Archive for March, 2010

SXSW – The Big Picture

Some of the student who worked on the project this semester

Every year, when I go to SXSW, I return with a head full of knowledge and some big takeaways that involve immediate action or some form of continued research and learning. I honestly could not be anywhere near as effective at my position (Assistant Professor of online media at Texas State) if it were not for SXSW and the wonderful people and ideas that I am exposed to every festival.

This year, there are a couple of big ideas that I will be considering. The first overriding theme was obvious both in the Douglas Rushkoff presentation on the first day and in danah boyd’s keynote. Both were discussing privacy and control, and the false sense we get when we use social networks. Rushkoff’s presentation was titled “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age” and that is a fascinating observation. We must be aware of how we are being controlled and limited in these spaces, while at the same time, taking advantage of their great potential for connectivity.

Another fantastic panel was delivered by Glenn Platt and Peg Faimon from Miami University entitled Universities in the Free Era and it dealt with applying open source ideas to the mission of the university. I loved their description of the new professor, who is an experience designer, a life coach who conveys the “you-can-do-it” attitude and someone who provides students with access to a network. It was a great tie-in with the Core Conversation I hosted (with Tyson Evans of The New York Times and Matt Waite of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact) entitled Influence and Innovate: Transforming Media Education. You can see that panel in its entirety at

There was a lot of talk and usage around the location-based services, like Foursquare and Gowalla. At an event the size and scale of SXSW, you can clearly see the benefit of these services and how they augment and enhance the use of Twitter, focusing more directly on people you know and want to know their whereabouts. I think there is also a good deal of potential for locations, brands and events to develop promotions that engage customers and fans by using one of these services as a platform. These ideas are really in a pre-infancy period.  Congrats to Josh Williams of Gowalla for winning the Texas Social Media Awards, btw.

Finally, there were lots of good things about music that I enjoyed. The panel on How the Internet is Disrupting the Concert Industry, hosted by Ian Hogarth gave some good data about live music sales and potential. And, one on Crowdfunding Music: Raising Money from your Fans was equally fascinating in regard to the really creative things that artists are doing to introduce and engage people with their music. Check out Allison Weiss, because she is doing some very  cool things for her fans. I am more convinced than ever that the future of music is in engaging your fan base and creating and maintaining a community around your music.

So, I have a lot to process and lots to learn. I had a blast meeting so many people, and as always, I loved seeing many of my students interacting in the community and engaging the things they are learning. It’s great for them to see that there is a huge community of people that care about these topics, and that the future of media lies in creativity and innovation.

Thanks to the great staff at SXSWi for putting on another amazing festival. I am ready to be blown away again by the programming in 2011!

After the Interactive, I moved on to Music. You can read my posts from the shows I attended at

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