South by Southwest or SXSW is a group of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place annually in Austin, Texas, United States.
If you’re in the digital space and you haven’t heard of it, you must be living under a rock.
The key for digitals like myself is the Interactive part of the festival focused on emerging technology. SXSW has a reputation as a breeding ground for all things digital. But it’s not just the interactive portion of the festival that provides digital innovations, SXSW is full of ideas people from across many industries.
The South By Southwest group of festivals and conferences began in 1987 and is run by SXSW Inc. SXSW Inc added two additional festivals also run in Austin, to it’s repartee in 2011: SXSWedu and SXSW Eco. SXSWedu focuses on educational innovation and SXSW Eco on the environment.
SXSW proper has grown year on year since its beginning in 1987. It is now the largest revenue producing event for Austin. SXSW generated approximately 167 million dollars for the Austin economy in 2011.
SXSW began after a failed attempt to bring the New York City music festival to Austin.
When the plans failed to come to fruition, Roland Swenson from the Austin Chronicle decided to create his own festival.
Swenson brought the Chronicle editor and co-founder Louis Black and publisher Nick Barbaro on board as well as booking agent Louis Meyers and like they say in the movies, the rest was history.
The now famous SXSW name was a creation of Louis Black, a play on the name of the Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest.
The organisers didn’t expect too much from the first event in 1987 predicting 150 attendees. They were shocked when over 700 turned up.
1993 – SXSW moved to the Austin Convention Centre where it is still held
1994 – A component for film and other media called ‘SXSW Film and Multimedia Conference’ was added
1995 - ‘SXSW Film and Multimedia Conference’ was split into ‘SXSW Film’ and ‘SXSW Multimedia’
1999 – ‘SXSW Multimedia’ was re-named ‘SXSW Interactive’
2007 – Twitter unofficially launched at SXSW
2009 – Foursquare app launched at SXSW
Just because you are in Australia and not at SXSW doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the great presenters and discussions happening at the event.
Make sure you follow the presenters on social media because we know they will be tweeting and blogging about their SXSW appearances, as will attendees.
Create lists in Twitter and set up Google Alerts for the presenters and topics that interest you most in order to get all the information from here in Australia.
Below is my list of top sessions at this year’s SXSW Interactive.
Who to follow for the best SXSW news