SXSW, Anyone?

by Adam on March 4, 2013

In a few days time, South-by-Southwest 2013 (SXSW) will be in full swing. The conference, if I can even call it that, starts off with Interactive, and moves into Film and Music later in the week. Interactive is a fascinating mix of programming on entrepreneurial innovation, digital platform development, emerging technologies, the start-up ecosystem (and requisite co-founder finding and investment raising), and much more. This will be my third year at the conference, having initiated myself in 2011, presented a session on the future of food and recipe content in 2012, and now hanging back as a passive, but engaged observer in 2013.

Below, I’ve listed a few of the panels I’m looking forward to, inspired by Addie Broyles great annual round-up of things to watch at SXSW (which usually happens to be a lot around food). Given all the work that I do through Harvard Common Press with the intersection of food + technology, as well as start-ups, you’ll see a robust representation of those types of panels below. I will say that whereas last year, there was a lot of buzz around the food + tech sector, there’s less of that this year. The 2013 event seems to skew heavily towards the health-tech sector, as well as a lot of panels on crowd funding and mobile (go figure). But, that said, the health-tech conversation also tends to veer off into interest in food, given how heavily what we eat influences our health and lifestyle.


The Grocery Store: Going Tech Fresh to Survive (March 9, 11am)

With all the issues that grocery stores are facing around the ability to innovate new technologies to help consumers, I think this is going to be a fascinating conversation. There’s a lot that can be done in the loyalty and rewards space for grocery stores and also how these stores encourage discovery and product promotion in real time.


Pop(Up) Culture (March 9, 3:30pm)

Pop-ups have been all the rage in the food/restaurant business for some time. Although they’ve flown below the radar for a while now, after making a big splash a few years ago, it seems they are making a resurgence in the food space as well as other industries. This panel will focus the discussion around derivative uses of pop-ups, but the takeaways will likely be useful to food pop-ups as well.


Food Fight: Web Tech as a Battleground for Local (March 9, 5pm)

Local, sustainable and agriculture innovation have all been big topics in the food space for some time now. But how sustainable is…well, sustainable in a business sense remains unclear. In this session, panelists will explore how the web and new technologies are leveling the playing field for farmers and other local organizations against much larger corporate agriculture interests.


Food + Tech Meetup (March 10, 11am)

While not a panel per se, this is a gathering of food + tech professionals that should lead to some interesting connections. Truth be told, I’ve always been somewhat biased against these meet-ups, having gone to one a few years ago for SXSW newbies that was a bit of a dud. But, I think given the focus and the ability to meet and network with others working in the same space, it should be a great event.


Eat. Blog. Publish: Internet to Paper Hit (March 10, 12:30pm)

While not a new topic in the food space, turning a blog into a book (and having it be complementary to your brand) is an ongoing conversation in the publishing space. As it relates to food blogs, this is particularly relevant, so bloggers and publishers will likely get a lot out of this session on how to turn a blog into a worthwhile book project.


Eating to Live Online: Virtual Food in the Real World (March 11, 11am)

I’m particularly excited about this panel, led by Addie Broyles of the Austin American Statesman. The session explores the question of whether “reality” food competitions and cooking shows distract worthwhile attention from real food problems. Issues of hunger, food deserts and access to food are juxtaposed with a culture that values hedonism and food extremes, and this panel will discuss what the implications of that juxtaposition are for our understanding of food going forward.


The Social Media Chef (March 11, 12:30pm)

Social media has permeated every aspect of food and the kitchen. One area where the overlap between food and media has especially caught the public’s attention is in restaurants and with chefs. Social media gives restaurant patrons and chef fans a window into the world of these culinary artisans. In this session, Chef Eddie Huang will talk about this love (and use) of social media as a platform to spread his work as a chef, culinary explorer and foodie.


Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (March 12, 11am)

Similar to my aversion for meet-ups, book discussions tend to lose my attention pretty quickly (sinful, considering I’m a publisher and all), but this one in particular caught my eye. It’s a conversation with New York Times reporter Michael Moss about his new book of the same name as the session. Meant to explore our relationship to big food companies and how they have become engrained in our lives (and our diets), it’ll be a fascinating exposé of sorts on our current food systems.


Disrupting Dinner: Food Trucks, Top Chefs & Yo Mama (March 12, 12:30pm)

With the variety of changes that have come as a result of new media and devices, our conception of dinner is changing dramatically. Everything from food shows and new concepts about what a “restaurant” can be have challenged assumptions about how we eat (and what we eat as well). Led by Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times, the panel will explore how media is changing our concepts of food and what it means for consumers going forward.


I’m also pleased to say that Harvard Common Press is co-hosting with Food + Tech Connect a Food & Tech Mixer on Friday, March 8 from 4:30-7pm at El Naranjo in East Austin. The event is meant to bring together food + tech professionals in a networking environment before the conference gets into full swing. I’m sure there will be a lot of interesting connections that come out of this, given the attendee list we have so far. Feel free to take a look at the link below, and register if you’ll be in town!

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