The thing that has surprised me most about Austin — the little sliver of downtown Austin I’ve experienced since we arrived last night — is how new everything, the built environment, is; probably half. And they are not afraid to build high; the mostly low-slung skyline is interrupted by numerous, shiny and really quite pretty residential glass skyscrapers, plus the remarkably beautiful Frost Bank Tower.
It is not especially pedestrian-friendly, my boyfriend notes; sidewalks are frequently missing and the streets are typically several lanes wide. My perception of the city is inevitably going to be skewed by SXSW — there are throngs of Interactive geeks crowding the sidewalks, so the city seems quite lively with heavy foot traffic.
This morning I saw what appeared to be a demonstration by teachers’ unions. I ate at this terrific Korean fusion truck called ChiLantro — I had a very tasty tofu burger with kimchee — and there were several other trucks on that same block(Congress & 2nd) that looked equally delicious. I am hoping some restauranteurs steps up to the plate and brings some food trucks to Ann Arbor and Detroit.
I am typing this from a panel discussion called “Web Mashup Platforms for Future Programmable Cities.” It is very abstract and unclear to me what this means, so I am going to try to listen up and pay attention. Basically it sounds like it’s about collecting data from tech apps contributed by users for the purposes of helping cities allocate resources. It strikes me as a possible complement to the types of data gathered by agencies like the Census Bureau or the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The panel is very European-dominated, with the exception of Rachel Sterne, the new Digital Officer for the city of New York who seems remarkably young for such a position. She asks, how can we look at cities as platforms the way Facebook is a platform?
The conversation is interesting enough that I’ll look these folks up later, but right now I’m going to head over to join my man at another panel. Stay tuned for more updates from what is probably, at least for the next few days, the geekiest place on Earth.