Archive for Tag ‘sxsw07‘

SXSW Day Four – Bruce Sterling’s Annual Rant

The last panel of SXSW Interactive was Bruce Sterling’s Rant. (Audio here).

Sterling is a favorite son of Austin, and was clearly basking in the throngs of adoring fans.

He spent most of his time on a few specific subjects.

First, a plea for people to look seriously at Reed Hundt’s organization (Frontline Wireless) which is looking to convert some of the spectrum currently used by broadcast TV and use it to blanket urban America with broadband Internet. (“There are divorcees in Korea with better access than we’ve got – it’s embarassing” – “No one watches broadcast television anymore anyway”)

Second, a discussion of, for lack of a better term, web 2.0. He spent quite a bit of time talking about Yochai Benkler and Henry Jenkins.

He spent a lot of time on Benkler’s Wealth of Networks – while distancing himself from it as the work of east cost academics and intellectuals. (Sterling plays the good ol’ boy a bit too thick for my tastes – there’s an odd, post-modern strain of good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism in his jabs at Yalies and chrome-dome academics – but maybe that’s just because I see myself in them?)

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SXSW Day Four – WorldChanging

Seeing Alex Steffen from speak was a very nice way to (begin to) wrap up SXSW, reminding me that there’s more to creativity than just cool games. (Though SPORE was really cool).

Creativity – in its broadest sense – is critical to our ability to make positive change in the world. It is really that simple.

I won’t even try to do his presentation justice – just go listen to it.

Three quick favorite brilliant ideas:

  1. The Play Pump / Roundabout
  2. The Life Straw

Check out for more.

Alex’s advice: Green your inner geek. Figure out how to do the thing that you love doing – whatever that is – in a way which is more sustainable – and share that passion with others.

We need new and better ways of doing things, certainly, but we also need better models of how to share those ideas.

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SXSW Day Four – Will Wright Keynote

One of the highlights of the conference as a whole was Will Wright‘s keynote from Tuesday.

Wright mixed together a demo of Spore  with some reflections on the intersections of interactive media (specifically game design) and film, in the spirit of SXSWi and SXSWf.

He basically described how films are organized around empathy, and create in essence a single causal thread out of all the potential possible causal threads. The director has in essence complete control – knowing in advance how the story ends, the film experience is a manipulative one designed to elicit the appropriate emotional pattern in the viewer. (In this way films are a bit like the classic novel – and just as more modern films learned to break those sequences so did more experimental fiction).

In gaming, on the other hand, the organizing principle is agency – I as the user get to control the causal chain. The problem is that the emotional path rises, but hits dead ends, as the player gets killed and has to restart a level, etc. Games try to create the illusion of unlimited possibility but in most cases there are a limited number of possible paths, and typically a number of different gates (like levels, or episodes).

He basically talked about we should be able to create a better experience than this “choose which door to enter” type approach which takes a fixed set of outcomes and tries to make them look like they are endless – this is really what all of his games have been about.

Then he showed SPORE, which blew everybody away. Taking an organism from a single cell all the way up to and beyond space travel and galactic exploration. With ability to edit creatures, landscapes, create building types. All of it apparently shared – so you might run into my “species” on your planets, etc.

Anyway, go listen to the podcast if you weren’t there.

SXSW Day Four – 12 Values Shaping Technologies Future

I’ve got mixed feelings about the handout which was distributed at the “12 Values Shaping Technology’s Future” panel Tuesday morning. (Full audio here).

On the one hand, it was great to have a simple, clear handout which people could read through before the session started, and which gave the panelists the ability to extend the ideas rather than spending all their time in definitional mode. (Reminds me of one of the lessons in Edward Tufte‘s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint in which he describes the resolution of a simple print handout as opposed to dozens of slides).

On the other hand, having people putting a copy on every single open seat in the auditorium – when clearly they were not all going to be filled in – rather than handing them to people as they sat down – seems to violate the “sustainability” value.

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SXSW Day Four – Open Knowledge versus Controlled Knowledge

Day four for me started with “Open Knowledge vs. Controlled Knowledge” – as though it would be difficult to determine how a SXSW crowd might come out on that contest.

(Is there anyone who would say “controlled knowledge” is better than “open knowledge”? If they would, they wouldn’t use those terms – piracy versus respect for intellectual property, perhaps?)

Panel was moderated by Francesca Rodriquez from Creative Commons, and included:

Rough notes follow, but there were a few highlights:
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