How Authentic Is the Word Authentic? – SX Speaker Series

December 7, 2023 Hugh Forrest

SXSW - Weaving by Cocolab

Every week in our Conference Community Newsletter, we mine the minds of some of the best and brightest speakers heading to Austin in March.

With intriguing inquiries on timely topics great and small each week, get an inside view into what some of our most talented speakers think about what’s going on in the world.

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Here’s what some of our most excellent speakers had to say about this week’s question: Merriam-Webster recently named "authentic" as their word of the year for 2023. Do you agree with this choice? What one word summarizes your personal take on the human experience over the last 12 months?

Anthony Gellert / Mentor
"Yes. For better or worse we have seen the authentic side of people more than ever this year."

Dave A. Liu / Changing Faces: Media Representation and the Path to Positive Portrayals of Facial Differences
"While "authentic" is a solid choice, I'd dub the past year "resilient" as we collectively bounced back from challenges like a cosmic game of societal whack-a-mole."

David Quarles IV / In Living Color: Designing the Home & Life of Your Dreams
"I'd say that we all got a chance to experience authenticity in its truer form while witnessing the redefining of the word. On one hand, this year helped many come into who they truly are, and really THRIVE because it was who they were all along. More people became fearless in showing their love for themselves materialized outwardly — and we love to see it! However, I believe the word "authentic" also presented itself in a way of some creating a false reality for themselves."

Deanna Brown / Fundraising in a Down Market: How to Keep Your Startup Alive
"Yes, I agree. "Belonging" will be the 2024 word, is my guess."

Gabo Arora / Building Futures In Emerging Tech For Everyone "It’s an overused term that’s reacting to the homogenizing nature of big tech and media. If I had to pick one word it would have to be “war,” unfortunately."

Henna Pryor / Why Awkwardness is Your Best Asset for Risk-Taking at Work "I do agree with this choice. Being able to show up authentically feeds our ability to access the rest of our innate strengths and gifts. My personal take on the human experience over the last 12 months — AWKWARD. To me, awkwardness is the biggest obstacle to our authenticity."

Kamal Sinclair / Hybrid and Virtual Stages for Venues or Public Spaces "I don't have enough of a bird's eye view on the data that informed this decision, but I'm not surprised. In the onslaught of misinformation, disinformation, and the deconstruction of mythological narratives we've been told over centuries were true, the culture is ripe for wanting authenticity."

Dr. Lara Ramdin / From Garbage to Gold: Transforming Food Waste into Profits
"The word "authentic" is only the Merriam-Webster word of the year because it's the most OVER-USED word of the year. I would bet that most people that have used that word, don't even fully understand the meaning. My personal word for the year would be "resilience" — cost of living crisis, war, (more) corrupt politicians... the list goes on. And yet, despite all that, there is still so much to be thankful for, still so many bright spots — which shows just how strong the human spirit can be."

Margaret Richardson / DEIB's Future in Business After Affirmative Action
"It seems like the word that people who are not authentic often use."

Nathan Jones / Emotional Artificial Intelligence: Measuring Mood at Work "I love the word "authentic," perhaps because there isn’t enough of it in the world. While it's heartening to see it become Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year, I hope it doesn’t become another overused cliché, if it isn’t already. Reflecting on 2023, the one word that summarizes the human experience for me is “yearning.” I think we’re all looking for something deeper than what we currently have. Authenticity, perhaps. I hope we find it."

Ramani Durvasula / It's Not You: Navigating & Healing From Toxic Relationships "Unless it was ironic, I don’t. Authenticity has become an aspiration that seems far more out of reach than it ever was when the humanistic writers floated it as an aspirational process. Commodified authenticity is as much an oxymoron as sexy adult diapers — and that’s the world we are in. The one word on the human experience in the last 12 months: perilous."

Shain Shapiro / This Must Be The Place: How Music Is Making Cities Better "I feel the word ”ignorance” — to our climate, to each other, to what we need to live is the word of 2023."

Shoshana Ungerleider, MD / Flipping the Script on End of Life
"In reflecting on the past year, the word "resilience" best captures my view of the human experience. Amidst global challenges like health crises and social upheaval, the remarkable strength and adaptability of individuals, from patients battling illness to communities facing adversity, have been strikingly apparent. This enduring resilience inspires my work and fuels my optimism for the future."

Skot Waldron / From Maker to Manager: A Creative Leader's Journey "With the rise of social media, and the urge to display the highlights of our lives, authenticity is missing and becoming more and more desired amongst the masses. Too bad those are the same people fearing looking too authentic on those platforms."

Sue Black / Empowering Women in Tech from Bletchley to Burundi "Yes, but maybe a bit late. Authentic really was how we were behaving on social media in 2008/9. I guess my word for 2023 would be “potential.”"

We hope you've enjoyed this edition of the CCN Speaker Series!

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Photo by Aaron Rogosin

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