This is not news because I live in the Pacific Northwest -- which is pretty much North by Northwest from anybody in the continental US. I have never been to South by Southwest (SXSW) -- which if you lost track starts tomorrow in Austin. What started over 20 years ago as a small music festival is now attended by over 10,000 people and has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for geeks. Speaking of pilgrimages and geeks, I have never been to Burning Man either. And there are plenty of other famous events like the Superbowl, or Sundance, or the Masters, or the Grand Canyon, or Davos, or TED that maybe one of these days I will get around to attending.
The interesting thing to me about each of these is they are all growing. Here we are at a time where we are increasingly able to sit at home and get minute by minute updates on big events. In some cases we can watch live streaming video, others we get the full video later but a sufficient update stream to keep pace remotely, and certainly within a week of the event we have more reporting and analysis than any human could consume. So despite the evidence that we are all better equipped to attend these events virtually than ever before more of us are attending in person than ever before.
I can think of two possible explanations for this:
- Our increasingly virtual social existence is causing us to crave authentic social interaction and for some reason we choose large events as a way to satisfy the craving.
- The expanded coverage has increased the overall awareness of these events to the extent that the growing number of new people interested in attending out paces the number of people that choose to stay home and attending virtually.
Each of these is working on me and so I suspect I will have to make time to get out more.
Until then, I will be following SXSW through the miracle of the streaming media. In addition to the Twitter updates and blog posts from the people I follow, I will be tracking the live work of Robert Scoble and Twit.tv. They are each great synthesizers of the tech geek world and if anyone can make you feel like you are there -- I think it would be these guys.