Over 200 PanelPicker® Conference Sessions Announced for SXSW Online 2021

January 12, 2021 Jordan Roberts

Photo by Mike Jordan/Getty Images for SXSW

Over the last few months we have sorted through thousands of entries, community votes, and Advisory Board and staff input to curate the Conference programming slate for 2021 SXSW Online, a digital event experience from March 16-20. We are pleased to present to you 230+ sessions curated by the SX community, for the SX community.

The two-step online process PanelPicker® was developed to encourage the SXSW community to enter proposals and have a significant voice in Conference programming. Community votes comprise 30% of the final decision plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%). Together these percentages helped to determine the final content lineup. Proposals ranged from music and film to tech and culture and more across our 2021 Themes.

Sessions that are part of today’s announcement include top-level speakers from notable companies, universities, and creative industries including Billboard, Black Women Make Art, Condé Nast, Harvard Medical School, Indeed, NASA, Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd., Patreon, SiriusXM, Twitter, UT Austin, and many more.

“More than 200 sessions curated from our global community via PanelPicker is a key part of the premium content you can expect from SXSW Online 2021.” – Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer

Browse highlights by theme below and click through to explore the complete list of 2021 SXSW PanelPicker-curated sessions. Stay tuned for more announcements throughout the SXSW season including the launch of the online Schedule in February. Plus dive into the latest Keynote and Featured Speakers announcement including Willie Nelson, The Chainsmokers, Taraji P. Henson, Barry Jenkins, Matthew McConaughey, Queen Latifah and more.

2021 Session Highlights By Theme


2020 has amplified issues like racial injustice, poverty, nationalism, and the climate crisis amidst a global pandemic. The future depends on the business, non-profit, government, science, and technology communities all working together. What advancements are needed to create immediate and lasting progress?


  • Anthropology as a Crucial Frame for Change | Speakers: Patricia Sunderland (Cultural Research & Analysis, Inc.), Matt Artz (Cloudshadow), Marcel Rosa-Salas (University of Illinois at Chicago), and Gigi Taylor (Indeed)

  • Raising Good Gamers | Speakers: Kishonna Gray (University of Illinois at Chicago), Makeda Mays Green (Nickelodeon), Katie Salen Tekinbaş (UC Irvine & Connected Camps)

  • Rising Coastlines, Surging Threats | Speakers: Mark Merrifield (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego), Serge Dedina (City of Imperial Beach), AR Siders (University of Delaware), Anote Tong (Republic of Kiribati)

  • The Case for Creating a Better Industry | Speaker: Jesce Horton (LOWD)

  • Understanding the Motivation Behind Extremism | Speakers: Michael Duffin (U.S. Department of State) Christian Picciolini (Former Skinhead & Free Radicals Project), Stevan Weine (University of Illinois at Chicago), Heidi Ellis (Harvard Medical School)


    If we are to achieve real change as a society, then the many ways in which the tech industry impacts our lives must be leveraged as a positive force. To build a better tomorrow, what lessons can an industry integral to our existence learn from its current failings?


  • “Alexa, Set Reminder to Design Good AI for Kids” | Speakers: Sharon Strover (UT Austin), Jakki Bailey (UT Austin), S. Craig Watkins (UT Austin), Reed Coke (Kungfu AI)

  • Beyond Binary: Adding Nuance to Take-Down/Leave-Up | Speakers: Rachel Wolbers (Oversight Board), Mike Masnick (TechDirt), Lauren Culbertson (Twitter), Laurent Crenshaw (Patreon)

  • Future Hybrid: How Virtuality Changes Live Music | Speakers: Gary Marella (Mono Music Group/Beatclub/Verzuz), Jeff Zuchowski (Pandora & SiriusXM), Misa Rahm (Superfly), Tatiana Cirisano (Billboard)

  • Taking Sustainable Investing Mainstream | Speakers: Greg Smithies (BMW i Ventures), Amy Duffuor (Prime Impact Fund) Ryan Morris, (Turntide), Rob McGinnis (Prometheus)


    Great art often thrives in times of turmoil and chaos. How will the eruption of creativity we are currently seeing across music, film, experiential, written, and visual arts impact our culture for the next decade and beyond?


  • Responding to the Moment Through Arts + Activism | Speaker: Holly Gordon (Participant)

  • The Future of Open Archives: Hidden Voices | Speakers: Jocelyn Arem (Arbo Radiko), Jessi Jumanji (Independent Artist and Afrofuturist), Xaviera Flores (UCLA), Cori Olinghouse (The Portal)

  • The Interplay between Music & Visual Culture | Speakers: Ania Catherine (Operator), Aaron Jablonski (exitsimulation), Dejha Ti (Operator), Tony Cruise (Prelude Agency)

  • The Power of Black Feminist Creatives in the Arts | Speakers: Jaimee Swift (Black Women Radicals), Siima Itabaaza (Tom-bebe-sa), Jordyn Jay (Black Trans Femmes in the Arts), Janyce Denise Glasper (Black Women Make Art)

  • Time Machines, Museums and the Future of the Past | Speakers: Tonya Nelson (Arts Council England), Lawrence Chiles (National Gallery), Michael Takeo Magruder (Michael Takeo Magruder), Sarah Coward (Forever Project)


    From startups to small companies to major corporations, capitalism must be examined as we look to rebuild the global economy. A potential leveling of the playing field awaits if we seize this opportunity for more equitable systems across race, gender, and class.


  • Cannabis Utopia: What Regulatory Model is Best? | Speakers: Dave Daily (GRAV), Jason White (Curaleaf), Kris Krane (4 Front Ventures), Caitlin O’Neil (Eaze)

  • Entrepreneurship Equals Empowerment | Speakers: Harley Finkelstein (Shopify), John Hope Bryant (Operation HOPE)

  • Gender, Race, and the Modern Brand Rethink | Speakers: Dipanjan Chatterjee (Forrester Research)

  • Secrets To Inclusivity: Work With The Messy Middle | Speakers: Ericka Riggs (The Advertising Club of New York), Shameka M. Brown (The Only One There®), Ash Ramirez (Condé Nast), Danielle Hemsley (ENGINE/Cassandra)

  • The Refoundation of Capitalism | Speaker: Hubert Joly (Harvard Business School)


    Conventional wisdom from entertainment industries has lost its shine in the face of evolving consumer habits, technological advancements, and an increased focus on social issues. These pressures are forcing a much needed metamorphosis. What lessons can music, film, television, sports, and gaming learn to keep up with an ever-accelerating pace of change?


  • Audience of the Future Live | Speaker: Sam Michel (UKRI)

  • Explaining The Impact of Esports On Entertainment | Speakers: Johanna Faries (Activision Blizzard), Brandon Snow, (Activision Blizzard)

  • From Screen-to-Screen: Adapting Games to Film/TV | Speakers: Jordanna Guarino (Blumhouse Television), Mike Goldberg (Agency for the Performing Arts), Russell Binder (Striker Entertainment), Dmitri Johnson (DJ2 Entertainment Inc)

  • Responding to the Moment Through Arts + Activism | Speaker: Holly Gordon (Participant)


    We’re living lives we never could have imagined as we head into our own brave new world. The consequences of social isolation have been brewing for years. Now online platforms are some of the only outlets available to foster a sense of community. How do we return to a world where individual concerns give way to embracing the value of humanity?


  • Injecting Artists into High-Tech Startups | Speakers: Rosemarie Truman (The Center for Advancing Innovation), Sheri Sobrato (Digging Deep)

  • Introspection + Empathy: Building a Kinder Future | Speakers: Ethan Kross (University of Michigan), Jamil Zaki (Stanford University), Laurie Santos (Yale)

  • Psychology in Architectural Design | Speakers: Stacey Speck (Cushing Terrell), Sam Gosling (University of Texas at Austin), Joel Anderson (Cushing Terrell), Tamie Glass (University of Texas at Austin)

  • The Rise of Tabletop Games During the Pandemic | Speaker: Carly McGinnis (Exploding Kittens)


    Biohacking, consumer space travel, quantum physics, radical life extension, drone delivery — these concepts that once belonged in science fiction are now part of our immediate future. What mind-blowing new ideas will inspire the next generation of innovators?


  • Creative Machines: AI & The Future of Design and Media | Speaker: Ian Beacraft (Hawkeye)

  • Don’t Just Make it Work, Make it Better for Womxn | Speakers: Ti Chang (Crave), Raja Schaar (Drexel University), Rachael Newton (Nixit), Rachel Hobart (frog design)

  • NASA Unleashes Space Data Across the Senses | Speakers: Kimberly Arcand (NASA), Garry Foran (Centre for Astrophysics & Swinburne University of Technology), Matt Russo (University of Toronto), Alexander Stewart (Brown University)

  • Reporting on the Corporatization of Psychedelics | Speakers: Shelby Hartman (DoubleBlind Mag), Madison Margolin (DoubleBlind Mag)

  • What Can DNA Tell us About our Future? | Speakers: LJ Rich (NASA Datanaut), Gordon Sanghera (Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd.), Sarah Wallace (NASA), Reindert Nijland (Wageningen University)

  • View All Sessions

    Join Us for SXSW Online 2021

    Register for SXSW Online, a digital experience from March 16-20, 2021. As part of our 2021 offerings, SXSW Online will feature conference keynotes and sessions, film screenings, music showcases, networking, and exhibitions. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for the latest SX news.

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    “Female Leaders in Television” Panel – SXSW 2019. Photo by Mike Jordan/Getty Images for SXSW

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