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Reaching beyond venues or subcultures, what do we mean when we say nightlife? SXSW Overview:

Reaching beyond venues or subcultures, what do we mean when we say nightlife? SXSW Overview:
Vibe Lab and DWIH at The German House, SXSW 2019 Report

At SXSW this year, in partnership with the German Center for Research and Innovation (DWIH) New York, we took over the German Haus SXSW, for an afternoon on 13th March, to explore the role of nightlife in the economic and creative development of a city.
SXSW, in Austin, Texas started in 1987, initially as a celebration of Austin’s incredible music scene. Since then it has grown considerably into a globally celebrated conglomerate of film, culture, media, music and technology conferences that take place in March each year. The festival brings together pioneers, artists and academics from all over the world, offering opportunities for networking, learning, and discovery. The German Haus is the main venue of the joint German presentation at SXSW and hosted a myriad of carefully curated networking events, start-up formats, presentations, roundtables, as well as interdisciplinary performances and concerts.
On the 70th anniversary of Berlin becoming a 24-hour city we discussed how we can work together to create a sustainable, innovative, and safe nighttime environment. We were joined by global experts to discuss the innovations in sustainable urban planning, creative business models and innovative ideas for the interdisciplinary use of venues.
Participants were able to try out digital tools for the involvement of decision-makers and stakeholders- such as city planners, club owners and residents, to asses ways that nightlife in all its forms can contribute towards a better quality of life in the city.
We started off with a keynote presentation from acclaimed Harvard academic, Andreina Seijas, who took us through ways to consider “Nighttime Planning Worldwide”, in which she shared her global research, focused on creating safe quality spaces in cities after dark.
For our first panel, moderated by VibeLab co-founder and Club Commission spokesperson, Lutz Leichsenring, featured panelists ; Andreina Seijas, VibeLab Cofounder Mirik Milan, Hendrik Meier, the new night mayor of Mannheim and Brian Block, the Entertainment Service Manager of Austin. The panel discussion was centred around Nighttime Advocacy and Empowering Creative Communities, (see topics and findings below).
Our afternoon of roundtables opened up the discussion: How to become a 24 Hour City? We were joined by Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer from HafenCity Universität Hamburg, as well as Gerrit Roessler from DWIH New York. The roundtable discussions explored ways to use people centred design to forward safety at night. From keynote, to panel discussion, to workshop, to interactive digital tool the afternoon, hosted by Gerrit Roessler as overall MC, involved increasing interaction and audience participation.
Acclaimed Harvard academic, Andreina Seijas, talking about "Nighttime Planning Worldwide"
Acclaimed Harvard academic, Andreina Seijas, talking about "Nighttime Planning Worldwide"
Select Takeaways and Points of Discussion:
Nightlife and Night Time Economy
- Nightlife is a factor that reaches beyond individual venues or subcultures. Issues are as far reaching as economic development, affordability and access equity. Who can participate in life after dark and what are possible obstacles? How does it affect housing prices and the cost of nightlife itself? What are the impacts on the work/life balance and talent retention- especially for smaller companies that may not be able to pay top salaries - but who offer an interesting city to work in? How does nightlife impact suppliers, contractors and each person that is navigating the city at night?
- What do we mean, when we say nightlife? The term references far beyond partying. Discussions centred on the idea that by combining spaces, and create diverse options for people to go to at night that include: creative spaces, co-working spaces, fine dining, experiences, accessibility to education, libraries shopping, markets, food halls and more. The key to efficient and diverse spaces is adaptability and reuse.
- The government, the public and nightlife communities, define nightlife issues in different ways. Cities tend to want Night Mayors to talk about noise and littering, whilst the music scene and community want them to address policing policies and transportation. How can we bring the two together?
Stakeholders and Communities
- Getting the public and/or government involved can be a challenge when we try to discuss nightlife and 24h city issues. How do we get decision makers and the community on board?
- Many decision makers follow their instincts rather than research and fact-based analysis. The argument was brought up in the context of curfews and drinking ages as well as drug policy. Surprisingly, where there is less regulation it leads to more safety and fewer issues, which, to some, seems counterintuitive.
- 24 hour cities, by expanding hours of bar and club operation, enable fewer restrictions for club revenues and regulations. Staggering closing times tends to create safer cities, increased profit and more adaptable spaces.
Technology and Design
- Technical topics and solutions are ultimately about people. What problems are we trying to solve? What ethical challenges do we have to face? For whom do we develop our technical solutions? Can all sections of the population benefit equally? Whose interests do we cater to?
- Transportation is a huge challenge for the 24 hour-city, which highlights a lot of other issues such as equity, affordability, public and private partnerships. Cities have to look into reliable transport networks, including micro transport solutions. Discussants encouraged city official to pioneer new transport solutions. 
- How can data be used to protect music venues and for placemaking? How can we monitor gentrification and analyse the quality of content? Projects like the Creative Footprint and CityScopes need to team up to involve all stakeholders into the process.
- How can we liberate existing knowledge and existing solutions from their institutional silos and connect them better? A lot of good ideas are already out there but not enough people know about them.
Events and discussions like the afternoon at The German Haus, SXSW are an important first step to generating change and action. All participants in the conversations were hoping to grow networks and good-practice exchange in the future and curating an afternoon in partnership with DWIH was a great success.
If you are interested and want to get in touch to learn more, contact:
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VibeLab: Lutz Leichsenring & Mirik Milan

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