greetings from Austin
I am in Austin at the South By Southwest Festival, to speak on a panel about dialogue, democracy and technology.
Austin … where I’ve been once before … flat, dry, mellow, a little bit a-locational, but I guess most American cities are like that. I don’t mean Austin isn’t a location. It’s cool, happening, and, today at least, bathed in sunlight and an early spring breeze. But to this son of Rockefeller Center, Union Square, Columbus Circle, Bethesda Fountain and the Empire State Building, these flat U.S. cities with low rows of indistinguishable stores are hard to navigate – hard for the brain and hard for the imagination.
Or maybe I’m just lost without 200 numbered streets at right angles.
South By Southwest … scrowly music boys with untucked shirts – just like Williamsburg, but with more head-hair, less facial hair and, I betcha, fewer bar mitzvahs in their past.
… film people seem to move in couples – lots of wives and husbands – more black, tidier outfits and, um, cuter people – or maybe I’m getting old and post-grunge just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
… then the iCrowd – a strange mix of well-kept folks in business casual – average age … 38? (my age? 38. hmmm…) – and geeks of both genders (yes, yes, yes, still probably 65/35 male), dressed in an odd glot of Austin indifferent and Alley/Valley clean-tees-n-jeans (my pants? cargo.).
At the opening party Saturday, the band was Grupo Fantasma. You need that many guys on stage. Not two horns. Four. Not two guitars. Three. And three percussionists. Someday I’ll understand salsa. Until then I’ll have to marvel at other people doing it.
Party was at the HQ of frog design. Little rooms set up everywhere – body painting, demos of ze frank-like interactive poetry modules.
Most of the rooms had glass windows, so the one where they’d set up a multi-player shoot-em-up video game was especially interesting, as partygoers could mill past and see other partygoers – okay other, male, partygoers – playing.
One of the frog demos was a site for Sun. I’m not familiar with the rest of their work, but having spent the last week looking over web design samples, I was into this one. I think they billed it as user-oriented or user-driven or something. I know, I know — lingo. But a focus on what my old pal Brandon called Intentions-Based Architecture makes all the difference. Check out constitutioncenter.org for a positive example.