18, 2002 | (Austin, Texas) This year's South by Southwest
Interactive conference was lean and mean - attended mainly by the
core group of edgy 'net whackadistas, the conference had an interesting
vibe, like "Wow, glad the goddam dotcom splurge is over, let's get
back to what we were doin'…" And what we were doin' had real depth,
it was way more compelling than ecommerce or net.publishing, the
kinds of projects MBAs brought to the table when they started calling
the Internet an 'industry' and creating the concept of the IPO casino.
Before all that stuff happened we were thinking about open and free
paradigms for software development, technologies for community,
new and better ways to tell our stories. We were re-inventing ourselves
as cyborgs, humans enhanced by accelerated technologies, looking
for ways to nurture each other and share ideas over faster, increasingly
accessible networks. And though many were all a little tired, a
little disoriented, a little uncertain about where they were going,
there was no question that the crowd at this year's SXSW was still
committed to Internet technology and the web. Sadder, wiser, more
grounded, but still eager to build.
access at SXSW
Embedded Linux in task-specific devices that are more flexible
and scalable (single-use devices can have multiple uses - e.g. a
clock that also measures a room's temperature and moisture levels
and "tells" the air conditioning system what it needs to do. Games
that are actually sophisticated interactive narratives offering
diverse perspectives and plot paths. Activist networks that are
increasingly sophisticated in their responses on issues and events.
Local virtual communities that pull 'hoods together in intriguing
ways. New ways to think about intellectual property and innovation.
New structures for activist networks that change the face of politics…
We're still exploding, y'see. It's not about money now, but it
was not about money a decade ago, when the Internet became more
than an r&d network, when we first realized that we could have
ubiquitous connectivity someday, and we were dazzled by visions,
both utopian and dystopian, of possible futures, none of which involved
the IPO casino. And now that the casino's burned down, we can imagine
again, and SXSW Interactive is one great incubator for our dreams.
in web design panel
I knew this when a bunch of us wandered onto the balcony after
a day of panels and passed a digital video cam around as we talked
about art and scarcity in the information age. I knew it when I
saw my compadres reading their mail and feeding their blogs over
the ad hoc 802.11 network Cory Doctorow pulled together inside the
convention center. I knew this as a sat in a circle with a bunch
of bloggers who were thinking how to take their community impulse
offline in their own neighborhoods.
Conclusion: Something's happening, it has real force, and part
of that force depends on the connections we make, year after year,
at SXSW Interactive in Austin. "Internet industry"? Hmmm… we might
get fooled again, but it won't be easy.
Lebkowsky has been soaking in Internet
culture and community for the last decade-plus. He's served as
community host/moderator for the WELL, Electric Minds, and HotWired.
He has written technoculture articles and rants for Wired Magazine,
Whole Earth Review, The Austin Chronicle, 21C, Factsheet Five,
Mondo 2000, Mindjack and other publications, and was the "consciousness"
sub-domain editor of The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. As co-founder
and former CEO of FringeWare, Inc., he was a pioneer in electronic
commerce and its relationship to online community. An Internet
activist, he was actively involved in initiatives of the Electronic
Frontier Foundation and the Global Internet Liberty Campaign.
. He was twice President of EFF-Austin, and is a member of The
Internet Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, and
the Project Management Institute. Jon recently served as Online
Community Director for WholeFoods.com and Web Technology Director
for WholePeople.com. Jon is co-founder and CEO of Austin-based
Polycot Consulting L.L.C.
email for info