2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Pixelating Reality - How Smartphones Shift Now

Written by Megan Simpson | January 29, 2014

Gigi Johnson leads a core conversation about how smartphones shift now at SXSW 2014

By her own accord, Dr. Gigi Johnson lives her dream job every day. She travels the world speaking, teaching, learning, taking pictures, writing, and creating. This March, she’ll share her passion about the need to talk about being "present” with the attendees of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival through “Pixelating Reality: How Smartphones Shift Now”. Her talk is one of over 800 sessions that will occur at this year’s festival. In today’s Session Spotlight, we caught up with Dr. Johnson for an in-depth look at this fascinating core conversation.

SXSW: Please tell us, in 100 words or less, what your SXSW conversation will address.
Johnson: Many of us carry smartphones wherever we go. Increasingly, we are leaning on them as active and passive gathering devices of data and images. Google Glass and other recording devices bring the question further front and center—how is our recording and perpetually digitally checking in affecting our everyday lives? How are those check-ins and recordings shifting our being "present" in our shared “now and here?” Are we increasingly taking the opportunity to be digitally elsewhere and not present?

SXSW: What are you hoping an attendee gains from your session?
Johnson: Attendees will come away with at least 3 ideas how to reconsider "now" in a smartphone-connected world.

SXSW: Have you been to SXSW Interactive before? What was your experience like?
Johnson: I fill up my mental bucket each year at SXSW Interactive. I think this is my 4th visit. I tend to absorb new ideas from both coasts, and SXSW helps me fill in all of the areas in between, and across the world. I also tend to hang out in higher education, music, and media start-ups. SXSW helps me learn so much more about the cutting edge things that are going on.

SXSW: Why is speaking at SXSW a big deal?
Johnson: It is a bridge to new ideas from others, as well as an affirmation that my idea is something intriguing to other people.

SXSW: In your opinion, who is the most innovative person in the world today?
Johnson: I hang out a lot with teenagers. Each of them, in their own way, is much more innovative than we adults are, as they aren't yet limited by as many "can't" thoughts.

SXSW: Do you have a blog?
Johnson: I have two blogs: maremel.com and gigijohnson.net. Most of my writing at Maremel focuses on the social impacts of technological change.

SXSW: What’s something we wouldn’t know about you from your official bio?
Johnson: I love to sing. For eight years, I have sung family folk music in the Southern California area, in conjunction with local libraries.

SXSW: Not necessarily related to your conversation at SXSW, what is your favorite current TV show?
Johnson: In terms of TV shows, I am an addict for Agents of Shield. I really don't have a smart reason -- it is a guilty pleasure while waiting to find out why Agent Coulson was in Tahiti.

SXSW: And in terms of gadgets – what’s your favorite?
Johnson: I live on my iPad, including audio recording and creation of graphics. I don't take my laptop anywhere anymore if I can avoid it. I'm enjoying my Pebble Watch too, though I’m still tinkering with getting everything to show up the way I want it to.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Pixelating Reality: How Smartphones Shift Now” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.