — but goes beyond that to support inspiration and creativity. I say it’s like your own curated week-long fellowship, combined with a giant TED conference. I am excited to see how this direction manifests in the next year.
We had other TXST students running all over town as volunteers for public relations and social media for SXSW, an opportunity that was the direct result of our long standing relationship with the organization. And I just enjoyed running in to old friends and making new ones throughout the conference. I love seeing students interact with people and concepts we discuss in class. They worked really hard and I am very proud of what the created this semester. My sincere hope is that the students who worked on this project have a new perspective on innovation and inspiration, that they are proud of the work they created and that they had fun! I know I did. I’m ready to learn more and integrate a lot of this learning into my courses and curriculum. Until next year…