SXSW: What hath tech wrought?

 
Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald

The once-secret surveillance programme of the US's National Security Agency (NSA) is casting a long shadow over this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, a festival of technology and innovation that starts on Friday.

Amid the search for the Next Big Thing, the breathlessly detailed hopes and dreams of would-be Silicon Valley millionaires, the manic buzz of corporate public relations teams, and the alcohol-sodden parties, there's a darker edge.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will speak on Saturday. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, along with Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom he leaked his trove of classified government documents, are scheduled for Monday.

Of course, none of these men will actually be here in Austin, the booming state capital known for live music, good food and liberalism in a sea of Texas conservatism. Instead they are scattered around the globe, communicating via videoconference.

If Mr Assange and Mr Snowden were to set foot on US soil, they'd likely be arrested immediately for crimes against national security. Instead the former is hunkered down at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, fighting extradition to Sweden for a sexual assault investigation, while the latter lives in Moscow under Russian-granted asylum.

Greenwald says that he is concerned he might share a similar fate if he leaves his new home in Brazil - although he has hinted that he may return to the US at some point anyway.

Meanwhile, panel discussions and seminars on internet security, government surveillance, corporate data-mining and the challenges of social media dot the five-day conference line-up.

"As organizers, SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem," writes SXSW Director Hugh Forrest in a press release.

Known as the launching pad of Twitter and Foursquare, SXSW is a place where a savvy businessperson can find the backing to make an idea into reality. But this year, talk also turns to the perils of the interconnected world that these ideas have created.

SXSW started as a music conference, and on Wednesday the recording industry will claim the stage. Austin will look more like Hollywood or Nashville, as the "geek" collection of tech entrepreneurs and journalists depart.

Until then, however, there's time to debate whether we should be proud of this brave new world we're building.

Is all this technology, the constant churn of newer and flashier things, making life better? Or are we sacrificing something essential in pursuit of digitally aided convenience?

I'll share my observations over the course of the conference.

Is technology worth the hype?

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 39.

    quietoaktree,

    I'm using Linux with Firefox, but I use a couple of plug-ins for better security and web experience.

    Noscript, which allows selective running of javascript (great for excluding popups/ads/junk)

    User Agent switcher, (the user agent is a small text that reports the type of OS and browser) so I can say I'm a Mac using Safari etc.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    With the Patriot act turning the US into a de facto police state, NSA doing whatever it liked globally unbridled and the sub prime scam obliterating world financial markets - the Republican era under Bush Jr, extended by Obama, has resulted in a pariah state! Add open carry to the mix in 19 states and why Greenwald, or anyone for that matter, would even visit the US is quite beyond me!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 37.

    I have informed the BBC ´Technical Dept´ of my findings.

    --and given the link to the ´Echochamber´ blog for reference.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    I have a rendezvous with Cyber death at some disputed barricade.

    http://www.english.emory.edu/LostPoets/Seeger.html

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    Once again technology has opened up a new Pandora's box. Are we going to be as creative solving the problems we have unleashed upon ourselves as we are with the technology? We can only hope that honest inquiry and principled judgements will prevail.
    The technology hasn't been easy. Solving the problems won't be easy either. Time to get on with it!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    --AND THE BBC CANNOT SOLVE THIS PROBLEM ???

    If its intention is to allow contributions --then it can !

    --what is the ´name of the game´?

    Has blog silence more importance than free blog speech ?

    -- in this time of international turbulence ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 33.

    This is the crucial test --2nd try--only waiting 10 mins.

    --no second window open --as yet.

    --Maybe another way around the problem ?

    Trollicus --you are the expert here !

    I only resort to trial and error with computers -- always the latter.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    Have dis-enabled Java but allowed plug- ins after switching computer of off/on and emptying cache and removing Cookies --before and after off/on

    ´See more´ functions OK --one page. (other page too risky)

    Trollicus thanks for Java tip -- if this works.

    -- NO preview --only ´post comment´???

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    Trollicus

    I can also see the last 5 posts now.

    --probably without signing in (and later reloading) can all be read.

    Are you using a Mac and Safari ?

    This is a hassle but at least we know we are not alone in this cruel big world.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 30.

    I give up, I can only read the last five comments, it takes 5 tries to post and then they go to moderation. There are several unsafe scripts running, and every refresh brings 2 or three new outside javascript links.

    What a bodge job, maybe they are using TATA, or worse Infosys!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 29.

    Trollicus

    Isn´t the mark up/ down risky ?

    I got another ´sign in´ before using this method.

    --we give the Cookies another opportunity to ´infect´

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 28.

    I give up, I can only read the last five comments, it takes 5 tries to post and then they go to moderation. There are several unsafe scripts running, and every refresh brings 2 or three new outside javascript links.

    What a total mess.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    If the contribution does not show up on the second window.

    Return to the first window, change slightly -- preview and post again.

    ´The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance´

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 25.

    #23 Trollicus

    I thought the same --If the BBC is not prepared to pass the word along --then we should.

    -until this method is also blocked.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    @quietoaktree

    Thank you, I thought I was the only one having issues trying to post/rate comments and getting the "Sorry, we are..." box.

    The BBC HYS has recently become a pile of very messy Javascript as well. I wish they would go back to when they system worked properly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    "As organizers, SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem,"

    --not until the opposite argument " everybody is doing it" is negated.

    This cheap nationalism is destroying everybody.

    --anybody waving a flag and supporting nationalistic criminality -- is digging their own grave and that of others.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    What is disturbing (suspicious ?) is the BBC has not found it necessary to inform contributors of possible Blog malfunctions on every Blog Site. The ´Sorry´ reply also appears when the blog is closed and one wishes to contribute.

    It is possible that the BBC wishes to use only Facebook and Twitter.

    Without the warning on each blog (and denial if necessary), contributors should be prepared.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    "Technology got us into this mess & technology will get us out."
    SXSW: "We create ideas that provoke a reaction."

    Snowden's speech will be webcast on Monday, March 10 at 11 a.m. CST. Check for the links to the live stream here: HTTP://BIT.LY/1HGHNPR

    Assange's speech will not be available online.

 

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