Kicking off this Friday in the heart of Austin, the South by Southwest Interactive Festival will bring some of the greatest minds in digital video together for a series of panels, interactive presentations, and keynote speeches (and parties) that will shed light on the industry’s past, present, and future (and the alcohol tolerance of those individuals within it).

As someone lucky enough to attend for the past five years, it’s been amazing to see how the interactive portion of SXSW has grown and become a destination for those involved in digital entertainment. Here’s an interesting festival anecdote that sort of illustrates that growth: Felicia Day was a volunteer for SXSW over ten years ago. In 2007, The Guild won the SXSW/On Networks Greenlight Award for best web series. Last year, Day became a keynote speaker.

So, now that SXSW has become a go-to spot for the online video-inclined, there are a lot of great events the online video-inclined should definitely check out. Here are a few. The below and more can be found at SXSW.org.

Man vs. Algorithm: Online Video Curation Face-off
Human or Machine? Who really knows what videos you’re going to like best? Online video curation is in a heated battle between algorithmic curation and human, editorial selection. Let’s settle this debate once and for all. The war of humans versus machines has hit the battlefield of online video curation. Recommendation engines and discovery algorithms are rapidly taking over on some of the world’s biggest video sites including YouTube. But a tight band of master human curators are fighting back, like Philip DeFranco and Neetzam Zimmerman (The Daily Wh.at). This session will take test subjects from the audience in a blind face-off to see whether the humans can beat the picks of YouTube’s “AL” algorithm. The session is hosted by Marc Hustvedt (Chill, Tubefilter).

Austin Convention Center — Room 18ABCD — Friday, March 9th at 2:00 PM

The New Hollywood: Building Celebrity Brands Online
Lights, Camera, Log-on. The evolution of social media has provided personalities the opportunity to manage & build their brand online. Celebrities create & share original content with followers & often interact with them directly. Leveraging the existing fan base, celebrities are building huge online followings for their sites, Twitter, Facebook & more. Join the innovators of social media platforms for Lauren Conrad, Meghan McCain, the Jonas Brothers & Kraft and Walgreens as they discuss the impact for celebrities & brands. Online celebrity communities provide significant value to marketers & brands & financial opportunity for the personalities. This panel discusses the value, growth and phenomenon of celebrity brands online.

Sheraton Austin – Creekside I & II – Saturday, March 10th at 12:30 PM

Intellectual Property Issues in Social Media
Social media have made sharing information with friends and followers easier and quicker, but federal copyright law is struggling to adapt to the challenges presented by these tools. When hot news breaks, how soon can it be tweeted? If an image is shared via Flickr or Facebook, can it be used for news or marketing purposes? Is it fair use to post portions of song lyrics, news articles, or YouTube videos on your Tumblr? What legal ramifications do mock Twitter accounts face? Will Creative Commons save us all? This panel of attorneys, scholars and media professionals discuss how courts and the industry have been handling these issues and some possible solutions to resolve them.

Omni Downtown Capital Ballroom – Saturday, March 10th at 11:00 AM

Blip By Blipwest
In a partnership with Rooster Teeth, the Blip party will feature the first live performance of the hit series Red Vs. Blue. The Blip SXSW party is one of the standout events of the festival and is worth attending if you can get in! The party starts at 7:00 PM at Cedar Street Courtyard on 4th Street.

Multiplatform Storytelling: Frontline War Stories
While the academics preach of the wonders and promise and “mechanics” of “transmedia” storytelling, there are pioneering producers on the ground really doing it. There are good days and bad. There is money and there is not. And then there are the fans. What does it take to pull off successful multiplatform storytelling?

We are at the birth of a new industry, an inflection point, much like the history of film or radio or television or even the Internet where technology gives rise to a new means to tell stories. It is a time before the “institutionalization” of the multiplatform industry. And just like the history of film or TV the early pioneers are stepping out now and taking a lot of arrows. They are experimenting, learning what works and establishing best practices. They are master storytellers using and in some cases inventing new tools. They have failed and they have succeeded. And these are their stories.

This session will explore why people keep signing up for new social networks, look at “social fatigue”, consider evolving human social behavior and, with the audience’s help, create a collective manifesto about how we will put the “social” back into “social networking”.

Austin Convention Center – Room 18ABCD — Sunday, March 11th at 9:30 AM

Alternative Channels of Digital Distribution
Digital Advertising is on the rise while consumer engagement with online advertising is on the decline. With so many messages competing for attention, today’s consumer expects to be rewarded for their choices. Join an exclusive panel of digital content experts to discuss: How digital promotional advertising has emerged as a new distribution channel for content owners and how content activates consumer behavior and builds brand loyalty.

Hilton Austin Downtown – Salon K – Monday, March 12th at 12:30 PM

Changing the Channel: The New Golden Age of TV
If you’re a storyteller with big ideas, the challenge is often seeking out the right partners who can support your vision and attract an audience. With the Internet coming of age, independent storytellers have access to a greater stable of digital distribution partners eager to creatively and financially support these works. Come hear some of the industry’s leading producers share their insights on how to work with digital distribution partners like Hulu to create and debut long-form original programming. The panel will include exclusive content premieres introduced by Hulu Senior Vice President of Content Andy Forssell, documentarian Morgan Spurlock, (A Day in the Life), as well as filmmaker Richard Linklater and the star of his Hulu original series Up to Speed, Timothy “Speed” Levitch.

Austin Convention Center – Room 18ABCD – Monday, March 12th at 3:30 PM

YouTube Partner Meetup
While details at scarce, a few birds have been tweeting that this meetup is Monday, March 12th from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. If you want an invite, you better check out twitter.

Web Originals: Television’s New Guinea Pigs
The statistics don’t lie: online video viewership is at an all time high, as 176 million U.S. internet users watched online video content for a staggering average of 15.9 hours in May 2011 alone. Time equals money, with Nielsen reporting that Americans viewed 4.6 billion video ads in May, racking up 2.0 billion minutes spent on advertisements alone.

The web is becoming a critical outlet for TV networks to grow their audiences and revenues. Understanding the statistics regarding the number of minutes internet users are spending watching online video, television executives are spending more energy on developing their online counterparts, creating more serialized original web content than ever before to give advertisers more sponsorship opportunities. For example, L Studio’s Web Therapy and Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital were eventually turned in to television shows.

This panel which will include influential actors (Lisa Kudrow) and executives involved in successful original web programming to discuss this nascent online media and how this will impact the future of television.

Austin Convention Center – Room 18ABCD – Monday, March 12th at 5:00 PM

Here’s to a good SXSW!

Photo credit: The Bui Brothers