SxSW 2014 in Review

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David Stein, New York’s Associate Director of Development, reports:

The intersection of health and technology was one of the main themes in this year’s
sessions. Along with finance and education, health was discussed as one of the last
major economic sectors yet to be “disrupted” by new tech. Potential disruptions being discussed included wearable health sensors and real-time monitoring, connecting
health care providers and patients in innovative and cost-effective ways, and improving
consumer access to and control over their own health data and history.

Another trend this year was a marked increase in the number of international speakers,
subjects and trade floor vendors. One thing that did not change was the noticeable
absence of Apple, other than on the laptop logos on every panel table. Maker culture
(makerbots, Raspberry Pi, etc.), robots (for example the Robot Boxing Machine
competition), and wearable tech remained strong, as did the focus on responsive web
design (or, as it will soon be known, “web design”) and all things mobile. The
importance of device agnosticism in web development and User Experience were also
mentioned frequently. Chelsea Clinton and others spoke of the need for adapting tech
innovation for social good.

The overall use and abuse of user data was probably the biggest single theme this year.
Keynote speakers included Edward Snowden, speaking live from Russia, and Julian
Assange, from his new home in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. There were
numerous sessions, workshops and informal discussions throughout the week on both
the positive potential for “big data” and personalization or microtargeting, on the one
hand, and user demands for privacy and organized resistance to surveillance on the
other, and the difficulty in resolving the tension between these two ideals.

More snippets (real time commentary) on our Tumblr blog.

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