polypoly Logo
Franziska Lohl

Until next time, SXSW

Photo: Timo Kreitz

We had big plans, but these were stopped before we even arrived.

In December of 2019, we were approached by the German Delegation to participate at SXSW, and have a booth at the German Pavilion in 2020. Though we’d never been to SXSW before, and are focussed on bringing data sovereignty back to Europeans, it seemed like a great opportunity to speak to interesting politicians, business leaders and journalists from Europe, while everyone is out of their comfort zones in Austin. And we had big plans for the event.

We spent the next few months brainstorming concepts that would align with our mission, vision, and goals, while being one of the first launch campaigns for polypoly’s brand. We knew it had to be something analogue, as we often use this metaphor to explain how polypoly works, and with a clear message. It also had to make a statement that people would remember and be something they’d want to share with their friends and business networks later on. 

Good and balanced journalism has changed drastically in the 21st Century, but is indispensable for a vibrant democracy. We believe the ecosystem that polypoly is creating could make this possible once again. So we decided to create a newsroom at the booth complete with mid-century furniture, all curated by our associate on the ground, Aaron - the guy that makes things happen. We also published and printed the first edition of the polyChronicle to be distributed at the booth and across the City of Austin during the event. 

The polyChronicle is a newspaper-type document that examines the intersection of data, privacy, and society. The first edition is set in the year 2025, and highlights how we at polypoly would expect a newspaper to read at this time. It includes stories about bringing personal data back to Europe and the economic impacts of that capital flowing back into the block, stories about data privacy and the environment and society, and more broadly our relationship with online data and technology. We hoped the polyChronicle would be a spark for people to have meaningful discussions around what data privacy should be, and how we can get there in the near future. 

In addition to the booth and newspaper, we had set up a number of satellite talks and events at the Berlin Saloon, the German Pavilion, the EU House, and even more locations around Austin. We were putting the finishing touches on the content for the newspaper, designing the booth’s space, and making T-shirts. Everything was running smoothly and according to plan, and we had just sent the newspaper to the printer.

On the Friday evening before flying out to Austin, we saw the news. SXSW had cancelled the event on the advice of the City of Austin in light of the development and increasing spread of COVID-19 around the world. Of course this was the right decision to make, prioritising the health and safety of not only the conference attendees, but also the residents of Austin. Nevertheless, we were a little sad that we wouldn’t be able to share what we believe to be a fantastic project with the attendees.

A week after SXSW was set to happen, we’re all working in our homes video-calling in for meetings, and trying to decide how we can contribute something positive in this tense time. So, we’ve decided to release the polyChronicle entirely free for everyone that’s interested in how we see the world in five years’ time. Or maybe it’s for those who suddenly have extra time on their hands and want something a little bit different to read. We hope it will lead to interesting conversations between you, your friends and family, and maybe your pets (they’re intelligent beings too).

If you’d like to read the articles online, head to the polyChronicle section of our website. If you prefer the analogue version, we’d be happy to mail you a couple printed versions from the couple thousand copies we’ve got piled up in boxes - just send an email to hello@polypoly.eu. And if you like what you read, we’d love to have you involved. 

Happy reading!