What the X in SXSWi Stands For.

March 25, 2015 Alan Kittle

During my first trip to Austin’s annual union of Interactive, Film and Music Festivals, I’ve spotted a micro trend that I’m going to encourage my creative teams to bake into more of their ideas…multiplication. Here are four ways I saw ideas converge to create something bigger, better and more powerful.

SuperSuper at SXSW

During Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s session, he talked about his new venture – Super – a heavily visual social platform described on their App Store page as, “Bold opinions become tiny works of art.” It’s Snapchat meets Pop Art! Heavily inspired by Barbara Kruger, this is Biz’s latest attempt to build something that allows users to share their thoughts built off opening statements like, “I LOVE” or “I’M ALL” or even “ONCE UPON A TIME” … the convergence of gallery images and text overlays is anarchic and encourages self-expression and personalization way beyond Instagram or Twitter.

As an Art Director I’m all in. And I’m taking bets on which brands might experiment with it soon.

Patrick Mulford

theAudience ECD presented his unique viewpoint on how brands should use social media. It was mind-blowing – it made me want to be a better creative thought leader. The Natural Architecture of Social Media transplants the biological theory (of how living organisms grow by having seven basic needs met) into how social networks thrive. Here’s an extract from Patrick’s introduction:

People have talked about the social ‘ecosystem’, as if it comprises distinct, intelligent consumers for a long time. But they’ve always overlooked one key fact: social media networks are the heart of the ecosystem. They are holonic structures – individual, but acting as a whole. The creation of social media networks turned computers and smartphones into something amazing: doorways into a landscape, nourished by content and thriving on emotion expressed through the act of sharing.

I’ll definitely be quoting Mulford within client conversations in the coming months.

MeerkatMeerkat at SXSW

Another app, another amalgamation … Meerkat combines Twitter with live video streaming. Causing a storm of controversy, as Twitter turns off its access to Social Graph just as ‘South By’ started, this clever platform allows you to stream content from your phone and tweet simultaneously. Connections can respond and their tweets appear on top of the feed … it’s very smart and very powerful stuff. It seems as if this will emerge as the “it” App of SXSWi 2015, and I can’t wait to see how the relationship with Twitter develops. Some think the behemoth of social media is trying to shut down the competition as it tries to launch its newly-bought Periscope; I hope they can work it out because this amazing evolution of communication could create amazing opportunities for connecting with audiences.

I used Meerkat during my last panel session and I had seven users ‘tune in’ to my broadcast. The session was hosted by Dazed’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Noakes, who questioned actor Shia LeBeouf about his year-long collaboration with ‘meta modernist’ artists Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner.

Which leads me to my last example of multiplication from SXSWi 2015.

#FOLLOWMYHEART

Before I start my own commentary, please read LaBeouf’s introduction:

When people say, “listen to your heart”, they are urging us to tune in to the loving side of our selves; the imaginative, the intuitive, the compassionate, the inner wisdom we all possess. They are telling us to listen to our passion. As we roam the SXSW festival, the data of my heart will roam the networks, transmitted live for us to follow together in real time for the duration. With our physical distance collapsed by the networks, that innermost and most intimate of rhythms will be rendered immediate on our digital screens.

Visiting follow-my-heart.net let you see Shia’s real-time heartbeat visualized simply but mesmerically. It takes the ever-increasing trend of quantified self into the art world and attempts to reach out in an thought-provoking way. Being able to follow his heartbeart, even when LaBeouf is sleeping for instance, is surely the most ‘access’ any celebrity has ever offered to the public.

It’s just one of the ‘pieces’ the three have created since their coming together. #STARTCREATING saw them skywrite the hashtag in the skies above LA in February last year. And, more famously, LaBeouf allowed himself to be locked in a room with the public in the #IAMSORRY? experiment not long after the actor angered so many after being caught plagiarising graphic novelist Daniel Clowes for a short film entered at Cannes.

But how the group talked about their process, of deciding what art to create next, was the most interesting thing for me – they claim to be a ‘hive mind’ and use a veto system so that they must all agree to their next project or not do it.

Summary

Right now, that level of collaboration is beyond anything we have with our clients … but can you imagine the powerful relationship you could have if the agency had the power to could veto client decisions? True equality, complete trust and absolute interdependence – now that’s something worth thinking about.

But let’s start simpler and easier. When Harte Hanks creative teams stretch their thinking beyond a single channel, the chance to multiply the effectiveness of that creative is limitless. The bigger and more transcendent the idea, the better and more powerful it will become to help create smarter customer interactions.

And that’s where I intend to start, tomorrow.

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