SXSW: Who will take the fest by storm this year?

Last year there was no stand-out SXSW tech success story, argues our blogger, transmedia producer Caitlin Burns. But she has some ideas on digital media movers and shakers that may be the stars of the fest.
March 7, 2014

Bruce-Sterling_Debbie-FinleySXSW is where the heaviest hitters in tech make their way to the Lone Star State to share a taco with start-ups that are just starting up. Last year, the Wall Street Journal called it Silicon Spring Break, because as much as it’s known for being a convention of notable speakers, it’s also a festival of events, parties, mixers, meet-ups and barbecues. At SXSW you might end the night playing backgammon with Bruce Sterling (left) and Danny Boyle, if your networking has gone well.

Of all the conferences I’ve attended, SXSW provides the best networking opportunity, and yet the biggest challenges to networking. When 10,000 highly-connected film, tech and music fans all hit the same 20-block radius, it makes you appreciate how much you can say in 140 characters. And with more than 5,000 panels, time management – or a lack thereof – becomes essential. That is where the fun comes in.

caitlinHi StreamDaily, I’m Caitlin Burns, transmedia producer and occasional blogger. You may remember me from “Why truly unique women’s programming now thrives online.” And now, I’ll be on the street at SXSW bringing you interesting tidbits from Austin.

I’ll be joining technologists, filmmakers, digital creators, game developers, 3D food printers, musicians, visual artists, executives, internet-famous cats, and producers of all stripes trying to figure out what will be this year’s “big new thing.” In the past, Foursquare and Twitter took centre stage during SXSW, in part because when tens of thousands of people descend into a relatively small metropolitan area, and they’re all trying to connect to the internet with their phones at once, new technical solutions that solve their problems are suddenly introduced to a very vocal target market. But last year, the thing that everyone was talking about wasn’t an app, it was a meme come to life.

Grumpy Cat took SXSW by storm, announcing a partnership with Friskies, and putting the concept of a meme agent onto every hipster’s dream job bucket list. Projected onto Sixth Street, one of the main drags of SXSW’s nightlife, Grumpy Cat also commanded mile-long lines for her appearances at the Mashable tent. Vice Magazine on the other hand decided to do their coverage of the event by Drone, providing a robots’-eye-view of the festivities.  But there was no stand out winner for the hearts and minds to call out and say: this is 2013’s SXSW tech success story.

With more attendees every year, SXSW has followed a well-trodden path — the attention has gone from how we make things work, to what things are working. The dialogue in Austin went from conversation about technology, to conversation about content. Digital distribution and mobile apps are now familiar. Naturally, what we can make with them and what stories we can tell with them have become more compelling.

Who will be SXSW’s star this year?

Jade_636B-1Will it be Jade Raymond (right) – there to discuss Ubisoft’s entry into film and the wider entertainment industry? Aside from the legions of fans in gaming, Ubisoft is self-financing a feature film for Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender that could change the way video game-to-film narratives are made. With a squadron of I.P. like the Tom Clancy universe and Splinter Cell, will Ubisoft become the next major Hollywood studio player?

Will it be the Veronica Mars movie (pictured below left), with its legion of fans and crowdfunded pedigree? First to hit $1 million on Kickstarter and with it’s own accompanying web series, Marshmallows is descending on Austin for the SXSW premiere of the feature-length film. Will its established fandemonium be the talk of the town?

veronica-marsWill we learn how to travel to Mars while eating 3D printed pizza? 3D Printing is getting major attention after a strong showing at E3. Makerbot is releasing a new range of priced-to-own, at-home printers. Then there’s 3D systems, a company that is going on a major acquisition binge with Xerox, Gentile Giant Studios, and high-profile partnerships with Hershey’s and Hasbro. Is this the year 3D printing goes from emerging technology to a creator’s dream partnership?

Which content aggregation network will appeal best to creators? Big data is getting smarter, and curation of content is the name of the next round of players in apps and online platforms. With streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and BitTorrent all partnering and funding original content, it’s definitely a category to watch.

I’m going to Austin to speak, to listen, and to hunt down the elusive delicacy, the “Donut Taco.” I’ll be taking you from the floor show to the Convention Center Auditorium and bringing you updates about new tools to create your work, new incentives on offer from around the world, and the conversations about entrepreneurs and producing. I’m looking forward to bringing it all to you here, at StreamDaily.

If you’re at SXSW and want to know more, catch Caitlin on twitter: @Caitlin_Burns

Caitlin Burns is a New York based Transmedia Producer whose work includes Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney Fairies, and Tron Legacy for Disney, James Cameron’s Avatar for Fox, Halo for Microsoft, Happiness Factory for The Coca-Cola Company, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon and Transformers for Hasbro. She has also worked with Sony, Showtime, Pepperidge Farm, Scholastic, Tribeca New Media Fund, FEMSA, Wieden+Kennedy, Reebok and Stratasys.

Featured image is of Cory Booker, mayor of Newark N.J. who spoke at SXSW Interactive last year. Courtesy Amanda Stronza/SXSW Handout. Bruce Sterling photo by Debbie Finley for SXSW.


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