SXSW, Digital Doings & Teen Docu-Drama Genre

sxsw_ia_08.jpgSleep-deprived digerati are schlepping into offices today, home from the SXSW interactive conference, brimming with mashups, and ‘must-sees,’ from core conversations to Games For Change.

Alas. (shoulder shrug self-evident) I wasn’t there due to my dang computer crash mishaps earlier, but then, neither was über-media academic goddess danah boyd (Berkman fellow; Harvard cyberlaw, and member of the newly launched Internet Safety Task Force) so I take solace in same. (even though I don’t play in that league of cool)

Besides, being a ‘wired’ conference, there’s so much virtual information flowing out via, live-blogging, micro-sound bites like Utterz and the usual cacophony of internet banter, tweets, chirps, “meebo,” (instant messenger consolidation) podcasts, pings and prose that it seems better for me to sift and sort highlights from afar.

Frankly, the SXSW speakers list looks daunting and exhausting. (I get ‘conferenced out’ pretty fast, and have the attention span of a gnat, vacillating between wanting to attend everything at once and pulling the covers over my head in overwhelm)

fluid.jpgAlready we’ve seen SXSW offer sweet and sour reviews, tales of child-friendly eco-virtual worlds forthcoming from Fluid Entertainment, and Cartoon Network’s virtual world Fusion Fall…Plus lots of chatter about last month’s Worlds in Motion summit as well…

Sara M. Grimes, research guru at Gamine Expedition has a great post called Virtual to Real World Play which amps up knowledge on the Pixie Hollow Disney Fairies franchise with analysis on and offline…whew, only so much kids’ digital data one can digest…“TMI!”

sxsw2008.jpgSpeaking of jargon-ish acronyms, I sure wish they’d come up with a better name than “SXSW”–it sticks in my professional ‘name generation’ craw for a variety of branding reasons.

A.) I can’t remember it. B.) I can’t Google it without being dyslexic about it. C.) It sounds like some sort of personal ad in the local classifieds. D.) The acronym itself stands for “South By Southwest” which still doesn’t reveal squat about it being a convening hub for the uber-digerati to find out what’s important in the music, film, and interactive media world.

Mind you, SXSW film festival winners don’t seem confused, but folks like me can’t help but think of Cary Grant in ‘North by Northwest,’ wondering what that has to do with South by Southwest or their Battle of the Bands music history. AND…this branding is further confused by Toronto’s upcoming North by Northeast (NXNE) derivative in June.

Anyway, to filter info from SXSW pertaining to a kids only silo will take me awhile…

sxsw-web-awards-visual.jpgBUT…for starters, I’m thrilled to see Shaping Youth fave “Animoto” won top honors in Film/TV tools (we use this constantly, here’s my daughter’s wakeboarding-H2Oski creation) and my silly season’s greeting/viral of choice, “Elf Yourself” took the amusement category, as did the important “World Without Oil” in the ‘activism’ realm. (granted, not ‘kid-stuff’ but pertinent to kids’ future!)

I’m personally thankful that online community thought leaders like Joi Podgorny and Izzy Neis were there looking out for children’s roles in social media…

I know it will make my life easier to tap into their top-tier picks from a children’s perspective. (e.g. Joi’s cliff note recaps of core conversations, and Izzy’s schedule alone helps distill my hunt for data nuggets in open source presentation forms!)

The always prolific Beth Kanter has succinct details of all my ‘need to knows’ in the nonprofit realm, including a great piece on whether Twitter is a time sink for nonprofits or not. Techno/web teacher Virginia DeBolt has a comprehensive round-up on SXSW in her link-laden BlogHer post here covering various points of view from women bloggers, and youth pro Anastasia Goodstein at YPulse makes it easy with her own link love to follow the newsy tidbits of what’s going on in the kids sphere commercially, for better or for worse…

totally-wired.jpgI would sure love to hear more from Anastasia in the analysis realm, since the insights on kids’ media exposure in both her Totally Wired book and latest Businessweek op-ed, “Let’s Rewrite the Rules for Kids’ Media” are worthy and well-balanced.

Anastasia wrote about the Sundance-ish ‘sneak preview’ of American Teen on, capturing the jist of what I’d expected this documentary/reality show film would be, and I’m eager to hear more as it gives us a starter snapshot of the tonality…Breakfast Club clique dynamics updated with a dose of new media concerns like cyberbullying tossed in…I think I have my own ‘reality show’ POV right here working with middle schools on that one, thank you very much..

Still, Anastasia’s comments on American Teen really resonated:

“They feel trapped in whatever role they are assigned (usually back in middle school) and literally just have to survive until college.

You see these teens awaken to the possibility of reinventing themselves after high school as senior year comes to a close — they fantasize of being liberated from who they were and begin to dream about who they want to be. “

Wow. As a global bounce-around the world ‘military brat’ I feel pretty fortunate I could ‘reinvent’ every year or two.

I’m seeing that ‘stuck’ dynamic of ‘kindergarten recall’ already in our own ‘feeder’ public schools…It’s making me rethink the ‘stability’ and ‘lifelong friends’ notion to wonder what it would be like for my daughter to ‘shake it up’ and move to a different school.

Would it enhance coping skills and life lessons? Traumatize?

There’s no panacea…

Pop culture cues and consumerism present themselves differently depending on which socioeconomic pockets you happen to be in…but the same infiltration is still there.

We recently got a taste of ‘private school privilege’ and purported ‘civility’ at a dance mixer so she’s (hilariously) hot to trot in that direction.

Ironically, my daughter did NOT seem to catch the foreshadowing of ‘affluenza,’ academic stress, bullying antics and other elitist tripe when those same kids dissed her school as being “ghetto”…ahem.

affluenza2.jpgNeedless to say, a private school simply swaps a different set of probs, some of which would make her public school look ‘quaint’ by comparison. (not to mention the five-digit annual price tags of private institutions are not exactly “nonprofit media mom” material)

Since I spend 8-week time chunks testing content for Shaping Youth’s counter-marketing media, there’s plenty of time to observe student dynamics and get to know the kids firsthand…

Those academic studies don’t remotely capture the full throttle of body image reverb and consumption cues…ugh.

cyberbullyicon.jpgWhich reminds me:

Here’s a new teen bullying study (video & article from Univ. of Alabama following 600 boys/girls from grades 4-12 over a decade, reporting on cliques, ‘mean’ antics, perceived ‘popularity,’ and racial divides…Curious, does this apply where you live? Stories, please? Anecdotal tidbits? Dying to know…

More soon on the docu-genre of teen media depicting relational aggression, angst, behavioral cues and ‘slice of life’ elements as “documentary.”

From a media literacy perspective, this can get dicey and confusing as to what’s a ‘real’ documentary and what’s a ‘reality show’ docu-drama depiction, edited for entertainment consumption.

Obviously, this “reality show/docu-drama” format applies to the WE channel’s ”High School Confidential”…Judging by this video clip and article it’s not for the bubble-wrapped or faint-hearted, though I’m sure there are talking points and initiators for age appropriate chats…haven’t seen it.

highschool-confidential.jpgShow description: “12 girls. 4 years. 1 unprecedented WE tv event…In this unprecedented television event, we follow 12 diverse girls through their tumultuous and exhilarating high school experience. They encounter sex, drugs, unwanted pregnancy, health crisis, and family chaos — all while trying to discover who they are. Each episode explores the girls’ stories through four years of heartache, discovery, friendship, and self-acceptance. These are stories we can all relate to…” (we can?)

This seems to pose a much larger media question…

Is kids’ behavior altering and morphing with the ambient influence of media and marketing sexualization in surround sound? OR…

Is media PROMPTING and normalizing certain teen behavior so that kids feel compelled to ‘become a part’ of it as an everyday teen behavioral profile or lifestyle choice?

Either way, the fact that one in four teens now has an STD will get your attention…

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg dialogue…What do you think?

All visuals came from their respective sites online w/links embedded above



  1. Kris Cornwall says

    Re your statement “We recently got a taste of ‘private school privilege’ and purported ‘civility’ at a dance mixer” – did you and I talk about this? My daughter also attended a mixer recently, I suspect the same one, and reported to me that “those kids at are soooo rich” to which I replied “that’s what most of the kids at think about you kids who came from .” She said simply “oh” but the look on her face was “wow, I had no idea!” We haven’t talked about it since but I hope it gave her a few moments of self-reflection. Teachable “moments” are all we get at this age, right?

    I also heard about the “ghetto” reference, although not to describe the school but rather to describe the, um, more lively way my daughter and her friends were dancing. Has “ghetto” become the new slang for “slutty” (which is not how I believe my 12yo and her friends were dancing – I’ve seen them – but I am pretty sure was the implication).

    Your blogs are great reading material for me when I’m eating lunch at my desk – I look forward to them!


  2. Kris Cornwall says

    Shoot, you can’t edit a comment once you post it, and I used some illegal formatting in my post above so some of the point was lost. When my daughter commented on the kids who were so rich, I said to her “that’s what most of the kids at your school think about you kids who came from your affluent elementary school. “

  3. Hey, Kris…no worries, I got the gist of the comment. —gosh, I guess I’d better watch my words, I forget that when I write ‘globally’ it also translates ‘locally’ (i.e. some of my friends actually READ this! 😉

    That said, yes, it WAS indeed the same ‘mixer’ and though we didn’t have a chance to talk about it, I’ll just say I did some…er…uh…’exit polls’ on the tween goings-on…

    As for the dance style, I can attest that it’s simply ‘hip-hop’ per chaperoning at the middle school dance, and maybe that’s not what they’re used to at the private schools? I dunno…nothing provocative, just a diff. style, actually…

    On the flip side, the ghetto ref. I heard was pretty universal, tho I think that’s a pretty common urban slang term in the same lexicon category as ‘preppy’ or ‘street’ to indicate an overall ‘attitude’ or even genre, not necessarily meant to be a socioeconomic slam, from what I can ascertain…

    Although, I’ve gotta say, this pithy definition in the urban slang dictionary caught my attention, w/UGC voting showing “2127 up, 681 down”

    ghetto: “Word which rich white girls use to describe almost everything thats not clad with lilly polos and pearls. use: “Look how ghetto I look!” Muffy said as she put on her gucci sunglasses.”

    Here’s the rest of their description:

    Teens? Global citizens? What do you have to say??? 😉

  4. And for a peek at the SXSW caliber of conference dialogue, panelists, and attendees from a digital industry perspective, check out David Armano’s blog here…oh, how I wish I had some of this brain firepower on behalf of teens…yowza…maybe I’ll try to recruit them, via our AOC co-author alliances…

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