Sarah Shearman, Freelance journalist, Warc
It's that time of year when chaos hits the streets of Austin, as South by Southwest (SXSW) gets into full swing.
But chaos can be good for business, according to a group of panellists discussing "This is Generation Flux", an article published by Fast Company last year, and written by the title's editor-in-chief, Robert Safian.
"We tend to make chaos about creativity, and structure about process, but I don't think it's that simple. Chaos is about being strategic," said Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft Research, who has previously been dubbed the "high priestess" of the internet.
This point resonates with SXSW as a whole, as creatives, technologists, scientists, marketers and geeks try to make sense of what's next in digital, amid a frenzy of talks, meet-ups, launches and book signings.
Last year, digital health was a big talking point, and this year it's even bigger, with dozens of sessions dedicated to this topic as the market booms in the US.
Dovetailing with this is the subject of the "quantified self" movement, with plenty of talks on wearable technology, which produces a huge amount of data that can be used by marketers to help them create more value in consumers' lives.
I have spotted a few people sporting Google Glass, the "wearable computer", at the event, and it is a device which keeps cropping up as a debate point, with a mixed response from various speakers as to whether it will become a mainstream consumer product. (Google Glass is also discussed in this Warc Trends Snapshot.)
Dennis Crowley, Foursquare's co-founder and chief executive, touched on this matter during his keynote, showing the packed audience all of his wearable technology, which included a Nike+ FuelBand – discussed in detail in this article by Geoffrey Precourt, Warc's US Editor – and a smartwatch, declaring, "My arms are generating data all the time."
Foursquare, which launched at SXSW four years ago and the unofficial sponsor of the event, is in the process of making a transition away from its gamification roots towards the personalisation of search and discovery, Crowley explained.
A lively panel debate I attended the day before Crowley spoke was entitled "The secret dangers of online influence marketing", which has been popularised by tools such as Klout and PeerPerks, which target social media influencers and reward them when they talk about a brand. The panellists blew the lid off this form of marketing, broadly arguing it won't necessarily lead to conversion.
Ekaterina Walter, senior social media strategist at Intel, said: "The problem we come across is we think we have to pay people to engage with us, but if you do this they will produce very little content for you."
She added that consumers want to be part of a movement, but brands do not know how to create one, so therefore should listen to their community first, and then get behind them.
Listening to the community and crowdsourcing was discussed by both PepsiCo and LEGO.
LEGO started its crowdsourcing site, "Cuusso", as a way of rewarding its loyal customers. Peter Espersen, head of online communities for the LEGO Group, said: "You should ask yourself if you already have a community to rally around your product, and if you don't, get one, and listen to it."
Elsewhere, 3D printing is a hot topic at SXSW this year, as the cost of this activity comes down, making it more accessible to a range of industries, like health and fashion. There is a sense that 3D printing is not far off becoming more mainstream, meaning marketers will be able to provide greater personalisation for consumers.
This was underlined by the opening keynote delivered by Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot Industries, on Friday.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of the huge amount of emerging technology being discussed, used, created and launched at SXSW. In Crowley's words: "At SXSW you get to experience the future for a few days before you go home and live in the present."