SXSW Recap (3 of 4): Everything is Connected

Blair Culbreth, Director of Visual Design

Article Category: #Design & Content

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This was my first expedition to SXSW, and I was thrilled with the experience. For me, the biggest take-away from the conference was connections. It was a chance to evaluate how we connect to others, to technology, the online world, and the physical world around us. 

Top 3 Talks

  1. Coding the Next Chapter of American History by Jennifer Pahlka
    Code for America, founded by Pahlka, works with cities to create innovative, web-based solutions for government projects and services. It was an inspirational look at how the internet can foster action and community in a very concrete sense.
  2. Does Your Product Have a Plot by David Womack
    This presentation focused on our emotional connection with a site or app and how it's based on the narrative a site presents and guides us through. One point from the talk that was my favorite of all the points: our point of view changes when a story is online. Online, we are no longer third-person, detached observers of a story. We are first-person; we connect directly to a site, we can contribute to it and interact with it. We are part of the story and its continual evolution.
  3. The View from Inside Rainn Wilson's Brainstem by Rainn Wilson
    Okay, yes, I was psyched to see Dwight Shrute in person. But there was much more than that to his presentation! He discussed his site SoulPancake and how it's bringing meaningful conversations to people worldwide.

Post-SXSW Goals

Disconnect more often. A goal which, I know, sounds counterintuitive to what SXSW Interactive was all about. I attended more than one talk about technology, our relationship with it, how it's changing us, and how it could continue to change us in the future. One thought that's stuck with me from George Friedman's Surviving Technology was the idea that, while we all interact with more people than before, thanks to Twitter and blogs (oh, hey!), these interactions aren't as nuanced, substantial, and human as having a conversation in-person with one or two people. It's good to take a step back and look at how I'm using technology to connect to the people in my life, and when it's achieving a real connection to another person, or just the facsimile of a real, human moment.

Evaluate what I create. As web people, we spend our days working and creating in an awe-inspiringly powerful medium. With that great power comes great responsibility; let's use it for good.

Best Food

Frank. Doug and Dan have already articulated what made it so great, so rather than attempt to convey it in words, I'll use pictures to share the wonder and delight one experiences at Frank: 

Best Use of Free Time

SXSW Comedy! Every evening, Esther's Follies on 6th St. delivered some pretty great stand-up, from both familiar faces (John HodgmanEugene Mirman!) and new-found favorites (Kyle KinaneKumail Nanjiani!)

One of the highlights, certainly of my time at SXSW, possibly my year thus far, was attending a live taping of the podcast You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes. I hadn't heard the podcast before, but was a fan of Pete Holmes's comedy. Since then, I've been voraciously devouring every episode. To bring it all back around to connections and how we connect with others, the podcast is Pete conversing with a fellow comedian about themselves, their approaches to their careers, and their feelings on relationships and religion. Give it a listen if you enjoy meta conversations about comedy and the creative process, introspection, and realizing you want to be BFFs with Pete Holmes.

Blair Culbreth

Blair is a visual design director in our Boulder, CO, office. She crafts intuitive, emotionally driven design for our clients including VolunteerMatch, the Lupus Foundation of America, and other national non-profits.

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