2018 SXSW Programming Trends

SXSW 2017, Virtual Cinema – Photo by Merrick Ales

SXSW is where some of the world’s most creative minds come together to discover, learn, network, brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas that will drive the discourse regarding tech, entertainment, and culture. What follows are 12 of the most significant trends that we think will dominate discussions next March.

CONVERGENCE IS EVERYWHERE

Why it matters: SXSW continues to bring people from different industries and disciplines together, making new and meaningful connections and driving creativity. As we define ourselves in less specific ways and place increased importance on our ability to adapt, we create an environment that values flexibility over rigidity. Where the lines between traditional boundaries become blurred is where collaboration and revolution occur.

Tracks: All

VR’S MATURITY SPEEDS UP

Why it matters: VR is no longer a passing fad or a niche technology seeking purpose. It has begun to mature as a potent tool in the arts, medicine, business, and entertainment. Production technology and standards continue to increase rapidly, furthering the acceleration of VR towards a mainstream technology and opening the door wider for both AR and MR and development.

Tracks: Code and Programming, Design, Experiential Storytelling, Film & TV Industry, Health and Wellness, Making Film & Episodics, Startup & Tech Sectors, VR/AR

THE BLOCKCHAIN RISES

Why it matters: Bitcoin and Ethereum prices continue to climb and ICOs are becoming much more common with start-ups who want to finance outside of the usual seed or VC route. But it’s not just about finance. Blockchain tech is being experimented with in areas as diverse as smart contracts (music and healthcare), identity (passports, personal ID), the Internet of Things (smart appliances, supply chain), and digital rights management (music and film).

Tracks: Code and Programming, Film and TV Industry, Food, Government, Intelligent Future, Music Industry, Startup & Tech Sectors

HACKING HEALTH AND OUR BODIES

Why it matters: Data from our devices and deeper understandings of the matter we are made from is leading to a new era in healthcare. From hacking our own genome to building medicines that are as unique as the condition and person they are treating, things are becoming very personal with the interface that is the human body.

Tracks: Health and Wellness, Intelligent Future, Startup and Tech Sectors

EMPOWERMENT, INCLUSION, AND ACTIVISM IN BUSINESS AND THE ARTS

Why it matters: As politics aims to divide, we are seeing more voices organize and rise up both online and offline in support of a more inclusive society here and abroad. Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of innovative and creative societies the world over. But there is still much more work to be done in 2018 and beyond.

Tracks: Brands and Marketing, Experiential Storytelling, Film and TV Industry, Music Industry, News and Journalism, Social Impact, VR/AR, Workplace

STARTUPS IN THE AGE OF THE BIG FOUR TECH GIANTS

Why it matters: The dynamics of founders and funders continue to change — the fact that these groups come to SXSW in large numbers doesn’t. The allure of discovering the next big thing remains a key part of SXSW. But as the Big Four — Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook — continue to have huge technological influence, the question remains: will this kind of total domination stifle tomorrow’s innovation?

Tracks: Code and Programming, Film and TV Industry, Food, Intelligent Future, Music Industry, News and Journalism, Startup and Tech Sectors, Social Impact

THE RAPID RISE OF SHORT FORM DOCUMENTARY CONTENT

Why it matters: We are consuming more and more well-produced short-form documentary content. From Casey Neistat to Field of Vision and Great Big Story, this content is more prevalent than ever. At the same time the avenues of consumption and the cultural attention span have also changed the format over the past decade. Its evolution, as well as that of our viewing habits and our critical cultural eye, continues to accelerate. Where does it go next?

Tracks: Film Industry, Making Film and Episodics, News and Journalism

THE OMNIPRESENT AI

Why it matters: Data is today’s DNA. Devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa have brought an always-on-and-listening virtual assistant into our lives. Development in AI has been rapid, and incremental improvements in abilities, aptitude, and accuracy are piling up quickly. As AI is woven more tightly into the fabric of our lives, we see it being applied in many ways across all that SXSW covers. Whether it’s AI providing automation tools for creators, predicting the habits of consumers or writing code on its own, the future is both bright and concerning as we head into uncharted waters.

Tracks: Brands and Marketing, Code and Programming, Design, Film & TV Industry, Health and Wellness, Intelligent Future, Music Industry, Startup & Tech Sectors

NEW MEDIA COMPANIES BREAKING INTO FILM & TV

Why it matters: A number of non-traditional companies are attempting to break into the film and TV industry: Apple, Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Refinery29, to name a few. These companies have more money to spend than many film production companies, and less to lose as well. Currently much about these companies’ strategies and content is still unknown, and success for them is not a given. What happens as the pace quickens and the spending war for eyeballs seems to have no end in sight?

Tracks: Brands and Marketing, Film & TV Industry, News and Journalism

MUSIC REVENUE AND THE POWER OF THE PLAYLIST

Why it matters: Revenue from sales and streaming on a macro level is finally trending back upwards after years of sluggish numbers. Now that the money is coming in and optimism is rebounding, where is all the money going, how is it being distributed, and where is the transparency? Coupled with playlists threatening to upend albums entirely, with singles leading the way, artists and their teams want to know how these lists are curated and how to get added to the hottest playlists in hopes of generating revenue.

Tracks: Music Industry, Sync, Stream and License

FRONTLINE CITIES

Why it matters: The roles and responsibilities of cities are evolving in response to a more connected, more tumultuous world. We’re seeing global coalitions of cities joining together to confront issues such as climate change, cybersecurity, immigration and extremism. As big government seems to be stuck in a stutter or start/stop, is it up to cities to pave the way towards the future, providing stability, growth and community for their citizens?

Tracks: Cities Summit, Government, Social Impact

ETHICAL DESIGN

Why it matters: As we move towards a post-device era we are beginning to see the longer-term social and psychological effects our devices, apps and AI have had. What has happened to us since the dawn of the smartphone, social networking and mobile apps? What will happen to us if we don’t recognize these effects and learn from them, as our tech continues to disappear into the background and we increasingly trust those that design and build the products and software in the things that we have conversations with?

Tracks: Code and Programming, Design, Government, Health and Wellness, Intelligent Future, Social Impact, Startup and Tech Sectors


Explore the 2017 Trends here.

Photo by Merrick Ales

Capital One logo
Austin Chronicle logo

Stay Tuned

Sign up to receive the latest announcements, tips, networking invitations and more.