#sxsw Maybe Stop Making Sense of the SX Experience?

Usually after experiencing severe FOMO, over time I find the theme I follow at SXSW transforms. Last year I discovered the start-up crawl and over time my experience veered towards Nikola Tesla, the mad scientist of Menlo Park. Before slipping into Mad Science Tesla was a part of that world of magical fascination that became displayed at World’s Fairs, a movement of Progressive, Meet the Future entrepreneurs (think Edison, Bell, and so on). Last year it occurred to me that SXSW is the modern Worlds Fair, a place we go to try to early adopt. Twitter was born here as was Nike Fuel band. Light bulbs of the age.

This year on day two, my emerging theme seems to be about the tension between the micro, the packet, and lots of packets, Big Data. I don’t know yet where this trend will head, but was sharpened after listening to Julian Assange on power, the individual and data–and Leslie Saxon on networking our bodies. Yesterday, in a panel that was surprisingly without depth, Intel’s Maria Bezaitis talked about how she is interested in small data, not so much big data, in parsing the personal, coming from a utilitarian point of view.

Right at this moment (1pm) I am listening to a start-up, Shelfbucks, pitch at an accelerator session. The company works with beacon and mobile, setting up ways to upload your shopping data, parse it and target you with ads, personalizing your shopping experience. Like Minority Report perhaps, longer term, so not so new, but I mention as it ties into this emerging theme of micro data. Remember when Tom Cruise was mis-targeted in a Gap-like store? Anyway, at the time I felt the Minority Report ads were creepy. Do I still?

At a party at Incubation Station, I ran into Andrew of FourKicksMarketing who has a twist on this in identifying high-value customers in social and then advertising based on smaller slices instead of blast radius distributions of messaging. They use cookies with beacons on your phone to match you back to the right products, a “people like me” approach as I understand it. Their site does not reveal this so clearly, but seems a bit more of a Buddy Media-like operation.

So then of course…privacy. Last year of course privacy was a question, especially seeing image recognition technologies and, more importantly, demonstrations of what can be done with such technologies. One session was called “In data we distrust” another encouraged us to get over our fear if an un-private life. Julian Assange. Edward Snowden. Google’s Eric Schmidt talking about the fact that Google would rather not share our data (but “for financial reasons,” an executive from a Fortune 100 company whispered to me, “that’s wgphat they trade in.”)

That’s the obvious direction. We will see where this years conference goes, if I can make sense of it or should just stop trying.

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