Look at Yourself, Austin.
Brenner roams the imploding SXSWi social nodes
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
4:42PM, Sat. Mar. 14, 2009
Look at yourself good.
Middle of March, Austin, and fucking look at yourself: Drizzling down the rain like God's postnasal drip, temperatures low enough to stiffen the nipples of somebody's girlfriend in a coma, people are gonna think they've wound up in Seattle instead of the putative Live Music Capitol of the World while they work the Interactive schmoozathon.
Haven't been precisely working that, myself, the schmoozathon. Been prowling the convention center's concourse, schlepping the swag-heavy Interactive & Film bags around, pausing to chat and clot the walkways with local homies before hoofing it to the next panel, the next presentation, the next lack of an epiphany.
But no one's at SXSW for an epiphany. The information profferred by its army of talking heads, that newsy data's already in the last article they threw into the Net or will anyway be published there mere hours after the festival's closed. No one needs to cross the globe or even just the street to consume Dan Willis's opinion about why current webdesign is, basically, wrong. No one needs to leave their favorite surfing chair to ken the carny savvy of social-engineering jackanapes Brian Brushwood.
Even if some of us (the more entrepreneurial and less cultural, say) do wind up heeding a few of the many panel-driven instructions on How To Sell More Shit To More People, that is not, ultimately, why we're here.
We're not here for the content.
"What makes a meatspace gathering like South by Southwest worthwhile, when everybody's already hooked up online?"
I recently asked that question of Graffiti Research Lab's James Powderly.
"People still need to get sweaty together," he told me. "It's great to meet people on the Web, but it's really just a prelude to what has to happen in real life."
So, for reals, we're not here for the content.
The content's an excuse, the perfunctory hub
around which the real reason we're here revolves.
We're here to make eye contact with and rub elbows (or more) with people of somewhat similar worldviews, among those with whom we share the depths or the surface of the information superhighway, the growing online cyberscapes within it, and, more specifically, its streets and alleyways and lolcat divebars.
We're here for the experience of being here.
If only because, at worst, we'll be able to remember when.