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South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual spring festival and conference held in Austin, Texas with separate film, interactive and music portions. Since its inception in 1987, SXSW has continued to grow in size, most notably in the SXSW Interactive digital-media portion of the event.
In March 1987, The Austin Chronicle staffers Roland Swenson, Louis Black, Nick Barbaro and booking agent Louis Meyers organized a regional music festival in Austin, Texas named "South by Southwest," named by Black after the 1959 spy thriller film North by Northwest. Throughout the 1990s the festival continued to expand, adding a portion for film and multimedia in 1994. In 1999, the multimedia part of the event was renamed "SXSW Interactive."
In 2000, singer-songwriter John Mayer was signed to his first record label following his performance at that year's SXSW Music festival. In 2002, the independent film Manito and the documentary film Spellbound took home that year's SXSW Film jury awards. In 2004, British singer James Blunt subsequently signed his first record deal after performing a show at the SXSW Music festival.
In 2005, the SXSW Film festival featured several low-budget films with naturalistic dialogue, leading sound editor Eric Masunaga to coin the term "mumblecore" for the film genre.
In 2006, a video games component titled "Screenburn" was added to the SXSW Interactive portion of the event. Also in 2006, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark spoke at SXSW Interactive keynote panel.
In 2007, the microblogging and social media platform Twitter coordinated with SXSW to install flat panel screens in the hallways of the main venue, allowing conference goers to text tweets about various panels they were attending. Twitter's participation at the event is often cited as the pivotal moment for the platform's success, with tweets per day increasing from 20,000 to 60,000 during that year's SXSW Interactive.
In 2008, a comedy component was added to the event. The same year, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a keynote interview with journalist Sarah Lacy (shown below).
In 2009, SXSW Interactive drew larger attendees than normal, which subsequently caused connectivity issues for people using iPhone apps on the cell carrier AT&T's 3G network. That same year, the location-based social networking mobile application Foursquare was launched at the event.
In 2010, SXSW Interactive saw a 40% increase in attendees, which surpassed the music portion of the event for the first time. The keynote speaker that year was Twitter CEO Evan Williams, who was interviewed by author Umair Haque.
In 2011, 4chan and Canvas founder Christopher Poole gave a keynote presentation during SXSW Interactive on the benefits of anonymity on the Internet (shown below). That year, attendees for the Interactive portion of the event increased to over 20,000 people.
In 2012, several mobile applications premiered at the event, including a version of Instagram for the Android operating system and several location-based social apps. That year, Napster co-founders Shawn Parker and Shawn Fanning gave a joint keynote presentation in which they discussed copyright enforcement in the context of Internet media (shown below).
In 2013, the video game components were renamed "SXSW Gaming" and "SXSW Gaming Expo." Additionally, the Internet-famous snowshoe cat Grumpy Cat was among the attendees and was hosted by the tech news blog Mashable. That year's keynote presentation was delivered by CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors Elon Musk (shown below).
In 2014, a television component of the event titled "SXSW Film: Episodic" was added. During the Interactive portion, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke via teleconference from Russia to a live audience at the conference. Snowden announced that he did not regret leaking the NSA documents and that he believed Internet users need to educate themselves on how to protect their online security (shown below).
Controversy over an app called Meerkat pervaded the 2015 SXSW Interactive conference. Meerkat, which was invented by 27 year-old Israeli Ben Rubin, was angling to be the best personal live-streaming app with an easy-to-use interface. However, the day after the app premiered, Twitter cut off API access, and announced that it had acquired the Meerkat competitor Periscope. Meerkat announced that it would end its live-streaming video capabilities a year later. In the keynote address, former vice president Al Gore persuaded attendees to use social media technology to fight climate change and spark changes in policy.
On March 2nd, 2016, South by Southwest announced that both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama would be attending that year's South by Southwest, and that these would be the first appearances by both a sitting president and first lady. Barack Obama was set to appear as a keynote conversation at SXSW Interactive and Michelle Obama would be the opening keynote at the music portion. The following week, on March 8th, the president encountered criticism when it was announced that he would be skipping the funeral of former first lady Nancy Reagan in order to be present in Austin; Michelle would attend the funeral instead.
Parody Twitter Accounts
Many novelty Twitter accounts have been created that mock SXSW attendees, parties and the event itself. On March 9th, 2010, the @DrunkAtSXSW Twitter account was created, which posts tweets describing various inebriated adventures at SXSW.
Chad just ordered a margarita at an Irish pub.— Drunk at SXSW (@drunkatsxsw) March 12, 2010
On March 11th, 2011, the @SXSWhine Twitter feed began retweeting people who posted various complaints about their experience at SXSW.
On March 8th, 2012, the @SXSWFanFiction Twitter account was created, which posts short fictional stories about events that are likely to occur during the event.
An argument breaks out in line for badges, everyone around makes sure to note the start-ups they promoting. Neither get any angel investors.— SXSW Fan Fiction (@SXSWFanFIction) March 9, 2012
"I'm kind of tired of free drinks"— sxswDoucheBag (@sxswdouchebag) March 13, 2012
On February 13th, 2013, the @SXSWPartzzzzz Twitter feed was launched to tweet announcements for fake parties and concerts around Austin during SXSW.
On March 11th, 2014, the Internet news site The Daily Dot published an article highlighting many of the humorous parody SXSW Twitter feeds.
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