Technology gets personal: highlights from SXSW 2013

David Caygill
iris worldwide

Bigger, faster, louder: South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has been growing so rapidly that the days when Bruce Sterling - the science fiction author and a regular speaker at the event - could hand out a photocopied map to his house during his closing remarks and invite everyone back for a party are long gone. Even three years ago, you could come to SXSW as a hot new start-up, generate some buzz among its crowd of hipster influencers and rockstar coders, and be reasonably confident you would have a chance of success.

Today, the noise is deafening, and the outlandish exhibition stands with interactive participation gimmicks are everywhere. American Airlines invites me to tweet a picture for a chance to win a competition, adding me to a "wall" of other such tweeters. Samsung, the electronics firm, wants me to tap my NFC phone to get a free latte. Esurance, the auto insurer, wants to find out about my "SXSW personality". Crowdtap, a collaborative marketing company, is keen for an RSVP for its epically-lavish party, filled with DJs, dancers, a free bar and endless BBQ wings and Texan sliders. GroupMe lures me into its tent with the promise of a free grilled cheese sandwich and a pint of chilled Shiner Bock; the cost to me is just downloading and installing its messaging app. A phrase I overheard, "If you are not paying, you are the product," resonates more than ever.

Esurance seeks to engage SXSW attendees