Saturday, March 12, 2011

SXSW- Part 1

In very exciting life news, I am currently in Austin, TX to attend South by Southwest, or SXSW as they tend to abbreviate it.  SXSW was originally a music festival, then expanded to be a film festival and finally added a third component called "Interactive", which deals with topics that I am interested in, including video games and new media.  In a lot of ways, it's a conference for marketers and developers but manages to have some interesting points for academics as well.

I've actually been volunteering with Interactive since the fall as an Interactive Panel Liaison (IPL).  This position meant that, when panels were selected for the conference, some of them were assigned to me.  I then acted as the first resource for panelists or organizers who had questions, so that I could answer the easy ones and only pass the unusual or difficult questions along to the core SXSW staff.  This kept them from getting overwhelmed and also meant that I, in return for my help, got a free pass to attend!  Considering that registration badges cost upwards of $800, this was a major benefit.

I flew down here on Wednesday after classes, because registration started on Thursday.  Actual events began yesterday.  So far I have attended two panels, gotten three business cards, been invited to one party, and realized that I am really not very good at small talk.  I can do it, if necessary, but I always feel so awkward trying to come up with topics of conversation to discuss with someone I don't know.  The one time I feel I held a non-awkward conversation yesterday was when I actually found someone who had written his undergraduate thesis on video games, so we had something real to talk about.  Otherwise it's just the "Oh what do you do?  Where are you from? What brings you to SXSW?" type of conversation.

Small talking, I know, is an essential life skill, and really I suppose I'm not that bad at it.  I just don't like it.  Thankfully, other parts of SXSW have been enjoyable, like the content of the panels I've decided to see and the people I've gotten to work with so far.  The fact that I can get two free drams of my favorite Scotch a day because The Macallan is a sponsor has also been excellent.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on the convention, and probably on Austin as well, over the next few days.  It should be an interesting time!

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