SXSW: Digital Convergence

McCall: introductions

Cisneros: computer artist, comm. activist.San Antonio

McNulty: ind. prod., post-prod supervisor, visual effects supervisor. Austin.

Cavalli: deputy dir of IC2. Austin.

McCall: Salsa Net president, CEO.

Butler: city of Austin.


McCall: What is digital convergence (DC)?

Cavalli: Almost impossible to precisely define, but we have some good notions.
The product spaces of multiple different economic sectors are imploding.
Around: home entertainment, automobiles, etc.
Convergence of computing, wireless, games, security, modeling, and 10-15 other things.
Classic example: how did the personal computer become a media center in homes?
Digital-to-analog conversion, improvements in processor speed, more sophisticated software, operating systems, better sound cards, improved video technology.
The tipping point: introduction of broadband delivery to home.
Once they all came together, PC became this highly convergent device: a media center.
That collision, implosion is what we call DC.

McNulty - my take as a producer: cheaper, faster, better
The production process is greatly simplified, less special equipment.
Digital dailies done on a laptop, sound design with Pro Tools.
A glorious time to be making films.
The guy who makes the film can become the distributor.

Cisneros - DC is sociological as well as technical.
Moving from person-to-person to machine-to-machine communication.
Family analogy: we have to deal with companies communicating: inter-tribal.
Look at new devices as they come out, try to decide if it's important or a totem.
Story of how tribesmen would have Walkman but no batteries, but would wear them on their waist.

Butler: city program: Creative Industries Loan program.
Originally setup to help musicians, expanded to include technology and film.
Part of the reason is because council, staff believed convergence is work supporting financially.
City has a traditional arts grant fund.
Has funded music and film, more and more goes to digital programs.
City has helped indirectly with convergence, helping setup wireless hotspots.
An example of government working with other groups.
If we are smart, institutional can work well with grass roots.


McCall: Why are we here, why is central Texas important to DC initiative?

Cavalli: Several reasons why we are here and need to pay attention.
Story in the paper today about college educated people not being to get jobs.
How are we going to stay, or have we already lost, our competitive edge?
Important because the DC industries are represented in this region.
Not many other regions in the US that have the assets we have in central Tx.
Incumbent on us to create a DC powerhouse in central Tx.

McNulty: Why are we here in central Tx?
Quality of living. It's a great place to live.
Terrific weather, good labor pool. It's in the middle of the country.
Texas is the new Chicago.
EA made more money selling games, then Hollywood made on all movies.

Cisneros: Asked breakdown of "makers" versus service people.
We have the "mother of all pipes" in Texas.
Some of the best pipelines anywhere.
SBC chose San Antonio to bring in their big structure.
Time Warner satellite farm outside San Marcos.
Grande Comm, GTE, Univision.
Big bandwidth being used in a very small amount.
That makes it a great place for people to "make" things.
A surplus of dependable bandwidth.
Almost every T3 in Texas runs under an old Indian trail.

Butler: In Austin, you have the ingredients for the digital stew.
A lot of interesting, creative people -- in arts world, technology world.
Part of what gov't tries to do is help without mucking up the stew.
30 years ago, Austin was a university and govt town.
MCC and Sematech changed that.
IC2 is looking at how that approach can apply to DC and broadband.


Cavalli: Why are we here?
There are two notions on how to let a globally competitive DC blossom in Tx.
One is let it grow organically.
The other is to bring to gather academia, govt, private sector into a coalition.
We are at a critical juncture in the economic development of central Tx.
If we do not take vigorous efforts to create a DC sector, then we are going to be taken out by people in other parts of the world.
This requires regional cooperation and regional coordination.
Have had terrific coordination up and down the corridor from San Antonio to Waco.


McCall: How is central Texas important to digital convergence?
Also, following up on what George mentioned about Indian trails, what are thoughts on wireless?

Cisneros: it's smoke signals, the same stuff.
We call this SXSW but it should be NXNE.
Some people have trouble admitting Texas is "temporarily occupied".
Response to wireless: they can't stop electromagnetic waves.
Answer to wireless: there is not enough of it.

McCall: makes reference to state bill.

Butler: City of Austin was considering increased public access to Internet, computers in libraries.
Some of the providers went to the legislature in 1995 to make it hard.
A similar effort is going on now related to wireless.


McCall: What do we see following on the hills of digital convergence?
How do we see nanotech and biotech and other ideas converging in.

McNulty: Speaking as layperson.
Knows everything is just going to fit in the palm of your hand.

Cisneros: On convergence and miniaturization issue.
Most of us are baby boomers and still have our eyesight.
There are some ergonomics issues looming.
Sees some of this working with senior citizens.
We are going to have to re-think these issues.
"These are made for Japanese fingers, and my fingers are from Texas."
We are human beings with real issues: finger size, eyesight, audio.
The more you get out there and work in society, you realize we get used to this fast but there are parts of this society that are not part of this convergence.
Favorite are tools that are multi-generational devices: works for kids, parents, grandparents.
That's a convergence.
Ergonomics are a big part.
Convergence means generational.

Cavalli: DC is interesting space, not just technological.
George has offered an opportunity for innovation: how do we deal with the ergonomics issue.
blah blah blah blah

Butler: Issues on community issues.
We try to think of social and community issues.
Since 2000, issue has allocated about $100K/yr for Grant for Tech Opportunities (GTOPS) grants.
Best tech accessibility group in world, Sharon Rush from Knowbility, here.
George: the Mother Theresa of high tech.


Audience questions

Q: as somebody who has lived through first tech boom.
Investments needed to be made and some big players needed to step up.
DC is a more diffuse process.
So, what is missing from our view of convergence to make sure we really make central Tx the place for CT.

Cavelli: The previous boom did not happen overnight.
The leaders took several years educating people, and eventually enough people got behind it.
There is no guarantee this kind of thing can happen, but we have a history of knowing how to do it.

Cisneros: one problem with the first explosion is it was a greedy environment.
A lot of people wanted to make a lot of money real quick.
There was a lack of cooperation.
Austin had a law past at the state level to prevent San Antonio from having a direct flight to San Jose.


Q: Wanted to talk about technology, not economic development.
Recommended open source and open standards.
Plugged open source infrastructure panel.


Q: Wants to go back and talk about political stuff.
There is a mother ship of a re-regulator bill going through the house.
What do you think of political regulatory environment?

Cavalli: back to previous comment.
Regions are defined by competencies and not geographical space.
A region could be virtual.
On last question, as a UT employee cannot talk about work at legislature.

Butler: in spite of any regulatory efforts, there are some positive efforts.

Cisneros: people must be mindful of PUC meetings.
Check into TISPA (

Butler: mentioned


Q: (Jon L.) Who has the roadmap? Who is driving this? Is there a coordinated effort?

Cavalli: We are not supposed to promote own businesses, so will be careful.
IC2 is trying to spearhead effort.
Working on a whitepaper.
We aren't there yet.

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