March 17, 2004

SxSW Interactive Summary

The shift in people between SxSW Interactive and Film to the much larger Music festival is fascinating. The film makers rock a casual bland stylishness and the tech geeks keep a post hippie dishevel with occasional burning man color highlights. Then in glides the music industry en masse. Simultaneously slicker and dirtier, more suits and more shreds. The ego level probably is the same at all the conferences, but suddenly far more visible, worn perhaps around the neck like a dangling medallion.

The Interactive Conference was perhaps an echo chamber personified. I've got a more complex post waiting on that subject, but lets just say I take the threat more seriously now then I did last Friday.

Also taken more seriously now is Deleuze's distaste in the conversation as an intellectual form. As a rough rule the solo presentations shined where the panels stumbled. There were exceptions of course, but for the most part the panels where either too technical (in areas I'm not hugely interested in) or too amateur. You'd think a panelist would at least be aware of the pertinent literature in the subjects they cover, but no that is not the case in this town.

The exception on the solo talks was Friendster's Jonathan Abrams. For a brief moment he had me second guessing my idiot savant take on his success, as he appropriated nearly every idea he was rejecting six months ago into his business plan. But in a truly repulsive panel afterwards, and several brief personal interchanges with him it became far clearer: Whatever his success may be attributed it sure isn't an excess of any intelligence.

The other monologist fared far better. While I agree with Adam that Brenda Laurel is coming from a perspective tinted very 1994, I didn't much find that a problem. Rather it felt more like an emergence. Donna Haraway, Seybold and Mondo 2000 fused into a cohesiveness of sorts. While I may not myself proscribe to this gelling California techno-humanist school of thinking, I can envision producing interesting results along the (on)line.

Perhaps the there is more hope for California thought in the Whole Earth tradition though. Howard Rheingold might be the last believable voice of Bay Area techno-utopianism, far more balanced and pragmatic then popped bubbles past, yet still positively flirting with the future. His call for a new cross disciplinary intellectual construction is much welcomed in these parts.

Like Rheingold, Bruce Sterling gave a far better talk then I'd seen him produce previously. The shorter? The future is a fucking disaster beyond belief. It'll be great, lets party!

And yeah, Neal Pollack is damn funny.

He's also scared shitless of me, but that's a story for another year.

Posted by Abe at March 17, 2004 05:35 PM