Highlights from me Convention at South By Southwest (SXSW): A festival inside a festival: Daimler and me Convention at SXSW
me Convention is the collaboration between SXSW® and Mercedes-Benz, uniting an exciting mix of inspiration, interaction, music, art, and community. Following the success of the first ever me Convention in Frankfurt, Germany last autumn, the story continued at SXSW 2018 in Austin, Texas. There it was announced that the next me Convention will take place in Stockholm from September 4-6, 2018.
Over nine days, me Convention welcomed over 10,000 visitors from more than 100 countries in Austin’s Palm Park. Equipped with lounges, bars and a pop-up restaurant, the park offered a relaxed setting at SXSW, connecting arts and tech with unique temporary architecture.
Activities ranged from live rooftop concerts on top of a tiny house and morning yoga classes to experiencing electric vehicles and mobility services.
The Mercedes-Benz Concept EQ and smart EQ fortwo1 (combined power consumption: 13.0 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km) represented the product and technology brand EQ for all current and upcoming all-electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Cars. The Daimler mobility brands car2go, moovel, mytaxi and Blacklane also joined in at SXSW to give a glimpse into the future with their topics.
The Daimler Mobility Service Cube and the moovel lab's virtual self-driving car project gained a lot of attention at Palm Park, where many visitors took the opportunity to take a virtual test drive. Together with the US think-tank Rocky Mountain Institute, moovel hosted a panel discussion on building up an Operating System for urban mobility, continuing a SXSW theme of multimodality in cities.
From Giant Bubbles to Mystery Talks
From the early evenings into the first morning hours, the Mercedes-Benz Concept EQ drove through the streets of the city. People on Austin’s famous 6th Street were also wowed by another unusual appearance: an emission-free smart EQ fortwo rolling inside an inflated bubble. And music enthusiasts had a good time during the live concerts at the tiny house of smart.
me Convention visitors at SXSW enjoyed curated interactive content on the Pool Stage at Palm Park. The speeches were accompanied by a variety of panels and yoga and well-being classes, among them various "Mystery Talks", announced on short notice via social media.
“We are an artificial intelligence in the body of a primate”, said Nell Watson from Singularity University, kicking off Saturday’s Mystery Talk on the meaning of user experience in the times of AI. The talk mirrored the one of the themes of SXSW: an extensive discussion on the potentials of artificial intelligence, with strings attached. “We will have so many super-stimuli in the future that it will be hard to enjoy reality,” added Watson, who focused her research on AI and robotics.
Adam Cheyer, who became famous as the Co-Founder of Siri and has since established Viv Labs, an intelligent interface platform, extended the vision of AI into other fields: “There will be food computers, with the entire mechanic underneath the soil done by AI."
Nell Watson concluded with her vision for AI: “We will literally see the augmentation of our hearts and souls.”
Who owns my DNA?
A different angle on the topic of algorithms and personal data delivered a Mystery Talk between medical experts. “The great news is that genes are not your destiny any longer”, said Alisa Vitti, Founder and CEO of Flo Living, a startup providing a virtual health centre geared towards women. She referred to the idea of genetic information getting paired with algorithms so that patients and doctors can work out a “game plan for your future health”. Co-panellist Linda Avery, Co-Founder at genetics data firm 23andMe, argued that algorithms have already entered medicine and described how wearables are currently helping children with autism.
Beau Woods, Cyber Safety Innovation Fellow at the Atlantic Council, was more sceptical about the sharing of genetic data. “Our experience shows that no matter how hard you try to protect your data, there are always security risks. We need a much deeper public policy discussion on these issues.” Woods also argued that AI is still in its infancy and that “there is historic distrust in the health care system.” He argued that trust needs to be built back and information silos for secure personal data need to be established before dealing with a grown-up AI.
Asked how the panellists look towards humanity in the age of intelligent computers and genetic editing, Alisa Vitti voted for “ either Star Trek, which I love, or Blade Runner, which is freaking depressing.” Drawing further comparisons from Hollywood, security expert Beau Woods argued that “the future we are going to encounter is more like Futurama. Everything is broken but we’re ok with it. We can go to Mars overnight, but we' re complaining about how boring it is.”
Room for more people
After so much time spent on computers, the Mystery Talk series at Palm Park continued on a highly human note: Four extraordinary women took the stage on Monday night to discuss self-expression in the digital age. “Social media enables there is a word missing here – us, maybe? to be an example for others”, said Kimberly Drew, curator and social activist. “So many times, when you represent an underserved group, people don’t want to see you. And this is the possibility.”
“I was ashamed that people would see me as less of a person until I put my disability front and centre on Social Media”, said Christina Mallon, head of marketing at Open Style Lab, a clothing company to people of all abilities. “It was just the opposite. People didn’t only see me as a cute girl any more, but as a real person.” For Mallon, who has what doctors think is a rare form of A.L.S. (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), every task can become a challenge. This drew her into the fashion and product world. “One fifth of people in the world define as people with disability”, Mellon said. “But product designers don’t think about that.”
To raise awareness through authenticity on social media “is often called oversharing,” said Mama Cax, a blogger and model with a prosthetic leg who rose to fame through Instagram and her blog. “ For me it just started with telling the world I have a prosthetic and showing it. And weirdly, at that point, people hadn’t seen a black person with a prosthetic.” Cax added that her way of handling social media also has darker sides. “The comments are often harsh. But if you want to be authentic, you have to be aware of that.”
Kimberley Drew concluded that while body positivity is entering the mainstream any marginalized groups still aren’t. The mission for everybody should be to bring more diverse people into the present. “Take up less space. Leave room for more people. And make sure the door is accessible.”
Kimberley Drew and Christina Mallon also participated with Amber Mac (entrepreneur and presenter) and Tanja May (journalist and deputy editor-in-chief for BUNTE magazine) in a talk with Britta Seeger, Member of the Daimler AG Board of Management and responsible for Sales and Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, to discuss leadership, cultural change and the question of whether in 2018 there is still room for discussing the equality of women and men in work and society. Or the question: what really matters in the end about success at work and in private? The video of this talk can be seen here: www.goo.gl/yczkDx
The spirit of diversity, inspiration and innovation also embodies the next me Convention, taking place from September 4-6, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. Join us at
About South by Southwest
SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, TX, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features conference programming, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together.
About the me Convention
me Convention provides an open and inspiring platform for creative people from different fields and has a clear focus on dialogue, interaction, networking and entertainment while addressing key topics for shaping the future.
For more information about the me Convention please visit http://www.me-convention.com.
1 The stated values (preliminary data) were determined in accordance with the stipulated measurement procedure, NEDC CO2 values i.S.v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 regulation (EU) 2017/1153. The fuel consumption figures were calculated on the basis of these values.