Letter From New York by way of Austin, TX and SXSW March 13, 2011

I started this blog yesterday, sitting in a room of people who are becoming untethered. The panel was entitled: The Last Broadcast: Entertainment is Social – What’s Next?
10% of this audience of about 500 have either never been a cable or satellite subscriber or have cut the cord; which I have done. These are the folks who are at the center of digital transition and so one would suspect are changing faster than others. It’s most noticeable in college graduates. Ten years ago when folks graduated from college and set up housekeeping for the first part of their adult lives, they didn’t order landlines for their apartments. Now they’re not just ordering landlines, they’re not putting in cable or satellite, relying on Internet sources for their video content.
We are now co-viewing with people all over the world thanks to Twitter, Facebook, etc. And this is expanding our natural impulse to want to co-view with people. Jeff Cole pointed out the he and his wife “watched” the Academy Awards together while she was in Los Angeles and he was in Abu Dhabi.
3rd party recommendations rule our life; Twitter and Facebook make it even more so. And we have reached a point where there is DEEP fan engagement in a way that is different from fan engagement in the past. For example, people tweet as characters in dramas that air. For example, there is a woman who tweets as Betty Draper in Mad Men. [At first AMC wanted to shut her down then went, hey! what good p.r.]
After the panel was over Greg and I interviewed Jeff Cole from the Digital Center at the Annenberg School of Business who underscored the rapidity with which the world is moving to mobile devices and the opportunities he sees for faith communities in the mobile world .
We then tracked down and got to spend some time with Daniel Hope, from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest who had led the panel: Everything is amazing and nobody is happy…
In this panel he and his fellow presenter, Zach Pratt, talked about how we seemed to be living in a time of technological entitlement. We have amazing technologies and we expect them to work flawlessly and are perhaps inappropriately angry when they do not. We’re living in a time of a new set of addictions generated by use of technology – of people alienated from the rest of the world because of their too deep involvement with the net. However, on the flip side of that is that technology also allows us to reach out and offer compassion to folks quickly. [My experience recently: a colleague I have been out of touch with for several years was fired from her job; I was able through the net to reach out and give my condolences and support almost instantly and have it received and appreciated almost instantly]. We are able through the net to be able to give tangible support to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in a more timely fashion than ever in history. We are able to see and experience their tragedy in ways unimaginable in the past and if we allow ourselves to be open to the information technology brings we are able to open our compassionate selves to a wider range of people and situations. As with most things, we can use technology to help better ourselves or to indulge the darker parts of ourselves.
Again, I was struck by the dizzying array of interesting choices at SXSW Interactive. I need five of me to get to as many places as I would like to get to. Topped by the fact that yesterday the Film portion of SXSW opened, the buzz has only intensified with the glitterati now joining the digirati for an intoxicating brew of people and technology.
One of the reasons that SXSW has become such an important hub is that it mixes culture with technology, technology with hope. While the decline of America is debated pro and con all the time these days, here the streets are filled with hope and exuberance for a future that is bright with possibility, not just in America but also in the world.

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