Day One at SXSW

SXSW – Day One, March 11, 2011

Greg and I arrived at SXSW Interactive, Film and Music Festival safely. The security lines at Newark Liberty Airport were eerily non-existent and we got through in record time, which was the theme of our travels – all went smoothly, which is how you want travel to go.
Austin itself is, at night, a jewel of city, rising up out of the Texas plains, glittering, beckoning and promising. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, settled and walked across the parking lot to the legendary Threadgill’s Restaurant, a down home Texas place which, in its various incarnations, has nurtured many an artist, including Janis Joplin.
Over dinner, we poured over the SXSW official app, which is available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones. There is a prodigious amount of material there; it’s free. If you have an interest in finding out what is going on at SXSW and have a smartphone, I suggest you go into your app store and download the app. It gives a blow-by-blow account of what is happening, what kind of panels there are and who is on them.
It also lets you know the 579 companies that are exhibiting at SXSW and how to find them. It has comprehensive maps, helps you create and organize a schedule. It seems to be a great app for this event. I found a few glitches in the search function but still pretty amazing.
There are a couple of conference calls I have to do and then I’m headed off to pick up my credentials and to get down to what is happening. The number of panels that I would like to attend is overwhelming. Each time slot has more than one that would be worth attending. Two that have caught my attention so far are “Lessons Learned from the Arab Spring Revolutions” and “The Potential for Augmented Reality”.
There is also a panel about digital changes happening to the Cargo Container business; new digital tools are apparently about to radically improve that business. You can also learn about creating your own event around digital advances, and another one about how textbooks may be morphed into social gaming opportunities, a radically new way of imagining education. Apparently in both Texas and California, states followed by most others in education, the traditional textbook is on the path of the dodo bird.
There are at least six panels happening at 2:00 I would like to attend. Same for 3:30 and same for 5:00, which has a panel on “Hate Gone Viral” as well as one discussing the impact of “singularity” – when machines are smarter than we are. Hello, Watson!
And as the days go on, over 2000 bands will be performing at SXSW and hundreds of films will premiere. There are classes offered by the festival on how not to be overwhelmed by the festival. Sounds like a good thing to me.
And so it goes. Greg and I have arrived and overwhelm begins. We’re excited. All of Austin has been taken over by the festival, a hotel room is impossible to find and the streets are crowded with an interesting mix of people. Right now, it’s the place to be if you are a digirati – or a film buff or a music aficionado. 100,000 people are attending, the biggest SXSW yet. More to come…

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