Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The 1999 SXSW Interactive Conference

By Sarah Hepola

MARCH 8, 1999:  There is someone, somewhere, who knows everything about interactive media. For the rest of us, the furious pace of technology can be, to say the least, daunting. The breaking off from the past, the avalanche of technology -- and with it, the mudslide of acronyms --can make us feel like the sucker at the bottom of the hill, waiting for it all to come down on our heads. So, as one fashionable television ad asks us dauntingly: Are you ready?

In looking through our coverage of the upcoming SXSW Interactive Festival, you may find you're more ready than you think. Our fear of the avalanche, the threat that we will not be ready, has become too consuming, and has, like a constantly niggling spouse, so flogged us with reminders of the things we don't know that we lose sight of the things we do. On the following pages, along with those flashes of the future, are the grooves of the familiar. Like worn grips on a handlebar, ready for you to take hold. Whether you're interested in money to be made, entertainment to be gobbled, information to be discovered, or people to be reached, interactive technology has something for you. And while multimedia technology does raise questions, introduce unknowns, and can scramble up everything we thought was in place, it can also make our lives better. The future has always been an uncertain place. But no one says you can't enjoy the ride.

Marc Savlov's interview with Digital Anvil founder Chris Roberts illustrates the way multimedia is trickling into the mainstream. Roberts' successful Wing Commander video game may have been a sensation to those on the technological fringe; but with his effects-laden new movie, it officially enters the collective consciousness. In her story, Louisa Brinsmade finds out what continues to make the city we live in a technological hot spot, and in the stories that follow, we revisit some old friends, like Web film critic Harry Knowles and filmmaker Doug Block, whom you may remember from our story on his Home Page last year. And as in all good adventures, we make some new friends, too. Many of these people will be speaking and participating in the upcoming SXSW Interactive Festival, but all of them have stories you should know about, should talk about, and should think about. So that when technology changes everything, it might not feel like the world is wrenching your tight fists from the past they grasp onto.

So hold on to the handlebars if you like. Enjoy the ride. The real question is not "Are you ready?," but "Can you let go?"

For information on panels and speakers, as well as passes and badges for the upcoming SXSW Interactive Festival, visit http://www.sxsw.com.

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