We Are Social: Curiosity Stop SXSW Special


I’ve just returned from SXSW in Austin, where the US election was talk of the town and Trump’s ears must have been burning bright red (a colour he would no doubt disapprove of). Myself and Tom Ollerton, producers of the Curiosity Stop, were out there on behalf of We Are Social’s innovation team. Our goal was to sift through the talks, trends and tech at SXSW 2016 to find out what’s shaping the way we communicate, and why brands should care. Basically, we wanted to come home with more than a jumbo carton of Marlboro Lights. And boy, did we!

Now that the jet lag has lifted and the barbecue cravings have lessened, we’re ready to share our roundup of the best things we saw at SXSW, and why you should care.

The two talks that impressed me most had something in common: a mutual distaste for the word millennial. The former was called How To Stop Talking in Bullshit, and the panellists actually had a distaste for lots of words, like synergy, thought-leadership and so on. They argued that when you speak in this over-produced and manipulative language, you create a wall between yourself (or your brand) and your audience.

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The second talk was by Refinery 29’s founder Philippe Von Borries, and he specifically had it in for the word millennial. According to Philippe, we’ve been having the wrong conversation about millennials all along. They’re not a lazy generation, or an ambitious generation, or any of the other stereotypes. Millennial is a mindset, and anyone from 19 to 90 can have it. More on this mindset in our report.


For Tom, it was all about the artificial intelligence klaxon that went off in almost every talk. The doomsayers and digital prophets were out in force, talking about AI as the ‘last invention’ we need to invent, after which the machine will write all our tweets for us.


The talk that came closest to showing something happening anytime soon was Viv. Viv is the brainchild of Siri’s founder, who says that the voice navigation service he sold to Apple was merely ‘chapter one’ of a bigger narrative. His vision is to create a cloud-based AI service that can plug into everything. Your objects, projects and problems will be looked after remotely by a machine, which will get smarter by the minute.


If we’ve piqued your interest (and maybe even scared you a little), you can find the whole SXSW shebang here. Without a mention of Trump, you’ll be pleased to hear.