Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.

Monday, March 25, 2013

SxSW: The most fascinating mix of human connectedness

Coming to you live from Austin, TX!  I am presently attending the SxSW Interactive Conference at Austin over the next few days.  I come down here under a number of auspices - the first of which is just pure curiosity.  I've heard of this thing called SxSW and always wondered what it was.  To this Midwesterner - Texas seems like a foreign land.

Err...scratch all that above. I had hoped to live-blog from SxSW,but the schedule was just too crazy for my mind to have time to decompress each evening, without my body screaming out for the comfort of a bed; my legs having put in miles on a daily basis.

Instead I write this reflection ona flight from Austin to Chicago and it is a virtual fly-catching scene. I just got up to use the restroom and every seat finds scene with a mouth agape, heads down on the tray, finally resting.

I understand why. For me, SxSW was the first time since college that I have been around so many people genuinely excited about exploring new ideas, and looking at technologies and theories that would make the world a better place. It was typified by a session i attended with Jason Silva, whose online videos leave you with a "mind-gasm" as he called it; an idea I think many academics have, where for instant the subject you are intently studying begins to find links to the broader world giving the person just a glimpse into the greater meaning of the cosmos...

For some, this meant showing off a new app in the expo. Some of the most interesting ones, anthropologically, were ones that helped people to put arguments or questions online, and enabled the web community to argue for or against a stand -literally creating an online community-based method for conflict resolution.

For others, SxSW was about artistic expression. From the keynote speaker on the last day, Matthew Inman,  whose website, has gone viral; to the excited artist I met the first night at one of the plentiful parties, whose 4 minute short film was making its debut.  For all of the other people who I never even met - but just shared air with, the festival is an opportunity to be known on the world stage.

For yet others, it was about sharing lessons learned. This of course came in the keynote sessions, Steve Case, Elon Musk, Al Gore, and many others doling out lessons learned, and reflecting on their experiences. They had mentor sessions every day where budding Entrepreneurs and artists could meet with mentors, and gain candid feedback on their ideas.

For more, it was overwhelming. A true SxsW newbie, I spent most of my days there in a daze, trying to comprehend what I had just heard, or else moving though the hustle and bustle to the next session. And while many people who don't attend may think it is nothing but a crazy liberal get together (Rachel Maddow compared it to a cross between a political convention and Lollapalooza), I think it was a celebration of great hope. That in a world where money reigns supreme, and ideological battles seem to be everywhere, the human instinct to create, and explore is alive and well. It gave me hope that even as our world changes, and the lines between academia and the real world of business blur, there is still hope for wonder, awe, inspiration, and if you are may just be onto the next big thing.