Day 3 – Foggy, Rainy, but Uplifting… just like storytelling segments.



Tuesday, March 12, 2019 – 12:30 PM

Storytelling and Empathy in a Purpose-Driven Economy

Cheryl Houser
Founder & CEO
Creative Breed and creator of Generation Startup. (Movie)

[Ed. Note – I think it was Houser’s desire to make everyone in the audience have the “feels” and experience what it means to be a good storyteller. By the end of the session, I saw more than a few dabs of the handkerchief to the eyes by a number of audience members. – GL]

When it comes to marketing products, good marketers are no longer pushing products but rather creating a deep emotional need for the product. If you take care of the customers needs first, the brand of the company will be taken care of.


1. Feature people who are relatable and express the full range of emotions

Cast people who are universally relatable. They are most relatable when they are vulnerable. Fear. Self doubt. Love. Difference.

Powerful stories communicate through showing not telling.

Be comfortable with greater uncertainty.

You can’t tell real people what to say. They won’t be natural.

Show the emotional reactions.

See things from your characters’ point of view.

Capture the uncomfortable moments.

People will relate to the emotion your story conveys.


The YETI brand has a great storytelling brand. In 2015 they started making mini documentaries. Filming people who reflect the brand. Passionate outdoors people.

They attract a wide variety of people regardless of their political or personal beliefs.

Aerie women’s undergarments. The brand celebrates its customers and that defines beauty. It’s turned into a social and cultural movement. It’s purpose driven in marketing and storytelling.


2.  Show struggle

The bigger the goal and the harder the struggle, the more people will root for them and be emotionally transported by them.

Use empathy to create a deep bond with the characters.

If you shoe the emotional journey, people will not see it as selling a product. Even if that’s your overall goal.

If you want to insert products into your spot. Think story first and then show product in service to your story. People remember information far better when it’s delivered in service of your story.

It will give your credibility and authenticity.


3. Provide uplift and call to action

Provide a call to action to convert their emotions into action. Inspire them to do something related to the values you are conveying.

End on uplift, but uplift that is genuine.

It’s a brave new world of advertising where taking a stand and showing your values are important and will be judged by your customers.





Monday March 11, 2019 – 5:00 PM
Sony and the art of cooking, and the wealthy city problem…

I spent most of the day exploring the exhibition hall today and will post more on that (hopefully) a bit later. I did want to point out something that I saw at the Sony WOW studio that both made me think “wow” and “uh oh…”.

The following video is what was on display in the Sony exhibition and it is meant to show how automation can help with cooking around the house. Granted… a very wealthy house. It shows how to train the machines to chop. It shows machines cooking soup, basting chicken, cleaning potatoes… directly on the counter. It’s all very cool in a modern home environment. But, it got my brain thinking about how every time we talk about AI, the first words out of the speakers’ mouths are “AI is not set to replace you, it is set to enhance your abilities and experiences.” However, my dark side took over and all I could think about was that this is how restaurants in NYC and SF are going to find ways around a labor problem. Watch the video, and see if that dark seed I just planted doesn’t grow.


Sunday, March 10, 2019  12:00 PM

Generation Z Is Poised to Revolutionize Politics

Stef Kight -Axios Reporter

Nadya Okamoto – CEO/ Founder of PERIOD

Tawny Saez – The Harris Poll – Corporate Anthropologist 

Ethan Sonneborn – Vermont Gubernatorial candidate (he was 13 at the time… he’s now 14)

I think Gen Z’s are going to make Millennials look like Gen X’ers. I’m looking forward to this panel. 

Sonneborn said that he was working on a school project and noticed that there was no age limit to run for Governor in Vermont. He entered the race without telling his parents.  He worked to motivate other younger citizens to find an interest in politics. He felt that the Vermont voters respected his ideas and gave him a platform to discuss the ideas. He mentioned that being in middle school is very similar to working in the state legislature. There was a way that campaigning and debating showed him that if we can’t find a way to talk with each other and find common ground, then nothing will get done. 

Okamoto ran for Cambridge City Council as a Freshman at Harvard. She felt that there was an issue with gentrification in Cambridge and wanted to make a difference. She began petitioning the City Council and was met with jokes about running for Council and at 19 years old, she ran against nearly 40 other candidates. Knocked on 22000 doors during the campaign. She didn’t win, but she felt like she made a difference. There is a bit of animosity between the town and the college students, so she did meet a lot of resistance. Many didn’t take her seriously. She also received death threats because of her Asian race. She was not expecting that. 

Kight is a political reporter and reported on issues of how politicians use social media (snap chat at the time) during the 2016 election. There’s a new way of doing politics and communicating that she believes some are not taking seriously. 

Gen Z is a generation that was born into the gun violence problem, school shootings and view itself as the last generation which can do something to correct the climate change issue. Teens have a high level of anxiety. Teens are having less sex, doing less drugs, and alcohol because they are worried about real things. Add to this the pressure of schools, finance, environmental issues, and mass shootings, they are carrying these burdens. 

They don’t remember 9/11, but they know Parkland. They understand domestic terrorism more than international terrorism. 

Gen Z also seems to be more willing to be open about problems in society. If there’s a problem, they are not afraid to call it out. Okamoto says that others may be shocked at the openness and that Gen Z believes you can’t change things if

You remain silent about it. 

Gen Z is more emphatic than previous generations. This isn’t a surprise, Gen X, and Millennials moved further toward empathic ideals. 

The turning point of this generation is the Parkland shooting. The fact that teens where able to articulate their feeling and frustrations on a national and international levels, motivated the generation to take on issues publicly. 

Over half of Gen Z’s are non-whites. So racial equity is high on their list of important issues. 

This is probably one of the most domestically focused generation. 

Gen Z also has a positive view of Socialism is also a hot button issue. The panel mentioned that the concept of Socialism is not the traditional meaning which older generations grew up with. Healthcare is viewed through a socialist lens, where business takeovers is not viewed through that lens. 

GEN Z is also known as The Plurals because they think in concepts of “we” more than “I” and are more fluid in their gender and sexuality. 

I asked the panel about what the differences are in this generation between urban and rural youth. Kight replied that media has a problem reporting the rural voters issues and that the studies show that even the rural Gen Z’s are still more likely to want government to step in and help on social issues. She also mentioned that it is estimated that by 2040, over 80% of the US population will like in urban areas. 


Sunday March 10, 2019  11:00 AM

Building Creative Teams Inside Legacy

Sandy Fershee leads Ford’s Global User Experience Team.

Imagine trying to encourage creativity in an organization that is 100+ years old. The key is to tell everyone to act like a designer. Building and nurturing creativity can be done in organizations of all sides. 

In leading teams, it is important to:

Know yourself

Know you values

Know your culture

Determine where you want to be within that world

Be curious 

Be Optimist

Be collaborative 

Be open minded 

Team members watch you and notice how well you stick to the values you demand of them. 

Forshee discusses growing up in the business world without a mentor and how a self-guided path can still work. She watched as her well-connected peers where advancing. She thought that they were born with this power, but eventually saw that she could still advance and try out new experiences and progress through success. It can be lonely, but it can also allow you to find your own path. There’s a quiet power to it and it builds resiliency. Find your own inner mentor and also seek out others (in person or through examples). Everyone can move the needle and make a difference through designing everyday. 

Design Mind 

Leadership Mind

Enterprise Mind

Human Mind

Forshee is now at Ford and is working on the transformation of mobility in the digital age. She had worked at more tech forward industries, and was now entering a new world that was heavily regulated. And a huge company. 

When do you know it is time to push for change? The rest of the world is… so you can’t stand still. 

She discusses building enterprising teams to help push the boundaries of design. She hired a number of freelancers and how these independent workers can be given the freedom to create and still work well with a team. 

At Ford, she has built a team of 75 designers. The structure evolved as the team and the projects grew. Needs of a team of 5 is much different from a team of 50. In order to move things forward there comes a time when you have to move when things are “good enough” in order to test and adapt and evolve to the next level. There’s not a lot of times where you do something once and move on… there are many levels. It’s never done. 

Invoke the team. Make sure they are heard, and that they share in the experiences. Human Centered design is a way to do that. It helps the team know what to focus on. It’s okay to have a strong willed passion, but it’s not okay to be a jerk. People need to feel that they are a part of the process, so give people a reason to follow. 

Do the work… show the process… show what is possible. The team’s passion is infectious. The story the team tells will excite others as well. 

Of course, there are always constraints. But, constraints are not your enemy, but can’t also be so rigid that it prevents creativity. Be flexible, scalable, modular, and work for change in stages. It can help ease those constraints in good ways and help build the creativity of those teams. She mentioned how that worked with changing the space her tram worked in. Changing it to produce a space which changed the feel of the environment and encourage others to come into that space and work collaboratively. (Reminds me of Jeff Pfifer’s concept of workspace at Lexis)

That collaboration helps encourage people from outside the team to want to contribute to the process, even on a short term basis. Working with engineers can be frustrating, but creating good environments where the process is designed around making something, it can make the engineers more comfortable to contribute, show up, and be very creative. So, known what motivates people who are outside influencers with experiences and expertise to contribute in a way to help move your company forward. 

Older leadership processes need to go away and human centered design concepts need to take its place. Create value for people. 

Day 2Starting with Migas!

It’s not a trip to Austin for me unless I start the day off with either $1.19 breakfast tacos, or a Migas plate from La Cuzuelas restaurant in East Austin. You won’t find great Mexican breakfast any better or cheaper than this place. It’s my favorite way to charge up for another day of walking from venue to venue.

I sat in on a Sony panel on the ‘future of musical creativity?

The talk started out as all AI panels at SXSW started. “AI isn’t going to replace you!”

Sony has been playing with machine learning and a vast catalog of musical scores to learn what the tech can learn from it. They again stressed that their idea was to enhance and augment creativity, and not create original musical scores. 

They created a “flu machine Pro” to help composers. The machine helped introduce something “strange” to the music. A collaboration between AI and composer. The idea was to enhance the creator’s ideas. 

Creativity is about discovering something new. If AI can do that, then it will enhance creativity, not actually replace creativity. 

A real-time example was set up by combining a chord a melody and a bass line. The audience got to chose as the computer suggested different compositions. There was a variety of melody, chords, and bass. 

The composer from Sony created a backing track to enhance the composition the computer created. 

Honestly… it wasn’t bad. But it felt mechanical. However, it felt like there was a change happening in real time. 

The computer AI knows a lot of music theory and styles. It can learn more as it interacts with human composers. This isn’t a new concept. Musicians and technology have been interacting for decades. This is another advancement … but perhaps a big step in the computer helping create, rather than just enhance and copy. 

The AI helps inspire composers to build in ways that they may not have thought of themselves. The music and technology have a wonderful synergy. 

Sony points to the magic that Jimmi Hendrix did with the electric guitar. This is another advancement that human and technology will create the next step of music. There’s a lot of potential with this combination.

Saturday March 9, 2019  6:30 PM

The Sony display always has some fun things. The aibo robot dog is just cute.


Saturday March 9, 2019 – 5:30 PM

One of the joys of SXSW is running into peers who also enjoy the quirkiness of the event. Patrick DiDominico and I had a great discussion on AI and legal and we both thought that we need to be careful of trying to create solutions without first identifying real problems. We’ll be here all week… don’t forget to tip your wait staff


AI for Storytellers: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly – Saturday March 9, 2019  2:00 PM

Yves Bergquist and Jess Fuselier

The quote if the session came from Yves: We are trying to solve 21st Century problems with 22nd Century technology … using 19th Century business structures.

The conversation starts with the fear of AI and how it is too smart, and will replace or jobs. It is also about how it will enhance society and may create the next Jimmi Hendrix.

Entertainment used to be a part of our lives and now we are seeing that our lives are being feed into our entertainment, And we live these stories. Better stories, not necessarily true stories… spread faster. One reason anti-vaxxer stories spread despite the evidence to the contrary.

So how can AI play into this effect?

First of all, most of the hype around AI is wrong.

Shane Leggs – Design of optimal behavior if agents in unknown computable environments. (2008)

Very little of what we see today is really AI.

So how do artists use AI and retain their own creativity? There’s a potential symbiotic relationship between artist and AI.

Here are the domains of AI

The media industry’s “Hierarchy of Needs” in AI/MI

Yves mentioned that the media industry has zero interest in stories, music, or art that is 100% created by AI. The tech just isn’t ready and there’s little to no demand for it. So don’t worry about AI generation or analysis.

Jess stepped in and did say that there are portions of media where AI has a bigger role. Like gaming.

some examples of AI movement in the storytelling -screenplay analytics

Film2Vec (Yves says this is the most technologically advanced product… but it is a solution chasing a non-existent problem.

Yves say the problem is that many of these technologies are coming in from outside the industry and they don’t see the real issues.

Adobe and Stanford University are collaborating on an editing tool that has potential. – a Knowledge engine for media and entertainment. Analyzes artistic traits to drive audience favorability. Perhaps a Corto for politics is coming. (Reddit is a great resource for gathering data)

Where is AI most beneficial?

Just like the  legal industry, the biggest issue is taking unstructured data and making it structured. Netflix may be doing it, but studios will not.


What AI can have a big impact on creative?

  • Better Risk Assessment (what will audiences see?)
  • Evaluate how character changes change audiences engagement
  • It also shows the disconnect between the strength of relationships in the script vs. the strength of relationships that the audience is discussing (they use a sample from the show Psych for this (one of my favorite shows)

What are the threats?

There should still be entertainment production which do not attempt to us AI to structure the content. It is needed as a control group to show if the AI really has an affect on the stories.

Data is stupid. There are data sets which introduce bias.

Stories are hard. Humans are better at creating it.

Statisticians are stupid. Averaging things out don’t predict future success. Novelty is important and you can’t get that through statistics alone.

Art is Human. AI should never compromise the artistic integrity.

Content is King. Context is Queen.


Insuring Inclusion and Diversity in a New Media Economy – Saturday March 9. 2019  12:30 PM

Speakers Erika Alexander, Jeff Yang, Gabriella Lugo, and David Morgan dive into how the industry is adapting to the media diversity “problem.” The first question was “is there a problem?”

Alexander says that while it seems to be better, but because there is more power to the people, but the skill sets are lacking in the non-establishment. When the non-establishment media fight back, they are deemed as “difficult.” So,, as long as there is an economic disparity, then there is a problem.

Lugo, a producer, says that there is a fallback approach that diverse actors don’t play internationally and that foreign markets aren’t as advanced as American audiences  Lugo says this is completely untrue. The data from “today’s” data shows that diversity sells very well. The problem is people are using 20 year old data to play into the false narrative.

Yang discusses the problem of what we define in the news media as “main stream” (in the normal sense of the phrase, not the political meaning.)

A-List Asian Actress is a phrase that didn’t exist five years ago. “Racism is a broken business model” in today’s media.

Is the Internet and Nee Media going to solve the problem? Or are we being Pollyannaish? Alexander talked about the marginalized communities who are using the new media, but still having a problem infiltrating the establishment. The establishment is still the same number of white men who are gatekeepers when it comes to change and it is up to the media and public to pressure the “dinosaurs” to change or make them extinct.

Lugo says as a Latina she likes to say that things are changing, but that that is an overstatement. Diversity makes films better. She mentioned a rape scene in a movie, and that it was originally very graphic and gratuitous, and it wasn’t until a woman was brought in, was there a different perspective on how to shoot that scene. Something that didn’t occur to the four men who shot and directed the scene.

Yang mentioned that new media has an issue of being a “flash” but not having long term changing effects. Sometimes traditional media can still have the power of culture making. There is a big difference bee diversity and inclusion; between inclusion and power; and power and change.

The question came up about how characters in children’s media should represent different cultures and identities. yang mentioned that children connect to characters and can find themselves in any characters. He mentioned that a weird dynamic is that universal = white, but that it doesn’t work the other way. White audiences don’t immediately see themselves in non-white characters. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed and solved.

Lugo mentioned that she came to the IS as an undocumented child and her examples of what she would do when she grew up was to clean other people’s toilets. Now, as a director, she is in a position to help others see that the aren’t as many limits as she thought. She needs to show others and be in the room and bring others into the room (very similar to my earlier panel on LGBTQ issues.) Reaching out and find allies who can help you get into that room. That even means white males who are eager to help.

Journalism is a tough industry to break into and make money. Yang talks about the different avenues which people are coming into the journalism profession. It is challenging for younger journalists is that paid work is going to part time pay, contract, or unpaid. That is having a long term effect.

Back to the main issue, the panel was asked to define success. Lugo mentions that she looks forward to seeing a Latino story that isn’t about crossing the US border. That Mexican experiences are different from Colombian experiences and that it is okay to show those differences.

Yang want media to realize that it is not a zero-sum game and that diversity makes more pie, not less.

Alexander stated that the money needs to be allocated away from traditional media and that will help solve the problem of not funding projects. Lugo backed this up and said the studios are not catching up… the VC’s may need to step in and change the dynamic.

Lugo mentioned that it’s not just important to diversify, we also need to desegregate.

Yang brought it back to the data and the need to look at immediate data, not historical data. That makes new trends seem like a blip rather than a new point on the change curve.



Saturday March 9,2019  11:00 AM – Standing with the Queer Community in a Deep Red State

Texas is known for great BBQ Brisket, hot and humid summers that last nine months of the year, and a pride in its statehood. It is also known for its intolerance toward the LBGTQ community in its governmental actions. In this session, three panelists, Rachel Gonzales, And Lou Weaver from Equality Texas, and Jade Lenore Leduff of EmpowerHER and Black Trans Advocacy, discuss the new methods that are being used to limit LGBTQ citizens. Bathroom bills may be passe… but there are issues regarding sincere religious beliefs are taking its place. Politicians are carving out exemptions for doctors, nurses, and others are allowed to discriminate if their religion (or personal beliefs) say they should discriminate.

Rachel mentioned that as a mother of a transgender child, if she took her to the hospital to get stitches, imagine the frustration of hearing a medical professional turning away her daughter because of a religious exemption.

Jade mentioned that as a trans woman, she was paying for health insurance that didn’t cover her. She worked with her employer to change that policy.

While a lot of workplaces are working to protect their LGBTQ employees, these same employees may be more protected during 9-5, than they are when they leave their workplace at 5:01.

Weaver says that it is important to act locally and work with politicians and build relationships to help advance LGBTQ rights.

Jade works to share her story, relevant information, and experiences so that others get exposure to the trans community. This includes working with the “black church” members who find it difficult to understand gender identity issues.

She also mentioned that for those of us who have privilege and “access to the table,” should help bring someone else to that table. Allowing someone that type of access allows a ripple effect to happen and helps bring people together and find each other. People fear what they don’t know, and attempt to dehumanize the situation. Jade mentioned it is very important to give people back the human experience.