Refinery29 Is Headed To SXSW

In just a few weeks, Austin, TX, will become the country's creative hub. The latest and greatest from the art, film, tech, and media worlds are coming together for the annual South by Southwest Conference, and Refinery29 will be a key part of the action.
Has body positivity really progressed to include women of all shapes and sizes? How do you actually keep the creative juices flowing? Should every celebrity be an activist? These are all questions that Refinery29 will be discussing across a series of 10 panels over the course of the conference.
Plus, our Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich will be sitting down with pop super star Kesha to talk about how we can effectively fight the online beast that is cyber-bullying.
Below, your guide to all the panels that will be taking place.
Empathy Lab
March 12, 12:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, Room 5ABC
Refinery29 and the Columbia University digital storytelling lab invite you to join us for collaborative design fiction session, where we will prototype solutions for the activation of empathy as an agent of social change in the production of new media types, such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence.
The session will introduce Empathy Lab, a partnership between global media brand Refinery29 and the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab. The project seeks to prototype a Generative Content Model, where diverse collaborators pioneer new media types that serve a global audience and spark social innovation.
Jon Bulette, Refinery29
Sarah Henry, Accela Inc.
Magalis Martinez Videaux, solveLA
Lance Weiler, Columbia University
My Body Is NSFW
March 12, 12:30 p.m.
JW Marriott, Room 203-204
Kelsey Miller launched The Anti-Diet Project on Refinery29 in 2013. Today, the radical concept of body positivity has gone mainstream: the anti-retouching movement began; Gabifresh launched the #fatkini revolution; and Nicolette Mason is one of media's most recognized fashion influencers. But have we really made progress — or just headlines? Large bodies are still flagged as inappropriate on social media. These women still face threatening comments, censorship, harassment, and outright abuse online. Readers voice vitriolic "concern" about what they are "promoting." On the internet, plus-size bodies are still not safe for work. And the internet is where we live our lives.
Kelsey Miller, Refinery29
Gabi Gregg, Blogger, GabiFresh
Nicolette Mason, Writer
How To Do “Taboo” In a Digital World
March 13, 9:30 a.m.
Hyatt Regency Austin Zilker Ballroom 3-4
The meaning of “taboo” has changed. In today's media landscape, race, politics, nudity, and sex work are discussed more openly than ever before. At the same time, platforms and publishers have to cover these issues in a thoughtful, non-triggering way — all while navigating comment moderation. With massive adoption of Snapchat and Facebook Live giving individuals and brands power to broadcast widely and instantly, audiences are exposed to images and headlines in real time, leaving publishers and platforms in a position of deciding where to draw the line. How do we define the new taboo? Who wins the #freethenipple battle? And as a business, can we talk taboo without scaring off brand partners?
Neha Gandhi, Refinery29
Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue
Leila Brillson, Playboy
Courageous Creativity: Dreaming and Doing
March 12, 11:00 a.m.
Hyatt Regency Austin Zilker Ballroom 1
Some people are just born with it in their blood — creativity. But how do you sustain a childlike wonder and exuberant creativity as you grow a multi-million dollar, global business? Executive creative director and co-founder of Refinery29, Piera Gelardi, has turned her fantasy dreamworld into a reality with the media powerhouse, while holding onto the passion, purpose and optimism that inspired the launch 11 years ago. Based on her op-ed “10 Secrets For A More Creative Life,” Piera will share her experience and approach - and how to translate that into a thriving, soulful company.
Piera Gelardi, Refinery29
Voice: The Invisible UI Nobody Speaks About
March 13, 12:30 p.m.
JW Marriott Salon FG
As brands progress off dot com and onto other user interface platforms such as social networks, physical objects, and AI conversations, there is one common design technique currently being used that is not often spoke about: Voice. Only a few brands actively use "Voice" as a way to interface with their users in a unique and effective way. There are even fewer who really acknowledge and purposefully design for the "Voice" of their brand. In this Panel, designers with experience working for popular brands discuss what "Voice" means to them as a user interface and how you can do purposeful and meaningful design for Voice in order to shape your user’s experience across platforms.
James Cabrera, Refinery29
Alex Schleifer, AirBNB
Matt Hartman, Betaworks
Jennifer Puno,
Is It 1995 Again?
March 12, 3:30 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Austin Zilker Ballroom 3-4
A few years ago, no one thought that we'd be back to discussing how important email, SEO, and homepage strategy are for the growth of media brands. Some of the most thriving companies in the industry are actively putting their focus and resources behind these channels again. How should we be using them now? Why should publishers invest in platforms they stopped optimizing for years ago? Refinery29, Thrillist, The Daily Beast, and The Washington Post have continued to invest in these distribution channels year over year. Here are the tips and tricks for the future of SEO and email — because just like fashion, everything comes back in style.
Rebecca Smith, Refinery29
Hayley Squire, Thrillist
Everdeen Mason, The Washington Post
Colin Jones, Daily Beast
How New Media Is Redefining The Meaning of Luxury
March 13, 11:00 a.m.
JW Marriott Salon 3-4
How will millennials embrace the business of luxury — and what that term means in their lives — in an ever unpredictable social and economic climate? Is modern luxury still contingent on lofty price tags and "status" labels, and if so, why are some of today's most covetable brands more affordable and personal than ever? Christene Barberich, co-founder and Global Editor in Chief of Refinery29, will lead a discussion on the evolving link between brands and the millennial consumer, speaking with Jonathan Cheung, Head of Design at Levi's, and Maxine Bedat, founder of Zady, who will each provide a unique perspective on how two pivotal, future-facing brands are redefining luxury.
Christene Barberich, Refinery29
Maxine Bedat, Zady
Jonathan Cheung, Levi's
Trading Traffic: Creative Branding Partnerships
March 11, 3:30 p.m.
JW Marriott Salon 3-4
As digital publishers work harder to grow their audience in an increasingly noisy space, the most successful content creators are creating innovative ways to drive traffic. While big brands "pay to play" on social platforms, media outlets are operating on smaller budgets and, in lieu of high dollar marketing spend, they’re setting up traffic swapping programs with like-minded publishers. This panel will explore the technology that’s being leveraged, as well as the creative partnerships happening behind the scenes (ie. Facebook swaps, shared Pinterest boards, collaborative sweepstakes.) Members will discuss the future of traffic-building and new strategies they’re experimenting with in 2017.
Gabriel Sands, Refinery29
Camille Styles, Blogger
Alex Taylor, Clique Media Group
Refinery29 and Kesha Discuss Reclaiming the Internet
March 14, 3:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
Kesha, global pop star and outspoken advocate against bullying, sits down with Refinery29's Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich for a conversation about how women must reclaim their domain, taking ownership of their lives online — and IRL. The two will discuss how to fight cyber-bullying, the importance of learning to be vulnerable and open when facing life’s challenges, and how building a community of support is the key to take control of your life.
Amy Emmerich, Refinery29
Kesha, singer/songwriter
The Celebrity (Activist) Industrial Complex
March 13, 5:00 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Trade Show - Next Stage - Exhibit Hall 4
Beyonce, Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Kim K. It seems like celebs are more eager to use their status as a platform for activism than ever before. Aligning with current social movements is a strategic move that’s been used throughout celebrity history.
This panel explores these strategic choices and the role gender plays in them, including the impact (both positive and negative) that celebrity culture has on social movements. Do celebrities have a responsibility to use their power and privilege for "good"? Do we blindly follow influencers and their beliefs? Or do we the consumers make popular culture?
Panelists will examine celebrity activism and how it affects us, questioning our role as a society, as consumers, and as enablers of celebrity culture, ultimately asking, "what role does this play in shaping our identities?"
Elisa Kreisinger, Refinery29
Anne Helen Peterson, BuzzFeed
Aminatou Sow, Racked/Vox Media
Glen Weldon, NPR
This piece has been updated with panel locations and speakers.

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