We’re halfway through our stint at SXSW, but the good news is the action absolutely has not stopped. The streets of Austin are filled with innovators and audiences hungry to understand the new creative landscape we’re operating in.

Best yet, we cap today off with the Innovation Awards sponsored by Skillshare, where we get to learn about and honor some of the most promising and prolific ideas from around the world.

Discussing Policy and the Creator Economy

We headed over to the Marriott for a lively conversation among Patreon, Take Creative Control, EFF, and Engine to discuss the growing creator economy and the policy landscape around creative output.

We are on the brink (or maybe even in the throes) of a second Renaissance of the creator economy. And as such, the panel posited that we need to reimagine policy-making from a creator-first lens. Right now, hundreds of companies exist to help creators get paid with an industry that has seen an influx of $5 billion of venture capital funding. The creator economy is valued at $26 billion.

But just as with any economy, there are power imbalances and pay disparities that have emerged in the space. Take Creative Control is publishing a study in the month’s ahead that shows that women make 62 cents on the dollar, and people of color make 71 cents on the dollar within the creator economy. What this shows us, beyond the immediate outrage, is that there is an opportunity for policy change and a sea change in favor of creators. We need to examine what access means when we reach this economy from different places.

The panelists talked through specific examples with net neutrality, and successes where a groundswell of support has affected policy change. Organizations such as the ones represented on the panel have hosted creator town halls to give voice to those who are most affected by the changing economic climate. They expressed general concern that much of the legislation that is currently being pushed forward in congress runs the risk of over-takedown of creator materials that adversely affect independent creators that much more-so than the ones who are usually brought into the government conversations. As Kim Tignor commented, “independent creators are used to moving independently, and they lose their collective voice.”

In particular, the panelists focused on the Shop Safe Act, which will make it harder for creators to sell online. Essentially, it brings trademark concern into the creator space and sets safeguards so companies benefit, but creators may suffer. One of the panelists presented the example that a greeting card maker could have their cards sold on Etsy, but if a filter determines that the cards hold too similar a resemblance to the Harley Davidson logo, the platform could yank those cards around a pivotal business time (like Christmas), effectively curtailing that creator’s income for the year.

Obviously the panel had us thinking about Skillshare and our teachers, and the value of their creativity and how they share it with audiences. And speaking of Skillshare teachers, we ventured over to…

Skillshare Original Teacher JVN and ALOK discuss identity, the beauty industry, and self care.

JVN and ALOK in Conversation

Skillshare Original Teacher Jonathan Van Ness and writer and performance artist ALOK sat down for a riveting conversation on identity, gender (or the expansive understanding thereof), and self care.

The two started off with an acknowledgement of the current situation in Texas, which JVN noted as “governmental overreach,” before saying that the silence from allies was deafening and encouraging others to speak up.

Together, the two listed organizations to follow and support. Notably: TEN, ACLU Texas, Transgender Law Center, and Gender Infinity.

Much of the conversation centered around the beauty industry, as JVN is fresh off the launch of his brand new haircare line – JVN Hair. This was the result of years of feeling excluded in the beauty space, and being a self-described “ingredient queen, efficacy queen.” But what JVN noted as wanting more than anything is to create a brand, company, and product where everyone could feel welcome. Put simply: “no toxic products and no toxic masculinity.”

JVN also spoke to subject matter he covered in his Skillshare Original class – namely how to cultivate selective permeability for yourself, so you can not take in all of the toxicity that may be thrown at you (in a word, a form of resilience). He called on the importance of self-care and ensuring you’re pouring from a full cup in order to embrace an inner sense of self permeability.

One of the central takeaways of the talk was the idea of holding space for “both and.” Binary thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. We must be able to hold space for seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time. Perhaps maybe they aren’t so contradictory after all?

Trust Me I’m Famous: Ben McKenzie Questions Crypto

While the festival has been largely pro-crypto, blockchain, NFT, and all of the web3 associations that come with it, teenage heartthrob Ben McKenzie curated a panel to offer a different take.

The star of The OC and Southland sat down with The New Republic’s Jacob Silverman and Vice’s Edward Ongweso to present the other side of the crypto divide and some of the sinister representations around new technology.

The conversation shedded doubt on all of the tactics crypto has employed to grown to prominence. From the buzzy marketing campaigns starring the likes of Matt Damon and Larry David, to the recent lawsuits around Ethereum with Kim Kardashian, the panelists discussed this new dynamic as shilling rather than promotion – that it has much more risky than anyone is truly disclosing. Jacob joked that if we were to do this correctly, we’d have an ad that said “side effects include having to ask for a loan from your parents.”

Jacob encouraged people to take a look at where the money is coming from and where it’s going – it doesn’t require being a conspiracy theorist to draw some conclusions. He encouraged the audience to look at the creator of crypto[dot]com, who, according to Jacob, has a shady business history worth understanding.

And while the tone of the panel was that of skepticism, Ben McKenzie put a succinct point on it: “I’m an artist. I support artists. Digital art can be great. I just don’t understand why it needs to be on blockchain.”

Expanding further, Jacob continued: “A lot of people describe blockchain as a technology in search of a use case.”

The perspective of the panel provided a strong antidote for the generally exuberant culture around these emerging technologies this week.

Let’s Talk Storytelling with Keynote Speaker Celine Tricart

We took the directive from the last panel, and stayed in the real-world for a while longer to talk about storytelling. But don’t worry, we rounded out with the storytelling/NFT/metaverse intersection if you are as interested in emerging technologies as much as the rest of the SXSW attendees.

Celine Tricart from Lucid Dreams Productions discussed the evolution of storytelling, and encouraged those to truly respect the discipline. She walked us through the mediums that she has worked in, from traditional film through to VR and the metaverse now, with a surprising focus on the world of LARPing.

She spoke about the difference between storytelling and storyliving.

Storytelling is where there is one storytelling entity, often a listener or audience, and a lot of known devices: arcs, hero’s journey, three act structure. It’s basically what we know of making movies and writing books now.

Storyliving is when we can become a story experiencers and react to what’s around us. Imagine improv with multiple participants and how the story is in flux based on how we choose to act and react to those around us. In this scenario, we are all authors and readers at the same time.

Celine discussed our common understanding. We all buy into the same myths – like money for instance. The value of money only exists because we all believe in it. And similarly, so much is left up to our own perception. Like long-term memory for instance; it’s not as strong as we think it is. Our long-term memory is fragile and altered by the act of remembering (that is, it changes a little every time we recall a moment). “That means we live in a lie,” Celine explains.

On SXSW Day Four, we immersed ourselves in the creator economy, shared in blockchain skepticism, and celebrated at the Innovation Awards.
On SXSW Day Four, Celine Tricart lays out the view of immersive storytelling and the emotional bleed factor.

So what does this mean for shared experience and storytelling? Celine spent a lot of time discussing LARPing and the different degrees of intensity with storytelling. When we look to storytelling mediums, we’re considering emotional bleed. Emotional bleed is the emotion from a character or situation that can affect the audience outside of the immediate circumstance or game. Emotional bleed becomes stronger as we go towards first person. The lines between fantasy and reality blur, and we experience things more fully.

Celine’s remarks were both deeply insightful, from her obvious command of storytelling, but also hopeful. She talked about the power of immersive storytelling to spark deeper conversations, inspire empathy, and enhanced emotional intelligence.

SXSW Innovation Awards sponsored by Skillshare

For us, much of the week has been building towards the Innovation Awards, celebrating some of the most innovative projects across categories this year. From sound and audio through to health tech, we sponsored the ceremonies that honored emerging ideas and individuals changing the world as we know it.

Skillshare CEO Matt Cooper presenting the Best in Show Innovation Award on SXSW Day Four.

If you didn’t catch our live tweeting, here are all of the winners. A big congratulations to them, as well as all of the incredible nominees.

HealthMed and BioTech: Fluo Labs
Connecting People: PORTL Inc.
Visual Media Experience: Frontline PBS and Ado Ato Pictures
Music and Audio: A_DA
Social and Cultural Impact: Wundermann Thompson
Speculative Design: UBQ Materials
People’s Choice: Lift Zones by Comcast
VR/AR/MR: Osso VR
Robotics and Hardware: Vulcan
Smart Cities, Transportation, and Delivery: Velodyne Lidar
Wearable Tech: Strap Tech
New Economy: Star Scientific Limited
AI & Machine Learning: Quicktome
Student Innovation: Tapis Magique
Special Recognition: GiveDirect-Novissi COVID-19 Aid
David Carr Award: Maria Ressa

Nonny de la Pena was also inaugurated into the Hall of Fame, and Skillshare’s own CEO Matt Cooper presented the best-in-show award to Strap Tech.

What’s next on SXSW Day Five

It’s been a great festival so far, and there’s still plenty more to come. Tomorrow we’ll dive into some trend forecasting, move further into the world of web3, and our panel with pplpleasr, diving into the complex and intriguing world of digital art and NFTs.

Check out all of our SXSW coverage here.