Reflecting on My SXSW 2016 Journeys

I spoke at SXSW Music again this year on my current favorite topic: Music 20/20 and how we can proactively affect the future. SXSW, however, is not just about speaking. It is about diving deeply into diverse ideas with diverse people. It is one of my annual addictions.

This is my 7th year going to SXSW — I think.  They blur together.  I started going to SXSW Interactive and enjoying the diverse voices, sharing areas I knew nothing about.  I would go to session on digital changes in Latin America and Eastern Europe, meeting people I would never have seen otherwise.  I learned about location-based mobile tools at SXSW first, learning what was being done on the ground from front-line users in arts, documentaries, and the like.   I also hear dynamic voices that really resonate for me.  I heard here first from Amber Case on tech anthropology.  I first heard at SXSW about shifts in search engine trends.  I first heard here about new heads-up displays for cars to keep the clutter down and compete with smartphone structures.  I first heard at SXSW ideas about non-interface interfaces.

I also learned about breakfast tacos in the early years.  Tacos? For breakfast?

My experience now is different.  I don’t find many technologies I haven’t seen yet.  Perhaps this is because I’m hip-deep in leading-edge technologies at other events from my current role at UCLA Center for Music Innovation.  Maybe because the event is much heavier in startups competing for attention and big companies trying to get attention as well.  The era of the breakout new tech service or product getting lots of buzz at SXSW seems to have made way for the McDonald’s custom burger, Mazda free rides, and esurance tech giveaways.

I do continue to get my favorite things from it: real-life implementations and dynamic voices.  I enjoy learning from implementers on a local basis, running in-context, in-place real life examples of disruptive and collaborative tech — in use, with all its headaches and glory.  I find that often the people drawn to the conversation IN the room are more intriguing than those on the dias, and conversations that follow provide all sorts of connected bridges to new engagement.  In most rooms, the volunteer session wranglers needed to push everyone outside to finish conversations. . . not just about selling things and ideas to the speakers, but also to connect the folks who want to keep the conversation going in how these challenges apply in their own sector or local community.

It also continues to be a great mix of voices and use cases.  This year, northern European languages abounded as people flew great distances to be in these conversations, with their own stories and questions.  I met many executives and creative executives from Asia.  On the US front, I met several mayors, many non-profits, and lots of university students, sharing ideas and interests.

As a result of my going to SXSWedu, Interactive, AND Music (two weeks in total), my highlights this year are a mixed bag.
  • Jane McGonigal at SXSWedu talking about how we can understand and think about the future.  I do a lot of futurist work and hang out in that space.  Her talk brought it into focus for folks wanting to understand how to be a Futurist in their everyday lives.  That recording I have shared with a half-dozen people I’m working with and they are changing some of the questions they ask about the Signals they see.  

  • The British Museum, with Samsung, using VR to take young students into the Bronze Age and see artifacts in context.

  • Lots of conflicting information and predictions in sessions on location-based mobile tools and big data about consumers.

  • Beacons, beacons, and more beacons. . . especially in retail.

  • New ways to make assets liquid, including MoveLoot, which helps you resell the used furniture in your home.

  • Battling apps about food — including finding food trucks, bringing us food on the spot, and in-app learning from videos of making food.  

  • Cities wrestling with how to use big data and action research.

  • Local music venues dealing with the impact of streaming music and gentrification on local clubs.  

I really enjoy the amazing speakers. 
  • Brene Brown — live.  I’m a big fangirl and have been consuming her books and audiobooks, so listening to her live was a real treat.  I also brought along a friend from a big tech organization who needed to hear her messages. . . that week . . .

  • Ira Glass on the nature of hard work and creativity, and the difference between trying to edit documentary audio to elicit an emotional shift and writing it for feature film.  (And how to make a balloon animal.)

  • Anthony Bourdain on how to urge your TV show crew to incorporate ideas from art films. . . and live a very big life.  

Other take-aways were more contextual:
  • Joys of sitting in St. David’s waiting for a thunderstorm to clear while talking with 3 students and a record executive.

  • The crowded rooms that continue to see VR for the first time

  • Having people stop you in the hallway, bookstore, and bathroom to make comments and ask questions from your panel

  • The magic of good pulled pork and the challenge of keeping my breakfast taco intake low

  • The beauty of walking down a hallway in the Convention Center and despite there being more than 20,000 people in town for the event walking into people you know . . . from your own city . . .

Now back home for a short while, I think about the people I want to connect with further, to bring their local ideas into my local spheres, and ideas that I can play with and pitch for when when I come back again next year.

Pixelating Reality from SXSW Interactive 2014

We enjoyed sharing insights at SXSW Interactive 2014 on this question — How is smartphone use pixelating reality, blowing it up and turning it into shiftable bits of data so we are making different decisions with its Time and Place?

We are in a massive change in social and personal behavior, catalyzed by the increasing penetration of smartphones.  We have had digital cameras and cell phones for many years.  The intriguing shift stems from both (a) casual photography with no lag time to distribute and immediate connectivity, and (b) instant connecting with small screens wherever we go.

What has shifted?  This direction of thought looks at how this affects our Here and Now, as well as the question of being Together.

  • How are we Present if we are always checking in to other information and places?  
  • Are we shifting our energies to auto-documenting our activities through pictures and other actions to the detriment of the activity and connections that we are experiencing live?

You can enjoy two elements of the presentation below…

First, this video outlines some of the questions we examined:

Second, here’s the SlideShare of the presentation from SXSW, without any audio.

Cyborg Attachments and Goodies from CES 2014

We enjoyed our adventures at CES 2014.  Dr. Johnson came hold with a nasty convention cold, and now that she is almost human again, we thought we would share the human-adjacent technologies about robots, eye tracking, 3D printing, telepresence, quad copters, cars, and other things that go bump in the night from future and present technology trends.

See anything you’d like?
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SXSW 2014 Crowdsourced Panelpicker: Update with Results

SXSW 2014 Crowdsourced Panelpicker: Update with Results

Vote_My_Session        PanelPicker Vote

[Revised Jan. 22, 2014]

Back in August 2013, SXSW started its crowdsourced panel picking process for 2014.  Each year, thousands of people pitch great ideas to be voted on in a big crowdsourced process.  According to a recent email, 700 people pitched SXSWedu (education) panels for that conference.  More than 3,000 pitched for SXSW Interactive.  Who knows how many pitched for SXSW Music.  A person can only pitch one for each.

We submitted 3 pitches around innovation: educational, social media, and interpersonal:

  • SXSWedu (March 3-6, 2013): “To MOOC or Not To MOOC: Real Questions at the Core” (http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/22546).
    • Pitch: MOOCs (Massively Open Online Classes) have dominated the educational trade press in both 2012 and 2013, stirring both enthusiasm and anxiety. This session will look at their impact on higher education planning, economics, and “the rest of us.”  What have we learned from MOOCs?   How can universities use these learnings to create our own environments for the next decade? This session will frame ways to have concrete and beneficial discussions about learnings from these broadly MOOC-labeled experiences in our blended university environments. Questions can arise beyond the economics of learning at scale, focusing on the learning science, design, and differences in qualities, as well as the real learning outcomes. With this lens, we also can examine what “works” in the 700-person lecture hall and in more intimate distributed learning platforms.
    • Find a supporting Prezi at http://prezi.com/4v2xo7rreyur/to-mooc-or-not-to-mooc)
  • SXSW Interactive (March 7-11, 2013): “Pixelating Reality: How Smartphones Shift Now (http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/24245).
    • Pitch: Many of us carry smartphones wherever we go. Increasingly, we are leaning on them as active and passive gathering devices of data and images. Google Glass and other recording devices bring the question further front and center—how is our recording and perpetually digitally checking in affecting our everyday lives? How are those check-ins and recordings shifting our being “present” in our shared Now and Here? Are we increasingly taking the opportunity to be digitally Elsewhere and not Present?
    • Find my supporting YouTube video at http://youtu.be/VdTW_82j3G4.
  • SXSW Music (March 11-16, 2013):  “Building Your Digital Brand Using Social Media” (http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/24226).
    • This ties into my Udemy course and my UCLA Music course as well, plus benefits from work this summer in helping relaunch a long-time software product.
    • Pitch: The digital world for musicians continues to change dramatically. We can self-market and create communities directly with listeners and also can thrive in online communities with influencers and other musicians around the world. Digital has transformed not just the way we get the word out, but also how we create and collaborate. Internet marketing has morphed into Internet community crowdsourcing of rich relationships—a very different world for musicians and musical organizations. How can you – a busy musician and/or support team – use the resources of social media to use your time, energy, and money well to create your long-term audience and profitable Super Fans?
    • Find a supporting Prezi at http://prezi.com/apns-9wld0vo/building-your-digital-brand-using-social-media/.

We were thrilled that our favorite won: Pixelating Reality.  You’ll be able to join that session at SXSW on March 11 at SXSW Interactive.