Reflecting on My SXSW Journeys

Reflecting on My SXSW Journeys

I spoke at SXSW Music again this year on my current favorite topic: Music 20/20 and how we can proactively affect the future. SXSW, however, is not just about speaking. It is about diving deeply into diverse ideas with diverse people. It is one of my annual addictions.
This is my 7th year going to SXSW -- I think.  They blur together.  I started going to SXSW Interactive and enjoying the diverse voices, sharing areas I knew nothing about.  I would go to session on digital changes in Latin America and Eastern Europe, meeting people I would never have seen otherwise.  I learned about location-based mobile tools at SXSW first, learning what was being done on the ground from front-line users in arts, documentaries, and the like.   I also hear dynamic voices that really resonate for me.  I heard here first from Amber Case on tech anthropology.  I first heard at SXSW about shifts in search engine trends.  I first heard here about new heads-up displays for cars to keep the clutter down and compete with smartphone structures.  I first heard at SXSW ideas about non-interface interfaces.  
I also learned about breakfast tacos in the early years.  Tacos? For breakfast?
My experience now is different.  I don’t find many technologies I haven’t seen yet.  Perhaps this is because I’m hip-deep in leading-edge technologies at other events from my current role at UCLA Center for Music Innovation.  Maybe because the event is much heavier in startups competing for attention and big companies trying to get attention as well.  The era of the breakout new tech service or product getting lots of buzz at SXSW seems to have made way for the McDonald’s custom burger, Mazda free rides, and esurance tech giveaways.
I do continue to get my favorite things from it: real-life implementations and dynamic voices.  I enjoy learning from implementers on a local basis, running in-context, in-place real life examples of disruptive and collaborative tech -- in use, with all its headaches and glory.  I find that often the people drawn to the conversation IN the room are more intriguing than those on the dias, and conversations that follow provide all sorts of connected bridges to new engagement.  In most rooms, the volunteer session wranglers needed to push everyone outside to finish conversations. . . not just about selling things and ideas to the speakers, but also to connect the folks who want to keep the conversation going in how these challenges apply in their own sector or local community.
It also continues to be a great mix of voices and use cases.  This year, northern European languages abounded as people flew great distances to be in these conversations, with their own stories and questions.  I met many executives and creative executives from Asia.  On the US front, I met several mayors, many non-profits, and lots of university students, sharing ideas and interests.
As a result of my going to SXSWedu, Interactive, AND Music (two weeks in total), my highlights this year are a mixed bag.
  • Jane McGonigal at SXSWedu talking about how we can understand and think about the future.  I do a lot of futurist work and hang out in that space.  Her talk brought it into focus for folks wanting to understand how to be a Futurist in their everyday lives.  That recording I have shared with a half-dozen people I’m working with and they are changing some of the questions they ask about the Signals they see.  
  • The British Museum, with Samsung, using VR to take young students into the Bronze Age and see artifacts in context.
  • Lots of conflicting information and predictions in sessions on location-based mobile tools and big data about consumers.
  • Beacons, beacons, and more beacons. . . especially in retail.
  • New ways to make assets liquid, including MoveLoot, which helps you resell the used furniture in your home.
  • Battling apps about food -- including finding food trucks, bringing us food on the spot, and in-app learning from videos of making food.  
  • Cities wrestling with how to use big data and action research.
  • Local music venues dealing with the impact of streaming music and gentrification on local clubs.  
I really enjoy the amazing speakers. 
  • Brene Brown -- live.  I’m a big fangirl and have been consuming her books and audiobooks, so listening to her live was a real treat.  I also brought along a friend from a big tech organization who needed to hear her messages. . . that week . . .
  • Ira Glass on the nature of hard work and creativity, and the difference between trying to edit documentary audio to elicit an emotional shift and writing it for feature film.  (And how to make a balloon animal.)
  • Anthony Bourdain on how to urge your TV show crew to incorporate ideas from art films. . . and live a very big life.  
Other take-aways were more contextual:
  • Joys of sitting in St. David’s waiting for a thunderstorm to clear while talking with 3 students and a record executive.
  • The crowded rooms that continue to see VR for the first time
  • Having people stop you in the hallway, bookstore, and bathroom to make comments and ask questions from your panel
  • The magic of good pulled pork and the challenge of keeping my breakfast taco intake low
  • The beauty of walking down a hallway in the Convention Center and despite there being more than 20,000 people in town for the event walking into people you know . . . from your own city . . .
Now back home for a short while, I think about the people I want to connect with further, to bring their local ideas into my local spheres, and ideas that I can play with and pitch for when when I come back again next year.
Gigi Johnson
President/Maremel Institute
Inaugural Director/UCLA Center for Music Innovation
Recorded Webinar: Drinking from the Digital Data Fire Hose

Recorded Webinar: Drinking from the Digital Data Fire Hose

Fire Hose[Edited April 27, 2014]

We happily shared some of our work at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) OCIO Learning Session on April 17, 2014 both at their Auditorium in Washington DC and via a live Webinar, which you can as a recording below.  It was hosted by Dr. Melanie Cohen (@DrMELonMGMT) from HUD.


Dr. Gigi Johnson shared five (5) steps to both grow and simplify how we can use abundant data to make better daily and strategic decisions.   She addressed questions such as:  How can I use the data that I can get now at a reasonable price with reasonable use of time to help my work thrive? How can I find ways to SAVE time and energy around data? How can I have the right data when I need it for decisions? and Can I create systems and structures to make this daunting task a little simpler?  


You can find prior sessions by clicking on:


The slides can be seen at SlideShare and below:

Blending the University at SXSWedu

Thanks to all who attended our 9 am presentation on March 6, 2013 at SXSWedu in Austin, TX, on Blending the University.  We had a full house of 125 seats plus folks tucked along the back wall.  We also had a robust conversation on the question of organizational challenges with blended learning design during the session and following throughout the day.

Please enjoy and share the presentation.

Fox/NAMIC Digital Media Panel Exchange: “The Future of Digital Content & Distribution”

Fox is hosting with NAMIC a Digital Media event on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012: "The Future of Digital Content & Distribution."

FOX / NAMIC -- Digital Media Multi-Platform Panel Exchange: “The Future of Digital Content & Distribution”

Wednesday, October 30, 2012, 6:00pm-8:25pm @ Fox Studios Lot

Click here to register with NAMIC for the event

Two panels offering engaging and relevant perspectives and professional insights on the impact of digital content development and distribution across multiple platforms.


Networking Reception: (6:00p / 45 minutes)

Digital Content Panel (6:45p / 40 minutes)

·         Martez Moore, EVP, Digital Media/Strategy & Business Development

·         Gigi Johnson - Executive Director, Maremel Institute

·         Maureen Lane - Vice President – Programming West, Time Warner Cable

·         Maurizio Vitale - Senior Vice President, Marketing, OWN

Intermission/Networking: (7:25p / 20 minutes)

Digital Distribution Panel: (7:45p / 40 minutes)

·         Carlos Sanchez - Executive Director, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution

·         Ric Whitney - Director, Digital Marketing – Cable Distribution, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

·         Melissa Peterkin - Senior Director, Product Strategy & Partnerships, Digital Media Group, CBS Television Distribution

Rethinking Creating and Containers

Fifth of a Series of Blog Posts from Maremel's White Paper: Opening Pandora's Digital Box

Rethinking Creating and “Containers”

Workflow for creation may have shifted to more digital pathways, but most discussions assume a formal media delivery of a finished, locked product.  Products have rules based on their media segment, with set delivery dates and SKUs.With content stored in the cloud, the opportunity expands.  Creators are not confined to street dates, final publications, and locked definitions of videos, books, music, games, and the like.One example is in the changing book sector.  Enhanced books, now being distributed through major online outlets, bring this question to the forefront.  Brian O'Leary, in the 2012 Book: A Futurist Manifesto, specifically questions the “container.”  In the past, book creation systems have assumed a specific context of delivery.  Books have been designed around a single type of output, delivery date, and life after production.  O’Leary calls these assumptions pre-artifact, artifact, and post-artifact.  He examines the possibilities of what can be re-envisioned if the container is variable, and if the content is created to be able to live socially during production, at distribution, and for its ongoing life.The intriguing concept here goes beyond digital workflow before a product is released, and digital fingerprinting and social media analysis after release in a cloud world.  The concept becomes broader.  Delivery rules become fluid, separate, and distinct from content creation.  A media product, just like web-based software now, could be in perpetual beta.  The product can be changed and amended before release and after release, with part of the ownership being updates in content and possibly sequels and extensions.  This could be a premium business model, further connecting the consumer with the content creator, or separating them by enhanced re-aggregation.  PaaS and SaaS options could be created to be perpetual engagements with multiplatform products, as these begin to blur between categories.If we begin to rethink time-locked containers, we begin to see different delivery mechanisms that may have much longer product life than our increasingly quick velocity of new products being released and spun into history in this current mode of digital delivery.
  • Added Value: Blend with Live:  Value and relationship with the consumer can also blend cloud-based, connected services with live experiences.  Alternative Reality Games, such as 42 Entertainment’s Dark Knight engagement several years ago, blended online and live activities for 18 months.  Music has been doing this in its own way already, with an engaging business model.  VIP memberships are gaining certain fans integrated consumption of live and online relationships—great concert tickets, premium virtual goods, distinctive merchandise, and live engagements with the artists.
  • Added Value: Premium Context:  O’Leary also points out that there is a benefit to re-adding context to the content.  With books, digital delivery is both stripping away formatting for distribution as well as making some formats more context-driven.  iPad delivery looks and feels different than Android.  Premium products, off of the same core content, are becoming the norm with distinctive features in different platforms.  These high-touch interactive differences by the platform are becoming another ecosystem on top of these cloud deliveries.  Authoring tools are in beta to help creative producers and publishers provide high-touch interactive engagement with the same product that they are having to make available to simpler digital delivery methods.  Each of these delivery modes, in the meantime, needs a digital workflow to keep all of this straight, before, during, and after delivery.
We already are breaking open the container—the intriguing opportunity here is breaking open its locked nature of being “done” and “alone.” It also can be more than a “movie” or “book,” as we are able to step between definitions – launching interactive book products blending images, video, books, and interactivity as an example if you don’t have to stay in locked format containers.


By bringing content from our hard drives to the cloud, we have the potential to open Pandora’s Box.  By having infrastructures and platforms shared with new innovators, we have the potential to blur traditional boxes of delivery and of locked content.  By changing our consumption from our own “storage” and “ownership” to “just” the concept of cloud-based storage, we are in the midst of changing habits and attitudes of more than just “buy” versus “stream,” but also of what it means to be distributing, creating, producing, and engaging.Now that we are opening Pandora’s Box, we shouldn’t be startled that consumers find a different type of “hope” at the bottom.
Digital Media 101 Panel at Digital Hollywood

Digital Media 101 Panel at Digital Hollywood

We are hosting a Digital Media 101 Panel at 10 am on October 17, 2011 at Digital Hollywood ( We'll be at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Ray, CA, as part of the Digital Hollywood series of workshops and seminars.

Pre-Day Events - The Strategic Sessions
Monday, October 17th
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Track II: Poolside Screening Tent I
Digital Media 101 - The Primer - Multiplatform Trends,
Search and Social, Deals and Financings - A Prep Course for Getting the Most Out of Digital Hollywood

This energetic three-guru panel will get you ready to hit Digital Hollywood at a full run. We will share big trends, via news and data visualizations of recent statistics, to allow early participants a chance to get their bearings ahead of the sessions. We’ll hit what is happening in film, TV, music, advertising, search, social, publishing, mobile, multimedia, and that thing called “transmedia.” We’ll touch on recent deals and comparative sector trajectories. Get ready for an hour and a quarter of a full fire hose of information…plus a way and place to ask the questions that you haven’t wanted to ask in a detailed media sector session. You’ll walk out of the session ready with new ideas—and with even more questions to ask over the next few days of Digital Hollywood.

  • David Tochterman, Head of Digital Media, Innovative Artists; adjunct professor, Syracuse University
  • John David Heinsen, CEO & Executive Producer, Bunnygraph Entertainment, Inc.
  • Dr. Gigi Johnson, Executive Director, Maremel Institute