SXSW 2022 in Austin: NFTs galore

Companies ranging from Doodles to luxury automobile manufacturer Porsche provided NFT-themed entertainment to the hundreds of participants who flocked to Texas over the weekend.

South by Southwest, one of Austin's largest festivals, kicked off its first weekend with displays from tech sector executives, films, and musical performances — and the theme for many seemed to be nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.

From Friday to Sunday, firms ranging from Doodles to luxury car manufacturer Porsche provided NFT-themed exhibits to the thousands of guests in Texas. During the event, many panels and workshops included discussions on how to build and store personalized NFTs, with companies such as Blockchain Creative Labs providing an interactive experience across the street from NFT galleries and other events.

Blockchain Creative Labs exhibit at SXSW. Photo: Rachel Wolfson

Many of the on-site events were attended by three Cointelegraph team members, including the creation of personalized CryptoPunks at Ripple's mansion on Rainey Street following a crypto-themed cocktail. Fluf World, one of the festival's largest exhibitions, provided immersible interactions with digital characters and drew a huge number of visitors with its rabbit avatars and seminars on Web3 and the metaverse.

Fluf World at SXSW 🔥🐰 pic.twitter.com/fqsgUeeVxy

— shinebright (@shine_bright434) March 14, 2022

Ben McKenzie, renowned for his performances on TV shows such as Gotham and The OC, and who has spoken out against public personalities embracing cryptocurrency, moderated a panel at SXSW with The New Republic senior writer Jacob Silverman and Vice Media's Edward Ongweso. While McKenzie stated that the festival's prominent use of crypto-related products appeared to be a marketing technique, Ongweso added that he noticed a consistent pattern among companies advertising NFTs:

“I just expected more interesting gimmicks, demonstrations, attempts to show the real use of value, something fascinating and interesting about it. Instead, a lot of it is really centered on a very narrow experience that will maybe woo you, but not much in thinking about how this can actually do anything other than make money for you, maybe if you’re lucky.”
Ben McKenzie, Jacob Silverman and Edward Ongweso speaking on crypto at SXSW

Austin Mayor Steve Adler spoke alongside Miami Mayor Francis Suarez about how the two towns are dealing with cultural shifts by attracting tech firms and a varied range of individuals. Though Adler launched initiatives on Friday to examine how Austin may embrace crypto-friendly legislation and promote the benefits of blockchain technology, crypto wasn't the main topic of discussion, with the exception of referencing the city's recent relationship with CityCoins.

Founded in 1987, Austin's SXSW festival drew over 400,000 visitors in 2019 before being forced to scale back owing to the COVID-19 outbreak. Austin, the capital of the largest state in the contiguous United States, has become a hub of major tech companies, earning it the moniker "Silicon Hills," and is home to Tesla's headquarters as well as Facebook and Google regional offices.

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