The Speed of Technology

SXSW 2000 Interactive Festival

An Interview with Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown has been writing about Internet culture, entertainment, and technology for over five years -- first for HotWired and now, for Salon magazine. She was at SXSW both covering the conference for the magazine and as a panelist on two seminars -- "What the Film World Can Learn from the Music and New Media Revolution" and "Killer Applications for Broadband." The second seminar is especially appropriate, since Janelle has recently been promoted to director of broadband programming for Salon.

I remember the first time I saw Janelle speak. The next day I was gushing to a female co-worker about how she impressed me as being smart and astute, and my co-worker waved a hand with a sigh and said, "Yes, all the boys love Janelle." Be that as it may, she is smart, astute, and I have never seen her be anything but gracious and interested in meeting and listening to anyone who stops her to talk.

Austin Chronicle: Let's talk about your new role at Salon. What will you be doing?

Janelle Brown: Well, as the Internet has become more mainstream, we've been expanding our content, looking into areas like audio and video. Since I've been writing about broadband it seemed to be a good fit to for me to figure out what great broadband applications will work for us. I'm excited about moving from writing about the technology to building it.

AC: Since you have been involved with the Internet for some time, what changes are you most impressed with?

JB: The growth of creativity. The sheer volume of numbers of people and ideas being drawn to the Web. Whether that's in art, animation, or film, but especially in design and animation. It's obviously a new medium and people are finding all sorts of creative outlets, there's so much more good stuff than every before.

AC: And on the negative side?

JB: The obsession with money. Being in San Francisco you see so much of the commercial side. Everyone thinking about their IPOs ... which is not necessarily bad, but it can stifle creativity. As so many of these new companies grow and focus on the money side they lose some of the initial edginess that made them interesting in the first place. It's very unfortunate.

AC: What are you excited about that coming around the corner?

JB: Broadband. The infrastructure bringing content to all sorts of outlets in a seamless way. There is just so much more stuff that will happen once the pipes become available. I want to watch films on my Palm Pilot and beam them to friends. While the ubiquitousness of it is a good thing, I do worry about the AOLs of the world taking over. All the portals riddled with e-commerce.

AC: Having seen the changes to San Francisco, what would you tell the Austin city leaders to do and not make the same mistake?

JB: Wow. I would say that they need to work with these new companies and ensure, promote, and encourage the local arts scenes. Support the actual communities out there with children's programs, arts and music programs, make sure the city is diverse.

AC: What are your plans in your new job at Salon?

JB: One thing we're launching is Salon Radio. We want to be the NPR of the Internet, actually the NPR of the libido.

AC: Do you think the Internet alienates or brings people together?

JB: I think it's no more alienating that TV. Less so. With TV you're just sitting there alone. On the Internet you're sending e-mail, making friends, joining communities. The whole thing has been hyped about alienating. You could say books are alienating too.

AC: Speaking of books, do you think print media will ever disappear?

JB: No. There will always be a compelling need for books and print magazines. An eternal existence of paper.

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