Old things, digital things: REACT does SXSW, pt 2.

REACT panelist Lucy Heywood of Stand + Stare Collective reflects on her experiences at SXSW Interactive, and considers what it might mean for her work

In March, REACT attended SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, to present a discussion panel, ‘Platforms for Haunting: The Talking Dead’. In this post, panel member Lucy Heywood, who runs Stand + Stare Collective with her brother, Barney, reflects on her first SXSW experience and what it means for Stand + Stare.

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“Having touched down in Houston and breathed our first American air, Barney and I had the perfect welcome from the immigration officer who checked our passports. Far from the quick glance and curt nod UK-style, he wanted to know all the details about where we were going and what we were doing.

“Platforms for Hunting?” he said after I told him about my SXSW panel, “we love hunting in Texas. If it moves, we shoot it!”. We briefly considered switching topic from Haunting to Hunting, but decided against it…

Our panel ‘Platforms for Haunting’ fell on a Saturday. In our talk, I described our work as a bridge between old technology and new technology. I talked about my love of old things and how important interaction with physical objects, documents and people is to me. We had a focused, engaged audience who asked some thought-provoking questions.

I found having to articulate what I do in relation to Platforms for Haunting really useful. I realized that one of the things we are trying to do in our work is to find ways of using digital technology to give us experiences that resemble analogue or physical processes. To use Theatre Jukebox as an example, this is a digital platform, which conceals the technology, so what you experience is a physical interaction with cards that has similarities to looking through an archive.

The conference also has a mind-boggling amount of events, talks and parties to try and get into. We decided fairly early on to take things as they came rather than stressing about missing things all the time.

Attending other talks helped us see where our work sits within the global interactive community. This has already helped Barney and I to focus our work and place what we do in a wider context.

One talk in particular, ‘Embracing Analogue: Why Physical is Hot’ gave us the stats to reinforce some of our own findings. This talk helped us to nail an idea that we have had but never been able to back up before. In a nutshell, that in our increasingly digital age, it is the 18-35 year olds who are craving physical experiences and real things as much, if not more, than the over 70s. Those who are using digital in their lives more than anyone ever are experiencing a hankering for nostalgia that sometimes even pre-dates their own memories.

The two other themes/trends that we picked up on via our personal overview of the festival were the idea of the importance of physical interactions as well as digital experiences, and that wearable computers, such as Google Glass, are set to be the next big thing we will all have before too long.

We were also immensely proud to have been nominated for a SXSW Arts Interactive Award. It was a thrill to be at the awards ceremony and see our project flash up, and although we didn’t win our category (this went to Lost Art, a Tate/Channel 4 collaboration), we were chuffed to receive recognition for Theatre Jukebox at such a prestigious event.

Barney and I are already plotting our return to SXSW next year, but whether this is just the first or my only experience of the festival, I will certainly never forget it. I’m glad to have sampled some of the real Texas as well as taking away the rich, cultural experience of SXSW and cosmopolitan Austin.

I would like to thank Jo Lansdowne and REACT for inviting me to be part of the panel and John Troyer, Tim Cole and David Kirk for being such interesting co-panelists and general good guys. I’d also like to thank Creative iNets for supporting our visit to SXSWi.”

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Lucy and her brother Barney run Stand + Stare Collective. They are currently working on the REACT-funded ‘Turning the Page: Memories of Travel’ project with Tim Cole. In 2011 they developed Theatre Jukebox, as part of a residency at thePervasive Media Studio. The jukebox, an arcade-style unit that uses technology to tell stories in a unique way, was nominated for a SXSW Arts Interactive Award at this year’s festival.

You can listen to a full audio podcast of the Platforms for Haunting: The Talking Dead panel here.

Dr John Troyer of University of Bath's Centre for Death and Society shared his thoughts about SXSWi in an earlier post. You can read his blog entry here.

 

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