Professionals connected in the branding, marketing, and design industries had a lot of sessions to choose from at SXSW Interactive this year. Brands showed how they are utilizing new technologies like AR, VR, and AI to enhance the customer experience. Keynote speakers emphasized the importance of taking risks when embarking in media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. But, one key theme remained consistent across every session I attended: technology has to be driven by the right human forces. Here are three key takeaways centered on how technology in human interactions are shaping our digital world:
Cultivating gracious interactions – In the session, “Will Grace Survive in the Digital Age?” Pulitzer Prize winning dance critic, Sarah Kaufman defined grace as being at ease with world, even when life tosses wine down your pants. Not only are we glued to our devices, but our screens have become our barriers to the internet, making it conducive for divisive conversations. Kaufman stressed the importance of being mindful when we use and carry techology. The session ended with five tips to overcome the divide: live in the moment, give yourself permission to slow down, celebrate people online, take more things offline or private, and carve out more digital-free moments.
Keeping fashion adaptable– “When we wear things, it changes our perception of how we see the world.” Pauline van Dongen, a technology wearable fashion designer from the Netherlands shared her design philosophy. She sees technology as yet another material, in the same way she sees fabric. However, when she merges fashion with smart materials, she thinks of the sensorial and psychological qualities while keeping her wearables open and adaptable. During her talk, Van Dongen explained how the haptics technology of her jacket gives feedback through vibrations. It activates when the jacket notices that you are too caught up with one thing like your phone and invites you to be in the moment. Ironically, fashioning technology can help us disengage from other technology. “Wearables are very intimate but it can be social,” she concluded.
Making two worlds seamless – Two retail marketers, Thomas Fanger from MGM Resorts, and Jan Swartz of Princess Cruises, talked about how a combination of the physical and digital space brings about an enhanced shopping experience. In their session, IoT and Shoppertainment, Fanger began with the question, “How can we serve rather than market?” This is what guides his team when they are blending both spaces. People can get caught up with the technology these days. But we have to keep in mind that it is not the main selling point. Swartz posed another relevant question, “How can we make technology invisible so it does not interrupt the authenticity of the human experience?” Like the commonly used marketing adage: content is king, but context is queen.
New technologies will emerge and it will be interesting to see how humans will choose to use it to our advantage. But the hope is that we become more human and less about technology.