For many of you, hearing about South By Southwest happened in the last 10 years. It’s understandable, regional festivals (other than say Woodstock or Lollapalooza) were just reasons to get college students together to smoke weed and rock out.
For me, to be honest, we kind of snickered at the event yearly. Of course, I was not from Austin and that city prides itself on being wierder than the rest of the state. Then it grew to be this massive thing that not only launched bands, but films and technology as well.
Now, it’s probably too big, but it is still a sight to see. It’s huge, which brings me to my point of this post. I don’t think it truly happened this year, but 2013 is when it finally dawned upon me: SXSW Interactive has truly talked itself in a circle philosophically.
I say for me, because for many of you it may have happened a year or three ago. You may not read the blogs as much as I do, which can itself tend to aggrandize even the moleiest of molehills. In all honesty, it’s been six years since Twitter took off during the event, and five years since Foursquare did the same. Now, it’s impossible to differentiate your app between the others presenting.
So we’re left with pontificating with Al Gore.
This is not to pick on the man, who has taken a great cause post-politics (combined with a seat at the table in Cupertino) and lifted it up. The former Vice-President presented a talk on his book The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. That was but one of many talks on how technology is driving the ever-evolving social contract.
In this informative piece from SFGate, “hackers” are taking it upon themselves to inform society in positive ways. An app build for Chicago tracked where someone could get a flu shot. Someone in Austin built an app to help voters find polling places. In New Orleans, developers mapped the area to highlight blighted homes with big data.
That supports the burgeoning app economy and the ability to parse the internet for useful purposes, but there are others on a world-wide stage doing the same with video. Dr. Bassem Youssef of Egypt used an opportunity like the Arab Spring of 2011 to start a journey towards becoming the “Jon Stewart of Egypt.” That would not be possible without Google’s You Tube.
There are examples of that all around us.
In today’s political climate, it is refreshing to see a group of people who aren’t waiting for the government to inform and equip the people with the right information. They are finding it themselves and utilizing the greatest distribution model the world will ever know.
So, they may be talking themselves into a circle in Austin every March, but if it highlights ways in which technology forces society forward, I’m all for it.