The SXSW 2019 theme is “Digital Distrust,” and the conference includes an annual hackathon, film festival, music festival, and conference full of A-list celebrity and political leader speakers. The future of business, recent events regarding digital privacy, public fear and public angst over tech influence the themes of the conference-festival conglomerate this year.
The conference takes place March 8th through the 17th in Austin, Texas. Some of the most prominent figures in entertainment, music, politics, and business are set to take the stage this year, according to an announcement on the SXSW website. A global conference, SXSW features international film and music festivals, as well as an SXSW hackathon with participants from all over the world. SXSW is the biggest conference in the state of Texas each year, and 2019’s attendance is expected to match last year’s 435k attendees.
SXSW marks an intersection of tech, politics, business, and entertainment each year, which conveniently fits big concerns for data privacy in tech, business, and everyday life. The conference plans to explore digital responsibility and the future of business.
“In the past, we have had a lot of speakers who have talked about the importance of data privacy — these speakers have ranged from Edward Snowden to Kate Crawford to Jaron Lanier,” said SXSW Senior Publicist, Brett Canon, in an email interview with The Scope Weekly. “But the fallout from Cambridge Analytica and various other social media problems in the last year have put the privacy/data question front and center in a way that has never happened before.”
Since 1987, the SXSW team contributes to the diversity of the SXSW speakers, and it is believed to be one of the main draws and reasons for SXSW’s success. Most recently, the organization confirmed that the Beastie Boys, Brandi Carlile, Elisabeth Moss, T Bone Burnett, and former House Speaker John Boehner are joining the list of respected speakers this year.
One of SXSW’s newest additions, the hackathon, draws global interest. After receiving applicants from all over the world, SXSW reported to the Scope Weekly that “We’ll host coders from Mexico, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Portugal, and India, with the bulk of participants from the U.S this year.” “Another big trend for this year’s event is that we will have significantly more programming devoted to entrepreneurial opportunities within the rapidly changing cannabis market,” said Canon to The Scope Weekly. “This programming will occur in the new Cannabusiness track, which runs March 14-16 at the Downtown Austin Hilton.”
SXSW 2019 hackers will develop prototypes for a competition to win cash prizes and opportunities to join the SXSW Hackathon Incubator. The incubator is full of mentors within the tech industry, working to help startups thrive.
“Last year, two of our winning teams went on to launch companies based on their projects, and we’d love to exceed that in 2019,” Canon said. “We have an interesting and unusual array of API sponsors and challenges this year, from cybersecurity (R9B) and blockchain (R3) to music consumption and discovery (Universal Music Group and Capitol360) to music creation (Native Instruments) and music data analytics (Buzz Angle Music).”
In the age of digital angst, SXSW’s entertainment offerings reflect popular social interests. The fear of how data is handled, low public trust, and anxiety for what the future of AI holds for humanity define 2019 media and film topics. These topics are represented in the SXSW Film Festival, which is offering a stimulating fantasy and horror theme for 2019 attendees, according to SXSW’s film festival programmer. It’s featuring massively-produced new films, shorts, indie films, and an original episodic pilot competition.
“Programming the SXSW Midnighters section is always a favorite part of my job, and this year was no exception,” said Jarod Neece, SXSW Senior Film Programmer, in an official statement. “We get to peek into the collective consciousness of the world of genre filmmakers working today.”
Each year, the SXSW music festival attracts both popular and upcoming acts, and this year’s list of performers fails not to impress with its diverse offerings. The line-up features Pedro the Lion, Strumbellas, iKON, and Cedric Burnside who are only a few of the musical acts performing at SXSW 19.
“For SXSW 2019, I’m hopeful that speakers don’t simply talk about problems — but that they offer new, innovative, and creative solutions for how we can better manage digital challenges in the future,” Canon said.
Main photo by Judy Won, South by Southwest.
About the Author: Jack Shea
Jack Shea is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Jack is interested in culture and technology. You may contact him at jack at scopeweekly dot com with story ideas and on LinkedIn and on Instagram.