SXSW 2015 Day 3

16 Mar

Day 3 is known among conference attendees (well, me and my friend Chad anyway) as Slump Day. It’s Sunday, but in 5 day conference land, it is Wednesday. The partiers partied the first two nights. Some people are leaving for home already. Sundays here are decidedly chill and a time for your brain to take it easy for a second. That’s kind of how my panels were, except for a mind-blowing keynote. Here we go, dear readers.

The Anatomy of Selfies That Sell was first up, and it was a little more geared toward brand marketing than I wanted it to be. Basically, the big keyword of the panels I have been seeing this year is UGC: User Generated Content. FACT: the human race takes 2.6 BILLION photos…A DAY. There are more smartphone cameras now than the total sum of cameras that have ever existed prior to right now. Of course brands are going to want to utilize this. Also, consumers are way more savvy about how we are being marketed to and we crave (another keyword) authenticity. So a pretty image of a watch taken in a studio with its face glistening in the flourescent light does way less for us than a photo someone took of them wearing their watch in a coffeeshop one day. How to balance these two ends on the spectrum is a challenge.

Then it was the panel that made me cry: Youtube celebrity iJustine (her real name is Justine, imagine that) interviewed Lizzy Velasquez, a remarkable young woman making big strides in addressing cyber-bullying. We watched a couple of trailers for A Brave Heart, the new documentary premiering here at SXSW about Lizzy, and she talked a little about her life. It made me really angry at the subset of humans who regularly troll around online to make people’s lives hell…but then seeing Lizzy’s story of taking something like that and trying to change the world for the better warmed the cockles of my cold, angry heart before I grabbed a pitchfork and went on a rampage. Phew. (Read about iJustine, too…she’s 30 years old and the “grandmother of Youtube” – the first vlogger, really).

KEYNOTE. Martine Rothblatt. I went because usually the 2 PM keynote hour is low on options and you kind of have to go or just float around. I thought I’d rest my brain…totally wrong. Martine Rothblatt is the highest paid female CEO in the United States. She founded Sirius Radio and now heads up United Therapeutics. I’m just going to copy from Wikipedia for the interesting part: she is a transhumanist, interested in the “prospect of technological immortality via mind uploading and geoethical nanotechnology.” Like…mindclones people. Like…we clone our minds and have beings separate from us who ARE us, because they are made up of all our thoughts, but they are completely sentient and complete beings. Cyberconsciousness will live after our physical bodies die. Companies are already building mindware…software to harvest our thoughts, patterns, likes, hates, predispositions, etc. to build the cyberconsciousness. I am doing a terrible job explaining because it’s so over my head, but check out this article here. Oh yeah, and in the meantime? Her company has come up with a way to use pig cells to grow human organs. They are also coming up with ways that each human being can grow their own replacement organs if needed. She said at any given time 400,000 people need a lung transplant in the U.S. and there are only 2000 lungs available. Imagine if we could grow our own? Seriously – do a little reading on this woman. I bought her book. It’s so out of the way of anything I ever think about it’s fun to ponder.

Then…I slumped a little. I went to a full panel run by the documentarians at Pixar…which is the team that lives at Pixar and documents the people AT Pixar. Kind of cool, kind of not what I was expecting. Some good points about interviewing people and stuff, but overall not life-altering. Sally Field was speaking across the hall and I kind of wished I had hopped in that line (IstillloveyouPixar!).

Lastly a panel with someone from the PBS Digital team and NPR’s Codeswitch program. PBS and NPR are historically and yes, STILL…watched and listened to by older, white males. And surprisingly, most of the staff are still older and white. Weird. Anyway, these two, especially Shereen Marisol Meraji of Codeswitch, are trying to change that. Codeswitch actually has a majority young, non-white audience, which is unheard of for public radio. As a former PBS intern, I can say that when I was there…yes, we were old and white. It’ll be interesting to watch the next 10 years for both organizations to see how they pivot (pivot faster!!!).

I am typing this on Monday after going to bed early and am happy to report I have lived through the Slump and am back at it. Thanks to everyone who reads these!

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