By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

The School of Information Studies (iSchool) is sending a contingent of social media faculty, staff and students to South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas, a pinnacle industry conference, where they will represent the iSchool and will share, learn, and community-build in a social media-culture way.

This is the third year that the iSchool has sent representatives to SXSW Interactive, “an incubator of cutting-edge technologies featuring five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology,” according to the SXSW website. The event takes place March 9-13.

iSchool Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo has been selected as a conference presenter, a significant industry achievement. He will offer a micro-lecture of his noted “Star Trek” course, plus data illustrating that using social media technologies as a primary method of teaching enhances learning.  He has been working on a data collection project supporting that premise with Ruth V. Small, Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor and Director, LIS Program-School Media Specialization, for the last several months.

Also attending are Kelly Lux, the iSchool’s social media strategist and community manager, and students who staff the iSchool’s NEXIS social media data research and analysis center. They are: Alyssa Henry, David Rosen, Isaac Budmen, Jessica Smith, Kyle Kuchta and Meghan Dornbrock.

Rotolo described the technology and intellectual zeitgeist of SXSW Interactive. “What differentiates it from other conferences and events is that it has done such a good job at drawing the top minds in the field. There is amazing content you can learn from them, and at the same time, so many opportunities for networking. SXSW becomes the real-life version of social networking,” he explained.  For students, he said, “SXSW represents some of the best opportunities for them to connect with people who may employ them and give them opportunities to show what they can do.”

Similarly, the conference offers Lux an opportunity to meet in person many of the community managers that she regularly speaks with online. “Relationship-building is important to me and SXSW is where ‘our people,’ the people I talk to and follow on their blogs and Twitter, come together,” Lux said. She envisions that connections made and solidified during SXSW will later result in benefits for students, in that they will be able to access the expertise and real-life experiences of industry professionals as mentors for their class projects. Lux said she is “honored to be one of the people to go with the students to help them make the most of this opportunity.”

Alyssa Henry, who is graduating from the iSchool master’s program in 2012 and who is attending the conference for the second time, describes SXSW as “kind of like geek summer camp and a fast-track event. You’re learning a lot in person, but one of the great things about it is that you don’t need to be physically present to take part in it–you can follow on Twitter.”  Alyssa enjoys the atmosphere of having “all these industry people in the same place, and you can go up and talk to them.” Her focus is creating “natural human connections” to peers and perhaps someday, those who might become potential employers. Alyssa was recently quoted in USA Today in a story advising students how to make the most of attending SXSW.

Attendees will be sharing informational presentation experiences and event insights via social media and the iSchool’s blog, Information Space. Everyone is invited to follow their news posts on Twitter, via the hashtags, #SXSW and #NEXIS. In addition, iSchool SXSW group Twitter handles are: @rotolo@kellylux@alyssahenry, @dhrosen, @meglish, @ibudmen, @j_lynn_smith, and @krkuchta.