As far as tech and culture conferences go, SXSW has managed to maintain its reputation as a fair-weathered food-truck party over the past several years, while simultaneously transforming downtown Austin, Texas into a Disneyland of brand activations. For some people who can’t make it to the festival, the FOMO is real: Tacos! Thought leadership! James Franco sightings!
Really, though, SXSW is a lot like many other events now, where people pay money to fly in from all over the world to gather in one centralized location and benefit from the exchange of ideas but in actuality are staring at their smartphones a good portion of the time. Like in the picture above. We get it: SXSW is a one long crazy rundown of ongoing events, spread out in different locations, which means regular checks on your schedule, using maps, or attempting to hail a ride. Some of the sessions are live-streamed or tweeted. Sometimes, you just need to share something to social, to keep up your company’s or your own #personalbrand.
But don’t be fooled if you’re not here. Much of the event is happening through the filtered lenses of smartphones. It’s how we experience things in modern life. We are all here together, but we are also on our phones, looking for the thing that isn’t where we are.