Data and analytics were significant areas of interest at SXSW 2012. There were sessions and panels on everything from whether media measurement is science, art, or crap to data visualization and tools to tell the story.
While the festival coordinators get huge marks for dedicating so much “real estate” to the topic, I don’t think they fully grasped the level of demand for information and expert insight in this area. I attended multiple sessions with long lines, people crammed into corners, people sitting on stage at panelists’ feet, and people outside unable to get in and looking incredibly disgruntled. Mind you, SXSW 2012 had no shortage of other sessions people could have attended. By these “soft” measures, there seemed to be big demand for getting a handle on all things Big Data – macroscopes, epistemology, the fourth paradigm, predictive analytics, data visualization, data-driven storytelling.
Putting some stats against these observations, the volume of discussion over the past three days related to “data” topics is three times what it was for all of the SXSW 2011 Interactive Festival. There were more than 2,700 references to SXSW and “data” topics in news, blogs and on Twitter between March 9 and March 12, up from fewer than 900 last year. See image below: