SXSW 2011 / Shashi Bellamkonda / CC BY 2.0
After my weird little half-week and a weekend back from Spring Break, I am fully readjusted to not living out of a suitcase (yay!). I am not the sort of person who does well with traveling–somehow my clothes always wind up smelling weird and I wear the same outfit six time even though I overpacked. It’s not attractive.
I spent the break, along with two additional being-a-truant days, in Austin with Kelly, Shep, and Laura from HackCollege exploring the unconference aspects (ie, networking and parties) of South by Southwest Interactive. I was glad the trip wound up happening in part because it gave me an excuse to see some relatives I have not seen in several years, and because it involved tacos*, which are one of those foods that are delicious and that Georgians just don’t do.**
It was not quite what I expected, to be honest. Part of that was related to the fact that SXSW really is a trade show for an industry that I don’t work in, and years of attending the very fringes of CALI with my family have taught me that that’s pretty much always going to be kind of boring. There was an additional level of weirdness attached to the fact that Shep and Laura and I were pretty much the only college kids we interacted with there, and there’s nothing to make you feel like a fake adult quite so quickly as interacting with people in their late 20s who are much smarter and more creative than you have any hope over ever being. I had also been told that SXSW parties are Harrrrrd Corrrrrre, and at least in my experience that wasn’t the case. The nerds are not so much with the dancing. (Then again, my friends are famous for throwing parties in which everyone carries on without pants and with glowsticks, so I am perhaps biased/bad at parties.)
I am tremendously shy and bad at speaking up for myself when I’m being bothered, so that probably impacted my experience. While talking with Laura, we also decided that the experience might have been more rewarding for us in part if the conference attracted more content creators rather than developers, since we’re the former. However, we both realized that that was kind of like critiquing a burrito for not being a quesadilla–it’s not really the poor thing’s fault.
But, there were some pretty awesome things that I got out of the experience:
- Meeting Laura and Shep and Chris for the first time (and Kelly for the second) and not being cut up and put in a dumpster***. Sometimes people you meet on the internet are not pedophiles and are instead deeply funny, patient people who will sneak you drinks and be awkward with you and not be able to figure out how to reassemble the hotel ironing board. And that’s pretty neat!
- Seeing Felicia Day at a party, despite being too nervous to ask her for a photo.
- Meeting the folks behind RoosterTeeth and EpicFu, who were all very polite and whose content I really like. Plus, the RoosterTeeth office? Oh my god, I want to live there.
- Making the SXSWI bingo card for the HackCollege Twitter account. Seeing people think that something is funny which you had a part in assembling is really neat! So is making fun of men in plaid shirts. For serious, though–I had a discussion about this with both Kelly and Shep; are there no other shirt patterns that the fellas can deal with?
- Seeing Big Boi play in an abandoned power plant and getting to yell at people that they do not, in fact, “rep the A.”
- The Secret Wine Party. Like that thing in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, but with Twitter and wine and tech geeks.
- Learning that smiling, looking harmless, and showing bouncers your ID will get you admittance to the party and occasionally a high five because bouncers are people too and respond to palpable desperation.
- Pulling a nail out of a woman’s face with my teeth. (Plus she websites!)
- Meeting some genuinely cool people making interesting shit. I like to be reminded that people who are still in school can create totally useful things and also just be really nice and be able to do all of that because of the internet. It comforts me when my sociology professor tells us the internet is for porn.
Overall, it was a cool experience. It got me out of the Oxford bubble, which though safe and comforting and where I usually like to be can also be petty and insular and give you an inflated sense of your own self worth. It’s nice to be reminded that life exists outside of your college, particularly when you’re doing your baby graduation in a month and are kinda freaked out. I probably won’t be going again next year, since I will hopefully be in Senegal and learning about what college kids do there. However, I’m glad I went instead of spending the week napping on my parents’ couch. It was a weird little baby step towards some vague kind of independence. That kind of thing is helpful!
* It also involved fried avocado, post-birthday carrot cake French toast, and migas. So good.
** To defend my countrymen, however, I will argue to the death that Georgia barbeque is better. Suck it, Texas.
*** Which I was pretty sure was not gonna happen, but the hell do I know. I can get annoying if you share a room with me for a week. They could have snapped!
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