What do TechArt and cowboys have in common?

With all the latest tech and a VR cinema full of 4000 films, why was the most talked about experiences at SXSW 2018 essentially just a big theme park for adults?

Westowrld and techart at SXSW

This year, in a real-life ghost town on the outskirts of Austin, HBO recreated the sci-fi Western town of ‘Sweetwater’. The “Westworld Live without Limits experience” was built with the goal of driving mass awareness and establishing a rabid fanbase. And it worked!

Visitors were invited to interact with characters as though they were the AI hosts from the show. Similar to an immersive theatre experience, 60 actors ran through 440 pages of script in 90-minute cycles. Three “events” were interwoven to allow participants to discover Easter egg clues that suggested the set up for the next series. Inviting viewers into the story, and building ‘Westworld’ into a “transmedia” franchise.

People queued for hours for the chance to interact with their favourite characters and have a real-life experience away from their screens. It highlighted the draw for more experiential interactions with brands and the power of inviting viewers into a story.


“Tech needs more cognitive estrangement, more art, creative impulse and a non-commercial space for experimentation.”
– Bruce Sterling

During his infamous closing talk, Bruce Sterling reminded attendees at SXSW to embrace art and creativity in tech.

The technologists of today are so solution focused, they are missing the bigger picture. We need art and philosophy to function as a working society. Art is important for development and creativity, it communicates across barriers of language, class and culture. It’s the connection we need in a world which is played out on small screens, and is increasingly driven by the politics of “us” vs “them”.

More than ever we are searching for escape, play and real connection. Children learn through play, and so too do adults. We need to step back from trying to find a way to “fix” the future and engage with what we have now… and simply play about with it a bit.

What we can learn from the world of TechArt? The number one takeaway is that creativity is essential to innovation. We need to create for the joy of invention, not for the next “solution”.

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