No matter how updated I think I am on technology, SXSW Interactive has a way of making me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder at times. I was networking on a sunny Austin afternoon when I handed my card to a web developer. He graciously took the card and then snapped an iPhone pic of the QR code on my badge. I didn’t even know it was there. I walked away with his card and he walked away with my bio, contact info and photo that I had uploaded to the sxsw.com earlier that week.
QR codes aside, I was delighted to find a familiar theme weaved throughout SXSWi — A call to action for the interactive community to use their powers for good. All three keynotes I attended touched on this theme.
- Valerie Casey, Executive Director of Designers Accord, told an exhibit hall full of 12,000 nerds that they were in a unique position to facilitate social change through raising awareness and building sustainable models — two of the internet’s specialties.
- Danah Boyd, Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, called for privacy integrity online (she’s talking to you, Facebook and Google) and reminded us that a public by default environment is not the great democratiser.
- Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter (with the Iran story in mind) touted the micro-blog as a tool for democracy and change: “It’s about reducing the walls between people who have a lot of influence and the people they influence. That’s the most profound promise of the Internet, and we’re riding the wave.”
As an Ad Council employee, this theme was truly encouraging. The internet is big business but at the largest interactive conference of the year a lot of for-profits were thinking of socially concious and responsible strategies. And along with the hot new tech tools, a cause was positioned right next to them. Some examples:
– CheckinforCharity.com – merges new trend of checking in on mobile apps with a good cause
– Pepsi Refresh Project – merges crowd-sourcing trends with nonprofit funding
Also worth noting, the number of nonprofit registrants was up, Beaconfire setup a “lounge with a conscience,” and there was a “Greater Good” track geared towards nonprofits and government agencies.
Maybe because I was actively seeking good strategies is why I felt it was so pervasive. But I like to think this new found interactivity, culture of online conversation and crowd-sourcing gives consumers a choice – and they have chosen well. Now companies like Pepsi are giving the people what they want. It’s refreshing.
*Have more examples of the good theme? Don’t agree with me? Please share with us.