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The Dewey Award at #sxsw2015: Impressions From A Clueless Awardee

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    Catalina Rojas

    It was October (2014) and I was in Mexico when I got this email that I’ve won this Dewey award and entrance to the SxSw festival signed by a nonprofit evangelist.  Not only was I skeptical of winning anything.  Me? (Ok, that’s a self-esteem blog) Lesson number 1.  My suspicious mind, ignorant of what SxSw meant immediately thought ahhhhh spammers, maybe Nigerian (the good ones).  But I’m cleverer. So I erased and ignored the email but next week another emailed from “them” arrived so I thought. Ok.  Spammers, I have to deal with you.  I decided to send them a joke asking them to send me money in exchange I’d clog their inboxes.  I thought karma was on my side.

    Well. Turned out it was legit.  And if you are like me these 4 letters SxSw have huge meaning to well, a whole lot of people.  South by South West, SxSw, or Southby (please be cool) is the biggest tech, film, interactive, music festival ever.  With almost 100k attendees, yes, it’s not a typo, Austin hosts 15 days of films, concerts, panels, recharge lounges (“living room” style rooms where you charge your phone and your body while meet interesting folks), sponsored parties, meet ups.  Perhaps you have heard of tweeter (insert ironic tone), foursquare (website company), and like so, hundred other companies are launched or catapulted here. Here!  It’s Southby good, interactive, film and music.  Just yesterday, walking briskly downtown Austin I spotted the main character of the Sons of Anarchy series.  Actors, hipsters, hippies, scientists, Al Gore, artists, marketing gurus, women entrepreneurs and of course change makers converge here.

    Now that I’ve been here for 72 hours I can’t believe I have never heard of this. SxSw is incredible.  Here in this spot of the world (Central Texas) technology, creativity, knowledge, entrepreneurship all merge and somehow it all makes sense.  Worse than Disney, it’s not humanly possible to attend every session.  Sometimes, many times, the lines to enter a session are too long.  Sometimes you get in and learn a ton.  Austin companies open their doors to us provide snacks and food. We actually attended a presentation of a new up and coming family app that is in development called #Djed.   How cool is that? I always felt how my academic training in social science, specifically in the field conflict resolution, felt awfully short in reflecting the ever complex and intricate nature of contemporary conflict dynamics.  What I take away from my experience here at SxSw is that this chaotic convergence of multitude of fields of knowledge is definitely not only more equipped at understanding today’s hyper connected media world but also at shaping it and designing what’s next. Yes I’m suffering from the enthusiasm of anyone who is a beginner and yes you can also argue that this is such a first world experience which does little to reflect what goes on in conflict ridden or distant rural realities.  Well, not so fast.  This is where the Dewey awards and SxSw interactive gains relevance.  Let’s explain things.  Dewey Windburne was a local from Austin and one of the founders of SxSw interactive or multimedia as they called it then.  He was a visionary and pioneered in all things community and its links to technology as a means to empower those less privileged.  He worked as an educator teaching youth how to code way before this was a cool thing to do.  This is what I learned the day I got the Dewey award.  I was among other 9 incredible individuals working to provide clean water in Eastern Africa, algorithms to detect cyber bullying, libraries from k-12 in Congo and Haiti, resources for the disabled to thrive, technology in the slums of South Africa, and you see what I mean. I want to extend this honor to everyone in PCDNETWORK  because this is a tribute to each and everyone of you who dedicate your life to changemaking.  Let’s keep PCDN strong and growing and if you can get here next year in Austin, please do so!

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