What a cracking word. It means, ‘to expose the falseness or hollowness of an idea or belief’.
It puts the fear of god in politicians and scientists everywhere. And journalists wield it like a surgeons knife, cutting into the flabby tummy of hyperbole.
It is default behaviour at most signature conferences like #SXSW to foam at the mouth over shiny new things. To lose yourself in a seductive four day bubble of future-scapes. Roaming like a flaneur soaking up the hype, bumping into weirdness and catching glimpses of what’s next.
After last years infamous closing remarks by Bruce Sterling I was so inebriated by the local kool aid I was ready to take to the streets and rally the masses to a utopian revolution whilst chanting “slaughter the 20th century!”
But this year it’s different.
This year it’s time for The Debunk.
This year I will be wearing a bullshit gas mask. I will be carrying a rhetoric detector. And some emergency stain remover to pour over gaseous predictions to see what lies beneath.
I’ll take a ‘big cold bucket of reality to wash away all the hype’ please sir.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of futuristic hyperbole. I love a bit of the everything has changed yogic mind states. And I am very guilty of dramatizing New Finds that promise All The Answers.
But it’s time for a different approach.
So why does SXSW need a bit of debunking?
Well, times have changed. The internet is 25 years old. Facebook is ten years old.
We are beyond New Times. We have all moved on.
Tolerance levels for shiny thing syndrome is waning.
There is a growing recognition that old trends are ultimately more important than emerging ones. It’s mainstream adoption that matters most.
Are we really living in a post digital world? Is self tracking and wearable tech really the answer to our problems? Is marketing dying on its arse – really? Has content marketing just eaten itself? Does the collaborative economy stand up in the real world? Are near futures like the movie ‘Her’ just ads for silicon valley lifestyles no one else can hope to experience?
It’s real evidence and new behaviours we seek.
It’s apt that Edward Snowden will be talking via video link this year. The most famous example of exposing the apparatus of deception.
I hope we can move away from the rampant product journalism that pretends to be tech journalism seen at recent events like CES.
Perhaps a bit of Snowden-esque bravery and investigation in to what really matters might help. Blow some skids off the puffery.
So this year I will be searching for those figuring out the old not the new. Those jumping off the bandwagon not on it. Those abandoning their buzzwords not creating new ones. Those seeking the same inspiration, but without the pretension.
Austin prepared to be debunked.
David McNamara, director of digital strategy at iris