In its third annual run last weekend, Portland's XOXO Festival strengthened its credentials as the tech-oriented festival that's not like the others. (For starters, it pointedly defines itself as "not a tech conference. It’s an arts and technology festival about independence...".) XOXO is the conference that blog-launches an evolving pro-diversity policy during its registration process, in keeping with an overall ethos of open dialogue, try-and-see experimentation, and determination to challenge the now-familiar mode and expectations of smart-people-talking-to-smart-people events. The program's evening devoted to live storytelling featured a live rendition of the podcast Song Exploder and Dan Harmon, the widely worshipped creator of Community. The tabletop gaming sessions offered a semi-illicit chance to go rogue with with copyrighted characters. And during the main stream of conference talks, Feminist Frequency creator Anita Sarkeesian made an instantaneously Wiki'ed contribution to her work around the treatment of women in video game culture.
The festival stirred up a bracing atmosphere of stimulation, collaboration, and improvisational fun—a vibe that found physical form in XOXO's temporary village of sun-shelters, beverage bars, and food trucks at the Redd, a spectacularly distressed former machine stamping plant on Southeast Salmon. With Ecotrust preparing to take over the 16,000-square-foot facility and transform it into a business incubator, XOXO's set-up was necessarily temporary. But the collision of optimistic color, angular modern geometry, Old Economy grime, spirited tech-age creativity, and Portland's patented ability to elevate the transient and marginal into something beautiful captured XOXO perfectly.