Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Closing Down SXSW

Sitting here in the Halcyon coffee shop in downtown Austin, TX with a bunch of other haggard (but happy) Southies, the initial reaction to this year's interactive conference is one of optimism and reassurance. Optimism in the sense that normal everyday folk are doing some amazing work in empowering everyday people on the internet. Reassurance in the sense that there IS so much creative lift within this community of developers, designers, coders, programmers, e-theroists, organizers and entepreneurs.

Bruce Sterling, one of the foremost social comentator bloggers and sci-fi writers of our time, closed out the 4 day event with a wonderful speech around the power of the human experience. I left his talk with a real sense of "We Can..." (those of you who are Deanaics out there will have horrible flashbacks to a certain song that bore its ugly head when "on hold"). I realized that we were the transition generation (as my buddy Stan notes, "we're all a part of transition generation!") from an offline world to an online world. Sterling defines past generations as "legacy people" who read the newspapers, believe in TV and radio and go into work where they keep their 'work things.' I realized just how free we are as a generation. I can work from home continually, get all my news from NYtimes.com or Salon.com, can talk to my friends via email, text message or instant message, edit webpages and do my writing and journaling on various blogs. Heck, I can buy all my necessary items to live online and have them delivered to my door. But this is all old information. What Sterling is talking about is how this generation will handle the future. We are a group of people who grew up on the internet. We straddle legacy. Early memories still revolve around big-wheels, barbies and television with only 30 channels. Now, our days are filled with keyboards, texting and walking, gaming and wireless communication. We are the transition generation -- transitioning to an "internet of things" where we can make "reality simple again."

But is this freedom really a facade? Obviously it is. As soon as you lack the power to drive a wireless access point or a computer you lose your "freedom." Sterling is big on the "cradle to cradle" idea and very much embraces the idea of returning to our roots as a human species. Whether that means technology will play a role is still a major question. Where will it lead us?

Sterling is living in Belgrade, Serbia with his wife (also a writer) where one saying rules the day: Make no decision out of fear.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

South By and On

Two days into the conference and I can honestly say that many of the greatest minds here will play a role in changing the digital landscape of our future. And, since that digital landscape is becoming more and more linked to our physical landscape, these folks will indirectly play a role in how we all live our lives (and children's lives) down the road.

SXSW Interactive is the geek extension to the long-running SXSW Music and Movies Conference in Austin, TX. Basically, its an excuse for all the part-time bloggers, filmakers, developers, designers, programmers and (recently) industry reps from IBM, Dell and Apple (Apple sent the most) to come together and meet, talk to, share stories and shake hands with their web heroes. My buddy Stan Jones is a talented designer who got to meet Jeffrey Zeldman, a designer who changed the way everyone at this conference thinks about web design through his book Designing With Web Standards. I was able to hear Jason Kottke and meet other bloggers of community fame.

But what really stands out at an event like this is how much already in motion everyone is. I don't think the number of individuals here who are "blown away" by the content being discussed and introduced any more than other web conferences I've been to. In fact, I think most folks here know already much of the content being thrown around and talked about. So, does this mean that all of us techies are on the same page when it comes to web development? Maybe this community of interactive folks is more tight knit than we had previously estimated, and we're really only separated by 1 or 2 degrees?

Regardless, these conferences are necessary and an integral part of the community. Why are they necessary when we can be connected with audio, video, intstant messenger, cell phone, and text message? Because nothing can replace the human experience of meeting someone, shaking their hand and sitting down over a morning coffee to discuss a project that at the same time baffles and astounds you. And we're bound to have that here. The creativity is being scraped off the walls like butter and slathered over all who are willing to soak it in.

Gotta love Austin.