Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 17 Mar 12 03:34
Just one more...Lance Ulanoff captures the serendipity of SXSW and why people go and keep coming back. There is something very special about talking to anyone, great or small, in a relaxed environment,about the things you love. http://mashable.com/2012/03/14/sxsw-2012-wrap/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 17 Mar 12 08:10
We're still going strong at SXSW - last night we saw local jazz luminary Jeff Lofton play at the Elephant Room, then saw the Australian film "The Hunter" with Willem Dafoe at the Alamo. Back downtown we wandered around in the world east of Congress (but still west of IH35). We picked up on a distinction between east and west of Congress - east has a lot of smaller clubs and free events. This is where you find very young people without badges wandering, drinking, dancing. It's pretty surreal. My artist friend Warren McKinney (who produces the Art Outside event) was commissioned to create a giant simulated Dorito machine near Carmelo's. He told me that people would be able to climb a stairway, step into the coin slot, and slide down. I didn't see that part of it, but it was an impressive commercial installation. We caught a little of Japan night, then an amazing set by Blitzen Trapper - probably the best experience I've had so far this year at SXSW. You asked about the challenges of throwing a big event like this - I think you start small and grow organically. It would be hard to do something like this coming to it cold. I suspect they now have more infrastructure than any one person or entity could track - i.e. you have to build a bureaucracy around it and scale it up. I don't agree with Ed, but I've already said what I think. People are not staring zombie-like into screens - there's generally somebody, or somebodies, on the other side. That's not exactly the way to say it: people are forming networks of interaction that they follow through their devices. When they stare into their screens, they're connecting - the screen is portal through they access their networks. Think about Howard Rheingold's "Shibuya epiphany." And the people I'm connected to were all meeting like crazy and hashing out ideas.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 03:57
Jon, that is the joy of a Festival. And maybe people forget that SXSW is a festival; a smorgasbord for the senses. The whole point is to be able to wander... experience the ideas, people, media. It's going to be different for everyone who attends; highs, lows, serendipities. Where else can you get this concentrated sense of what's happening on the Net and in digital culture? Sure, we haven't integrated it yet. There's too much, all at once, for any of us to take in. I got rid of my smartphone this past year. I don't want to be connected 24/7 and 'always on'. It's too much of a distraction for me. (I think I lack the discipline to use it as a tool, rather than become a tool of it; may go back to it later). But I get that a new generation is coming up that IS 'always on'. The beauty of SXSW is that you can go and sample and see what works for you, get a sense of how others are using tech, and a peek at what's coming.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 04:01
As for what's coming our own Bruce Sterling (bruces) waxes eloquent: "[There's] a new phenomena that I like to call the Stacks [vertically integrated social media]. And we've got five of them -- Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They're not hostile to the internet -- they're just [looking after] their own situation. And they all think they'll be the one Stack... and render the others irrelevant. And they'll all be rendered irrelevant. That's the future of the Stacks." (via Huffington Post's the Best Quotes (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/bruce-sterling-sxsw-2012_n_1343353.ht ml) Would you like to comment on that Jon?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 04:28
Ed. What's the state of the 4th estate? This question spins off the last one to Jon. As we have experienced the tsunami of social media, has journalism been swept to the shore as flotsam and jetsam? Or is there something hopeful occurring? Everyone's attention to 'social' seems to have rendered journalism to the back seat. And that would be a danger IMHO. I've been a journalism junkie my entire life, via every media. And I think I make good use of the tools of technology to keep up and fairly well informed. Maybe I've always been in the minority in that respect. But I really feel in the minority now.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 04:52
For those who could not attend SXSW 2012, Ogilvy Notes has captured visualizations of many of the major panels. Fantastic work. http://ogilvynotes.com/49790/sxsw-2012
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 18 Mar 12 07:48
I have seen no reason to be optimistic about journalism at SXSW. The novelty of the new media is very much still with us (media is so slow-moving that this will take years to abate), and everyone is still reveling in the faux democracy of current content providers. Hell, you yourself just linked to the no-pay aggregator Huffington Post, one of the chief villains in this situation. There was less even on the music side this year to hold my interest, which is obviously my problem, not theirs. The Springsteen keynote was excellent, our panel, "They Used to Call it Classical," got a surprisingly large number of attendees and was a very lively conversation, but downtown has become such a clusterfuck that I didn't see a single band this year. Nor do I particularly regret it: I have no idea who any of them were.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 18 Mar 12 09:09
This video that I shot downtown yesterday gives you a sense of the crowd: http://youtu.be/KMlii8AddaE Much of what's happening downtown as the festival shifts from Interactive to Music is not formally part of SXSW, and many of the people downtown haven't registered for the event, they've come for all the residual effects. Most of my Interactive friends were long gone by yesterday. To Ed's point, there are many marginal-to-bad bands playing the last half of the week; finding the good stuff is needle/haystack crazy. I saw good performances, but I was selective. Top of my list: Jim White, who unfortunately only had a half hour to play at the Continental Club, which was inconvenient to reach - I walked in the door a couple minutes before he started playing. That inconvenience in reaching the acts (or panels) you really want to see is a pervasive issue at SXSW as it sprawls over the city. Traffic's impenetrable at times. To catch Jim White I walked a mile from the Big Star event, drove to south Austin, luckly found a parking spot a half mile from the Continental Club, and hoofed it to get there. The Big Star event I mention was a screening of the excellent work-in-progress Big Star documentary, "Nothing Can Hurt Me," and the magical tribute that followed. Big Star drummer and sole survivor Jody Stephens, working with Chris Stamey, put together an assortment of musicians to play all the songs from Third/Sisters and Lovers. This is the sort of thing that only happens at an event like SXSW. Aside from Jim White and Big Star, the highlight of music for me was the Friday 1am performance by Blitzen Trapper at the Red 7 club downtown, which I already mentioned. Yesterday was day 9 of SXSW for us, which means we'd been going full steam for over a week and, when we slowed down enough to notice, realized we were exhausted. We saw "America's Parking Lot," a very good documentary about how the Dallas Cowboys' move to their new billion-dollar-plus stadium affected tailgaters who'd staked out specific territory outside the old Texas Stadium. The documenary gets into the political economics of the contemporary NFL, how you have to pay exorbitant license feeds just to have a right to buy tickets, which have also become very expensive. Ordinary working stiffs can't afford to get into the games anymore, at least not without sacrifice. A tailgater named Cy Ditmore has put off construction of a new home in order to buy the PSL (personal seat license) and tickets. Director Jonny Mars was passionate about his material, and it shows in the film. I wondered if he would get distribution, go straight to DVD - or possibly the film would never reach a wider audience. The latter is less likely in this world of broadly distributed media, but if he does get distribution he might not realize much of a return. SXSW and any film festival is about seeing films that might be hard to see elsewhere, and the SXSW fest is particularly well curated for compelling oddities by film lead Janet Pierson and her team. We had a minor family emergency to deal with and made it downtown too late for much of what we had planned, so we wandered through the whacky green St. Patrick's Day crowd on 6th Street until we reached Esther's Follies, Austin's celebrated comedy/burlesque venue, and hung in there for a bit of bad comedy and a drink. At that point we realized we were done. I had an ambitious list of shows I wanted to catch, but I was running on fumes. And I realized I'd done more at SXSW that over the last week than guys half my age would ever attempt.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 18 Mar 12 09:39
I wanted to give you a feel for Film and Music, but we're here to talk about Interactive, and we have a couple of weeks to talk about the event and the scene. Ed and I have a different take on the state of journalism from our different perspectives. We've both been involved in old-school print journalism, but I never depended strictly on writing to make a living, and though I've been writing all my life, most of my published work has appeared post-Internet and has been about digital culture. I've given a lot of my writing away. There are many writers like me around today, and the long tail aggregate of semiprofessional authors who have other sources of income is taking mindshare from professional journalists. Because there is much good content available online more or less for free, professional writers find themselves competing with that price point, i.e. writing/blogging for little or no money. This is a difficult situation, one that I've spent a lot of time considering. The problem isn't just that there's so much digital content and so much of it is free. It's that we're in a transition and we're not clear about the business model for quality content. Advertising is not the best or only model, but it's the prevalent model currently. On the Internet, as with televsion, this means that the customers are the advertisers and the readers/users/consumers are the product. The creation and publication of content is part of the process of acquiring product, and its value is based on how well it commands attention. In the Internet era, there's an additonal dimension: how relevant the content is to the advertiser's business - will it attract users who will "convert," as in clicking through an ad and actually buying the advertiser's goods. The Internet also facilitates long tail advertising: rather than placing ads in a few places where there will be attention and relevance, you can place ads in many places where there is less attention per placement, and still some assessment of relevance - this is what Google is about. Google is an advertising company that supports long tail advertising, i.e. many lower cost ad placements with some sense of relevance, determined algorithmically. They've created a whole new market for advertising, auctioning attention based on keyword assessments and complex algorithms for delivering the goods (consumers). We're just starting to get our heads around this new environment and how it works. At the same time the "stacks" Bruce Sterling mentioned are struggling for dominance of the environment, competing from their different approaches. E.g. Google tries to compete by leveraging the Internet as a whole, and Facebook tries to compete by offering an walled-garden overlay for the Internet experience. I know smart people who think and talk about the evolution of the Internet, and it's what I study and think about every day. I don't know anybody who's got clarity about the future five or ten years out. The scene we're in is complex, and there are many strange attractors. My sense was that the Interactive crowd at SXSW this year was mostly people with nothing new to say, because we've been in persistent accelerated innovation mode for so long, and we've hit a wall. We're at a point where we could and probably should stop and look deeply into what we've built so far, and consider how it all works, and how to make it work sustainably. How we can make ourselves better through evolving cyborganics. There was some sense of this at SXSW this year, but I think we were somewhere between innovation and going deeper. Underneath it all, I'm realizing there was a sense that it could all fall part. A real anxiety beneath the glossy surfaces and marketing hype.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 18 Mar 12 10:24
I'm glad to hear you say that, since you're far deeper into the whole picture than I am. As that blog entry for realeyz up above shows, I didn't get a whole lot except buzzwords from one of the panels, and had a kind of deja-vu experience with the rest. There'll be another realeyz blog on Wednesday dealing with sharing and what it does and doesn't mean to me.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 18 Mar 12 10:25
And meanwhile my editor put this up: <http://www.realeyz.tv/en/blog/events/who-put-the-glomp.html>
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 11:18
One of the finest sermons on Rock and Roll I've ever heard, by the Rev. Bruce Springsteen, SXSW 2012 Keynote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWVp7NBp9XU
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 12:41
From Roy Christopher's wrap up of SXSW: The internet has made fame much easier and fortune nearly impossible. (http://roychristopher.com/temporary-eponymous-zone-sxsw-2012) That seems to speak to Ed's conundrum. There's quite a lot of talk about digital (k)nomads and how everyone in GenX is going to be a contractor or consultant. We are fairly unique in the WELL to have a 2nd generation of Wellperns which gives us a flavor and perspective other social sites lack. It would be great if some of the younger (under 35) folk would chime in both about SXSW and digital culture in general. Do you have a sense of an unlimited future enhanced by tech or do you sense some of that "fear of collapse" Jon mentions? As Bruce Springsteen echoed Bob Dylan, "How does it feel to be on your own"? Or do you truly feel connected?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 18 Mar 12 14:03
Maybe you should invite some folks from the GenX conference to join our conversation. (Is there a conference for the children of the GenXers?) I was jut reading the Lance Ulanoff post where he says it's all happening in the ambient realm - in the halls, not in the sessions. That's been true of every good conference I've ever attended, so it's not surprising. I suppose you can excuse the dropping of names in that post as his attempt to make the point that prominent Internet folks tend to show up, but if you're hanging out with Robert Scoble, Ed Baig, Guy Kawasaki, Andy Cohen, Tony Hsieh, Steve Case, Tobey MacGuire, Craig Newmark etc., you're not exactly looking for the cutting edge. Bruce Sterling told me that the one new thing he saw was Londoner James Bridle on "The New Aesthetic" (http://www.riglondon.com/blog/2011/05/06/the-new-aesthetic/). I wish I'd met that guy and caught his panel, but it didn't happen. Here's a talk he gave at New Directions South in Australia: http://booktwo.org/notebook/waving-at-machines/. Reminds me of Amber Case - these are philosopher/designers who totally inhabit now, without the conceptual baggage many of us older farts carry forward from our experience of mass media, mass marketing, print culture, greed culture, etc. I.e. they're farther along in the cyborganic evolution. It's hard to imagine this guy and the likes of Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki showing up at the same conference, but that's SXSW. The new monkeys hop on the dinosaurs and ride.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 17:10
Thx Jon, I did. Boy are they having a good time on that forum. You could make a blog post just on the topic titles! "cyborganic" ...catchy phrase, captures cyber and the borg at the same time. <The new monkeys hop on the dinosaurs and ride.> You are waxing eloquent today Jon. Didn't Dave Matthews write a song about that? <without the conceptual baggage many of us older farts carry forward...> That's a mouthful and an excellent point. Part of the magic of SXSW is that it can help break those boxes, but as I continue graying I'm realizing there's a gap that can only be breached by listening.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Mar 12 17:12
No conference for GenX's kids. We don't have parental controls to limit them to some version of SpongeBob Squarepants or iCarly, but you're right, we are into the third generation now.
O'bummer Libtard Apologist (tpy) Sun 18 Mar 12 23:20
suzanne stefanac (zorca) Sun 18 Mar 12 23:43
what i liked best about sxsw this year was bumping into people i hadn't seen, often, in years. all day, every day. it made this now giant show feel almot human-scaled. there are too many panels at the same time (often 30+) in the interactive track, but the greatest value for me was, as i say, in the hallways.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 03:44
Margaret, we should start thinking up a catch phrase for the next batch! What are we going to call the generation following the millenials? Suzanne, I saw that over and over again in the Twittersphere comments. People meeting F2F for the first time, having had a virtual relationship for many years, and reacquaintances as well. Amazing how much of our lives is virtual now.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 03:46
Jon, non-sanctioned events were a big issue last year. Was that much of a problem this year?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 04:09
Ed, you made a great comment about the way kids listen to music, in last year's SXSW conversation: <This also goes to the heart of why kids today can't understand why their parents got so wrapped up in the music of their era. We don't understand that their relationship to music is utterly different and that it's far less emotionally central to their cultural world-view, no matter how passionately they seem to follow this or that band or scene. So what's the big deal about the Beatles? They were just a band.> It seems to me that you could put the word 'media' in the place of 'music' and pretty much catch the zeitgeist. The way they (and now,we, to a great extent) listen to media has become background noise, amidst all the chaff of a constantly streaming data flow. You really have to go out of your way to filter all the noise, just to be able to actually hear something. In the older days -- ten years ago -- we used to say you have about 8 seconds to catch someone's attention on a web site. That was in the days of 'pull'. Now we live in the days of 'push and pull', media streams trying to catch our attention by pushing data in our direction, as well as pulling our attention to their sites. I think it's down to about 4 seconds now. Does anyone even surf anymore - who has time? That used to be a great joy of mine, just puttering away following link after link and serendipitously discovering new things. Now I use aggregators and dashboards for that. Hurumph! Your thoughts?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 19 Mar 12 05:56
Cyborganic is a word I came up with in the 90s, derived from the word "cyborg," which is a mashup of "cybernetic organism." I first saw the word "cyborg" in a forgotten comic book in the 1960s. The idea of the cyborg is older, but the term itself appeared in 1960, coined by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline: "For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term Cyborg'." They were working on the psychophysiological apsects of space flight. The New York Times, reporting on their work, wrote "a cyborg is essentially a man-machine system in which the control mechanisms of the human portion are modified externally by drugs or regulatory devices so that the being can live in an environment different from the normal one." Around 1992 0r 1993, when I was an editor at bOING bOING (the magazine), Mark Frauenfelder asked me what title I wanted, and I said "cyborganic jivemeister." Not long after, an online community founded by Jonathan Steuer had the same name. Google the term and you get around 22K hits, so it's been used here and there; I think it's a useful word to describe what many of us have been talking about for the last couple of decades. Cyberpunk fiction was filled with cyborgs. Cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction, appeared at just the right time to influence the culture that emerged among early online adopters. There's more interesting history around all this - e.g. William Gibson's influential book _Neuromancer_ wasn't influenced by any experience with actual computers, he hadn't touched one at that point. His idea of "jacking into the matrix" where there's a visual perception of data was inspired by electronic video games of the 80s.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 06:09
Thanks for the etymology of 'cyborganic'. I also like the 'organic' part of it, but did spend a few seconds musing on the idea of inorganic evolution:)
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 06:11
Ed, this should get your juices flowing...from All Things Digital, Twitter and Facebook Are Tomorrow's News Service - http://allthingsd.com/20120318/twitter-and-facebook-are-tomorrows-news-service -for-now-though/?mod=mailchimp What a scary thought.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 19 Mar 12 06:18
You ask about unsanctioned events during SXSW. People take advantage of common presence in one place to schedule all sorts of things, from meetings to unconferences to miniconferences that charge money. There are also hundreds of parties, most of which are not "official." I think the SXSW organization is not as concerned about the existence of these events as they are whether the events are identified as, or presumed to be, part of of SXSW. It's a branding issue. There was, for instance, a health unconference a couple of years ago that was held in Austin the day before SXSW started. They originally called it "South by Social Health," but SXSW asked them to use a different name to avoid the appearance that the event was sanctioned. The following year, the organizers of the health unconference helped program a health track within SXSW. If you want to have an official SXSW party, they ask you to make it free to badgeholders and charge others or ask for a donation. I.e. in exchange for official status, you agree to make it a benefit for badgeholders. Also if you have major sponsors for the party, they ask that those sponsors make some kind of buy with SXSW, e.g. an ad in the program book. In exchange you get listed in all the official materials. I don't think they care about unofficial parties otherwise. Many parties come together later than they should - I know of one this year that became "official" too late to include it in the program book. You really have to start party planning the summer before to be viable.
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