SXSW in my own words

The Austin Chronicle invited some attendees of the upcoing South by Southwest Interactive to write short essays about what they were looking to get out of the event. It was a nice way to let people speak for themselves, and also gave their reporters a break by not having to interview all of us. 😉 Here’s what I said:

I’ll be wearing two hats at SXSW Interactive. One will be as an activist blogger trying to turn people on to the power of local politics. The other is as a consultant with Netcentric Campaigns helping nonprofits to utilize the grassroots potential of the Internet for progressive causes like environmental activism and responsible foreign policies. Our strategy is called “network-centric advocacy” since it eschews the traditional top-down structure of social movements and empowers individuals and networks of supporters to lead themselves.

Things you may think of as online recreation – such as blogs, photo sharing, social networking, bookmarks, video games, and even online shopping – can be powerful tools for community organizing and political advocacy. My goal at SXSW is to learn about new, creative uses of the Internet and find ways to utilize this innovation to promote grassroots political empowerment.

Sometimes when I read the breathless descriptions of bleeding edge technologists who will be attending, I start to worry that SXSW will be all about how to cash on the “next big thing.” And maybe for some people it will be. But for me, the Internet has always been a place where people can speak their minds, connect to each other, and make their world a better place. So, the folks I want to network with in Austin are not the dot-com big shots.

The most amazing connections I’ll make will be with people I’ve never even heard of before. I can’t know who they will be or what great ideas they will have. But there are also some who I am already looking forward to seeing there. They are journalists from the progressive weekly paper in central North Carolina, consultants from the Pacific Northwest who build the capacity of nonprofits to communicate effectively online, local and national bloggers whose cutting political commentary is on my daily reading list, academics who are studying the impact of online tools on the social lives of American teenagers, noted experts in “hacktivism,” and the entire staff of a company called BlogAds who are aiding the grassroots media revolution by financially supporting bloggers.
The Austin Chronicle: Screens: The Summit

The funny thing is, on their web site, I am right above Chuck Defeo who did Internet stuff for the Bush campaign. Even creepier, both Chuck and I gave shout-outs to BlogAds. A little disturbing.

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