Austin’s South by Southwest began in 1987 as a music festival. In 1994, it added interactive — a topic better known as “technology” — and film to the mix. And in recent years, it’s just exploded. Especially the Interactive portion, which starts this Friday and runs through next Tuesday.
I’m a relative SXSW newbie, having started attending the show in 2009. The crowds, things to do and hoopla and general tumult feel like they’ve at least doubled every year. It pretty much takes over all of Austin, and it’s on a trajectory to take over all of Texas by 2017 or so.
The schedule of panels, talks and other events at SXSW Interactive is bursting at the seams, and fills not only the Austin Convention Center but most of the ballrooms at nearby hotels. There’s also a trade show floor, with tech companies showing off their stuff. But much of the activity at the show consists of hanging out — in hallways and lobbies and at countless official and unofficial parties.
I plan to do my share of both event-attending and hanging out, and will report back both here on TIME.com and on Twitter.
I’m most excited, however, about something I’m doing on Monday, March 12 at 12:30pm at the Austin Hilton Downtown: moderating a panel called Lessons from Disruptors: Game-Changing Startups. The panelists include folks from three genuinely disruptive companies: Travis Bogard (VP at Jawbone), Ren Ng (founder of Lytro) and Matt Rogers (co-founder of Nest).
Four of my TIME colleagues will also be presenting at the conference:
- On Sunday, March 11 at 11am, TV critic James Poniewozik will participate on a panel about online criticism of the arts.
- On Sunday, March 11 at 3pm, White House correspondent Michael Scherer will be on a panel on the presidential election and the Internet.
- On Monday, March 12 at 2pm, Lev Grossman will interview famous futurist Ray Kurzweil.
- On Monday, March 12 at 3:30, business reporter Sam Gustin will be on a panel about Internet mega-mergers.
If you’re attending SXSW, safe travels — and I hope that one of the people I end up hanging out with is you.