SXSW is like a walled garden

This year I've chosen not to buy a badge for SXSW.  If someone else was paying for it, I probably would have taken one, but last year, almost immediately after I bought my badge, I was wondering why I'd laid out cash for it.

So this week I'm on the outside.  Not completely because the ground floor of the convention centre is open with wifi and power outlets galore.  But I don't get to go up the magic escalators this year.  There has been much grumbling among my peers about the agency kids, the general overwhelm of people who don't seem to get the same thing we get and the accent on the social web as a commercial tool.

It occurred to me today that SXSW is becoming like the bit of the web we don't like but still (sometimes) participate in, the walled gardens of Facebook and the AppStore.  Not having a badge has given me a different perspective on the whole thing.

Some half-baked draft thoughts:

There's a price on entry and it's all about the sell – literally yes, but also because "they" might easily be doing creepy stuff to us and we'd never know (and only half care until it's too late).  There's also the constant nagging feeling that whatever I'm doing, someone else is making more of a profit out of it than I am.  

It's difficult to share-out – there are limits on how much video & streaming you can shoot without a press pass in sessions.  Live blogging is an ultimately unsatisfying experience for blogger and reader, especially when most of the content is a thinly veiled pitch or at best self-promo.  

The inside experience adds little value – there is far more intelligence, innovation experience in the room than there is on any panel.  There is much more value in the conversations that go on *because* of SXSW than the conversations that happen inside. Also because of the hyper-schedule, no-one has the capacity to make really good decisions on what to go to

Most people are still just playing stupid games that annoy the rest of us while advertisers try to grab us all by the eyeballs.

And yet, we still keep coming (yes and I keep using Facebook) – at anyrate I have, for the people, the Americans that I might not see for years otherwise, but also, bizarrely to have a touch point with other people from the UK who I don't have an excuse to hang out with normally.  I feel a bit left out, but I'm sure I've felt left out both of the other years I've been here.  I think I feel less like I'm missing out because the option of going to a panel and missing something cool for something dismal has been taken away from me.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

One thought on “SXSW is like a walled garden”

  1. I get the sense that a country in decline is clinging on to (throttling perhaps?) the few treasures it can still yield up. Like yourself Lloyd I’m a great lover of the American people but I see the infatuation with iMaterialism and the ability of the commercial world to choke off the vibe at events like this as symptomatic of …I dare not say for fear of being offensive when that isn’t my intent.

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