2017 SXSW Trend Predictions, Revisited
In September, I posted this list of the 10 trends that I predicted would gain the most traction at SXSW 2017. Almost four months later, here is my slightly revised assessment of the topics that I think will receive the most buzz this coming March in Austin.
Five themes from the September list that remain very relevant:
- Health and Med-Tech. Over the past few months, SXSW 2017 keynote speaker Jennifer Doudna has survived a high-profile trial and gained several new awards. Her presentation is one of several sessions that will cover our genetically modified future.
- Artificial Smartness. Computer-enhanced functionality that improves human efficiency will be a huge focus of discussion in March in Austin. Many of the sessions covering this topic will occur in the Intelligent Future track that runs March 11–16.
- Transportation 2.0. That Austin was of the main testing locations for Google’s Waymo self-driving vehicle underscores how prominent a player this city has become in the re-invention of automotive industry. This prominence will become even more obvious in March.
- Convergence. The increased functionality of the new badge structure parallels our understanding that content from the Interactive / Film / Music industries are all blending into one. No event does this blending better than SXSW.
- Diversity Rocks. We remain strongly committed to the concept that creativity (and productivity) is almost always maximized within environments that promote diverse backgrounds, diverse opinions and diverse approaches to traditional problems.
Five topics that have emerged since the September list was published:
- Trump’s “Cyber” Agenda. The December meeting with CEOs in New York notwithstanding, the new administration’s approach to the technology industry remains largely a mystery. Newly added programming on March 15–16 will provide a more clear understanding.
- Journalism vs. Personal Publishing. November 8 demonstrated the extreme power of Fake News. The role and responsibility of traditional media in a post-truth world will be much of the focus of SXSW’s new Journalism track, scheduled March 11–16.
- Privacy and Security. Whether or not Moscow was directly behind the email hacks that impacted the 2016 presidential race, the vulnerability of our information systems has never been more obvious. Expect this issue to find its way into many conversations in March in Austin.
- International / Russia. In the September trends post, we talked about SXSW 2017 focusing more on China. Recent events have shifted that attention to Russia — expect the March 16 session from Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova to gain significant coverage.
- Fear of a Robot Future. The flipside of all the artificial intelligence buzz is the understanding that increased automation will eliminate a large portion of 21st century jobs. Discussions about tomorrow’s employment challenges will be a big part of the Workplace track.
With more than 1000 total panels and presentations over the course of nine days, SXSW offers numerous different areas of emphasis for numerous different kinds of creative professionals. Come up with your list of the most important topics for March 2017 by browsing the online schedule.
Hugh Forrest tries to write four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts generally cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.