This was my first year at South by
Southwest (or, as the old-timers
call it, "South By.") It was big, overwhelming, and interesting.
Our "Ghost in the Machine: Spirituality Online" panel was great fun. I got to talk a little bit about how I started blogging; I told the story of the first Progressive Faith Blog Con (and mentioned that I think our next formal con will be in summer '08); and I said some of the things I'd really wanted to say about how godblogging offers the opportunity for people to peer in at other religious lives, and about how valuable I've found the experience of forming friendships both within and across religious traditions. (Here's Hussein's post about our panel, and Gordon's SXSW Where Am I? post.) I'll link to the podcast of our panel when it goes live.
I enjoyed a few of the other panels. Like "Blogging Where Speech Isn't Free" (featuring, among others, Ethan, and Shahed of Alt.Muslim -- read Ethan's summary of the panel here) and the lovely Danah Boyd's interview of media scholar Henry Jenkins. But for the most part, the panels at this conference weren't aimed toward me, and I mostly didn't attend them -- or, when I did, wasn't especially engaged by what was being said.
Instead I had fun prowling the conference center and people-watching, admiring the Utilikilts and occasional pink or purple hair. And I enjoyed a lot of hallway conversations and long gabfests over good food. I had some terrific conversations with strangers about my rainbow kippah, and with friends both new and old about life and work, blogs and travel, religion and faith. And I mustn't forget the food -- on my last day we lunched at Iron Works, where I ate huge beef ribs and drank Big Red and felt deliciously nostalgic for childhood, which seemed an appropriate way to wrap up my culinary experiences in Texas this time around.
I caught three independent films, one of which I reviewed here. And I experienced some of the famed SXSW party scene. Sunday evening we went to the Worldchanging gathering on the roofed patio at Opal Divine's, where there was much fine conversation. And on the last night we were in town, we even went to one of the big parties -- the Good Magazine / Creative Commons party at Uncle Flirty's -- and although the music was too loud for easy conversation, I had a few margaritas at a table with some delightfully smart people and enjoyed their company greatly.
I don't know whether I'll return to SXSW. But I had a good time, and if the right panel subject arises, I could imagine going back. For now, I've got my my South by Southwest photoset and a pile of film postcards, business cards, and memories to remind me of the long weekend that was. Thanks for the food and ideas and conversation, all! See you around.