Day 2 SXSW 2013 Highlights: Peepculture, Digifrenia & Hacksessions

As I boarded the 26hr flight from Sydney to Austin on Thursday I promised my fellow Aussie SXSW’westers that I’d avoid reporting on buzzwords in my daily B&T posts. It’s Day 2 and I’m about to break that promise. Sorry guys.

SXSW really kicked into gear today, heavyweights like Al Gore hit the keynote stage, but it was actually the smaller presentations that were worth the painful queues.

OK, three thoughts to take out of today: Hacksessions are the new brainstorms, Peepculture not pop culture is where youth are at and brands needing to Design for Digifrenia. Bare with me as I explain.

Hacksessions are the new brainstorms

First off this morning was a fascinating panel talk called ‘Can u hack it’ by Big Spaceship, covering how digital agencies are now tapping into Hacker culture to come up with new ideas/services to business problems. It’s rapid real time prototyping of ideas that break the status quo system. The big question of the session was the difference between 24hr Hacksessions and brainstorms.  The key difference between a Hacksession and a brainstorm is that the former is absolutely focused on the ‘making of something real via rapid prototyping’, rather than abstract thinking on post it notes. Big Spaceship for one, are using Hacksessions as their chemistry sessions in new business pitches. Rather than spend $20k+ and loads of strategy/ creative time, they’ll go into a client for a day and run a Hacksession with a client, taking a team of multi discipline thinkers; coders, designers, strategists to crack a problem. Agencies running 24hr Hackathons for clients with low budgets has also been extremely valuable for making lean budgets work harder. Even Al Gore, in his ‘The Future’ speech said ‘Our (USA) democracy has been hacked’ referring to role of big business in hacking the system. Marketers bring The Hack into your business (it’s not just for geeks) for rapid business problem solving, banish the brainstorm.

From Pop Culture to Peep Culture

My passion for youth marketing and ways brands can connect with digital natives led me to the session on ‘How Peepculture hacked your brain’. Despite being viewed as the ‘Connected’ generation (or GenC as I like to call them), Gen Y and Millennial today are social beings living in a time of ridiculous alienation as ‘checking’ has replaced ‘connecting’. The social revolution has led a shift from pop culture to peep culture, where entertainment is far less scripted and young people are more obsessed with the everyday happenings of their friends entertaining them. Social media is selfish, youth share for themselves, whether it’s for self-expression or self-searching. Yes, it can be overbearing and narcisstic, but every generation has needed self-expression. This one just looks more inward. The other myth that was busted is the thought that young people act willy nilly when it comes to their privacy. Actually, in an era of digital freedom young people crave control of their digitally identities more than ever they just assess the social context very differently to Gen X’ers and Boomers. Brands wanting to connect in ‘Peep Culture’ need to determine the ‘what, how and why’ their audience share in the digital space in order to unlock ways to get their brand in that conversation.

Designing for Digifrenia

Digifrenia was a concept introduced by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff today. Digifrenia or as I Like to call it ‘digitally divided identities’ are being created by all of us. They’re the multiple virtual accounts (on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms) people are created to sustain anonymity and avoid being judged. It’s a phenom that has been rising to the surface these past months as the plethora of connected social platforms we all belong to, put pressure on how we connect with the world. Marketers need to design brand experiences with digifrenia in mind, ensuring they put special focus on content with  context so the social media selection adds value, not overwhelms.

Ok, enough buzzwords for today. Going to try my luck at one of the many SXSW blatantly brand funded parties here in Austin.




Influencer Interview #1: Meet Tracy from Cosmo & the Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Tracy (left) believes Australian youth are all about CHOICE

Tracy (left) believes Australian youth are all about CHOICE


A few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting Tracy, who is works at Cosmopolitan magazine, she totally has her finger on the pulse in terms of youth culture, and in particular what’s going on with 18-24yr old Australian girls/women. She’s also a key member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition so is really making a big difference when it comes to what’s important to youth. I got her perspective on youth culture and what’s up with young Australian women J

 How do you keep abreast of youth culture?

 Music, blogs, movies, magazines– all of these things, and from all over the world not just here in Australia because access to pop culture is so global.


  How would you describe youth culture right now in a word?

 ‘CHOICE’- young people have never had as many options in every aspect of their lives as they do right now.  Youth culture is about using this power of choice for self-expression and self-creation.  Young people want to feel as if they are always being given this power of choice, and like they have complete control over the decisions that they make.  Everything needs to be personalised and interactive so that there is that opportunity to constantly make one’s own decisions.    

What do you think are the main issues facing young Australian girls?

Issues like body image and self-esteem are still huge, and I think increasingly the issue of finding the perfect career has become important to young Australian girls.  Because careers are now supposed to be fulfilling and empowering as well as a way to make a living, young women are pressured earlier and harder to find success in a career that is both monetarily and personally rewarding.  Women are increasingly told that they need to find part of their identity in work, which is great in theory but not always easy. 


Environmental issues are also becoming huge among youth both in Australia and around the world, because young people are realising that they will be the ones who need to deal with and fix the problems that have been created by their parents’ generations.  I am part of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which aims to educate young Australians about climate change and inspire them to take action.  I think environmentalism will be a growing part of a youth culture.  


 What do you think are the main/popular sub-cultures 18-24yr old girls belong to? 

I don’t think 18-24 year old girls prefer to identify themselves as members of any one sub-culture.  They prefer to see themselves as individuals, making their own decisions and developing their own personas rather than adopting all of the traits of a defined subculture.   Youth today want to be multi-dimensional, and have the ability to be so.  They also want to be the ones setting the trends rather than just following them by identifying themselves as a member of a subculture. 

Which brands do you think are best connecting with young Australian girls and why?

Technology brands that manage to be both stylish and quality connect well with young Australian girls– increasingly, technology is both a necessity and an accessory for young girls so brands that can capitalise on this have the opportunity to get young girls to buy their products and, maybe more importantly, start talking about them.  Word of mouth is important for most if not all demographics, but I think particularly important among young girls who trust what their friends say more than almost anything else.  Sony,  Nokia and Apple have all done a great job in making desirable products and marketing them in the right environments.  


Who are the heroes for young Australians today?

 Heroes for young Australians really have been pop culture figures– actors, musicians, etc– in recent years.  The media obsession with celebrities has equated fame with heroism for young Australians.  However, world events may affect this in the near future.  The development of President Obama as a heroic figure for young Americans shows that someone in politics or public service with enough charisma can become a hero as much as any pop star.