I saw a theme of optimism running throughout South By Southwest Interactive this year. There was a lot of discussion of abundance and how the world is getting better, not worse. We’ve used technology to increase life expectancy and quality around the globe. And there’s data to back that up.
SX also seemed more self-aware in 2012. It was like we were moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy and talking about our emotions and desire for belonging. I attended a great panel called Why Happiness is the New Currency with the creators of Path, Formspring, and Kiip, three social sites that are moving beyond the Facebook paradigm and making their users’ happiness an explicit business goal. I also saw a great talk by danah boyd, The Power of Fear in Networked Publics. She talked about how we live in a culture of fear, which can grow unchecked in the attention economy, which is magnified by social media. Historically we have always been afraid of new technology and it biases us toward thinking that the new technology of each generation is ruining the young. The invention of the sewing machine sparked a moral panic because elders worried that women’s purity would be destroyed if they spent all day rubbing their legs up and down together!
In keeping with the theme of making the world a better place, Jennifer Pahlka gave a great keynote on participatory government, civic responsibility, and the ways the SX community can get involved in improving government….from picking up trash and adopting a fire hydrant to joining the Code For America Brigade.