7 Mar 2014

All posts from 7 Mar 2014


SXSW 2014 Wrap-up – Day 1

Weirdest Moment:

I didn’t know Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee) but this entrepreneur/author/CEO of Vaynerchuck media really knows how to amp up a crowd. He jumped right into an energetic Q&A-session with questions submitted by the audience via Twitter. One surprising – and slightly weird – insight turned out the be the fact that apparently almost a third of the very large audience was ready to surgically implant their smartphone. The weirdest (and funniest) moment, however, came when the crowd demanded to know from the sign interpreter on stage how she translated Gary’s frequent use of “fuck”. She promptly showed the audience the finger.

Something We Will All Do in 10 Years:

Bio-engineering, if you believe Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab, and Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo. As technology and nature become more integrated, understanding and manipulating biological entities will be more than a hot skill – it will be an essential one.

Biggest Disappointment:

Paying $6 for a mediocre latte in the Austin Convention Center and being informed snootily that “This isn’t a coffee shop, you know.” Yes, that did come through.

Image of the Day:

What's Austin without weird metal sculpture? Photo by Carolyn Higgins

What’s Austin without weird metal sculpture?
Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Best Food Choice:

Sorry, no best food was reported today. Lunch was a casualty of the day.

Best Surprise:

If I was enchanted by the prospect of listening to Pete Horner of Skywalker Sound revealing the secrets of how sound is used to elicit emotion in motion pictures and documentaries, actually seeing his footage during the session “The Emotional Language of Film” bewitched me. The intricacies of marrying sound effects and music are an art form, and at that, one that was even more compelling than imagined.

Mind-blowing Thought of the Day:

Our education system needs to be scrapped. Most of what we learn today is available 24/7 in the palm of your hand. So if you want to prepare your kid’s (or yourself) for the digital world, let them make, dabble, tinker, create, and figure things out. Ah yes, and don’t be afraid of failure, it’s the new normal.

Hidden Gem of the Day:

Have you ever heard of Bentham’s panopticon? It is essentially a prison so designed as to allow a single watchman to see all inmates without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Tony Salvador, Senior Principal Engineer, presented this never actually realized idea of English philosopher Jeremy Bentham as a perfect analogy for today’s digital world in which very few know much about all of us without us even realizing. In a short, 15-minute talk he covered many of the issues coming along with the proliferation of devices and showed some ways how to deal with it (check wethedata.org for more info). Impressive.

Tweet of the Day:

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SXSW 2014 Wrap-up – Day 1

SXSW Interactive Begins: Look out, Austin

The hipsters are here. Photo by Carolyn Higgins

The hipsters are here.
(Photo: Carolyn Higgins)

As nerdy cousin SXSW Edu gathers its papers in a well-worn backpack and heads home, SXSW Interactive is putting on its sunglasses and starting to roll. It’s getting warm in Austin.

For the 21st time, this Texas city is rolling out the hospitality for what is billed as an “incubator” for nascent technologies and digital creativity.  The brightest minds in the world will converge here to share and learn. Industry leaders are looking to attract talent and to show their stuff to an informed audience.

It may be more correctly described as a blender than an incubator, given the international participation. “You mean you’re really not coming to the Lean UX session?” asked a sleekly styled young man from Melbourne earlier. “Aren’t you interested in user design?” I am, most certainly, but there are stories to write and ever-increasing throngs of people to talk to.

The Austin Convention Center is buzzing as the hipsters and the would-be hipsters descend and the first sessions begin. You’ll be seeing more about that later in today’s coverage. For many, though, the first hours of the conference are about figuring out a game plan and making contacts. There is much to do, with meet-ups, networking sessions, workshops, and a startup village. Oh yes, and the endless parties.


Even the signpost is digital: arms change direction depending on your destination Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Even the signpost is digital: arms change direction depending on your destination
(Photo: Carolyn Higgins)

It’s true that a sizable chunk of attendees are covering the event – a sort of media talking about the media fest. Press-tagged camera and recording equipment is everywhere. “I’ve been looking at all the equipment I see,” confided SXSW volunteer Michael Caulfield, himself nattily equipped with highly capable-looking camera gear, as we glided up the escalator with a couple of hundred of our new acquaintances. “I started estimating a dollar value for everything I’m seeing. I stopped at about $7 billion.”

As people continue to flood into the venues – there are fourteen scattered through the downtown core – the lines are beginning for everything from food to party passes. The noise level is increasing by the minute; no audio measuring device is necessary to spell out the intensity. Yet things haven’t fully kicked off quite yet – the trade show of nearly 300 vendors won’t begin until Sunday.

We’ll be sharing it all with you – from the glamour sessions with speakers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange to quirky new startups and encounters with everyone we meet. Stay tuned here, as well as our Twitter and Facebook accounts for everything SXSW.

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SXSW Interactive Begins: Look out, Austin