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by Chris Conaton

10 Jul 2012

Hollywood invaded Comic-Con International (the official name of the San Diego Comic-Con) back around the turn of the 21st century, bringing in movie stars to promote upcoming genre films. But it wasn’t until the opening of the 6,500-seat Hall H in 2004 that the show truly arrived as the center of the pop culture universe. The convention was already in the middle of an attendance explosion, but Hall H and the major movie studios helped drive it to its current overstuffed situation, where 130,000-plus squeeze into the San Diego Convention Center every July.

Comic-Con’s status as the biggest pop culture gathering in North America brought with it a host of problems that it didn’t face when it was merely the biggest comic book show in North America. They’ve had to address things like how to deal with thousands of people trying to get hotel rooms at the same time, how to move tens of thousands of people through the registration process quickly, and where to situate the lines for the various panel rooms without blocking hallways or running into other lines. To the convention’s credit, they’ve worked hard to deal with these issues as they’ve arisen. Usually, they aren’t the sort of things that can be fixed on the fly, so longtime attendees eagerly look forward to the release of the Comic-Con schedule (around two weeks before the show) to see what’s changed for the upcoming convention. And yes, also to plan what awesome stuff we’re going to see at the show.

by Fredara Mareva

15 Mar 2012

A year ago there was not a lot of talk about African Americans tech entrepreneurs in mainstream media. But then last year CNN aired its latest episode of its ‘Black in America’ Series entitled: “Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley.” In it, host Soledad O’Brien, explored the reasons why only 1% of tech entrepreneurs are African Americans. That episode ignited questions who the leading African American tech entrepreneurs are and why aren’t their more of them. At this year’s SXSW Interactive, African American tech entrepreneur, and Soledad O’Brien herself, were at the forefront of extending the conversation of how to support the Black start-ups that exist and how to ensure the number of Black start-ups continue to grow.

It was fitting that CNN jump started the conversation at this year’s SXSW Interactive by hosting a panel aptly titled,  “CNN Black in America/Silicon Valley: Aftermath.” In the television episode O’Brien interviewed Silicon Valley insiders including Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, and Ron Conway an early investor in both Twitter and Paypal. While Arrington flatly asserted that Silicon Valley is a “white and Asian world”, O’Brien also interviewed Navarrow Wright, the Chief Technology Officer of Interactive One and Mitchell Kapor, the founder of Lotus Corporation and partner in the investor fund Kapor Capital, who both were mentors to Silicon Valley’s first African American-founded accelerator program, NewME Accelerator. The SXSWi panel, which included O’Brien and three of the entrepreneurs featured on the show, Hank Williams, Hajj Flemings and Wayne Sutton, focused on how the show impacted the visibility of Black tech entrepreneurs and how impacted the entrepreneurs outlook on their careers. The panel discussion was full of good and honest dialog about why African Americans do not comprise a larger percentage of tech entrepreneurs. Williams elaborated by explaining, “It’s absolutely necessary that people are allowed to fail because it’s a part of the process, but in the Black community we don’t have the economic flexibility to absorb failure. We need to temper that with it being “okay to fail”. Flemings and Sutton agreed that the CNN special helped attract the attention and resources needed to develop pipelines for younger generations of African American aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

Black in Technology Committee and Inaugural Awardees

Black in Technology Committee and Inaugural Awardees

In addition to formalized panels that discussed the impact of Black tech start-ups, there was a reception and awards ceremony that represented established leaders and advocates in the field. Thursday evening, the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce hosted their welcome reception. The Blacks in Technology group hosted a reception and awards ceremony at the George Washington Carver Center in the city. Inaugural award recipients included: Tristan Walker of CNN, Baratunde Thurston author of How to Be Black, Wayne Sutton co-founder of GoKit, and Marcia Wade Talbert Tech Editor at Black Enterprise Magazine.

The momentum of interest in Blacks tech entrepreneurs garnered from the CNN special galvanized African American SXSW attendees to further their efforts to promote their individual projects while continuing to build systems that supported the efforts of minorities in technology fields. The panel, “Race: Know When to Hold and When to Fold It”, directly confronted the dual identity of being a minority and being a member of the tech world. While the group Black Founders, which is an networking organization in Silicon Valley held a panel called, “Pay-It-Forward: Building Successful Startups”. Their session not only dealt with challenges that they face in Silicon Valley, but highlighted the solutions of they had discovered along the way.

In a panel called, “Social Media for Minority Mindshare”, Ron Harris co-founder of the music submission website, Blazetrak, discussed how his company had successful found a revenue-generating business model. Not only did discussion about African Americans in technology focus on the entrepreneurial side, but Kim “Dr. Goddess” Ellis presented a talk, called“The Bombastic Brilliance of Black Twitter”, which focused the disproportionate African American presence on twitter serves as an important vehicle for identity formation and affects broader popular culture. Lastly, the panel “Africa, Tech, and Women: The New Faces of Development” discussed how the rapidly growing mobile market is shifting how Africans access and produce media content and creating a growing number of African women tech enthusiasts.

If Silicon Valley is to be “the new promised land” for African Americans it will be because these tech entrepreneurs continue to build on their success and because venture capitalists understand the importance of having all the brilliant ideas available (regardless of from where they come) represented in the marketplace. As SXSW Interactive draws to a close, the feeling among many African American attendees is optimistic. That’s with good reason; the conversation about how to create a pipeline of African American tech entrepreneurs that goes from public school to successful business owners has started and people are determined to see it through to the end.

by Anita Schillhorn van Veen

14 Mar 2012

Neuroscience is the it-girl right now. A horde of scientists is starting to unpack the funny chemical underpinnings of why we do what we do.  And a horde of marketers, pop sociologists, armchair psychologists, and even game-makers are in hot pursuit.

These brain-junkies are out in force at SXSW Interactive; after all, what’s the deep down root of all human interactions? Panels like “How Brain Science Turns Browsers into Buyers” and “Hack Your Brain for Peak Performance” translate neuroscience into action.

One speaker is straight to the source. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor University, is a key player in bringing hard science to the masses. He’s a Guggenheim Fellow who’s written best-selling books like the recent New York Times bestseller Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, and is running the media circuit to bring what he learns in the lab to the masses.

He gets busy by exploring phenomena like synesthesia and what happens when part of a person’s brain goes missing to reflect on how normal folks work—and he says what we think of as free will is really a set of brain chemicals functioning deep beyond our knowledge and control.

So how do you actually use all that information in the real world? How does knowing more about what underlies our brain chemistry help us actually live a better life? That’s where the doers and the makers come in.

Jane McGonigal is a gamer. She defies all stereotypes of gamers—female, adult, fun, and most of all, extremely engaged in the real life world. She’s collected a pile of awards and recognition for her work in advocating gaming as a way to improve the world.

She’s been tracking how brains work to more deeply understand how gaming can make a positive impact. From her research—both intensely in gaming and in learning about brains—she’s built the concept of getting SuperBetter into an online game to help people in recovery or rehabilitation create better outcomes.

Our brains love feeling rewarded, and will respond in kind with the flood of good feelings that come out of a dopamine rush. If games reward actions that are good for us, then we can better develop behaviors that will help us in the long run. SuperBetter does just that, turning recovery from an injury, or any health or personal goal, into a game with quests, goals and power boosts. Looks like we have free will after all.

by Jayson Harsin

21 Mar 2010

Thursday’s “The Future of Online Music Videos” panel, featured Nick Stahl of Brightcove, an “Internet TV service that provides everything you need to add video to your website”; Alexander Kisch, who is responsible for all incoming content and its syndication at VEVO, a video and entertainment site, owned by Sony, Universal Music Group, and Abu Dhabi Music Co.; John Sasso who heads advertising for all Sony sites, artists and labels; Eric Snowden, who defines and scopes Atlantic Records’ digital product; and William Wilson from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), which is a think tank for standardizing the streaming of digital content.  There were no music artists or video makers on the panel.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

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