How to Connect #Metaverse To #Realverse

A Recap & Reflection on SXSW 2022

On March 11, 2022, the world returned to Austin for SXSW. In the three very long years since the creative un-conference took place, the world has changed in ways that our human consciousness may never fully process. 

The global pandemic forced us to stop and stay in one place. In that pause we were presented a mirror reflecting our communities’ deep chasms. The world looks different depending on your socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, politics and/or access to basic resources. We now know how interconnected we are. And we are painfully aware of how much we need to be together. 

It is with this spirit that innovators gathered from Europe and the Americas to co-create five days of events, talks, workshops and performances across two locations. Innovation Bridge Europe (IBE) and The Midwest House

IBE was initiated by german.innovation, the New Dutch Wave, and Advantage Austria with close partnerships with delegations from Denmark, Canada, Finland, Poland, France, Belgium, Norway and the UK took over Wax Myrtle at The Thompson Hotel in downtown Austin. In close collaboration, The Midwest House assembled a coalition of more than 30 Midwestern organizations, creating “an experiential embassy dedicated to the region’s innovators and creatives” at the Half Step Bar on Austin’s famous Rainey Street.  In the quest to share programming and thematic intention, IBE and The Midwest House solidified deep partnerships and friendships.

How It Started & It’s Still Going

The celebration kicked off with the Midwest House International Welcome Party featuring the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The next morning Germany Trade & Invest & Digital Hub Initiative launched the week’s programming which featured thought-provoking discussion such as “Deep Fakes for Good” and “Moving with Purpose” on the intersection of mobility, EV infrastructure, equity and community engagement as well as “Innovation & Inclusive Cities.”

These expert-led conversations were flanked by a Global Smart Cities Roundtable that featured customized cross-sector matchmaking sessions. In between were civic startup pitches for 27+ U.S. Mayors, a reception for US Dept of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research & Technology Dr Robert Hampshire and a Tech & Society Meet & Greet. In addition, technical and societal experts led a two hour workshop “Putting Open Data to Work – at Scale.”

Central to the fantastic flurry of activity was the belief that data and technology can better inform collaborative, cross-sector decision making in order to improve the quality of life for all citizens and residents. In the beautiful chaos there was a key theme that emerged:

“How to connect #metaverse to #realverse

In her SXSW summary on Linkedin, Prof. Gesa Ziemer summarized the complexity of what is real versus what matters. SXSW was all abuzz about the metaverse, NFTs, deep fakes, the impact of AI and what it all means. While people were gathering at SXSW , Russian troops rolled through Ukraine, invading a country, destroying lives and livelihoods while threatening democracy. 

In an era of massive information overload, distinguishing between the “fake” and the “real” goes way beyond the hype factory. As if being inundated with data from dozens of digital directions isn’t enough, we’re seeing the confluence of how technology can distort reality. The natural human response is fear but the wisdom of experts gathered at SXSW2022 offered a comforting alternative. 

“Don’t be worried – be educated” 

Stephanie Walker, Unit Chief FBI Cyber Division at the FBI made this comment on a panel titled “Deep Fakes for Good”, instantly turning our collective handwringing into a call to action. Along with her FBI colleague, Pranav Shah, Marian Glaeser of Brigher.AI, Jay Boisseau, Dell Technologies and Cliff Fluet, Partner with Eleven Advisory, panelists discussed how digital tools can be type cast and gave examples of how deep fake technology can be used in a positive way such as to identify child predators, help LGBTQ youth come out even in countries where being gay is illegal and dozens of other case studies. 

ACTIVE not passive partnerships are what’s required to tackle climate action and energy transition.”

Jeremy Goldberg, Worldwide Director of Critical Infrastructure, speaks truth to the power of partnerships. “Making Impactful Innovations Through Inclusive Cities” brought together top leaders from industry, government, academia, artists, creatives, ecosystem builders to share how – through collaboration and shared learning – they are prioritizing community engagement, economic prosperity and innovation to improve the urban living experience across their cities.

“What was once static is now connected and shared”

FLASH CEO Dan Sharplin explains how the fall of “accidental parking” is giving way to parking that can provide critical access to everything from EV charging to autonomous vehicles, ushering in the shared future of mobility. Joining Dan on the panel “Moving with Purpose: Co-creating a City People Want to Move & Live In were exceptional experts on mobility, energy, data and urban planning including Dr Mariela Alfonzo (State of Place), Jason JonMichael (City of Austin), Karl Popham (Austin Energy).

“This world runs on the fuel of connectivity between people…”

SXSW well summarized by Danny Frietman, Co-founder of The New Dutch Wave and partner of Innovation Bridge Europe. Despite the ever present and urgent challenges facing our world and planet, SXSW was a beautiful week of demonstrated collaboration, inspiration and the serendipitous collisions. It is these kinds of gatherings that are essential to creating new solutions and hedging the problems that divide us. SXSW 2023, we are ready – stay tuned. 

Event Highlights

Data Comes to Life: Interactive Digital Tool Demo to Increase Community Engagement. 

City ScienceLab Hamburg Private Demo & Workshop for U.S. Conference of Mayors

Friday, March 11 at 11am  

Midwest House International Welcome Party w/ U.S. Conference of Mayors & Innovation Bridge Europe

Friday, March 11 at 7pm 

US Conference of Mayors at SXSW

Germany Trade & Invest x Digital Hub Initiative Opening Event

Saturday, March 12 at 11:30am

Consul General Kai Hennig (Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany)

New Dutch Wave Opening Party at IBE House

Saturday, March 12 at 6pm

New Dutch Wave Team at Innovation Bridge Europe House at SXSW

Civic.Io Startup Pitches

Sunday, March 13 at 9:30am

Deep Fake for Good Panel 

Featuring Marian Glaeser (Brigher.AI), Pranav Shah (FBI Cyber Division), Stephanie Walker (FBI Cyber Division); Jay Boisseau (Dell Technologies); Cliff Fluet (Eleven Advisory). Hosted by The German Center for Research and Innovation (DWIH)

Sunday, March 13 at 11am

Moving with Purpose: Co-creating a City People Want to Move & Live In 

Featuring: Dr Mariela Alfonzo (State of Place), Jason JonMichael (City of Austin), Karl Popham (Austin Energy) Dan Sharplin (Flash Parking) 

Sunday, March 13 at 2pm

Moving with Purpose Panel at SXSW 2022 

Global Smart Cities Roundtable 

Hosted by Digi.City. Austin Smart Cities Alliance, Innovation Bridge Europe, Near East (UK), Assembly Ventures 

Monday, March 14 at 10am

Putting Open Data to Work – at Scale – SXSW Workshops

Featuring Georg Wittenburg *Inspirient GmbH), Brian Dillard (City Of San Antonio) Bryon Jacob, (, Chelsea Collier (Digi.City)

Monday, March 14 at 2:30pm

Putting Open Data to Work – at Scale Panel at SXSW 2022. Photo credit: Edmond Ortiz, Community Impact”

Reception w Robert Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research & Technology, USDOT

Monday, March 14 at 5pm

Robert Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research & Technology, USDOT speaks on the impact of technology & research at SXSW 2022

Making Impactful Innovations Through Inclusive Cities

Featuring Jeremy M. Goldberg (Microsoft), Brian Benjamin (City of Almere), Prof. Gesa Ziemer (CityScienceLab and UNITAC); Amanda Daflos (Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins University), Miguel Gamiño (City Possible, Mastercard), Alena Schmuck (Vienna Business Agency), Arjen Heus (Playground City), Anne Gatling Haynes (Austin Economic Development Corporation). Curated by The New Dutch Wave & Digi.City

Tuesday, March 15 at 4pm 

Making Impactful Innovations Through Inclusive Cities panelists pose with AUstin Mayor Steve Adler at SXSW2022
Serving a City’s Residents Through Digital Transformation Panel at SXSW 2022
How Creatives & Technologists Create Better Cities for Humans Panel at SXSW 2022

Tech + Society Meetup 

Hosted by: Austin Forum on Technology & Society, Austin Smart City Alliance, Austin Transportation Department, Digi.City, Redbud Consulting, Steepmeadow Solutions, Strangeworks, Sunvia, Vizias. 

Wednesday, March 16 at 5:30pm

Tech & Society Meetup at SXSW 2022
SXSW Transnational Organizers: Claudia Schwarz (Innovation Bridge Europe), Ted Velie (The Midwest House), Chelsea Collier (Digi.City)