SXSW Day 1 and 2: Sparrow at the keynotes including Disney and AI insights


ChatGPT highlighted the positive amplification of what humans can do

Mediaweek kicks off a big week of coverage from SXSW in Austin, Texas. Visiting the 2023 conference and festival are Mediaweek editor Trent Thomas and contributing editor Greg Graham (aka Sparrow).

Here Sparrow reports on some of the Day 1 conference sessions.

South by Southwest, Austin, Texas, is well and truly back y’all post-pandemic. The official Mediaweek Tour kicked off with exclusive insights from two SXSW stalwarts, Mike Shea the ultimate festival insider with 25+ years, and Andrew Watt, the Australian SXSW representative, sharing top tips with invaluable input from the director of programming Hugh Forrest.

A trip to South by Southwest in Austin would not be complete without a mandatory trip to Salt Lake in Driftwood for the best Texas BBQ. Plus, of course, Pete’s famous duelling Piano Bar on 6th street is a must-do! In hindsight … I may have peaked too early.

Day one was action-packed, and started with Dr. Simran Jeet Singh an educator, writer, activist, and social justice commentator on religion and racism.


Next was a change of pace with a magical storytelling session from Josh D’Amaro from Disney Parks on creating happiness with some very cool stuff including, Star Wars light sabres, a giant Iron Man-like character, and a special secret reveal of a very cute little robot that captured the audiences’ hearts something that Walt Disney has done since inception.

A keynote session featured Priyanka Chopra Jones in conversation with Jennifer Salke (head of Amazon & MGM Studios) chatting about her new ground-breaking global show The Sentinel from Prime Video. Priyanka shared some personal stories about the unique production shot in the UK & India plus her passion projects with UNICEF and championing women’s/children’s rights.

To round out the day on a high was co-founder and president of Open AI Greg Brockman. A fascinating human who dropped out of Harvard and MIT and went on to be the CTO of Stripe, he launched Open A1 with Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and Reid Hoffman. As a not-for-profit, its mission is to ensure AI benefits all humanity. My top three takeaways from this awesome session:

  1. A personal story about his wife’s heath struck an emotional chord with me and Open AI’s ChatGPT hopes to have a profound impact on medicine and helping doctors.
  2. ChatGPT is a blank page and the impact will be felt in nearly every aspect of our lives for good.
  3. Greg’s a very optimistic person and played down the misinformation fears and highlighted the positive amplification of what humans can do.

The Austin streets are weird again, buzzing with energy and incredible activations from the streamers including Paramount+, HBO Max, Prime Video, FX, Showtime and others. A great activation by Audible and fun funky pedicabs which are promoting so much cool stuff, a special highlight for me I noticed outside the JW Marriott is a win-your-way comp to SXSW in Sydney.

With so many global attendees, I think over a third are international visitors and all I could hear around me were, accents from Brazil. I just feel like the Brazilian contingent this year is massive, super engaged, and friendly.

 It’s only day one and I’m exhausted … plus those margarita jugs Friday night may not have helped! My brain is about to explode from all the cool content/inspiration and I’m pumped for what day two may bring … giddy up!

See also: SXSW Day 1 – Trent Thomas visits Prime, Paramount & Audible

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