SXSW Interactive — DAY 3

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Pane: Sex in the Digital Age

In recent years, the web has given sex scandals a new connotation of being sexually suggestive rather than being sexually explicit. Take for example the sexy tweet incident on congressman Anthony Weiner in which he accidentally tweeted a photo of his penis to his Twitter followers.

“Here we had the most boring sex scandal in the world,”editor of sexuality blog Fleshbot.com, Lux Alptraum, said of the Anthony Weiner scandal. “Nothing was actually or literally happening, we didn't confirm if he actually had sex with someone, and we’re just left with sexually suggestive content.”

The panel’s presenters, which also included Gawker Media reporter Maureen O’Connor, sexuality blogger Lena Chen (whose had a minor sex scandal of her own), and Mike Dacks of Avid Life Media, which represents many dating sites including AshleyMadison.com, a dating platform for married people to find partners to cheat with.

Another example of a relatively PG-13 sex scandal the panel presented was congressman Chris Lee’s Craigslist ad that read “I’m a very fit, fun, classy guy, 6 ft, 190 lbs, blond/blue” alongside a photo of Lee shirtless flexing his chest.

“Here again is a political figure who we can't confirm cheated, he just sent out a rather tame ad,” O’Connor said. “We have the wonder if this is even really a ‘sex scandal’ it’s just a shirtless photo and some text about himself.”

Chen’s own sex scandal broke when she was a sophomore during her undergrad at Harvard University, when her ex-boyfriend posted naked photos of her on the internet.

While she was a semi-public figure after starting her lifestyle and sexuality blog, SexandTheIvy.com, she still represents a private person who became a press figure simply because of a sexually suggestive photo.

“I know it’s weird but I sort of get a sick thrill when other people’s sex scandals now because it normalizes this behavior,” Chen said. “I’m waiting for the day that an internet sex scandal won't exist because so many people are doing this on the internet but keeping it private in their real lives.”

Alptraum presented another example, in which a person from the private sector of life became a press figure after a “sex scandal.” A student at Duke University, Karen Owen, sent a powerpoint cataloguing all of the men she’d slept with (many of whom were Duke athletes) to her friends and accidentally became viral. The story became so public that the student was even discussed on the Today show, which usually only focuses on family-friendly content.

As Facebook and Twitter diligently record our lives, they have the capability to destroy them with the release of even the most slightly sexually suggestive photograph.

“One of the huge things that has changed our relationship toward sexuality, is that now that its so easy to create a digital record and disseminate it, so it’s harder to detach yourself from the ‘sex scandal,’”Alptraum said.

“It’s such a powerful tool that we are lucky to grow up with,” Dacks said of the internet.

“So if everyone if the world just took a naked picture of themselves and posted it to the internet, I don’t think sex scandals would even be an issue anymore.”

Panel: Changing the Channel: The Golden Age of TV

Four years ago Hulu forged a domain as the go-to for last night's television, and since then, it has forayed into original programming and treasure-hunting for content that traditional television networks have overlooked. With 38 million unique users last month and over 1.5 million premium users paying for content, Hulu is one of the reasons why so few watch television on an actual television screen anymore.

The mastermind behind Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock, launched the first episode of the second season of his Hulu show A Day in the Life, at the panel. A Day in the Life devotes each episode to following around on specific celebrities including musician Will.I.Am, comedian Russell Peters, actor Joel McHale, and celebrity chef Mario Batali for a day. The show seamlessly crosses over platforms as it utilizes the documentary-film style into a television format while remaining on the domain of the internet.

“For me it was the opportunity to do different and exciting things that we couldn't do with network,”Spurlock said.“We pitched A Day in the Life to a lot of networks and they weren't really into it.”

The creation of original shows on Hulu resembles the development of indie films which allows true freedom for the show create to make the show as they originally conceived it.

“I love to hear, 'it didn't fit into network television,’because at Hulu we like to see the amazing content that networks aren't willing to consider,” senior vice president of content at Hulu, Andy Forssell, said.

Forssell said that he believes the user experience of Hulu's interface, which features 30 thumbnails of shows to watch, allows viewers to find a show they love, as opposed to a show that just happens to be on television when they have time to watch.

“The days of destination viewing are pretty much gone with the exception of sports. Now you can watch what you want when you want, but most importantly it will be a show you can love whether it's original content or network shows,”Forssell said.