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SXSW Sydney 2023

In October 2023, South by Southwest (SXSW) the Texan cultural behemoth, ventured outside of Austin for the very first time and unfurled itself through Sydney’s inner city.

SXSW Sydney 2023 was a vast program of music, film, gaming and conference events that was both daunting and inspiring in scope. There were teething problems to be sure: the schedule was nearly impossible to process and queueing for sessions became an event in itself. That said, the word around SXSW Sydney was that this was the first effort in what is (at least) a 5-year commitment. It will be interesting to see what unfolds for 2024.

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the speakers as part of the inaugural SXSW Sydney program, where I presented on a panel alongside Julia Scott-Stevenson (UTS) and Michela Ledwidge of Mod Productions. We had a wide-ranging discussion around the session theme of ‘The Myth of the Single User‘, exploring the biases and assumptions implicit throughout much of the technology and media experiences we encounter today.

A queue of people lining up for a conference session in the International Convention Centre in Sydney.
Our own SXSW Sydney queue!

Amidst a program that included huge headline acts like Chance The Rapper, Charlie Brooker and Brickman, we didn’t expect to pull much of a crowd. But true to form, we had our own SXSW Sydney queue and a full house of thoughtful attendees with interesting questions and chatter after the session.

Three people speaking to an audience in a conference session. They are seated on stools and the person on the left is holding a microphone. The screen behind them shows the title: 'The myth of the single user: How XR can help us embrace diverse minds and diverse bodies'.
Julia Scott-Stevenson, myself and Michela Ledwidge introducing the session.
Three people speaking to an audience in a conference session. Two are seated on stools and one is presenting behind a lectern.
Michela Ledwidge discussing Mod Productions’ work.

It really was a thrill to be part of such an iconic cultural event as SXSW Sydney. I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and catch up with a few design colleagues throughout the week, outside of a (strictly) work setting, which sadly doesn’t happen as much as it did pre-Covid. Being given the opportunity to share my thoughts on inclusive design and how we can make space for diverse bodies and minds was the icing on the cake.

All images: Peter Wildman

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