sxsw interactive

Every year, the South By Southwest music, film and interactive festival gets larger, and navigating the blur of panels, parties and shows gets more daunting. The girth of it all is enough to keep many SXSW old-timers away from Austin this year.

KUT News

Here's a wakeup call: the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive festivals are just about two months away.

If you want to be part of the action – but don't want to shell out the money for a badge – you can volunteer.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

South by Southwest Interactive announced the bulk of its 2013 programming today – some 450 panels, discussions and events covering everything tech you can think of. The five-day tech festival has eclipsed its music counterpart in registered attendees in recent years. 

Marquee names included among the festival's “Featured Sessions” include Univeristy of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers on innovation in higher education; Whole Foods founder John Mackey on “conscious capitalism;” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark on the future of journalism; video game developer-turned-space tourism advocate Richard Garriott de Cayeux; and “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” creator Chuck Lorre.

The first Interactive keynote has also been announced for 2013: Matthew Inman of comedy website The Oatmeal.

Tuesday was Changeover Day at South By Southwest. The people from the Interactive conference packed up and headed out, and the people from the Music festival rolled into town.

Photo courtesy

How did a group of Internet enthusiasts evolve from online trolling to altering the course of world politics?

That was the focus of a South by Southwest Film and Interactive panel today delving into Anonymous, the loosely-organized collective of “hacktivists” that have brought attention to the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and claimed credit for compromising the servers of Austin-based global intelligence firm Stratfor, releasing the company’s emails to Wikileaks.

In contrast to many of the sensational stories Anonymous generates, “I don’t think anything had been done where you’re trying to figure out where it came from and what it is,” said Brian Knappenberger. He’s at SXSW with his documentary, “WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists.” Although this today's panel was ostensibly about the film, it ended up being largely about Anonymous in general, which continues to generate headlines.

Photo courtesy

While it's easy to forget in the hubub of South by Southwest, it's college Spring Break this week. So as thousands of college students get ready to party, and perhaps try out their pickup lines, one local blogger is warning women to be on the lookout for dubious techniques.

Amanda Marcotte spoke at SXSW Interactive over the weekend. Marcotte, who runs the liberal feminist blog Pandagon, was part of the panel “Sex Nets: Pickup Artists vs. Feminists,” which delved into tips and tricks men share online – and charge money to teach in seminars – on how to "pick up" women.

“I felt like a lot of men are attracted to this [concept] for somewhat of the wrong reasons,” Marcotte told KUT News. “That they feel it’s frustrating for them to be told that women can say no, when men are given a lot of entitlement in this world. … I think pick up artists sort of prey on that in men, and use that to get money from them. And I don’t like charlatans, and I definitely don’t like sexists, so it’s sort of a combination of two things I really hate!”

Live video by Ustream

Here’s one South by Southwest Interactive panel you don’t need a badge for.

At 9:30 a.m. today, a group of panelists are gathering to answer a question: “Can Bloggers Put Hope Back Into the 2012 Election?” The group is set to discuss whether the online team the Obama campaign assembled in 2008 can be jump-started this cycle and counter potential Democratic unenthusiasm:

2008 was the first Election in American History where bloggers and vloggers helped shape the political narrative and carry President Obama to the presidency. Four years later, the Administration has not nurtured these pop cultural connections. Will the blogosphere turn out for Obama in 2012?

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Follow Us on Tumblr

KUT has a Tumblr account documenting SXSW on the fly, with photos, videos and more. KUT’s Terrence Henry, covering SXSW Film, has posted a review of "Electrick Children":

They shot the film on the burnt orange landscapes of Southern Utah and the urban desolation of Las Vegas over four weeks, filming six days a week. One of the bigger obstacles they faced during filming, despite the fact they were in the desert, was rain. “The rain follows us wherever we go, even here to Austin,” the director said during the Q&A afterwards. 

The film stars Rory Culkin (yes, of that family) and the delicate Julia Garner (playing the lead, Rachel), who’s only eighteen years old. You may remember her from a smaller role in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Photo courtesy Mindy Tucker

The SXSW Interactive kickoff keynote address was delivered today by Baratunde Thurston. That name may not be widely familiar outside plugged-in circles, but Thurston’s work is: He’s a comedian and political satirist who's driven the digital development of satirical newspaper The Onion.

He’s also an author that discusses topics from an African-American perspective. His first book, “How to Be Black,” was just published. He entwined the threads of his heritage and digital connectivity by describing how his mother, raised in rural Pennsylvania, came to join in the Black Power movement. “She changed her social networks!” Thurston said, displaying pictures on his mother marching in the street.  

But the Onion’s online content – and the strange way fake news can bleed over into real-life events – was another theme of Thurston’s speech: Earlier this year, Republican Rep. John Fleming shared a fictional Onion article, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” with his followers on Facebook, allegedly believing the article to be real.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

SXSW Attendees Are Interacting With Rain

South by Southwest Film and Interactive are well underway, but it's hard to find a bigger trending topic than the wet weather. KUT News' Nathan Bernier reported yesterday that the rain may be dampening festival goers' clothes, but not their spirits:  

View Larger Map

Get ready Austin: the South by Southwest Interactive and Film festivals are starting Friday, March 9. 

The City of Austin has announced the first of several street closures and lane reductions beginning Friday.

  • Northbound Congress Avenue will be reduced to two lanes between Seventh and Eighth streets from 10 a. m. to 11 p. m.
  • The Rainey St. district will be closed to traffic between Driskill and River streets from 3 p. m. to 11 p.m.
  • Trinity St. will be closed between Cesar Chavez.
  • Fourth streets and East Second and Third streets will be closed between Trinity and San Jacinto streets from 7 a. m. to  6 a. m.

To the list of weird-sounding hybrid words of the digital age, like Googling and tweeting, we can now add "pinning." As in Pinterest. It's sort of an online scrapbook or bulletin board, and it's one of the fastest-growing websites in history.

Last month, more than 10 million unique visitors signed on to Pinterest. But some of them, like Billy Winburn, are still trying to get the hang of it. At an office in Alexandria, Va., Jennifer Folsom, who works a few desks away, is walking him through the process.

Photo courtesy

Whether you’re ready or not, South by Southwest kicks off in just over three weeks. Here’s a compilation of recent festival announcements and reports:

SXSW Music: The music showcase grid is live on the SX Schedule website, showing who is playing where at what time. Let the tough decisions begin. In other music news, influential indie-music website Pitchfork  is trumpeting its booking of Fiona Apple at its Central Presbyterian Church showcase. "The beloved singer-songwriter hasn't played more than a handful of shows since 2007,” the site writes.

SXSW Film: A string of film conference panels and late additions to the festival has just been announced. Panels include A Conversation with Seth MacFarlane, wherein the “Family Guy” creator sounds off; Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else, a talk with the minds behind the popular comedy website; and Screaming with Laughter: FEARnet TV's Holliston, featuring players from the horror channel and filmmaker Adam Green, who’s developed a program for the company.

Photo courtesy of Texas Tribune

Hearing on Drought's Effects on Tourism 

Photo courtesy

The signs are everywhere that South by Southwest is nigh. But here’s one that doesn’t involve the rejiggering of sound permits: Finalists for the SXSW Interactive Awards have been announced.

The awards are divided into 15 categories: Activism, Amusement, Art, Business, Classic, Community, Educational Resource, Experimental, Film/TV, Motion Graphics, Music, Personal, Social Media, Student, and Technical Achievement.

Meant to recognize up-and-coming websites, applications and digital projects, the closest thing to a widespread name in the categories is Storify, which lets users combine social media updates into newsworthy narratives.

And in another sign of the burgeoning importance of the festival’s tech component, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading a delegation of Austin start-ups to the UK this week.