I posit this is going to be the year of the anti-social SxSW.
Back in pre-history SxSWi was tiny, really small, negligible. You felt lucky to have simply found anyone else who cared about what you cared about.
Moving into more modern times, it started to feel big. But not so big that you didn’t immediately love and trust everyone who was there. The 2004/2005/2006 era it was safe to assume anyone you met on the streets of Austin during Interactive was of your tribe, and likely a good friend you hadn’t met yet. We’ll call this the “partying with 5000 of your closest friends” era. There was some technological facilitation needed on the tail end of this era. I’m wearing a much faded, much loved Dodgeball shirt as I type this.
The geometric progression of attendees continued upward though bringing us to low 6 digits where it currently sits, and a few other things happened. First Twitter. Twitter in particular had the tendency to cause social events to blow up. It was a consensus engine that drove everyone to be at the same panels, and the same parties. This almost broke SxSW. Foursquare’s arrival on the scene help defuse some of this as it allowed a more nuanced consensus to emerge. But we pretty much trashed the Driskill opening night last year in a way I hadn’t seen before (at least before Music got to town). Still this was the start of the anti-social era. Rather then assuming everyone on the street was a friend, you were actively seeking out the people you already knew.
This year the evolutionary pressure seems to be driving most of random social out of the event. The rise of private group texting pods, the preponderance of invite only parties, and the general private band communication makes anti-social the most interesting trend at SxSW this year. (as an aside, I just really like the word “pods”, but I’m personally betting on GroupMe)
Anti-social is traditionally a derogatory term. I’m not using it as such. Often the only opinions I care about are those of the people in my affinity group. I whined about the lack of, and then was pleasantly surprised that I can scope Foursquare recommendations to only people I know. I think it’s a really interesting trend, and I’m looking forward to seeing (and writing) more anti-social software. (a term I’m going to credit to Maciej).
I expect this year we’ll have squeezed much of the synchronicity out the experience, but the call of qualified information and insights our brains can layer proper social expectations onto will be too appealing, then late next 2011 early 2012 there will be a sharp rise in experiences powered by PRNG, of which Situationist is probably an early model.