SXSW 2013: The Future is Bright, Shiny and Familiar
Culturebot contributor Tim Braun sends this report from SXSW in Austin, TX.
We learned a few things at the South by Southwest conference this year. Wired magazine’s Bre Pettis wants to start a new industrial revolution, Elon Musk, the 41-year-old co-founder of Tesla Motors and PayPal, wants to take us to planet Mars by reinventing the space industry, and Sean Parker even showed up (doesn’t he every year?) to tell us about the future of what, well, whatever it is Parker really does (he had a documentary about his Napster days and how he changed everything we do). Since the launch of Twitter, Foursquare, and Pinterest over the past few years at SXSW, the festival took a decided shift to go “retro” in its deliverance of ideas and technology in 2013. I mistakenly walked into the “Future of Porn” symposium when I was looking for the Al Gore lecture, furthering my theory that Timmy Braun can’t lose. There is nothing new about porn, just the way you present it. In the same week Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires became the Pope, ushering in a new a fresh sense of the same ol’ Catholicism.
Despite the finest efforts of the former Vice President, or those of the porn industry, the most compelling content came out on the “Next Stage”, a curtained box that sits in corner of the trade show each year. This has become my favorite event at SXSW and the “Sustainable Storytelling From Disposable Content” (with Kenyatta Cheese, Sarah Kramer, Paul Octavious) was easily the most intriguing and useful seminar I saw. Dealing with the possibilities of telling stories in small, digestible chunks over time on the internet we looked at “Same Hill, Different Day” Octavious’ site-specific photo piece about his community in Chicago, and with the popular “One in 8 Million” from the NY Times, the panel discussed serial stories over digital content. Serials are nothing new, but, like my porn comment, it is all in how you deliver the content. With “Too Long To Read: The Future of Long Form” C. Max Mageeand Kevin Nguyen continued the discussion centering around 29th Street Publishing and their push of subscriber based interactive content. Perhaps the most à propos presentation I saw was by “Built 2013: Make and Tell” with Bike Hugger and Make Magazine, featuring a Spaniard who makes bicycles from old car parts.
South by Southwest started as a music festival, but has become much more. I haven’t even mentioned a single band yet, and I won’t. I didn’t attend any music shows. As SXSW grew they added movies. The most talked of movies this year were Joss Whedon’s version of “Much Ado About Nothing”, and the remake “Evil Dead” produced by the creative team of the original horror classic, but directed by the young Uruguayan Fede Alvarez. SXSW is now about bringing people from all over the world and across disciplines, then drop them into the heart of Texas and discuss the future, and what is happening now. What we learned at SXSW this year was the refurbishment of classic ideas, and building off of them to create something different. Of course, this idea in itself is nothing new. Chuck Mee has been doing it for years; it just took time for Musk and a few others to jump on the wagon. The future is bright, shinny, and familiar. Oh, and the future of porn? Just buy goggles. You’ll be fine.