I want to start this end-of-year letter by thanking everyone who supported the Austin Forum on Technology & Society in any way in 2020: our advisory board and annual partners, our speakers and moderators, our bloggers and interviewees, our amazing team, and of course our awesome attendees and advocates, our fantastic followers and friends! If you’re reading this, then you fall into at one least one of these groups, and thus you helped us have a great year. 2020 brought tragedy, strife, and stress for many, but the Austin Forum found ways to transform itself, to execute our mission and sustain relationships and a sense of community, and even to be a source of education and support on the challenging topics of the year. For that, I want to thank each and every one of you. I am forever grateful for the support we received in a year in which everyone had so many other things on their minds and agendas.
The Austin Forum was created to increase awareness, understanding, advocacy, and active participation in the creation, adoption, and usage of technologies that have positive impacts in society. Our tagline is connect, collaborate, contribute—those are the desired outcomes of our programming, our activities, our efforts.
For 14 years we had achieved this by bringing people together, in-person, to build the relationships after experts and thought leaders shared information on diverse topics. Under that in-person model we thrived: we became the largest monthly tech series in Austin! We added podcasts and blog articles, too, but our in-person events were our foundation—until March 2020.
With the onset of the pandemic, we had a decision to make: do we pause the Austin Forum until it is safe to meet again in person since ‘in-person’ had been an implicit foundation for achieving our outcomes, or do we go online and attempt to continue achieving our objectives and sustaining the learning and sharing, the calls to action, and the opportunities to engage? After much discussion and analysis, we leaned into the new ways of interacting, embracing Zoom and learning how to do it better each month. We even increased our number of activities, addressing the issues of the pandemic and of racial injustice and inequities with extra events. We extended our reach beyond Austin, attracting participants from around the country and world (without a massive PR campaign).
Most importantly, we remained an open, inclusive, welcoming community, modifying our format and our usage of Zoom to be more than just another webinar or meeting. It was a challenging year and transition, but in the end, we sustained a large community, dealt with tough issues, made new friends and fans, and had a record year in terms of number of events. I have never been prouder of the Austin Forum. And we learned how to be better: stay tuned for information about how we’ll be even better in 2021—more types of events, better networking online, and more--when we share our program of activities in our January 5 event to kick off the year!
So, as we close what has been a challenging year for everyone, I want to close as I opened: thanking you for your support on behalf of our team and board. We are more excited about 2021 than we have ever been about a new year. We look forward to sharing our new program with you as we learn and share together, meet new potential collaborators and bring new people into our community, and inspire and accelerating collaborations and creative solutions that advance society and protect people. It’s going to be amazing—all the more so because of all of you.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Founder of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society
P.S. I hope you’ll stay connected in the Austin Forum Slack workspace over the break! I look forward to hearing what cool tech things Santa brings you!
Times have been tough in so many ways and community is more important than ever. At the Austin Forum, we have been feeling the loss from the lack of our wonderful in-person events, which often drew 200-300 people to the beautiful Austin Library. We are thankful that Zoom has enabled us to continue connecting and sustaining our community, and even allowed us to reach new people outside of Austin.
In the midst of all the change and chaos, we want to say that we are so thankful for people staying a part of the Austin Forum. We are grateful for our advisory board and sponsors for helping us be able to spread the word and extend our reach beyond Austin. Despite the challenge of the transition from in-person to online, we have embraced this opportunity to host virtual events. As we begin to close 2020 (finally!), and moving forward in 2021, we will continue to optimize our events for an increasingly large and distributed audience. We look forward to exploring new kinds of events, like virtual movie watching and "fireside chats" with technology experts, and more.
We hope you can join, support, and attend our last amazing 3 events of the year. They represent everything that the Austin Forum is about- super nerdy (Quantum computing on November 10th), super feel good (Tech & Social Impact on December 1st), and super fun (The Future of Gaming Technologies and Applications on December 15th).
We look forward to seeing you there.
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director
Jessica Sager, Managing Director
Dear Austin Forum on Technology & Society Community,
At the Austin Forum on Technology & Society, we stand as an organization and community against racism.
The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 was tragic--as were the recent deaths of Mike Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans who have been wrongfully killed in actions demonstrating racial injustice. Systemic and institutionalized racism remains a serious problem in our society--some people die because of it, and many are abused, held back, and otherwise discriminated against.
As horrifying as these events are, there appears to finally be a wide awareness and acceptance that systemic racism exists and that we must do more to eliminate it. The work has begun. Civic protests around the nation and world are demanding reform and demonstrating support for equality and justice. New policies are being enacted to prevent brutal use of force by police. Companies are reducing or eliminating development of technologies like facial recognition that have been used for discrimination. Symbols of institutional racism including Confederate flags and statues are being banned/removed. People of all races are showing their support. Black Lives Matter.
However, there is much more work to be done. Systemic racism, racial inequality, injustice, and violence remain in the U.S. and are sustained in some of our institutions. While the U.S. has made achievements that have saved and advanced many lives and it has often provided a beacon and support for the rest of the world, we have not yet fulfilled the ideals of our own country: that all people are equal, and that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities free from discrimination and abuse.
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has always been technology for society--and by that, we mean for all people. We believe that everyone should have opportunities to learn about technology, access to technology that improves their lives, and opportunities to get involved in technology development. This is why our monthly events are always free--with enormous thanks to our annual partners, companies large and small, tech-focused and otherwise, who share these beliefs--and is why we have December events that focus very directly on tech for social good/impact. This is why we provide more free content via blog posts and podcasts, available to anyone with Internet access, and is why we support the Austin Pathways effort to collect and repurpose devices for families that lack the means for sufficient connections to the Internet. Are we a leader in societal policy change? No, that is not our mission. However, we are a leader in building a community in Austin that shares beliefs in the importance of technology benefiting society--all of society, everyone. We have not done enough in addressing this issue of racism, so we are now developing plans that will leverage our platform and community to address racial injustice and inequality through our programming, participation, and more. You will see new information in our media channels and new advisory board members in June, more content about the importance of diversity and equality in tech in July, and a diversity-focused event in August. It will not stop there; we will be a part of the solution.
We encourage you to share your suggestions as to how we can improve our efforts going forward. The staff and the advisory board of the Austin Forum are listening--and working. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can participate in our Slack workspace in our new channel, #diversity. Together we will work to improve the impact of the Austin Forum on racial equality and opportunity.
Leadership of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society:
Michael Ward, Jr.
It seems like forever since we shared our plans to change the April 7 event from in-person to online, yet it was only 17 days ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has grown substantially worse, and it’s up to all of us to try to minimize the spread, the impact, and the loss of lives. It’s also important to continue to be effective in these ‘shelter-in-place’ times if we can—to run our businesses, to learn and teach, and to keep in contact with our family, friends, and colleagues while keeping our distance from others.
With that in mind, we have changed our programming content (as well as delivery) for the next two months to address the issues that really matter right now. On April 7, we will now cover how to work, learn, and just ‘live’ online more effectively. We all have experience doing many things online, but now we must get on with work, learning, and life almost entirely online. What was occasional or optional is now required and nearly constant. Our speakers will share how to choose and use technologies to be more effective, which can help our businesses, our personal development, and our relationships survive and thrive. Of course, this event (and the next two) will be entirely online—please RSVP to receive the Zoom link, and please do not show up at the Austin Central Library! (We will move the previously scheduled topic—startups and innovation—to September 2020.)
We will hold a special ‘extra’ online event on April 21. Whereas April 7 will focus on how to be effective in your online life with others (working, learning/teaching, and ‘living’), April 21 will be all about how to use technologies to take care of you. Our speakers will share how technologies can help you sustain and even improve mental wellbeing and physical health during these shelter-in-place days. We are all about community, but community is about people—and we want you each of you to take care of you as well as others. We will have more to share about this special event in the coming days.
Finally, we have also changed the May programming to cover COVID-19 more directly. On May 5th, our presenters will discuss how technologies are used to identify outbreaks and predict epidemics, to understand viruses, and to design and deliver drugs and vaccines. COVID-19 is not the first epidemic and won’t be the last, but science and technology are advancing persistently and rapidly. Several technologies will be key instruments in enabling healthcare professionals, government leaders and policy makers, and all of us to defeat the current pandemic and be better prepared for the next one.
We plan to return to our regular programming on June 2, and the topic will be 100% fun: gaming! From simple smartphone games to massively multi-player online games, from video screens to VR experiences, Patrick Curry returns to share the current state-of-the-art in gaming and what may come next. The demos will be great, too—and if we are back to meeting in person at Austin Central Library, we may have some other surprises for you…
Stay healthy, stay home… and see you online a few times in the months ahead. Also, don’t forget to join our Slack workspace to keep in touch between events!
Jay Boisseau, Founder and Executive Director
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has always educated people about how emerging & pervasive technologies are shaping society, but it is fundamentally about community: about connecting people that might not normally have met, and creating relationships that lead to collaborations and innovations that contribution to society. We are proud to be Austin’s largest monthly tech information and networking meeting series, but now, in an expanding COVID-19 epidemic, it is a time for social distancing—not for large in-person meetings.
However, we must all also continue to work, learn, and communicate with each other in the meantime. We must adapt to the new normal in order to keep companies and organizations productive, and to continue providing for ourselves and our families. Fortunately, we live in a time of widespread access to computing and communications technologies, and some companies have deep experience to share about encouraging and enabling effective remote working, learning and more with technologies. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society remains committed to sustaining community and to executing our mission, so we will not skip a beat—but we will change how we meet.
We are changing the April 7 event to an online presentation and Q&A session, and details will be provided via the web site and EventBrite soon. We want to keep our community safe, so we will use this format for as long as social distancing is required to limit and eventually halt the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) virus. We have offered Facebook livestreams of some past events for those who could not attend in person, but we will now shift all effort towards executing a great event for an entirely online audience. We will also change the topic to address the COVID-19 situation: how to use technologies effectively to work and collaborate, educate and learn, and communicate and share, and how to help others do so as well.
Please just us for our first-ever online event on April 7. Even savvy techies are likely to learn something from our panel about how to use digital technologies most effectively, and everyone will learn some challenges we must help everyone overcome. We will have a great panel and Q&A session with no loss of content quality; we will only lose the handshakes and hugs, and the post-event beer and pizza at Trifecta on 3rd. Be assured that we are thinking about ways to address networking and relationship-building online should the social distancing remain necessary for much longer.
Also because of the COVID-19 epidemic, we will ramp the usage of the Austin Forum Slack workspace more aggressively now as a means of connecting people in our community from different tech areas and backgrounds. We announced the relaunch of the Austin Forum Slack workspace two months ago to increase our ability to connect and build our community; it has become even more necessary and potentially valuable, and we believe will remain so even after the COVID-19 emergency is behind us. We also have several blog posts in the queue to ramp the Austin Forum Update, our Medium-hosted blog so that we can provide more great content while working entirely with authors online, for readers online. We’ve also started posting more content relevant to COVID-19 on our social media, carefully selected for being factual and informative, not opinions and conjecture. In short, we are transforming the Austin Forum for everyone’s safety, but we are ramping up, not down!
Please keep yourselves and your families, friends, and colleagues safe. This epidemic is serious, and in the absence of treatments and vaccines it is our individual and collective behaviors that will determine the rate of exposure. We can and will defeat this, but slower growth in exposure absolutely equals saved lost in the meantime. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society is going to do whatever we can to share useful information while also sustaining our community connections and continuing to encourage collaboration and innovation. We hope you will join us for the special event focused on this topic on April 7, and we look forward to seeing you online on April 7, or on Slack any time.
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director and Founder
Jessica Sager, Managing Director
The March 5th Austin Forum on Technology + Art is ON, and we want out supporters and friends to know that we are aware about the impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) worldwide, and we have been monitoring the situation hourly to ensure we can make effective decisions for your safety.
Fortunately, the impact in Austin has so far been zero--and all of our attendees are generally from Austin. Furthermore, the medical and epidemiological experts are saying that basic precautionary measures such as washing hands regularly (and well!), avoiding people who are coughing (and quarantining yourself if you have symptoms), and others practices can limit the chance of contagion.
Everyone should optimize their nutrients, rest, and others measures to maintain a strong immunity system, and elderly persons with know health conditions should avoid locations of possible contagion- but again, Austin is not one.
The Austin Public Health Department has deemed that the risk in Austin right now is very low, and the Austin Library has ensured that there is plenty of hand sanitizer while ramping up its efforts to keep surfaces clean and disinfected. Our staff will also bring extra hand sanitizer. Thus, our event tonight on March 5 is deemed safe--and we prioritize your safety.
We will share more data, information and precautionary measures at the start of tonight's event, and we will continue to monitor the situation to determine if next month's event should proceed as scheduled. For tonight, we're ON, and we look forward to showcasing some amazing artists and their art created with data, algorithms, and software!
Jay Boisseau, Founder and Executive Director
Jessica Sager, Managing Director
Dear Austin Forum on Technology & Society Community,
As we collectively wrap up both this year and this decade, it is natural to reflect on how far we have come, what we have accomplished, and what potential there is for the future. When Jay Boisseau started the Austin Forum on Technology & Society in 2006, he had no idea that the small monthly get-together would grow to become Austin’s largest free monthly tech meet up, with 200-300+ people gathering every month to learn about new technologies from an impressive range of leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and experts in their fields.
Even more important are the stories we hear every month from Austin Forum participants about the connections and collaborations they make while attending our events. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society exists exactly for that reason: to help people connect, collaborate, and contribute, through attending these events.
As a new member of the Austin Forum team and Managing Director, I have been inspired by the passion of the participants like yourself, the wisdom and expertise of our speakers, and the potential to do even more together in 2020 and beyond. Over 2,800 people attended Austin Forum events in just the past year alone, joining the more than 28,000 people who have attended Austin Forum events since we began 14 years ago.
Looking forward to the next year, we will continue our commitment to providing excellent programming and events on cutting edge technologies and innovations. Additionally, we are excited about new opportunities to grow and engage the Austin Forum community and deepen and expand our impact.
We will be sending out a survey at the beginning of January, and as always, invite you to share any feedback and ideas you may have.
Thank you for being a part of the Austin Forum community.
Here’s to 2020 being the best year yet.
Friends of the Austin Forum:
We’ve had a great year of presentations, conversations, education, networking, and more. As we enter the 2019 holiday season and approach the end of the year, we are extremely grateful for the support and success we’ve enjoyed, which is entirely due to the people who make the Austin Forum a community. We are thankful for every presenter, every attendee, every sponsor, every volunteer and team member who has helped make this year the best year ever for the Austin Forum. Our growth and impact have entrenched the Austin Forum as the biggest tech series in Austin and a pillar in the Austin tech community. Thank you!
We have two important events coming up to close out the year, and each of them reminds us of the good fortune we experience, the connectedness we enjoy, and the potential for technology to change the world. On November 12, Rhonda Dirvin of Arm and Jason Shepherd of Dell Technologies will present “The Internet of Things (IoT): How Connected Devices Everywhere Will Change Everything.” While artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, smartphones, blockchain, augmented reality, and 5G dominate tech headlines and are transforming society, the promise of edge computing and IoT--the connectedness of pervasive computing devices, sensors, smartphones, instruments, and more--will bring all of these capabilities together in new ways that make our homes, schools, workplaces, factories, roads, and communities and cities safer, healthier, more resilient, more sustainable, and more enriching. There are still challenges and opportunities ahead, but the Internet of Things will connect us and our environments in powerful, even revolutionary, ways. Please join us for this event that brings many important ideas together. Related, we remind you that we collect used devices--smartphones, tablets, and computers--at every event so that Austin Pathways can enable individuals and families in need of devices to be part of the connectedness and enjoy the benefits. Please consider bringing and donating any devices that you’re not using anymore, and Austin Pathways will make sure someone else’s life is empowered by it (and give you a tax deduction receipt!).
Our final event of the year on December 3 is very special to our staff and advisory board: “Technology for Social Good: How Tech Professionals & Companies Can Support Social Impact.” We are excited to have Chelsea Collier of Digi.city as a co-presenter for this special event along with our own Jessica Sager. Chelsea and Jessica will share many ways that both tech professionals (individuals) and tech companies can support social impact.You and your companies can help make the world better while also providing for yourself and your family. Come hear from Chelsea, Jessica, and some remarkable guest speakers and be inspired to help change the world. Please make plans to attend this special event, and bring your friends and colleagues. And, in addition to collecting used devices for persons in need, this month we will also collect new toys for our Blue Santa toy drive. There is no obligation to donate and the Austin Forum events never require a contribution of any type, but if you have the means then please help us create even more joy for Austin children this holiday season. We have collected a delivered a few hundred new toys over the years, and everyone makes a difference.
Again, thank you for your support of the Austin Forum. We look forward to seeing you at one or both of the big events this holiday season. We are programming an amazing year of events (and podcasts and blog posts) for 2020, but first we look forward to celebrating the holiday season with you and to inspiring ideas and creating collaborations that make our world better for everyone.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D. - Executive Director and Founder
Austin Forum on Technology & Society
p.s. I hope you’ll also mark down the evening of January 7, 2020, as we start the year off with our traditional “Tech Trends for 2020 (& Beyond)” event with me and my good friend (and technology guru) Jay Williams as the presenters, and possibly a surprise guest...
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in May
Thank you to everyone who attended our event at the Central Austin Library and to our speakers Fawzi Behmann, Arun Ghosh, and Amber Gunst for sharing their insights and views on the 5G revolution.
Enjoy an infographic of the history of the Austin Forum... so far. We have plans and more interesting and exciting things to come!
Austin Forum on Technology & Society 2019 Attendee Survey Results: Thanks for Your Support and Ideas!
For more than 12 years, the Austin Forum’s mission has been to inform and educate Austinites about the nature and importance of technologies in shaping society and to inspire connections and collaborations that advance the applications of technologies in society.
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in April
Thank you to everyone who attended our event at the Central Austin Library and to our speakers Gordon Daugherty, Kirk Cesari, Harold Ingersoll, Mitch Jacobson, Jill Murphy, and Nicolia Wiles for sharing their immense expertise on the joys and pitfalls of starting a tech business.
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in March
Thank you to everyone who attended our event at the Central Austin Library and to our speaker Amber Allen of Double A Labs for sharing her thoughts and expertise on designing experiences for long-lasting engagement in a digital barrage of information.
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in February
Thank you to everyone who attended our event at the Central Austin Library and to our speaker Robyn Metcalfe for educating our crowd about food technology advances and how they impact health, privacy, and personal habits.
As we ramp into 2019, we at the Austin Forum on Technology & Society are especially excited about the content and programming we have in store for you this year. As the founder and executive director, I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly recap 2018, give a preview of what will be an amazing 2019, and share some exciting news about our team.
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in January
Thank you to everyone who attended our event at the Central Austin Library and to our terrific speakers, Jay WIlliams and our very own Jay Boisseau.
And thank you to Houli for her leadership and expertise in the past year and a half as the managing director of the Austin Forum! We wish you good luck in your new endeavors!
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in November
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend our event at the Central Austin Library and to moderator Karla Taylor, City of Austin Transportation Department and her panel of experts:
October 31, 2018
The in-person monthly Austin Forum events are the foundation of our programming, and are how we foster relationships and connect our creative professionals in Austin. However, we have one of the most creative, innovative, energetic, passionate tech communities--and cities--in the world, so there are far more people in Austin with expertise, experience, and insights to share than we can fit into 12 in-person events. There are also many more fascinating topics to cover than months in year (and those topics change rapidly!).
Additionally, we recognize that while in-person learning is optimal and in-person events enable networking and relationship-building, not everyone can make every event, some cannot make any,
October 31, 2018
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has reached new levels of attendance, influence and impact in 2018. Our monthly events now average 200 attendees, and the majority of our attendees have attended previous events. People come--and return--to continue expanding their understanding and expertise, and to forge new relationship that can lead to collaborations.
This year, the Austin Forum has covered many of the key technologies that are
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society is Austin’s largest monthly tech education and networking event series. For more than a dozen years, the Austin Forum has offered monthly public presentations from technology experts — including multiple Nobel prize winners, CEOs and founders, thought leaders, technology professionals, government leaders, and more — on
Here’s what Happened at the Austin Forum in October
Thank you to everyone who attended our rescheduled event at the Central Austin Library and thanks to our terrific speaker, Karl Popham from Austin Energy!