Tag Archives: sxsw

SXSWi 2012: Keep Austin Weird (Sponsored by Microsoft)

As I work through my taco-stained notes from last week’s South by Southwest Interactive conference, a few things stand out. First, as you can infer from the title of this post, the tension between Austin’s liberal, progressive spirit and the hyper-corporatization of SXSW has never been higher or more absurd. It’s jarring to leave a keynote about Code for America and wander into a parking-lot sized space/rave/igloo tent promoting Nokia. Or to hear Girl Talk  - an exemplar of Creative Commons-enabled remix culture – blasting from the speakers of the “Today Show” food truck as they dispense free breakfast tacos (using a recipe from Top Chef star ______!).

I can say straight-faced the “Today Show” tacos were better than SalesforceJobs’ tacos, and equal to FedEx’s pizza. But nowhere near as good as GroupMe’s grilled cheese sandwiches. Those were mighty tasty.

There's a GroupMe logo in there somewhere.

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Living Through Books at SXSW

Perhaps it was the upending-nature of travel, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was living inside two different novels during my week in Austin.

The first one is obvious if you’re read it: James Hynes’ Next. His protagonist Kevin Quinn flies to Austin from Michigan for a job interview, and spends most of the novel walking the city and idly stalking a young woman he met on the plane. (This novel is excellent, with a moving final chapter that elevates the book from entertaining to indelible.) Adding to the surreality  was a tweet from the author himself, recommending some good local taco joints. (I can vouch for Torchy’s.)

The second novel would be Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. You might think I’d have the experimental work on the brain, what with all the forward-thinking SXSW panels (one chapter’s written entirely in PowerPoint).

It’s more because Egan so perfectly captures the feeling of being electrified by live music. I was lucky enough to catch Jack White’s parking lot concert, and it felt a lot like a couple of the shows in Goon Squad.

Additionally, her hopscotch approach to time dovetailed with my inability to remember what day it was. The concept of “Monday” doesn’t apply to your third fifteen-hour day of conferences and networking “parties.” A week of SXSW feels like a month everywhere else.

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My South by Southwest

South by Southwest is very intimidating for the rookie. It’s taken me ten hours and eight beers, but I finally pored over the list of panels, parties, and after-party panels; I have my schedule. The following is a tentative list of what’s in store for me next week in Austin.

  • Will We Still Be Using Questions in Panel Titles? A Look Ahead to SXSW 2014
  • The Moleskine Lounge: Demo the hot app for 2011, the Moleskine notepad app. (Only $9.99!)
  • Foursquare Cash Cab with Naveen
  • Seth Godin’s Keynote: Bloodied Spears, or When Tribes Go Too Far at the Weekend Team-Building Retreat
  • I’ve been told by several people to avoid the Five Loko Beta Testing Party (including a very regretful Alice Cooper). Still: tempted.
  • The 2009 Retro Room, Presented by AOL: Sit on couches, talk about the recession, and charge your AT&T iPhone 3Gs.
  • Super Secret Reading by Thomas Pynchon. Cancelled.
  • Rumor has it that the Internet Academy is announcing new character and alphanumerics for URLs. I’m standing in line at 4am to register www.!.com.
  • Some guy named Doc Brown is hyping after-market accessories for vintage 1980s cars. I don’t know much about it, but he plans on putting his dog in the front seat, then slamming on the accelerator or something. People in 2021 said it was impressive.
  • The Crazy Derek Austin Walking Tour, to be wirelessly transmitted into participants’ ears through loud screaming by an inebriated elderly man.
  • The Absolut Vomitorium. (RSVP now!)
  • Wordr Demo, a desktop program that removes the “e” from every -er suffix in your emails, Word documents, and PDFs.
  • The Toyota Allosaurus Shuttle: The Japanese auto manufacturer will provide complimentary transportation between Austin’s hottest bars and restaurants from 8am to 10pm daily, via lab-built late Jurassic abominations of science exclusive to SXSW Interactive. To be followed by the Guy Fieri “Sauce-O-Saurus” Mountain Dew BBQ on the 15th.

I’ll post pictures throughout.

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