Reflecting on the keynotes at SXSWi. It’s well enough documented elsewhere, but Danah Boyd and Valerie Casey gave us thoughtful wide-ranging provocations – on the importance of privacy online (http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/SXSW2010.html, http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23openingremarks) and ideas for how to approach systemic change in relation to some of our most challenging social problems (http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23sundaykeynote, http://twitpic.com/18sj7z).
The men that followed on the other hand (sorry boys, but the women really won this one) were dry, process oriented and basically dull.
I’ve never seen the kind of exodus the crowd treated Evan Williams to. 5,000 people crammed in and well over half left, leaving a dispiriting empty looking conference hall by the time they wrapped up. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-20000486-52.html
And Daniel Elk the next day wasn’t much better. The interviewer and the content kept people there, but as performance goes it was a damp squib.
That these men lack charisma isn’t the main problem. The problem is they’re the current poster children for our collective ambitions for the web. Twitter is great – a happy accident with openness at it’s heart that’s had the (mostly unintended) consequence of doing social good. And so is Spotify. But do we really need another way of consuming music when so many exist already? Is that the best we can aim for? The problem is of celebrating these (agreed, technologically and business wise brilliant) achievements as the only zeitgeist. We need to resist the kind of circle jerk group-think that just produces imitations and copies rather than really creative solutions to unsolved problems.
Thanks to Bruce Sterling for bringing us back – http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/17/bruce-sterlings-sxsw.html
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