Together with five other IceMobile colleagues I traveled to Austin this year to visit South by Southwest. The Interactive conference was truly inspiring and I can recommend anyone working with tech and creativity to visit this Woodstock for creative professionals.
For ten days in March the city of Austin is overrun by over 30.000 people working in the interactive, music and film industries. The laid back Texan lifestyle is temporarily shaken up and mixed with everything that is tech and progressive. You’ll see conference attendees hopping from venue to venue in bike-taxis, sipping caffeinated beverages and listening to the background noise of bands sound checking for their evening showcases, while a group of drones is circling high above in the sky, painting the digits of Pi in celebration of Pi-day.
The interactive event lasts for five days and hosts a plethora of talks, panels and workshops about all kinds of subjects: interaction design, business development, programming, design thinking, life, the universe and everything in between.
One of the biggest emerging themes this year was privacy, and its relation to design and product development. An extreme example is the company 23andMe that offers a full genome analysis for a mere hundred dollars. Users of the service can find out whether they have an above-average chance to get certain diseases, and find relatives amongst people that have also shared their genes. So far, 650.000 people have used the service.
Video conversations with Julian Assange and Edward Snowden further sparked the discussion about privacy and begged a moral question. With so many services gathering, sharing and relying on user data, when have we gone too far? What does privacy mean in our business?
In conclusion, South by Southwest is not a place where you acquire specific knowledge, but more a certain attitude. It’s a humbling experience to hear some of the industries’ most inspiring people talk about the mistakes they’ve made and what they have learned about designing products and services for people. The takeaway is a lot of inspiration, a healthy look into the mirror, and an urge and motivation to improve whatever it is your doing.