At SXSW, even the blisters are embraced.
Yes, we walk a lot. And, not even the gloom of rain can suppress the energy of participants and attendees.
Sure, it rained some on my second conference day. And sure, it rained some more. Well, actually, it was more like being a fish attempting to navigate a new, above-ground fish tank, but you’d hardly know there was rain at all when walking down the streets. Ponchos and umbrellas were used to cloak gadgets and computers, and I’d wager a good half of attendees never even tried to hide from the rain. This made for soppy attire and squishy shoe-filled conference rooms, but I never heard a single comment about it. Everyone was much more interested in the meeting of new people and ingesting new information.
What did I choose as protective gear? I originally opted for nothing at all. See, I’d wisely forgotten my lightweight jacket at the Minneapolis airport, and I felt my new punishment fit the crime. After it began to rain harder, I went in search of a light coat of some sort — just to keep my clothes dry. Turns out in Austin, where the sixties can be considered part of the winter season (and I being from Minnesota where this is perfectly acceptable shorts weather) found the parka-like options a bit too intense. Thus, I gave up the hunt and moved to my next session. After that one, a downpour made me give in. It was time for an umbrella. But, when you wait until well into the day, the cheap ones are gone. I managed to locate one in a boutique store in a Hilton. It cost me $27. Aside from my phone, I believe it’s the most expensive thing I have with me today. It’s well worth it.
My co-workers and I started a bit late today. The Ride Austin driver was further away than we’d planned for, and I had only fifteen minutes to get to my first session. Considering the lines of the day before, I almost didn’t even attempt to go — thinking it’d be hopeless. But, I did, and I got in!
The session was called “Copying is Good.” I had very high hopes for this one. In my industry, it is not uncommon for someone to ask for a service, refuse payment, and then copy the product for use. So, a session with this title needs to be amazing — otherwise a lynch mob of my fellow professionals might form. I was pleasantly surprised to find this session was better than I could have hoped.
Of course, everyone knows the old adage, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And, while Raymond Chin touched on that notion toward the end of his talk, he explained why copying is necessary to innovation. For starters, if something already works, why bother reinventing it.
Why do the Chinese copy so much? Well, in some instances, they simply don’t have access to the things we westerners take for granted. They don’t have access Facebook or Twitter. Their solution: take all of the platforms and combine them into one app. This may seem odd, but for them, it made sense. We made these one by one as a new need or opportunity arose. They watched, picked the best parts of each, and created a new, more advanced option. Innovation at it’s finest. I’ll provide a link to an interesting video about WeChat at the conclusion of this blog.
I could go on and on about the shifting my mindset did as the session processed, but I have to get to some of the other highlights. Suffice it to say, while I still think there it is important to make sure work is not stolen, stealing a person’s ideas is not necessarily the same as copying. And when being transparent and self-aware of what you are doing, copying can become a catalyst to drive the future.
On to some art programs!
At SXSW, seemingly stagnant spaces are transformed into powerful and poignant areas for thought expansion. They vary on subject, but a common thread seems to be the incorporation of technology. One, which didn’t allow photos, started with physical pieces and concluded with a virtual reality experience. Another utilized both sound and physical proximity to make participants part of the piece.
The final one I attended for the day, though I’m excited to see many more, is called the Infinity Room. An unassuming black box opens into a enlightening, and arguably emotional, environment.
I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable at SXSW. Less energy is expended on navigation and more of me is becoming available to take in new information. For any potential 2018 attendees, and as a reference for my future self, here’s some tips:
- Do you really need that laptop (or in my case, Yoga Book)? I certainly don’t. While I don’t know if I’d have ditched it had my bag not broke, not having it along was freeing.
- Your shoes should be comfortable and ready for the trash. Slopping through rain and mud puddles will destroy even the best footwear, so don’t be attached to what you’re wearing. My coworker, Jane, knows this all too well.
- You absolutely, unequivocally WILL NOT see everything you want. Get to what you can, and take away as much as is given. Don’t dwell on what’s beyond your grasp.
- Locate the coffee stations early. They’re harder to find behind the throngs of caffeine addicts.
- Have your camera ready. It’s as though everyone is adhering to an unwritten rule: if a quote goes up on screen, the wave of cell phone cameras immediately follow.
I think my favorite part of South By Southwest, so far, is the unexpected randomness of conversations I get to have with people I’d likely not otherwise meet. While waiting to hear Chris Sacca speak about a variety of topics from a perspective only he can give, I met a bioengineer by the name of Nathan Price. I feel I cannot do him justice with a description, and as he is also part of a panel at SXSW, I encourage you to look him up on SXSW.COM for a full list of his positions and accolades.
Over the course of my talk with Nathan, we covered as many topics as one could hope. I told him a bit about how the museum I work for is trying to find new ways to stay relevant in today’s changing world. We discussed video gaming and the possible futures of VR/AR. And, although much of what he told me about his field is admittedly over my head, I learned about the human genome. Did you know that while a bar of gold, for example, is more valuable as it becomes more of a rarity, the human genome’s value only increases as more are available (providing more data from which to learn). How crazy awesome is that?
I’ll have to leave it at that for today. My next session will start soon. Here’s the promised link: WeChat Video
See you tomorrow!