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SXSW 2011: The internet is over

SXSW 2011: The internet is over
If my grandchildren ever ask me where I was when I realised the internet was over – they won't, of course, because they'll be too busy playing with the teleportation console – I'll be able to be quite specific: I was in a Mexican restaurant opposite a cemetery in Austin, Texas, halfway through eating a taco. It was the end of day two of South by Southwest Interactive, the world's highest-profile gathering of geeks and the venture capitalists who love them, and I'd been pursuing a policy of asking those I met, perhaps a little too aggressively, what it was exactly that they did. What is "user experience", really? What the hell is "the gamification of healthcare"? Or "geofencing"? The content strategist across the table took a sip of his orange-coloured cocktail. This, for outsiders, is the fundamental obstacle to understanding where technology culture is heading: increasingly, it's about everything. Web 3.0 The game layer The dictator's dilemma The road to that end state won't be smooth.

SXSW 2011: The Year of the Librarian - Phoebe Connelly - Technology Tech for tech's sake is over. In a year when social media is helping inform our coverage of everything from political upheaval in the Middle East to the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan, your app better do something more than be cool. I kept coming back to the librarians as I talked to people at SXSWi because this micro-track mirrored what I saw tweeted and written about the conference as a whole. I met with Justin Grimes, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Maryland who has done significant work on open government standards, and works with the formidable Carl Malamud on digitizing federal archives. There was, by my count, a panel or a meet-up showcasing librarians every day of this year's SXSWi. As always, the question of the social web loomed large at this year's SXSWi. But maybe we want to constrain the data that's available about ourselves. Image: Austin Convention Center, Eric Uhlir.

SXSW: The Fate of Libraries Carson Block, who gave a SXSW Interactive talk on Saturday titled “The Great Library Swindle,” says that he’s passionate about libraries and technology. But he didn’t really need to tell his audience that. The intensity of his interest was very much on display during his talk, which was about the daunting challenges that public libraries face in the age of the Internet and digitization. I knew it was ugly out there, but I wasn’t aware of all the details until Block went through them. Libraries are eager to jump aboard the e-book bandwagon, but major publishers such as Random House, Macmillan and Penguin are crimping their plans in multiple ways, including hiking prices, placing limits on lending policies or simply refusing to sell e-books to libraries at all. “I’m not sure why publishers are so afraid of libraries,” he said. The companies determining the future of book distribution are what Block called “the personal content superstores,”, Apple and Barnes & Noble.