Reflecting on My SXSW 2016 Journeys

Reflecting on My SXSW 2016 Journeys

I spoke at SXSW Music again this year on my current favorite topic: Music 20/20 and how we can proactively affect the future. SXSW, however, is not just about speaking. It is about diving deeply into diverse ideas with diverse people. It is one of my annual addictions.
This is my 7th year going to SXSW — I think.  They blur together.  I started going to SXSW Interactive and enjoying the diverse voices, sharing areas I knew nothing about.  I would go to session on digital changes in Latin America and Eastern Europe, meeting people I would never have seen otherwise.  I learned about location-based mobile tools at SXSW first, learning what was being done on the ground from front-line users in arts, documentaries, and the like.   I also hear dynamic voices that really resonate for me.  I heard here first from Amber Case on tech anthropology.  I first heard at SXSW about shifts in search engine trends.  I first heard here about new heads-up displays for cars to keep the clutter down and compete with smartphone structures.  I first heard at SXSW ideas about non-interface interfaces.  
I also learned about breakfast tacos in the early years.  Tacos? For breakfast?
My experience now is different.  I don’t find many technologies I haven’t seen yet.  Perhaps this is because I’m hip-deep in leading-edge technologies at other events from my current role at UCLA Center for Music Innovation.  Maybe because the event is much heavier in startups competing for attention and big companies trying to get attention as well.  The era of the breakout new tech service or product getting lots of buzz at SXSW seems to have made way for the McDonald’s custom burger, Mazda free rides, and esurance tech giveaways.
I do continue to get my favorite things from it: real-life implementations and dynamic voices.  I enjoy learning from implementers on a local basis, running in-context, in-place real life examples of disruptive and collaborative tech — in use, with all its headaches and glory.  I find that often the people drawn to the conversation IN the room are more intriguing than those on the dias, and conversations that follow provide all sorts of connected bridges to new engagement.  In most rooms, the volunteer session wranglers needed to push everyone outside to finish conversations. . . not just about selling things and ideas to the speakers, but also to connect the folks who want to keep the conversation going in how these challenges apply in their own sector or local community.
It also continues to be a great mix of voices and use cases.  This year, northern European languages abounded as people flew great distances to be in these conversations, with their own stories and questions.  I met many executives and creative executives from Asia.  On the US front, I met several mayors, many non-profits, and lots of university students, sharing ideas and interests.
As a result of my going to SXSWedu, Interactive, AND Music (two weeks in total), my highlights this year are a mixed bag.
  • Jane McGonigal at SXSWedu talking about how we can understand and think about the future.  I do a lot of futurist work and hang out in that space.  Her talk brought it into focus for folks wanting to understand how to be a Futurist in their everyday lives.  That recording I have shared with a half-dozen people I’m working with and they are changing some of the questions they ask about the Signals they see.  
  • The British Museum, with Samsung, using VR to take young students into the Bronze Age and see artifacts in context.
  • Lots of conflicting information and predictions in sessions on location-based mobile tools and big data about consumers.
  • Beacons, beacons, and more beacons. . . especially in retail.
  • New ways to make assets liquid, including MoveLoot, which helps you resell the used furniture in your home.
  • Battling apps about food — including finding food trucks, bringing us food on the spot, and in-app learning from videos of making food.  
  • Cities wrestling with how to use big data and action research.
  • Local music venues dealing with the impact of streaming music and gentrification on local clubs.  
I really enjoy the amazing speakers. 
  • Brene Brown — live.  I’m a big fangirl and have been consuming her books and audiobooks, so listening to her live was a real treat.  I also brought along a friend from a big tech organization who needed to hear her messages. . . that week . . .
  • Ira Glass on the nature of hard work and creativity, and the difference between trying to edit documentary audio to elicit an emotional shift and writing it for feature film.  (And how to make a balloon animal.)
  • Anthony Bourdain on how to urge your TV show crew to incorporate ideas from art films. . . and live a very big life.  
Other take-aways were more contextual:
  • Joys of sitting in St. David’s waiting for a thunderstorm to clear while talking with 3 students and a record executive.
  • The crowded rooms that continue to see VR for the first time
  • Having people stop you in the hallway, bookstore, and bathroom to make comments and ask questions from your panel
  • The magic of good pulled pork and the challenge of keeping my breakfast taco intake low
  • The beauty of walking down a hallway in the Convention Center and despite there being more than 20,000 people in town for the event walking into people you know . . . from your own city . . .
Now back home for a short while, I think about the people I want to connect with further, to bring their local ideas into my local spheres, and ideas that I can play with and pitch for when when I come back again next year.
 
Gigi Johnson
President/Maremel Institute
Inaugural Director/UCLA Center for Music Innovation

Cyborg Attachments and Goodies from CES 2014

We enjoyed our adventures at CES 2014.  Dr. Johnson came hold with a nasty convention cold, and now that she is almost human again, we thought we would share the human-adjacent technologies about robots, eye tracking, 3D printing, telepresence, quad copters, cars, and other things that go bump in the night from future and present technology trends.

See anything you’d like?
[flagallery gid=1]

Four Conferences: Four Sets of Live Viewpoints on Innovation

We’ve just come back from a series of unique conferences, each with a very different view of the world.  Given our overly connected digital world, the proliferation and expansion of live events is intriguing.  These were just the four we picked of the dozen or so going on during this same three week period of time.  Some are pricey — over $1,500 a seat before paying for room, board, and travel — and others are less than $100 for attendees.

Sponsors are abundant — is this the real sign that we are coming firmly out of the recession?

Or is it that in this crowded business-to-business marketing world that face-time for new brands is so essential?  I’m working with quite a few new educational technology brands right now . . . who each are having to rationalize how and where they invest their time and money to meet the right adventurous partners for trials.  A growing portion of my advisory time through Maremel is working with innovative leaders about this exact question set.

GSV/ASU Educational Innovation Summit

We had bypassed this event last year and was amazed by the 1,500 attendees at more than $1,500 a pop for three days.  This was a well-heeled crowd of investors and new educational technology ventures, as well as many leading voices from traditional firms, NGOs, and government forces.  The dance was intriguing, with 170+ short presentation pitches.  The more intriguing discussions were happening in the hallways and central seating areas.  Deals and gossip seemed evenly matched.  We overheard a lot of conversations about competitors about to run out of funds.

Viewpoints: Adaptive learning is the next new great thing.  Give our new company money and we will save the educational world (mostly US).  Selective viewpoint: We’re already an adventurous organization, doing cool things, and we are at this event quietly to see what is coming up the pike that doesn’t have revenue yet.

2013 IFTA Production Conference

Embracing the Small Screen: How Independents Are Defining Their Future in Television and Digital Media

We enjoyed this conference, run by what used to be the American Film Marketing Association, and was renamed IFTA (International Film & Television Association) many years ago.

The day was broken into the Buyers and the Sellers, and I could see why this was also a sell-out event.  The audience was filled with aspiringl producers, but the panels were filled with those really doing business in digital video production and distribution in a big way.

Viewpoints: The money isn’t there yet, but exciting things are afoot.  Big names were wondering how the money was being made.  Digital distributors were sharing some cases, but keeping some of the data close to the vest.

AERA

American Educational Research Association

How do you fit 14,000 educational researchers in a group of hotels in 5 days in San Francisco with thousands of presentations, and often more than 75 simultanous events?  With a phone-book sized guide with 7+ digit codes and a almost-connected App.

This group has seven different technology-oriented special interest groups, each with overlapping content and interests.  We spent time with both the TICL (Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning) and TACTL (Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning) groups, who call themselves “Tickle” and “Tactile” respectively.  There was intriguing research in cognitive load theory in teaching (making the content format decisions make the learning easier, not harder) and evidence-based educational design.

The conversations continued that started at GSV/ASU: Why does the research being done on learning science NOT flow into learning design, both in terms of products and content?

We ask the reverse: why should it flow?  What would be the connective tissue to tie it together?

Viewpoints: Our research is wonderful — why doesn’t the world want it?  Peer reviewed journal research is of value, not necessarily research happening by non-universities (undercurrent of conversations).

Business4Better

The Community Movement Partnership — http://www.business4better.org/

What a different perspective!  In Anaheim, CA, we caught the second day of this UBM-hosted conference that brought together community partners in social support from around mostly Orange County, each with little booths waiting for people to come by.  This was the most old-fashioned of the conferences, and the thinnest attended, but the one at which we had the most sincere conversations.

Viewpoints:  We are helping our communities.  How can we bring new awareness and resources in?

End Thought

All of these were valuable conversations — all local and all connecting ideas in the light of our digital world.  How do we connect the right resources, ideas, and different frames of mind?

Live and local becomes even more important in this overly connected age.

Precious Communication — Some Online Choices for Communities of Concern and Support

Precious Communication — Some Online Choices for Communities of Concern and Support

I wish this topic wasn’t top-of-mind.  I have several friends facing major health challenges right now, with each family following different pathways to communicate to friends and concerned loved ones.  In this era of instant communication, how do you keep people apprised on the heart-wrenching changes in traumatic health issues?

Each family has been pursuing different paths:

  • Google Connect with Blogger — Sadly, the most recent addition to this story is from the family of a friend this weekend.  In her 40’s, she collapsed during one of her kids’ sports events, needed CPR, and has just come out of a hospital-induced coma.  Her immediately family is dealing with hour-by-hour issues as well as all of the well-wishers who are very concerned.  They chose Blogger/Blogspot and Google Connect for people to subscribe to updates.  Just implemented, the blog already has more than 60 people signed up as Followers and it has been read by nearly 250 people.  I cried just reading the fragile updates.  Things are looking up, but with gigantic uncertainty on what happened or where things are going.
  • Caring Bridge — This is a full service for these types of issues: http://www.caringbridge.org/.  I’m aware that it exists, but have found no friends using it, at least right now.  Many know of it, but have chosen other solutions.
  • Plain old email — Another friend has nearly 100 people following his chemotherapy.  His lovely wife is sending a bulk email out every week or so to everyone, with very detailed updates.  She is aware of services like Caring Bridge, but feels this is more personal.
  • Nothing — The flip side is one of my dearest friends, who is having an awful battle with complications from chemotherapy and surgery.  He has stopped communicating with people and often won’t answer his phone.  He….doesn’t want to both people.  He….doesn’t want to keep answering the same questions.  This breaks my heart.  I’ve been sending him updates from my trips and adventures and occasionally get a quick note back, but he has pulled back from communication.
  • Facebook — I’ve been part of quick bursts of support for sick children, car accidents, surgeries — the abrupt traumas of life — that have been shared by caregivers/loved ones on Facebook to garner support.  The beauty of telling the story once and having outpourings of digital support within minutes has such power and heart-felt warmth.

None of our traumas are new.  We’re all getting older and our threads of lives more fragile.

We have always picked up the phone, but the connections were one-by-one or saved for the tragic story after the fact to share in a Holiday Letter.  We now live immediate, connected lives.  Instead of the “reach out and touch someone” world of long-distance calls, we now have quick touches and digital gestures of warmth and support.

We don’t just share the funny games and today’s news, but we also share our hearts, health, love, and amazement at the brittle details of our worlds and lives.

May you not need this post and may you think of how to build support around others from it.  And may you add other suggestions into the mix that you see in your worlds.

Time — One of our 12 Factors Changing Media and Our Lives

Time.

“There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate.”

t.s. elliott, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

All we sell and give is time. As I get ready to teach my Winter 2009 UCLA Anderson Media 2015 class, I keep coming back to time. As I spent too much time on Twitter and Facebook, editing video, spending time with my kids on the Wii, watch so many companies struggling with advertising (selling time), hearing so many new company pitches now — all of them are looking to grab and sell or re-sell some of my and your time.

I’m looking professionally at how we can better sell and use time for education, helping “early majority” users improve their lives and futures. Some of this is teaching myself at UCLA and other universities, helping create and grow programs to help future executives and creators think about new and better futures — future “time” — that they can make efforts to change. Some is with my Ed.D. work on educational leadership and change at Fielding — I’m starting some interesting research in that regard with connected media and am talking with several entities in that regard.

And I will be posting here detail around the 12 Factors Changing Media and Our Lives, which is some of the cornerstones of my work through Maremel — and much of that is all about (a) time; (b) the data on how we spend our time; and (c) how all of that drives much of the wealth creation and value transfer in our modern era.

Time…

“…we have all the time in the world.” — the last line in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” which always makes me a bit sad.