New trends emerge from SXSW 25
Over 18,000 attendees made the 25th annual gathering of South by Southwest (SXSW), which wrapped up in Austin in mid-March, the largest interactive event in the festival’s history. Certainly, with hundreds of bands vying for stage time, countless films begging attention and interactive communication in various forms engrossing the masses, it’s no surprise a few trends emerged. While it’s too soon to tell which, if any of those trends will catch on with techies and social media mavens, it’s important to keep an eye on them, just in case.
What combines the solitude of a private chat with the efficiency of a group reading and sharing the imparted information? Group texting, also known as group messaging. By far the most widely used application for group texting at this year’s SXSW was GroupMe. Not only were attendees able to communicate with groups to organize their schedules while at SXSW, they were able to exchange photos and location, too. Beluga was the second-most used group texting app at the digital-junkie’s meetup. Like GroupMe, users were able to group text and also exchange photos and locations. It was purchased by Facebook in March.
If you thought Social TV was a new channel on cable devoted to socializing, you would be partly correct. Over the past ten years, television and entertainment, in general, have become increasingly interactive. Clear examples and evidence include audience call-in voting on American Idol and tweets racing by on television screens or scoreboards at athletic contests. Web series have also attracted millions of viewers online to catch the latest escapades of favorite characters or enjoy a hearty chuckle watching someone fall on their face in snow on a YouTube video.
Several discussions were held at SXSW discussing the emergence of this growing form of instant communication and personalized entertainment.
The dichotomy between online anonymity and personalization
While countless conversations centered on Google Circles, Google’s much-rumored coming social network, SXSW attendees grappled with the evolution of identity on the World Wide Web. Whereas the 1990s were marked by anonymity, ala people surfing the Information Superhighway without revealing their real identities, this past decade has focused on Internet ‘tagging,’ as it were, evidenced by the millions of posts made by named people on web sites such as Facebook.
But not everything on the web requires identities to be completely exposed. In contrast to Facebook’s adoration of identified users publishing posts, Christopher Poole, the founder of 4Chan, presented a keynote on the social network he is building premised on the principles of anonymity.
Looking to the future
Planning is already underway for SXSW’s 26th annual incarnation. The Interactive branch of the digi-fest is set for March 9-13, 2012 in its permanent home of Austin.