Prof. Brad King's emerging media expertise takes stage at SXSW Interactive festival
Topic: College of Communication Information and Media
March 13, 2015
Brad King (bottom right), an assistant journalism professor at Ball State, has emceed the SXSW Accelerator program at SXSW Interactive for seven years.
Brad King was a young music reporter in the early 1990s, covering the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival, when he wandered into a DVD authoring and animation seminar. That event, SXSW Interactive, drew him to emerging media and information technology, and he hasn’t abandoned his interest since.
The annual technology festival, which highlights some of the industry’s brightest up-and-comers, has grown into thousands of participants since King’s happenstance discovery about 20 years ago. And King—a Ball State journalism professor today—was on stage, leading one of the core programs in mid-March 2015.
King, who co-directs Ball State’s Center for Emerging Media Design and Development, joined prominent inventor and entrepreneur Bob Metcalfe, one of the creators of Ethernet. The duo emceed the SXSW Accelerator. The program is a daylong competition in which start-up companies from around the world pitch their business ideas to judges, venture capitalists, the media, and others.
“We ask him year in and year out,” says Chris Valentine, producer of the SXSW Accelerator. “When it comes down to it, Brad has a love for technology. At his core, he is an educator and someone who wants to help others better themselves. He’s really helping these companies in ways he sees fit.”
At the center of Silicon Valley
Since he discovered SXSW Interactive, King’s career has spanned coast to coast.
Immediately out of college, he worked for a Cincinnati weekly newspaper. He shifted to teaching middle school for a year before turning back to journalism, freelancing for magazines. He earned a graduate degree from University of California – Berkeley.
In his first year at Berkeley, he landed a job with Wired magazine and later Wired.com. The position planted him in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, during the dot-com boom. As he recalls his time there, he casually names the people he met, such as Sean Parker, who hadn’t yet cofounded file-sharing service Napster, much less served as president of Facebook.
“It was great. I knew all these people before they were famous,” King says.
King later changed coasts, moving to the MIT Technology Review, where he steered the publication’s website.
DIY experiences benefit students
About Brad King
Title: assistant professor of journalism, co-director of Center for Emerging Media Design and Development
Arrival at Ball State: 2009
Professional experience: staff writer, Wired.com; web/senior editor, MIT Technology Review; author, Dungeons & Dreamers: A story of how computer games created a global culture
Education: master of journalism, University of California – Berkeley; bachelor of science, communications education, Miami University
King shifted back to teaching in 2006, when he took a job at Northern Kentucky University. He came to Ball State in 2009. Instead of working long hours to update legacy media for the digital age, he gets to work with students who have grown up with it.
At the same time, though, he sees himself as coming from a do-it-yourself era when everyone had to understand the technology in order to use it, which is knowledge he can impart on his students.
“Here are these kids that have grown up immersed in it,” he says. “So I don’t have to convince them that technology is a thing. But I do get to open the box for them and say ‘Hey, I came from a DIY world where just because Apple told me I couldn’t do a thing, it didn’t occur to me that I really cared. I’m going to void the warranty.’”
King dates his interest in technology to age 12, when the Ohio native’s father brought home a Commodore 64 computer.
“He put it in the basement and he said ‘I don’t exactly know how to put this together or what it does, but I think it’s going to be important,’ and he went upstairs,” King says. “So I put the computer together.”
SXSW serves as a classroom
The trip to SXSW every year—2015 will be King’s 20th attending and seventh emceeing the Accelerator program—doubles as a classroom for him.
“I get to see not only my weird, geeky people, who I love, who are doing just to do to experiment and push the bounds of things for no reason, but I also get to see where the money’s going,” he says. “What do the people spending money think will happen next? Because that’s what will happen next.”
That knowledge transfers back to the classroom at Ball State, where he can show students how the technology will change and what they need to do to get ahead.
King’s national perspectives on technology, like what he gathers at SXSW, benefit the university, says Michael Holmes, chair of the Department of Journalism.
“When it comes to emerging media,” Holmes says, “Brad is a nationally recognized name, and he’s brought a lot of that credibility to campus.”