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SXSW Culture and Mission from a First-Time Attendee

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SXSW started in 1987 with the film and music festival. It has since grown to encompass Interactive/social media and brings more than 17,000 people from around the globe to Austin, Texas, read more background here. The people who come to this event are as diverse as the event itself. I have met a lot of people from England, other European countries and all over the U.S. There are  celebrities in the traditional sense as well as social media celebrities such as Sarah Evans and Chris Brogan. The events and sessions are also as diverse as the attendees themselves, which makes perfect sense. I have attended topics on how to set up a business,the E-food revolution and very specific topics such as open source video. To be honest though, my favorite part of the event is the culture. I have been referring to the entire event as SXSW Camp.

I think back to my summers spent at camp and the energy and excitement that I would experience. SXSW feels very similar to the culture I can remember. The kind of culture you can only achieve through a large group of like-minded people working toward a similar goal. The mission or goal of SXSW is to better the planet through technology. This mission is felt throughout panel discussions, keynote presentations and lounge designs. A couple good examples of this environmental, sustainable culture are the keynote presentation by Valerie Casey and the Aol Seed lounge.

The other large part of the culture is this idea of policing the social media space and making sure we’re all acting responsibly. Social media is not new any more, it’s constantly evolving, therefore we need to make sure we’re using it responsibly. There are many examples, good and bad about the use of social media for business and personal use. The keynote on Saturday, Privacy and Publicity by Danah Boyd talked about how privacy still exists even with the rise of social media and it is the responsibility of everyone involved in this space to respect this. Just because we’re all using the Internet and much of our lives are being recorded on sites like Facebook and Twitter does not mean that everyone is entitled to our personal information. Just because something is public (on the Internet and shared with friends) does not mean that it can be publicized. This was a very interesting keynote presentation.

All in all, the event culture has surprised me and it’s what will pull me back again next year.

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