I hope it isn’t too early to think about this, but Hugh Forrest has recently published his expectations for SXSW 2017. It’s an interesting read, and I think in a brief moment, it explains the appeal and the evolution of SXSW interactive:
- Generation Z. The strong focus on Millennials at SXSW over the last few years will fade as more 2017 content addresses the actions and behaviors this even younger demographic.
- Artificial Smartness. The Kevin Kelly term for the kind of computer-enhanced functionality that improves human efficiency will gain even more momentum by next spring.
- Neuroscience. Judging from the 28 proposals related to this topic in the 2017 PanelPicker, digital creatives want to know more about how our brains process information.
- Transportation 2.0. From self-driving cars to lightning-quick trains to commercial spacecraft excursions, geeks are completely re-inventing the process of getting from Point A to Point B.
These topics alone will be right at home in Austin, but he also hits on additional trends: Health and Med-Tech, International/China, Diversity Rocks, Chatbots, Television Re-Imagined, Convergence. This last one – blurring the lines between music, film, and interactive – is telling. But so are the others.
What’s interesting to me is that this list is different every year. I remember when mobile hit the scene. And when blogging was the main topic of the conference. The focus isn’t determined by Hugh – he’s looking at the trends in the panel picker ideas – and observing where the interest is.
I think what SXSW-interactive has mastered is the art of evolution, via the panel picker! It stays relevant by having so much of the content decisions and submissions being driven by, literally, the attendees. And it is why every year the concerns about SXSW jumping the shark have failed to take hold.