Friendship is Dead – See You at SXSW! (Core Conversation)

Way back in May I started noodling with the notion of a panel for SXSW in 2009.

I’d say a few thousand people started noodling with the same notion, and then about 1300 of us took the plunge and submitted panels and topics to the Interactive part of SXSW.

My panel topic was “Friendship is Dead” and it is meant to be an exploration of how the word “friendship” came to be and around how our online social networks have begun to erode away at what friendship has meant. Friendship has become increasingly NOT dependent upon location and has odd sort of ways of being defined now, and it seems that the word itself gets tossed around loosely as a noun or a verb (She’s my friend, Friend me on Facebook and I’ll add you) and that once ever-valuable handshake seems to be dying away.

On the submission, I wrote:

So what is a friend anymore? Is it a checkbox or something to collect? Have social networking tools diluted the meaning of “friend” to be someone to add to your collection? Or do these tools allow you to connect with people you’ve never met before? How does friendship differ offline and online?

And, it apparently was not picked as a panel.

They selected somewhere around 200 of us in three different rounds.  I received the first two rounds of rejections, but never really noticed that I didn’t receive the third–I just noticed that I did not make the cut when the last round was posted.

However, on November 25th around 1:30p CST, I was just returning from lunch and got an email that pretty much knocked me on my rear end. Here’s the (minorly edited) email I received:

Hey Russ,

Greetings. I hope that you are well and that you are having a great November. Any big plans for Turkey Day?

As you are probably aware, we received more than 1300 panel proposals for the 2009 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Most of these ideas are extremely impressive in their analysis of current (and future!) issues in the new media landscape. Unfortunately, we only have the physical space at the Austin Convention Center to host about 200 of these proposals.

To this end, we really like the “Friendship is Dead” idea that you submitted. While the panel program is now pretty much full we would very much like for you to present this idea as a Core Conversation.

Like panels, Core Conversations last for 60 minutes. What is different however is that Core Conversations remove the traditional speaker / audience interface. Instead, imagine one person in a chair (you) surrounded by 30-50 attendees who are intensely interested in your topic. Your role here is less to give a presentation and more to direct a conversation (as the title implies) about the topic at hand.

Introduced last spring at SXSW, Core Conversations proved to be an extremely popular part of the event. But, don’t take my word for it. This is what Scott McDaniel of SurveyGizmo says about the Core Conversation he led at the 2008 event: “We were blown away by our attendance at GTD for Startups. We counted about 50 people there and most off them stood for the entire session. Because it was more intimate than a panel, our crowd really interacted with both questions and their own tips. We felt even we learned a lot from the session. If you have a good topic people care about, you’ll get both a great turnout and a great discussion.”

If you want to be a part of the Core Conversation program for 2009, then please respond to this e-mail ASAP with a simple “Yes, I’m on board to do a Core Conversation.” At that point, we will get you a little more information on this program, as well as send you comp information.

As always, please fire away if you have questions.

Best regards,

Hugh Forrest

SXSW Interactive Festival
March 13-17, 2009
Austin, TX

So, uh, yeah.

That is, “YEAH!!”

I’m still a bit taken aback by even the remote consideration for such a thing, but I’m excited as hell about it.

The Core Conversations at SXSW appear to be something that has growing interest, and while it does not allow me to hang out with all of the insanely brilliant panel members I had selected to work with, it still allows me to talk about a topic that I think is growing more and more relevant. While I will miss my partners in crime: Matthew Milan, Bill DeRouchey & David Armano (this just in! David & I will be unveiling our Felix & Oscar routine together!), I believe that the topic is relevant and will spark some great conversation.

If you’re at SXSW, I hope you’ll join me us.

If you’re not at SXSW, I’m nearly 100% positive that we’ll find a way to have a little fun with this and engage as many people around the world as possible.

One Response to “Friendship is Dead – See You at SXSW! (Core Conversation)”

  1. Congrats Russ. Give ’em hell!


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