Power up the PDA

where to be at SXSW interactive 2003

From the top: Dana Robinson, Jeffrey Zeldman, Ben Brown, Carole Guevin, Derek Woodgate
From the top: Dana Robinson, Jeffrey Zeldman, Ben Brown, Carole Guevin, Derek Woodgate

SXSW Interactive provides plenty of things to keep any geek on the go. But all those panels and keynotes and cyber celebs can baffle even the most tech-savvy person. Well, fear not -- the following is a snapshot of some of the panels you might want to doodle into your PDA or scrawl in pen onto the back of your hand for future reference. While many panelists are now SXSW alumni, they are still worth sitting in on to hear what they have to say.

Dates, times, and titles of sessions are subject to change without notice.

Saturday, March 8

"User Not Found: Dealing With the Death of Online Friends" (3:30-4:30pm): Online relationships have long been the titter of those who don't have them (online friends, that is) and the anchor for those who have found lasting friendships, and even love, online. While hoaxes -- people pretending to be someone they're not -- are major blows to any online community, a blow of greater measure is when someone in that community dies. Dana Robinson, online manager of Starlight, a nonprofit organization that provides media-based projects to chronically and seriously ill youth, will discuss her work with the organization, as well as her new Web site, Usernotfound.com. When an online friend of hers died in 1994, she found herself struggling with how to grieve, finding little comfort in offline friends who, like many others, don't take online friendships as seriously as corporeal buddies. Robinson's session will be a roundtable discussion in which she hopes to invite others to share their experiences.

Also recommended: "Women Who Kill Tigers" (3:30-4:30pm); "Sensism: The Art and Science of Multi-Sensory Stimulation," co-presented by Industrial Design Society of America (3:30-4:30pm); Kevin Warwick's "I, Cyborg" (5-6pm; see p.52 for more on this panel).

Sunday, March 9

"Trends in How the Internet Connects People" (10-11am): Personal Web sites, blogs, and e-mail are all useful and entertaining, but it's only one slice of the Internet pie. More and more, people are using the Internet to creatively build coalitions or take action outside the Internet. Activities can be as benign as mobilizing fans to send letters to networks that have canceled favorite TV series to new and creative ways to become politically active (sending President Bush a bag of rice with a note -- "If your enemies are hungry, feed them" -- is one of my favorites). Brad Fitzpatrick of Livejournal.com and Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup.com (a site that helps corral special-interest groups in cities internationally), will explain how their work contributes to making meaningful coalitions and discuss trends for the future.

"Journalism: Old vs. New" (11:30am-12:30pm): Evan Smith alert! The ubiquitous Texas Monthly editor joins colleagues from the Dallas Morning News (Joshua Benton), the San Jose Mercury News (Dan Gillmor), MetaFilter.com (Matthew Haughey), and Online Journalism Review (J.D. Lasica) to discuss how the Internet affects news gathering and reporting.

"Because We Can: Web Publishing for the Hell of It" (5-6pm): Now, if that doesn't capture the spirit of the Internet, I don't know what does. Todd Dominey of Whatdoiknow.org, Adam Greenfield of V-2, and writer Jeffrey Zeldman are the scheduled speakers.

Also recommended: 2002 Web Awards Winners Showcase (10-11am); "How to Counter-Attack a Spammer" (11:30am-12:30pm); "Some Rights Reserved: The Creative Commons Project" (11:30am-12:30pm; for more on the Creative Commons, see p.46).

Monday, March 10

"Book Culture 2003: For Whom the Web Tolls" (11:30am-12:30pm): Remember when cyber soothsayers were running around screaming that the Internet and Web publishing was the end of traditional book publishing as we know it? Remember how electronic gadgets to download your favorite books were going to destroy reading and culture? Well, the Web survives, as does the book industry, but how well are they getting along? Several industry insiders, including San Francisco Chronicle book critic Kevin Smokler of Central Booking, a Web site devoted to books, contemporary literature, and reading will discuss the subject with Carrie Bickner ("the Rogue Librarian"), Ben Brown (Benbrown.com), and agent Sean McDonald.

Justin Hall's "Geek Out" (3:30-6pm): In his 2003 SXSW Tech Report interview, Justin Hall says: "What will I speak about? If you give me 40 minutes, we'll have a lively time." Well, Justin's got over two hours to fill. Can he do it? My guess is, yes. One of the most articulate panelists to participate in SXSW, Hall is a writer who covers emergent and entertainment technologies and makes it understandable to nonwonks. Splitting his time between San Francisco and Tokyo, he is a great go-to person to learn how and why those tech-savvy Japanese live and use technology in contrast to those of us in the U.S. Check out his activities at Bud.com, Joi Ito, Chanpon, Game Girl Advance, and Justin's Link.

Also recommended: Freelance Forums on legal issues (10-11am), going solo (11:30am-12:30pm), and making money (3:30-4:30pm); Steve Mack's Streaming Media Bible Workshops on the basics and tips and techniques (10am-12:30pm).

Tuesday, March 11

"The Seven Arms of Creativity" (10-11am): If you're like me, good design is like pornography -- you recognize it when you see it. If you have the gift for design or just want to see how it's done, check out Carole Guevin's roundtable discussion.

"The Hollywood Agenda" (11:30am-12:30pm): While media giants are actively pushing for FCC deregulations, Hollywood is pushing Congress to strangle and perhaps even redesign the Internet as we now know it. Why? Because the Hollywood machine is fueled by fear and loathing of anything it sees as competition, particularly when it comes to ordinary folks creating and producing their own creative work. Author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and currently the Outreach Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctorow will speak on how the Hollywood legislative agenda threatens technology and liberty, and why you should care.

Also recommended: "What Should You Do With Your Life?" (10-11am) with Po Bronson; "Recap From the Game Developers' Conference" (10-11am); "The Upside of the Downturn" (11:30am-12:30pm); "Tomorrow Now" with Derek Woodgate of the Futures Lab and Austin writer Bruce Sterling (3:30-4:30pm; see p.51 for more on this panel).

A downloadable SXSW Interactive Panel Grid is currently available at www.sxsw.com/interactive.

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SXSW Interactive 2003, User Not Found: Dealing with the Death of Online Friends, Dana Robinson, Starlight.com, I, Cyborg, . Kevin Warnick, Women Who Kill Tigers, Sensism: The Art and Science of Multi-Sensory Stimulation, Trends in How the Internet Connects People, Brad Fitzpatrick, Livejournal.com, Scott Heiferman, Meetup.com, Journalism: Old vs. New, Evan Smith, Joshua Benton, Dan Gillmor, metafilter.com, Matthew Haughey

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