Bruce Sterling on The Next Great Generation

I wrote this post for The Next Great Generation on Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks at SXSW. His critical calls-to-action resonated with me in a number of ways:

  • Highlighting the cultural imperialism of SXSW brought some weight to the event. The diversity of attendees and presenters (start ups , industry marketers, thought leaders, film/interactive/music etc) makes for a unique conference mix that spreads SXSW’s influence far and wide. My exposure last year inspired me to brainstorm panel proposals this year. It began with the planted seed in form of my proposal last summer, which was then further encouraged to germinate after being chosen in the early rounds. That propelled me dive deeper into the issue and afforded me the opportunity to ask interesting questions of the problem in a public forum. All this thinking was made into a structured free time project through the preparation for this panel.
  • The observation that we are lacking passionate virtuosity in society today was stark, but I took it as a call to action to more tenaciously attack my passions and become super-awesome at them. That’s what I was trying to find last year at SXSW, which inspired me to pursue my interests in online video, and I’m still discovering what formats and venues best enable me to draw out the utmost virtuosity from my passions. 
  • He encouraged us all to go to Europe to attend conferences there. SXSW attracts people from all over, but we all need to get out of our East Coast / West Coast frame of mind to understand the rest of the society’s relationship to technology. I’m thrilled that future travel plans (more on that later…) are pushing me out of my current context, and I’m excited that people like Ethan Zuckerman are sharing with us the “rest of the Internet” and encouraging xenophilia
  • Sterling declared his passionate solidarity with the Millennials. It’s encouraging to hear from someone so critical that he believes in our generation, and my SXSW experience this year further encouraged me to believe that I, too, have ideas worth sharing.
  • Sterling also observed that what makes SXSW so special is the presence of women. I couldn’t agree more, and as much as the “women in tech” crowd likes to complain about sausagefests and glass ceilings, I’m happy to count myself as a woman in tech, and I’m most happy when we are together talking about our projects and ideas, rather than belaboring the size of our peer group. And I’m happy to take poise cues from inspiring women like Susan Crawford and Marissa Mayer

Though sometimes ranty and a little too political for my tastes, Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks resonated with me in a lot of good ways that made for a perfect final session of SXSW. The full audio is available here.