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SXSW 2018 Preview: 3 key themes to watch at this year’s tech fest

This week, WGSN will be on the ground across the beautiful city of Austin, Texas. As well as eating our body weight in tacos, we’ll be there to take in all of the latest ideas from SXSW, the globally renowned tech conference that brings together thought leaders across strategy, innovation, marketing and design. Whether you’re attending the event yourself, or will be keeping up with the highlights via our reporting, here are three themes we’ll be expecting to hear much more about at this year’s conference.

Cryptocurrency & all things blockchain

As one of the hottest topics of the moment, there’s a lot to unpack within cryptocurrency and the blockchain. Nowhere will you be better placed to do this than at this year’s SXSW, where a host of experts will be on hand to cut through the hype and enlighten attendees on what’s really happening, and crucially, what to expect next.

Hearing from the co-founder of Ethereum seems like a good place to start: in Why Ethereum Is Going to Change The World, Joseph Lubin will set out his vision for a decentralised future enabled by blockchain. For a clear-headed look at the legal, economic and financial implications of the tech, head to Blockchain and the Decentralization of Finance. And after that, Business on the Blockchain will dig into “enterprise blockchain” with a focus on the e-commerce impact.

If, after all that, you feel ready to contemplate the next big disruptor that’s coming – even threatening the rise of blockchain – check out whurley’s Keynote, The Endless Possibilities of Quantum Computing.

Center for Humane Technology

Tech gets ethical

In the wake of fake news, addictive social media platforms and the dawn of Time Well Spent, it will be fascinating to see one of the world’s biggest tech conferences tackle the current, somewhat anti-tech sentiment.

This is a topic we explore in-depth in Future Consumer 2020, so we’ll be keen to hear how Silicon Valley’s thought leaders are planning to tap into ethical design for their brands – and how they communicate it to SXSW’s tech-savvy audience. The hot ticket will be Facebook’s VP of Product Design, Margaret Gould Stewart, who’s discussing how to keep technology in service of people, rather than the other way around.

Also worth scheduling in: Greater Good Studio on understanding the mechanics of power, Google, R/GA and more on choice architecture and the lizard brain, and cyber-psychologist Mary Aiken with Rebooting Tech for a Human-Centred Approach.

Marshmallow Laser Feast

Convergent creativity

SXSW built its considerable reputation on its ability to bring together creatives from all industries and all disciplines, and this year it’s said that it will take this approach to new heights.

Keynoting for SXSW Convergence is Nonny de la Peña, a pioneer in augmented and virtual reality, who will be talking about her new program that aims to “provide an open door for content authorship” in VR. For more VR creativity, be sure to experience Marshmallow Laser Feast’s installation, A Colossal Wave!, which is part of SXSW’s formidable Art Program.

We’re also excited to hear from design researcher Pamela Pavliscak, who delivered one of last year’s best talks, on voice and emotion analysis – for 2018, she’ll be delving into the emotional life of the car of the future. And for the ultimate in convergent creativity, don’t miss Bruce Sterling’s closing talk, which weaves together the mood of the conference, his own personal contemplations of the moment, and so much more. This year, he’s titled it Disrupting Dystopia – consider us intrigued.

Attending SXSW this week? Watch Carla Buzasi present how WGSN forecast the macro trends that will change the market in the coming years. Full details right here.

Not in Austin? No need for FOMO – get our latest white paper, the Future Consumer 2020, here.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

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