On July 1, South by Southwest will open the public call for submissions for its 2020 Interactive Festival, which is one of the world’s most important conferences about emerging technology and the future of society. While tech has been the focus of the event, over the years it has grown to include presentations on everything from advertising and media to cannabusiness and the gaming industry. The conference’s themes, or “tracks,” also include several topics extremely relevant to architecture and the built environment. And yet, as Ibai Rigby reported in the May/June issue of Texas Architect, the profession is largely absent from the proceedings.
Architects need to be involved in this discussion. If not, we leave the conversation about how people are going to live and interact in the hands of other disciplines. At stake is nothing less than the future relevancy of the profession. Is architecture to become more and more just a service industry bowing to the demands of other specialists? Or will it wade into the discourse about the future and assert its expertise?
Here’s how the submission process works and how the profession can get involved.
SXSW’s PanelPicker is a session proposal platform that allows the public to submit ideas for presentations and panels. This year, the platform will be open from July 1 through July 19. Once all submissions are in, the public can review them and vote on their favorites. The SXSW advisory board and SXSW staff then consider the public’s input while evaluating the proposals and picking which ones will be included in the conference.
Submissions are evaluated for the originality and relevancy of content and the depth of knowledge of the presenter or panel. Panels are privileged over individual presenters, and diversity among panelists is also given priority. From what has been chosen in the past, it also seems evident that presentations that optimistically propose solutions to problems are favored over those that paint a dire picture of what’s to come.
Prospective presenters are asked to submit a title, a brief description of the panel or presentation, a video of the presenter or moderator speaking intelligibly about their subject, a list of takeaways, and the names of the presenter and/or panelists. SXSW does not cover travel or lodging for speakers, but everyone who presents does receive a badge that grants them access to the entire festival.
There are 20 tracks for 2020. Those most relevant to architecture include Climate & Social Action, Connection & Culture, Design, Fantastic Future, and Workplace. But, since architecture touches everything, architects might also find cause to submit for tracks like Health & Medtech, Sports, and XR.