Girl from Poltergeist; text: SXSW Music People They're HEREToday was the last full day at South by Southwest Interactive. I was able to attend four more sessions before calling it a day. There has been a distinct shift in the crowds here. There were many fewer attendees at the sessions this afternoon, as many of the interactive conference attendees have already departed. However, many film attendees are still here and the music conference began today so a whole new crowd of people is swelling the population of Austin, with over 300,000 people visiting according to KXAN news.

Clearly, not everyone is thrilled. I spoke with a waiter at a restaurant today. He normally works in Las Vegas for a sister restaurant of the Austin location. He said that the restaurant company had flown him in for a week to help boost staff at their Austin business during the music festival. I’ve heard from many locals that they are ready to have their city back, and the local news is advertising an Austin-created phone application that helps you to avoid crowds. I myself am starting to feel their pain – I’m ready for some quiet, although I’m not entirely looking forward to the blizzard awaiting me back home.

Session 1 – Visually Turning Complexity Into Clarity

The first session I attended today was a panel of individuals discussing infographics and information design. I would have attended this session no matter who presented it because the topic interests me and applies to my work. However there was an added bonus in that this panel included Karl Gude, a professor at Michigan State University who I’ve had the pleasure to meet with before. He and some of his fellow information design artists shared some valuable insights.

You can read my recap of the session on Storify at: Visually Turning Complexity Into Clarity

Session 2 – Do You Actually Know How to Engage A Millenial?

For some reason, I’ve always been interested in hearing what research has to say about generations, and my own generation in particular. I think this may be because there is a significant age difference between myself and many of my cousins, and I’ve always wondered how that impacts our relationship. Not all the stereotypes and commentary was flattering, although knowing the panelist were joking helped. My favorite exaggeration was that Millenials are aliens from a distant planet sent to Earth to make our managers’ lives hell.

Now that I work in communications for a university, I find myself surrounded my Millenials at work (our student interns) and I have to communicate with Millenials through the senior class gift and young alumni donation appeals. This panel offered some insights on this topic.

You can read my recap of the session on Storify at: Do You Actually Know How to Engage A Millenial?

Session 3 – Harnessing the Power of Tech and Data for Development –
Chelsea Clinton Keynote Address

On a whim I went to see the Chelsea Clinton keynote. This was the only keynote I saw in person this year. (I plan to watch the others online). I went mainly because I remember seeing Clinton when I was growing up when her family was in the White House. I do follow some of what the Clinton Foundation does online and am somewhat familiar with some development projects in Africa, but I had no idea how many things they were involved with. This keynote was really inspirational in how she discussed how things we take for granted (technology, water treatment) can save so many lives if people just took the time to care. One of the largest killers of children in Africa is dehydration from diarrhea! That’s deplorable and preventable. Treatment packs that once cost $8.00 each now cost less than $.50 thanks to the Clinton Foundation shouldering the financial risk. But companies should not care about the risk – they should care about humanity. As Clinton put it, the reason that the United States has the clean sewage and water systems that we do now is because when the country’s cities were developing, the ‘haves’ were willing to invest in systems that would keep their children from getting sick when the ‘have-nots’ were ill. In Africa, there is no one able and willing to make that investment because they see no benefit to themselves. But we all benefit from a strong global economy, and we all should care.

Session 4 – Getting S#$! Done: Online Organizers Making Change

A fitting follow-up to the Clinton keynote was my final session of SXSW 2014. This session discussed how various online movements have used technology to make change. With varying realms of experience in political and civic movements, including both Obama presidential campaigns, these experts were amazing to hear speak. I think one of the best things about this panel was seeing individuals my own age, or close to it, who are so devoted to the public good and using technology to improve it. This was inspirational to me, as I often see individuals my own age with complete apathy for current events and the needs of greater society.

You can read my recap of the session on Storify at: Getting S#$! Done: Online Organizers Making Change