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. Browse 12 of the most significant trends that dominated discussions at SXSW 2018.


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

Five Sessions:


Why it matters: VR isn’t a passing fad or a niche technology seeking purpose. It has matured into 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. In its wake the door has opened wider for mobile AR applications and the introduction of MR devices in the near future.

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

Five Sessions:


Why it matters: The volatility of Bitcoin continues to grab all the headlines but cryptocurrencies are just the beginning of a potential revolution. Blockchain tech is going mainstream fast and is being adopted and experimented with in areas as diverse as smart contracts (music and healthcare), identity (passports, personal ID), the Internet of Things (data marketplaces), and digital rights management (music and film). The broad decentralization of data could become the next iteration of Internet.

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

Five Sessions:


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

Five Sessions:


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

Five Sessions:


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

Five Sessions:


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

Four Sessions:


Why it matters: Data is today’s DNA. We are increasingly living in a sensor-rich environments where AI’s impact is starting to become omnipresent. Devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa have brought an always-on-and-listening virtual assistant into our lives. Development in AI is 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 across all that SXSW covers. Whether it’s AI providing automation tools for creators, predicting the habits of consumers, writing film scores 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

Five Sessions:


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. Billions are projected to be spent over the next few years by these companies on original content as they race for eyeballs and market share. Signals around strategies and types of content are starting to trickle out, but success for them is not a given. What happens as the pace quickens and the spending war seems to have no end in sight?

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

Four Sessions:


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

Four Sessions:


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

Five Sessions:


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

Five Sessions:

Explore the 2017 Trends here.

Photo by Merrick Ales

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