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South By Southwest Interactive 2013 Preview (#SXSWi)

Welcome to Firedoglake’s coverage of SXSW Interactive 2013.

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell covers SXSW Interactive 2013 for Bytegeist.

Some of you are probably familiar with me as the weekday editor of MyFDL or from my work as the FDL correspondent on stories like the Gulf Port 7 trial. This week, I’m bringing the SXSW Interactive conference to the Lake. SXSW began in 1986 as a ‘small’ Austin music festival that almost immediately became a national concern for any musicians wanting to accelerate their careers. Soon, the music festival was joined by a film festival, and then an interactive conference. Today, there is even a comedy festival and an education arm.

SXSW Interactive is world-renowned as a place where startup companies strike the deals that make them successful, where cutting edge mobile apps are launched, and where corporations come to master the use of new technologies.

None of that really interests me, to be honest — there are countless websites where you can learn the latest corporate news about where the venture capital is flying.

Instead, I want to look at what these technologies mean for our future at the intersection of tech and politics. It’s almost trite to point out how fast our world is changing but it’s true nonetheless. Innovative, disruptive technologies are altering how we communicate, socialize, organize, how we keep and share secrets. During chaotic times, there are always some who celebrate how new ideas will save our world and others who decry how they’ll bring about our doom. The truth is almost always somewhere in between — new technologies change us. Humanity is still evolving, sometimes quite quickly, and to pretend we’re still (or should be) the same as our plains-dwelling ancestors strikes me as misguided and naive.

Of course, we must go into the future with our eyes open. New technologies bring new dangers, and sometimes those dangers only become apparent when we ask who is in control. The answers are rarely simple — modern mobile and camera technologies increase the ease of government surveillance, but also create the possibility of citizen sousveillance. I want to know what’s coming, not so we can try to stuff the genies back in their bottles, but so we can liberate their wishes for the people, not just the powerful.

With that in mind, I’ll be spending the next 5 days looking not for the biggest news at the conference but what’s most interesting, by my own subjective terms. FDL’s SXSW team is made up of just a single person, so it will naturally be my small view on a very large event. With that said, I would love to hear your questions, tips, and requests. Of course, if any of you will be at SXSW be sure to let me know!

I’ll be posting regular updates on Bytegeist and tweeting on @KitOConnell throughout the event. My #SXSW tweets will appear on the sidebar of, and you can go straight to my coverage just by visiting

Here are a few highlights I hope to cover. I’ve shared my full SXSW schedule (requires free login), but of course I will only hit a portion of the events on that list. [cont’d.]

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and