South By Southwest Festival Innovates
by Hana Tatsutani on Friday, April 8th, 2016
Earlier this month, from March 11-20, the 30th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival took place in Austin, Texas. If you are like most people I talked to this week, you might be wondering what SXSW is. When asked what they thought what the Festival was, Emily Jiang (II) and Kailee Silver (III) both guessed it was an airline. Alexa Perlov (II) guessed a charity organization, and Ellie Lachenauer (II) guessed it was directions on a map.
While these are reasonable guesses, SXSW is actually a three-part festival that features emerging technology, film, and music. The first five-day portion of the festival is called the “Interactive Festival” and is a self proclaimed “incubator of cutting edge technologies and digital creativity,” according to their website. This portion of the festival includes presentations and panels from industry leaders in technology. The second part of the festival is dedicated to all things film, including film premiers, presentations from filmmakers, and even one-on-one mentor sessions. Lastly, the SXSW Music Festival features many musical performances, allowing artists from around the world to come together, learn from another, and gather inspiration.
Jacob Aronoff (I) attended the SXSW Interactive festival both this spring and last. Jacob explains, “I went to SXSW because my dad is on a startup panel every year and I really wanted to go to get more immersed in programming and startup culture.” The Interactive Festival is known for bringing in Industry Leaders in the tech world, some of whom Jacob got the chance to meet. He describes, “I saw Hiroshi Ishiguro who is a leading professor in robot culture and androids. He’s doing crazy research. I also got to meet an Apple security project manager, and my sister met stars from ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘Broad City’ and ‘Togetherness.’”
This spring, SXSW Interactive featured its biggest name ever: President Barack Obama, who was a keynote speaker at the event. In his discussion, Obama called on the industry to use technology to help solve some of America’s issues, especially following the recent controversy between the FBI and Apple about hacking into iPhones. Just over a week later, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the SXSW Music Festival with a discussion of her Let Girls Learn initiative, a project aimed at helping adolescent girls around the world complete their education.
Nathan Strauss (II) has not been to SXSW, but would like to go sometime in the future. He explains, “I heard about the festival because some of my favorite up-and-coming artists announced that they would be performing. I’d totally be most interested in the music portion because it seems like a really good way to hear some performers you might not know (kind of like an in-person Pandora) and it seems to have a really chill vibe. It appeals to me because some of the music might be less mainstream than other music festivals, but the other components like the film section are also really interesting mediums to explore.”
If you are also interested in attending any of the three festivals (Music, Film, or Interactive), you can be a part of choosing the panels you will see by using SXSW’s “PanelPicker.” This tool allows the community to propose and vote on panel topics for upcoming events. The final programming decisions are 30% the choice of the voters, 30% the choice of the SXSW staff, and 40% the choice of the SXSW Advisory Board.
Whatever your interests are, there is likely something for you at South by Southwest, and if there’s not, you can propose something entirely new. So head on over to their website and sign up for the Summer 2016 Festival!
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