SXSW 2016
The week of March 6, 2016

To (almost) 30 years of SXSW

By Jesse Hicks

It’s been almost three decades since South by Southwest began taking over Austin, Texas, with its now-gargantuan collection of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences. And every year, its ever-growing audience returns, eager for its promised peek at the future. This week, the Kernel’s first of two SXSW-themed issues focuses on the interactive world.

To lead off, Samuel Lingle reports on esports’ long and rocky history with television. Today, with major media clamoring to get a piece of the esports pie, it might be hard to remember there was a time when it was dismissed as a niche or a fad, the kind of thing that could never attract the audience necessary for television. In fact, that time wasn’t that long ago. But things have changed: After many fits and starts, and some high-profile, expensive failures, esports may finally be ready for its mainstream television debut.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton began out of the mainstream, too, as an off-Broadway production that might’ve seemed destined to have only niche appeal: It’s a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers, after all. Instead, Hamilton has redefined musical theater and become a Broadway smash. Aja Romano details how the show’s fans have responded with an outpouring of creativity online—and how Miranda has cannily stoked that creativity. That means providing easily shared content for free (since many people will never actually get to see the show); it also means embracing Hamilton’s status as a fanfiction, a work that can be remixed and repurposed by obsessive fans. Miranda knows his way around Internet culture, Romano explains, and he’s offering a blueprint for helping that culture complement his work rather than compete with it.

Finally, Nico Lang asks about the future of retirement in a world of no-benefits apps like Uber and TaskRabbit. As millennials, one of the most indebted generations in history, graduate into stagnant job markets, many have found themselves cobbling together a living through multiple jobs that don’t add up to a traditional career. What’s that mean when they want to leave the workforce—if they even can? Is retirement going to be a thing of the past in the newly emerging gig economy?

Enjoy the issue.