Love or hate the idea, SXSL could be a way for government to promote business growth. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen.
So, the president decided to do a take off on SXSW called SXSL. Normally, there would have been at least a little complaining on social media about this, but it seemed to drift by with very few negative comments. The Guardian was probably right in assuming that this won’t happen again, because it’s unlikely that another president will think to do it. Even Trump, who theoretically should be on board with anything that promotes growth of businesses even tangentially, probably wouldn’t decide to host an event like this.
While some who are fed up with governmental largesse might say SXSL is just another excuse to spend money, it is important to remember that it’s usually cheaper to bring events to the White House than it is to have the president go somewhere else. This event was unabashedly political, in the sense that gender, racial, and climate issues were front and center in the various events. There were also opportunities for people to find out about issues surrounding criminal justice reform, particularly a virtual reality version of solitary confinement, and an exhibit that allowed people to be the judge in court. Arguably, those exhibits probably should be required viewing for anyone who wants to pass or keep laws on mandatory minimums, and solitary confinement for anyone for extended periods of time.
As meaningful as those things may have been, SXSL should be viewed as a missed opportunity for the president to put innovators in the same space as potential investors. If the guest list was filled with people who have the capital to invest in start-ups, and the whole point of the exercise was to allow creators to present their products and ideas to those people, that would have been government working to build the economy. Instead of hand wringing about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, time would have been better spent with non-profits that are currently working to encourage and enable women and minorities to get into tech.
In other words, SXSL was a good idea generally, but fell far short of its potential. Perhaps the same could be said for SXSW itself, if only because the event doesn’t do as much as it could when it comes to matching innovators with investors. It’s great to put these accomplishments on display, but it would be better to get them closer to the marketplace at the same time.
As for the politically and emotionally charged content on criminal justice reform, organizations that are currently working hard to fix our justice system probably should be getting in touch with the creators of those exhibits. Perhaps they would have an easier time convincing politicians that it’s time to derail the prison gravy train if those lawmakers found out – even in the virtual world – what reality they are creating with their laws.