I just got back from my very first SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, and it was simply amazing and invigorating. SXSW vibrated with great minds, great talents, great projects, and great conversations. This conference is where the good stuff happens, and where people do and think cutting-edge. If you’re interested in social and/or digital media, this is the conference you should attend. It’s not cheap, but it is absolutely worth its money!
That being said, there is one tiny critique I have regarding this year’s SXSW. It was my first time attending this conference, of course, and since I had heard so much about it my expectations were quite high, but in terms of the panels and talks, SXSW was not as innovative as I’d thought it’d be. A lot of what was said in the panels was old news, and it almost feels like the social and digital media scenes, including the field of transmedia, are a bit stagnant at the moment.
If I were to summarize the key point of pretty much every panel I’ve gone to in one sentence it’d be this:
„There is this thing called ‘your audience’, and if you want to survive in the digital world, you better a) know exactly who your audience is, and b) listen to what your audience says and wants.”
Not necessarily a new concept in our field, yes, and definitely one of the reasons why I was a bit disappointed at the lack of innovative presentations. That being said, however, transmedia experience designer Steve Peters, whom I met at SXSW for the first time, reminded me of a crucial point in one of our conversations – SXSW panels are crowd-sourced.
Months before SXSW, everyone can submit panel proposals with descriptions, and attendees can vote for the panels they want to see in the schedule. So while the panels themselves did not offer any new trends but digital media basics again and again and again, the decisions the crowds made shows that content creators and especially advertisers only just realize the extent of the changes digital media bring about, and – yay! – have started looking for answers and instruction.
Despite the incredibly fast pace of the digital revolution, organizations and institutions continue to adapt slowly in the eyes of digital natives. This is good news and bad news: We’re still not quite where we could be with the tons of possibilities given to us by digital and social media, so we’ll have to continue explaining and defining things. BUT there is a change in thinking happening amongst those that make the decisions. So we’ll just have to hang in there a little bit longer!
Nevertheless, what was just as I expected was the exchange with media and communications professionals around the world. I’ve run into big names and smaller names at SX, communications executives and media freelancers, and all were open to talk and discuss the most recent developments and ideas, united in our common passion for digital and social media. Geek heaven, really.
You can check out the 2014 program here. I’ve had a pass for both Interactive and Film, and as you can see from the schedule, it is slightly insane in terms of volume. I’ve tried to catch as many panels and talks as I could, and have taken plenty of notes throughout. To keep my SX re-cap easy-to-read, I will only give you a detailed review of those panels that I found particularly noteworthy. That said, I do have all my notes still, of course, so if there’s a panel that you would like more details on, just let me know and I’ll send you my notes on that particular panel (un-edited version).
Overall, I attended the following panels and talks. Those highlighted with bold letters are the ones I will focus on in my re-caps (although not necessarily in that order):
Keeping Score in Socials: It’s More Than Likes (Description)
Make Them Hate You (Description)
Tomorrow Is Another Day: Surviving a Social Media Crisis (Description)
Digital Engagement & the Conscious Consumer (Description)
Each of the bold titles above will link to the respective blog post in the next few days.
Enjoy! And do let me know if you have any questions or comments!