AUSTIN (KXAN) — Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Clinton – these are just some of the names that caused a buzz at South by Southwest Interactive 2014, but it was the people who weren’t at the festival this year that Bruce Sterling focused on during his closing remarks on Tuesday.
Sterling, a science fiction author and writer for the blog “Beyond the Beyond” for Wired Magazine, usually delivers the closing remarks and it’s a session veteran SXSW attendees look forward to every year. Last year, Sterling dissected digital disruption in a talk that generated much buzz from his conclusion that disruption eventually leads to destruction.
He opened by talking about “the people that were sort of here” making a dig Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) for writing a physical letter to try and stop the virtual conversation with Edward Snowden – a joke that wasn’t lost on the techie crowd.
“I pay a lot of attention to the American right, this guy it just so hopelessly out of it,” Sterling said. “He should have come. What are they doing in Congress that they are so busy he could only send a letter – this is the worst Congress in history.”
This year the event had guests from all over the world, but in Sterling’s mind, it could always go further. He pinpointed several people that should have attended SXSW including an “Italian, hippie, intellectual,” Gianroberto Casaleggio the web guru turned politician trying to bring “new, direct, diplomacy” into the Italian parliament through his Five Star Movement, founded and managed completely online. Then there was Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, or NKM as she is popularly refered to on social media, the Paris mayoral candidate “who is going to lose” (in Sterling’s words). Nonetheless, she’s a right-wing, feminist, green, communication and tech entrepreneur so she’s everything that SXSW is about “except for the right-wing” (agains Sterling’s words). And of course, Texas’ own Barrett Brown – the unofficial face of the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
“Thes are our brothers and sisters in a different kind of social situation,” Sterling said. “They deserve to be at South by.”
One of the most buzzed about topics at SXSW was social good, after a number of panels were added this year focusing on global impact and policy after 2013 attendees voiced in their feedback they’d like to see this addition in the 2014 lineup. It’s clear after Sterling’s talk this is the direction the digital world is taking.