GIFs, guacamole, analog versions of modern technology - SXSW DAY 1
blog by S.J. Velasquez • March 09, 2013 @ 12:00am
It took us a little (read: A LOT) longer to get to Austin than we’d originally planned, but Kat and I eventually arrived this morning, technically speaking.
Regardless of the fact that we’re both going on a handful of hours of sleep in the last three days, Kat and I really made day one at SXSW count. We woke up early, grabbed our welcome packets at registration, planned out the five days ahead and were on our way.
We attended sessions, networked with like-minded attendees in lounges and got a little weird (hey, the city’s motto is “Keep Austin weird,” so we figured the when-in-Rome mentality is appropriate) throughout the day.
For the sake of keeping this post brief and digestible, I’ll share with you just a few of the day’s highlights below:
Getting GIF-y with it
GIFs, those looping snippets of video or motion graphics, have infiltrated social media in a way many never expected—not in 2013, anyway. Made popular by old-school gems like the “Ally McBeal” dancing baby and Hamster Dance, GIFs are experiencing a comeback. The Economy of the GIF panel I attended talked about the evolution of the GIF, the differences between being a GIF artist and merely repurposing others’ video footage to produce a GIF.
A recent New York Times article points out that GIFs are popping up in high-end retail ad campaigns, on legitimate news websites and in social networks dedicated solely to creating and sharing the bite-sized videos.
Why would reputable brands turn away from big-budget flashy video to instead opt for what might be considered outdated media? As panelist Lindsey Weber pointed out, “Brands always want to do what editorial is doing.” She referenced the popularity of GIFs on sites like Buzzfeed, the Daily Dot and others.
“The art form of the repeating image is always going to be there,” panelist and GIF king Jimmy Repeat assured the audience.
Free grub and other giveaways
I didn’t spend a dollar on food today. The cool thing about SXSW that we learned last year is that there’s no reason to pay for food when it’s being handed out for free across downtown Austin. Sure, you have to search a bit, sign away your social media soul for a couple bites, and RSVP to a zillion parties, lounges and meetups, but it’s worth it. I feasted on tempura from a food truck, guacamole and chips, shrimp, energy drinks and more.
Aside from the occasional binging on edibles, Kat and I enjoyed some other freebies. We tried out an oxygen bar, I dove into a ball bit, and Kat got herself a free chair massage. I made sure to keep some spare room in my suitcase, because I fully intend on restocking my T-shirt collection back home with complimentary clothing.
Envisioning the internet in analog
One of the coolest stops of the day was the WB Tell-A-Vision event. While the rest of SXSW Interactive is all about moving forward in technology and interactivity, this attraction took tech right out of social media as we know it. Throughout the venue, social networks were presented in analog, as if the internet no longer existed while the concepts behind social media remained.
For example, Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” status update prompt appeared on a large chalkboard on a physical wall, on which attendees were encouraged to respond to the question as they might on their own Facebook walls. And rather than snapping and sharing a selfy on Instagram, two cartoon artists feverishly sketched out crayon portraits on construction paper.