Science report – SXSWi 2007 edition

22 Mar

SXSWi

Sadly, I wasn’t able to post to this blog from South by Southwest Interactive 2007. However, I did update Twitter frequently using my mobile phone. So if you were watching Twitter you knew, for example, that I was at one point tossed into the back of a battered red pickup truck and driven across Austin to an unknown destination. Fortunately, delicious tacos awaited me at the end of the ride and not a horrible death at the hands of a drug cartel. (Always a possibility at these tech conferences.)

Twitter monitor

Here are a few scattered observations:

There’s more to the Metaverse than Second Life
SXSWi opened my eyes to a variety of online virtual realms, such as the delightful game-powered world of Puzzle Pirates, Three Rings’ Whirled project, and MTV’s virtual space that lets fans of the shows Laguna Beach and The Hills interact with their world (and smooch their stars.) Hot topic for discussion: should companies market to users, or to their avatars–the online representations of who the users would like to be?

There are good notes on the panel “Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds” available at Blast First (summary) and 3pointD (full).

Alternate Reality Gaming is on the rise
How would you like to take thousands of smart, talkative, excitable people and immerse them completely, obsessively, and joyfully, in your brand? Alternate Reality Games, or ARGs, have been doing this since 2001 when subtle clues in promotional materials for the movie A.I. led audiences down the rabbit hole where they collaboratively solved a genre-crossing interactive murder mystery. Since then ARGs have been employed by sponsors such as Microsoft, Audi, and ABC to promote their products. Panelists at “ARG! Attack of the Alternate Reality Games” reported that the flexible costs and measurably positive results of ARGs are causing companies to beat a path to their doors.

ARG! Attack of the Alternate Reality Games

Notes on the ARG panel at Licence to Roam.

Check out this presentation on the Audi ARG “Art of the Heist”.

SXSWi is a fantastic place to meet people
After the aforementioned pickup ride, I got a lift back to the conference from Tom Merritt of CNET. While I was waiting to get into the awards show, Patrick Norton of DL.TV gave me advice on editing podcasts. A trip up to the roof at the Yahoo! party put me next to Ze Frank, days before he was due to post the final episode of his yearlong project The Show With Ze Frank. Lunch at Stubb’s resulted in a chance meeting and great conversation with folks from Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Wieden + Kennedy. And I spent most of the conference in the company of an interactive strategist and the senior manager for information architecture at The Designory. And that’s the short version of the list.

Tutti Taygerly and Steve Grant of TDI

Many business cards were exchanged and LinkedIn connections made.

The Discovery Channel wants you
Representatives from the Discovery Channel were at almost every panel I attended, and they were HUNGRY. They really, really want to get into the interactive space, particularly interactive video, ARGs, and virtual worlds.

Mad scientists and venture capitalists make good co-panelists
After the first panel I saw with pioneering blogger and PMOG visionary Justin Hall on it, I decided that whither Justin Hall goest, I will go. Especially rewarding was “Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy” (notes at 21apples) where he and venture capitalist Joi Ito dropped science on the convergence of games, life, work, and education.

Stubb’s does barbecue right
Ben, one of our global writers, told me that I had to eat at Stubb’s when I was in Austin. Now, I’m of Southern descent and I have very particular ideas of what constitutes proper barbecue. I am pleased to report that Stubb’s serves its barbecue with slices of white bread on the side (as God intended), and–shockingly alone of all the restaurants that I visited–has sweet tea.

Austin is home to the largest bat colony in the United States, and here they are flying out from under the Congress Bridge at sundown

Bats over Austin

See y’all next year?

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