No, I wasn’t expecting much for the DIY crowd at SXSW. At a conference that charges hundreds of dollars to attend (even the low-end student rate is around $300) and refuses entry to anyone without a badge, there isn’t a lot for folks who prefer to do things their own way. So this blog will be providing an alternative view on the SXSW conference.
One of the immediate ironies I spotted on the list of panel discussions was one titled How Social Networks Are Killing the Revolution. It turns out the panelists had very different ideas of what the revolution meant, often referring to people as customers. They weren’t listed in the program by what movement they’re working on, but what company they work for, including a woman from the Detroit Red Wings! Maybe they’ve got a secret commie agenda?
Some of the audience members actually expected some meaningful conversation to come from this panel, voicing dismay that they would recommend social networks that engage in questionable practices such as invading user’s privacy. I could ask the same question to many self-identified activists who use MySpace and Facebook religiously. Most seem to accept that to get our revolutionary message out there, we have to sacrifice our morals to some degree. One of the panelists conceded: “We’re screwed.”
The Detroit Red Wings panelist seemed very confused why anyone would care about their privacy on the internet. An audience member later informed her that privacy can mean “life or death for a gay blogger in Iran.” In fact, the only insightful discussion came from the audience. PETA’s online youth marketer claimed that “the future of activism might not be in the streets.” Their web campaigns have been very successful in threatening the targets of their anti-fur campaigns because they are able to reach a large number of their supporters online.
On my way out of the convention center, I passed by the panel on Video Blogging where the enthusiastic panelist Gary Vaynerchuk was talking about the woman who cleans his hotel room. “How do you get through to those people?” an audience member asked. “You don’t!” he exclaimed.
The next day I attended the Outsourcing 2.0 panel to see how the tech industry views cheap labor. Guess what: they’re all for it.
Panelists tried to keep the conversation focused on new technologies and away from a discussion on morals or labor standards. Eventually people started asking about the negative connotations to the term “outsourcing.” It turns out the common perception associated with the word is not very favorable – having something to do with sweatshops and screwing over American workers.
Panelists tried to offer some alternatives such as “distributed development” and my favorite: “kaleidoscopic specialization.”
Cmon guys, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Look at the folks over at digitalsweatshop.net. They’ve got nothing to hide!
Still, they recommended that sending our jobs to a cheaper workforce should be seen as being competitive.
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