This is what happens at SXSW 2021

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10. March 2021

For many years, people from the creative and digital industries have been traveling to Austin, Texas every March from all over the world to meet at the SXSW Festival. In 2020, the Corona pandemic that broke out just at that time caused a complete cancellation just a few days before the planned start. Also in 2021 there will be no normal festival operation. However, the organizer has thought up a lot to be able to offer an attractive program anyway. We give an overview of the most interesting events.

For a long time, traveling was not such an adventure with an uncertain outcome as it is today. Constantly changing warnings, restrictions and classification of entire countries as risk areas make long-term planning impossible. More and more events are therefore migrating completely or partially to the internet and SXSW is no exception. From March 16 to 20 2021 it is therefore: SXSW Online. As usual, keynotes and panels, film premieres, concerts, network events and exhibitions are announced, but only as a digital experience.

Seven big topics dominate the program

Even though many SXSW guests can spend a week in Austin at full capacity without hearing a single lecture from the official program, big names from business, entertainment and politics have always been part of the driving force behind the festival. So far, the organizer has been very reserved and has not yet published any names. At least the most important topics are fixed, namely the following:

  • A NEW URGENCY Racism, nationalism, climate change – even without Corona, 2020 was a year of emerging and worsening crises. How can an international community counter them?
  • CHALLENGING TECH’S PATH FORWARD Technological progress can be a decisive key to overcoming many problems. How can modern technology best be used for a better future?
  • CULTURAL RESILIENCE IN THE ARTS How can and should art and culture comment on and influence world events?
  • THE REBIRTH OF BUSINESS It is not only because of Corona that our economic system is under scrutiny. What needs to be done to achieve more sustainability, diversity and justice here?
  • TRANSFORMING THE ENTERTAINMENT LANDSCAPE The entertainment industry is currently experiencing a huge upheaval, driven by Corona. What will the entertainment of the future look like and where will it take place?
  • CONNECTION IN DISCONNECTION Social isolation is almost considered a virtue nowadays, but it is not bearable in the long run. What can new forms of community and cooperation look like?
  • AN UNCHARTED FUTURE This is about pretty much everything that the future could bring. What breathtaking ideas will shape the next generation?

Old and new formats in a digital shape

In terms of content, it could become quite political, but what event formats are on the program and how can you participate? Here is an overview.

  • Conference The conference basically includes all the program elements that usually take place at the Austin Covention Center and the surrounding hotels, with one or more people speaking on a topic and more or less involving the audience. The formats are called “Keynotes”, “Meet Ups”, “Mentor Sessions”, or “Round Tables”. A podcast is also available. How interactions are possible in each case is not yet clear.
  • Festivals You can see SXSW in its entirety as a festival, but here it is specifically about music, film and comedy. Film premieres, concerts by famous and as yet unknown artists and performances by luminaries of comedy – if this is cleverly transmitted to the Internet, an attractive streaming offer could be created here. But there is no concrete program yet.
  • Exhibition The Expo in the large hall of the Austin Convention Center has not necessarily been the main attraction of SXSW so far. In this respect the newly created Creative Industries Exhibition could be one of the positive surprises in the coming year. The event is announced as integrative, interactive, cross-industry and of course digital – much more is not yet officially announced. Let us be surprised.
  • Competitions As in previous years, the SWSW community was invited to submit proposals for program elements. This is called PanelPicker. However, the process including the final selection has already been completed. On the other hand, the Community Service Awards have not even started yet. Here local projects and initiatives are honored, from Austin and beyond. The Gaming Awards, which are presented in 12 categories, are a larger-scale competition. Application deadline is December 4. The Innovation Awards are also attractive, but here too there is little concrete information yet, just like about the SXSW Hackathon. Finally, an absolute recommendation to all startups is the SXSW Pitch. This competition enjoys great prestige and has already attracted international attention to German participants, which is why we will deal with it in detail in a separate article.

On the one hand, a lot is offered, on the other hand it is still unclear what exactly and how. But whoever trusts the SXSW team to create a unique event digitally, can already get a digital ticket. The Online Pass costs 149 US dollars in advance. For the very brave and enterprising, a physical event is even planned, of course in close cooperation with the City of Austin and the health authorities. We will keep you up to date!

Featured image: Austin during SXSW 2019

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