TAI Students Attend South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference

This Spring Break, TAI students and faculty went to South by Southwest (SXSW) to attend the SXSW Conference, which included sessions on Brands & Marketing, Design, Development & Code, Experiential Storytelling, VR/AR and the Intelligent Future.

TAI students and faculty during SXSW.

Students attending enrolled in a course, got a student discount and will be receiving 3 hours of pass/fail credit for the experience. The speakers and sessions at the SXSW Conference explore the newest trends and what’s next in entertainment, culture, and technology.

“The most relevant thing I learned was to create interesting content,” TAI graduate student Peyton Meersman said. “I think every session mentioned that content has to be original, creative, and interesting in order for it to be successful.”

While SXSW offers a wide variety of session topics, students attending found the sessions diverse and fascinating. A big topic discussed in many sessions was virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

“AI was a big theme at SXSW,” SMU student Katherine Scarpulla said. “I felt the most reasonable and crucial point I was presented was the healthy equation of AI. Chris White of Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit argued during his Lighting Up The Dark Web session that in order to solve our human created social problems, we must incorporate a healthy mix of data, AI and human interaction. He also stressed the importance of data literacy and the beneficence of data narrative to better illustrate social problems.”

TAI Professor Amber Benson and Director Dr. Steve Edwards

Along with the SXSW experience, TAI students got to shadow members of Agency Entourage, a Dallas-based creative digital agency, during sessions and attend a Boat Party hosted by the agency.

“The Agency Entourage boat party was a lovely experience,” Scarpulla said. “This experience enabled SMU Temerlin students to network with members of Agency Entourage as well as other professionals attending SXSW. I personally had to opportunity to talk with Austin, an AE member, who I had attended a session with earlier that day. I appreciated the occasion to discuss my experiences and thoughts about SXSW Interactive with advertising professionals and hear their thoughts and comments. It enabled me to view the information I gained during sessions from multiple viewpoints and understand its application to fields/industries other than mine.”

This was the first year that students could attend SXSW through TAI while receiving course credit. Many students were excited about the opportunity and greatly enjoyed their time spent in Austin.

“My SXSW Interactive experience was absolutely amazing,” Scarpulla said. “I cannot imagine not having attended this event because of the knowledge and relationships I gained as a result. I would encourage other Temerlin Students to apply for the course as it is an opportunity to apply your academics to real-time experiences.”

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