Monthly Archives: July 2010

PhD structure?

I noted some thoughts while at the Big Tent Festival last weekend, setting up a possible structure for the PhD. ??There’s scope to rebuild my ‘ideas’ document around this, which I’m sure I’ll get around to some time.

1. Use of technology at events:
– as put in place by the event’s producers/organisers
– as used by the audience, participants, delegates and other attendees
– as a contribution to the act of meeting people, sharing an experience and ‘being at an event’
– as exploited by those involved in unplanned/ambush events in working towards their objectives

2. Use of technology around events:

– to expand the reach of an event beyond its standard ‘limits’: building relationships with audiences before and after the event itself, and with those who don’t attend the event at all
– to create a ‘back channel(s)’ of communication around an event that is beyond the control or even awareness of the event producers
– to provide a foundation on which the event can be built, as applied in unplanned/ambush events for example (see?? Haiti, Gulf of Mexico, Kenya, Gaza; also??TSF??in Haiti)

3. How this alters relationships with??events:
– for attending audiences and their experiences
– for what we consider to be an event
– for ways that we can learn from this, for the future and for other types of events

This sets up three distinct categories in which to apply the key themes of the research: two which could be quite descriptive at first sight, then a third which seeks to build a psychological/sociological layer. ??It is both explorative and explanatory in its nature, although there’s plenty more refinement needed! ??Ultimately however it draws together two main themes which were otherwise distinct in my initial ideas document. ??Speaking of which, that’s the next thing to turn my attention to…


Unplanned events?

Two recent/ongoing examples have informed my thoughts a little regarding unplanned events, principally ??the amount of work that has gone into planning them. ??So much so in fact that to call them unplanned is in many ways a misnomer; ‘ambush’ events is probably more accurate. ??There is a link to technology to both however as it makes possible the preparation which is at the heart of these goings on.

First up is the??Wikileaks/Afghanistan story, which was broken by??The Guardian,??The New York Times??and??Der Spiegel??on Sunday/Monday of this week (25/26 July 2010). ??In his two hour press conference on Monday the founder of Wikileaks,??Julian Assange, talked about the carefully orchestrated manner in which the material was initially handled, analysed by experts from the different organisations, then splashed across many pages of print and online media: he wanted to set the news agenda for the week ahead. ??This is therefore a case study in manipulating the news cycle in a connected world, yet also an experiment in limiting access to the data in order to maintain/increase its value. ??The journalists who had a few weeks to pore over the documents were doing so because their editors saw the benefits in being in on something this big, there was much to be gained from devoting resources to a careful analysis of the material that would be lost if Wikileaks simply announced a free for all. ??This has been done in the past and when supply is infinite (while their servers hold up) the value of the material plummets.

So late on Sunday night the sites went live, Channel 4 posted an interview with Assange and Twitter turned its attention to such things while suburbia slept. ??Monday saw the civil society take hold of the story as the BBC and other news outlets tracked the story: a series of set pieces played themselves out, from the White House to Downing Street to Assange’s press marathon and presentation. ??Was (is) this therefore an event in itself?????The planning was clandestine, the execution effective, the legacy wide-ranging and the initial evaluation generally positive in terms of overall success as set against the organisers’ short term objectives. ??(The long objectives range from withdrawal from Afghanistan to potential enquiries into war crimes, which isn’t within the remit of this post.)

Where’s the tech? ??All over the place. ??From the means by which the material was illicitly obtained and forwarded to Wikileaks, to the ways in which it has been manipulated and displayed by the mainstream media organisations listed above – just look at this??time line??of IED explosions from The Guardian. ??Discussions erupted about what this leak of material means for state secrecy, war time propaganda, the state’s ability to control the flow information, the ways in which governments respond to such events and so on. ??The time pressure placed on all the actors was paramount because there was so much information to be processed (some 92,000 documents, give or take) and a rolling news machine that demands comment and decisions and analysis and so on. ??To my mind this shares many of the same features that tend to pepper discussions about London’s hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games, where legacy, politics, vested interests and the like are regular themes. ??It is fitting that the Games celebrated their ‘two years to go’ this week, although the contrast is clear in that this high profile event is being organised, constructed, discussed and amended in the full glare of public opinion. ??Hence the thought that the Wikileaks story is not so much an unplanned interruption to everyday life as an ambush: the planning is every bit as important to those involved in order that their objectives may be met. ??This argument needs further refinement!

The second ambush event comes with plenty of warning, again destroying my argument before it’s made. ??Edinburgh is due to play host to ‘Camp for Climate Action’ in August 2010, about two thirds of the way through the festival. ??The focus is due to be on RBS and their investment practises, drawing on the decentralised and passionate enthusiasm of the Climate Camp’s supporters. ??Here’s their website:??

It was old fashioned print media that brought this to my attention, courtesy of a Climate Camp free paper picked up at the Big Tent Festival in Fife. ??The publication talks through a history of capitalism, a run through of past successes and a litany of RBS’s sins (which is currently a majority-publicly owned bank). ??There’s also some pointers on what to expect should one choose to attend the camp. ??This has been followed up in my inbox by a couple of newsletters with loads of information about current plans, ways to get involved and so on: it’s all measured, open and non-threatening. ??There are sections there about links with the police and how they see the camp operating alongside the forces of law, order and civil society. ??The key piece of information that’s missing seems to be the final location of the camp itself, which will be somewhere in Edinburgh.

The technology in all this is there on their site, and it’s behind all the links that are listed in the closing pages of the free paper. ??It’s my intention to try and follow this as it develops, from the blogs they write to the Tweets they send and discussions they host. ??To what extent others find ways to join in remains to be seen, but with the tools available it will be second nature to so many of these activists and their supporters to find common cause through social media.

Unplanned? ??Not at all. ??Secretive? ??Perhaps. ??Ambush rating: currently unknown.

The value of this for me is manifold:
– where does this fit into the standard understandings of ‘events’ and ‘festivals’?
– what can be seen and learnt from the ways in which it is being planned, organised, publicised and carried out?
– are there lessons here for less controversial events, in terms of gaining popular support within a particular community?
– does the use of technology, alongside more traditional forms of media, lend this event a range of opportunities and means of communication/organisation that would not have been the case a few years ago; how are those opportunities being grasped?
– is there are link between the motivation to achieve an objective and the degree to which technology is fetishised/relied up? ??(To whit the fact that Climate Camp have a driving passion has necessitated a focus on that and tools which will help achieve that goal, rather than spending time and energy on superfluous activities. ??If old-media and direct action is more effective than an attractive website that’s got to be their main focus.)

This is the day I finally engaged with the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as I picked up half a dozen tickets to events and shows. ??The Fringe relies on technology to work, as is all too apparent when it falls over, yet the themes above are perhaps equally relevant: the driving motivation behind their work and that of their contributing artists, the balance between the planned and the unplanned/ambushed event, and the role of different media to aid in that process. ??Is the medium the message? ??Surely not when the focus is on live interaction between people… though if there’s a means by which the live experience can be enhanced by technology so be it.

Let’s not for
get the audiences: perhaps they’re the ones with some ambush moments up their sleeves.

Travelogue 09: ‘history, scenery, victory 10.06.02’

Tasmania was a really good part of my travels. I was very well looked after by Greg Ramsay and his family, who live in various parts of the island – you should check out Greg’s expanding golf and distilling empire.


You may wish to read this alongside Travelogue 08, which introduces Tasmania.

history, scenery, victory by davidjarman

Travelogue 08: ‘a devil of a time 20.05.02’

This journal entry was sent from Tasmania, where I got to spend a full month. I’ll post two travelogues in quick succession as they sit nicely together, though with little introduction from me in 2010 as I wrote plenty at the time!

devil of a time by davidjarman

West Highland Way: the hips don’t lie.

Before setting off to attempt the West Highland Way I let my good
friend Bob that it would be na??vet?? and perseverance that would get me
through it. Na??vet?? because I did no training and have little recent
track record to suggest I’d be OK without it; perseverance because
I’ve succeeded in the past against such obstacles. And so it
transpired, I’ve reached Fort William at the end of the Way. Yes Way.

(Readers should note that Bob and I took a bus for some 30km of the
walk as we both have deadlines and appointments elsewhere. For this
reason I shall get no stamps, certificates or other momento of the
trip… one day I’ll fill in the gap.)

The hips don’t lie, no they don’t. If they want to let you know
you’re asking a lot of them they’ll be happy to oblige, likewise toes,
calf muscles and hamstrings. Yet blisters have not materialised
(much), rain has not daunted us nor sun parched us. Bob will be here
in 24 hours, by which time I’ll be in Fife at the Big Tent Festival,
such is summer and its many attractions.

Hopefully photos will accompany this post, three of them showing Fort
William’s official ‘end of the Way’. The jury’s still out on why they
require you to walk through to the other end of town to reach it;
rumour has it the pub/shop lobby were keen to drive up footfall.

Tomorrow: Fort William to Glasgow by train, with stunning views as standard.


Events conference day 3: the state of the art.

I continued my focus on theoretical and methodological papers today, singling out Allan Jepson’s work on ‘Power, Hegemony and Relationships’ in particular. He followed the journey of a large scale event in Derby from initiation to evaluation, charting the parts played by the different brokers of power and their priorities. Ultimately it ended up being a different festival (exclusive) to the one many envisaged (inclusive), lacking the sort of community involvement that many events thrive on. The key figures behind the festival ensured their hegemony over the event and its contributors, by restricting knowledge about the festival and ensuring that involvement and discipline was reliant on their agreement.

Jepson has a new word: ‘quintangulation’, which is two higher than triangulation, if you’re into spoof rock documentaries.

The rest of the day, and therefore the remainder of the conference, was focused on discussion of the nature of event management as an academic subject. Key themes to emerge were:
– Leo Jago: a need to move the subject on, building on a body of work that currently replicates itself to a fair degree. So how to link these articles together and move forward? Key demand is to link them back to theory and academic disciplines, which would also gain us respect in the wider academic world.
– Eleni Theodoraki: foresees a greater amount of explanatory research, which goes beyond exploratory and descriptive. She drew on a need to look to the local, while recognising global themes: a ‘glocalised’ awareness. Thirdly a continuing need for events to emphasise their value to their host communities.
– Donald Getz: wishes to pursue a ‘futurist’ path – branching out into new areas that put our subject in broader contexts in order to understand the future conditions we’ll be operating under. He also raised the concept of the ‘festivalisation’ of life, whereby everything we do is interpreted as an event.
– Glenn Bowdin: emphasised the need to know more about some of the practical/operational aspects of event management, whereby we see little research that explicitly links festivals and events to the requirements of HR, marketing, etc.

Discussion then ensued:
– gaining respect from other areas of the academic community was given particular attention
– perhaps there is a need to develop a particular research agenda, as directed by key international figures from within the events academic community
– should researchers be making a point of attempting to prompt change in the industry through their work: perhaps by being controversial?
– who is able to speak ‘for’ the events community, without it being linked to their local institution; and how is the settled opinion of the community to be established?
– what about the balance between practical/theoretical focus; what is the priority of the academy, what are the priorities of students?
– what can be learnt from other subject areas, such as tourism and hospitality: those subjects which are a little older, those subjects which feel under threat from the rise of events
– publishing material was the subject of much debate: how to establish a higher degree of respect from those who rank journals, so that events researchers can feel confident in publishing in those periodicals (rather than looking for alternative subject areas in order to get the greater kudos)
– this last point led to a call for events educators to back their own: don’t look elsewhere to carry out your PhD research, use your research to advance the work of event management departments
– …finally (from my notes at least) what of the role of organisations, such as AEME, to co-ordinate the work of event management academics?

This last point leads naturally to the final part of the conference – the AEME (Association of Event Management Education) AGM. I learnt more about AEME in an hour than in the last three years of teaching, which was very valuable and a good way to finish the week. Key organisations that AEME is building links with include:
– the HEA / HLST
– People1st
– Institute of Event Management (if it is ever created)
– Business Visits and Event Partnerships (BVEP)
– Eventia

My main contribution was to suggest that the next meeting be held during a festival somewhere – as happens with the BAFA conference. Who knows, maybe Edinburgh…

I’ll put together a full wrap-up post covering the conference once I’ve looked through my notebook in the cold light of day – no rush. My memories of the conference will be overwhelmingly positive however, with so many useful contacts made and ideas discussed. There was just enough there to suggest that my own ideas for future PhD research would fit into the wider research agenda, yet clearly a lack of almost anyone else working in the same areas – plenty of space for me! Also some ideas regarding potential supervisors and institutions, which is great – I’ll follow them up which doing a whole heap of reading in the months to come.

Right now though, it’s a beautiful evening in Northumbria as my train glides through the farms and forests. It’s a shame the train’s going to get me to Edinburgh an hour late – that’s not so good, but a driver must have his ‘personal needs break’, or whatever the train crew described it as. This journey’s becoming quite a performance, quite an event in itself.

Events conference day 2: theory and reflection.

The second full day of the Global Events Congress IV has been very rewarding, I’ve really enjoyed it. ??I may have mentioned this, but the great and the good of event management are all together in the same room – just about everyone who’s work I’ve read on this subject, sat feet away.
Dr Calvin Jones is a visiting professor of Edinburgh Napier and I have seen him talk before (and bought him dinner on Tuesday). ??He never loses his passion for highlighting the radical changes in our daily lives that will come thanks to peak oil, other limitations on natural resources and environmental change. ??They will make life harder, more expensive, restricting travel and the feasibility to continue aspects of life as we know it. ??Does this have any particular relevance to events and festivals? ??Why yes… if you consider events to be a largely discretionary area of expenditure, suitable for cutbacks by government, companies, families and communities – all of whom are facing restrictions on both income and discretionary spend. ??His themes were developed later in the day by others: what happens to events if we take away the tourism? ??If people stop travelling to events, do the events cease to exist, adapt, or what? ??This was Calvin imploring events and festivals to revisit their goals: what are they trying to achieve, are they managing to do so, can these goals be reached through less resource-intensive means?
One of those commenting was Prof Donald Getz, an academic, author and commentator afforded somewhat legendary status by us who follow in his footsteps. ??His thesis rested on the development of ‘event studies’ as a crucial next step for this area of academic life. ??This is the development of a study into management into one which develops its own bank of theory, its own perceptions of its place in the academy, which can take the lead among discussions with academics from other disciplines. ??There’s a tension here which students of mine are sometimes very keen to bring up: they want to graduate with the ability to run events, they want the emphasis to lie on operations and management; yet at university we deliver the next step(s), ladening them down with theory and concepts and grand narratives. ??Yet this is vital – it’s just that it’s being developed at a faster pace than Getz imagined, and its reaching down into lower years of study than he envisaged. ??The overall talk was refreshing, packed with ideas, all encompassing and ultimately positive about the state of the art. ??It drew on three distinct discourses to help us gain a handle on our subject: event management; event tourism; and, classical discourses from other areas of academic thought. ??His priorities lie pretty much in line with the chapters of his 2007 text, so the next steps are accessible – but we mustn’t be complacent.
I greatly enjoyed a presentation from two academics at Glasgow Caledonian University:??Dr Matt Frew??and??Jenny Flinn. ??Finally… here were people who were using technology, social media and the tools of the trade of today’s (young?) festival goers to develop their research. ??I met Jenny a couple of years ago when pitching Edinburgh Napier’s wonderful academic experience to HND students at Glasgow Metropolitan College – she was doing the same, though more effectively, for Glasgow Caley. ??I also had lunch with both of them today and took a few notes that may help with PhD progression – those notes to follow in due course. ??So to their talk, which focused on Glastonbury, the narrative that’s been built up around that festival, the brand image of chilled hippy-dom which is built on a foundation of increasingly sophisticated management. ??The notion that festivals are sold as places to be ‘free’, yet in reality punters are just as controlled in a controlled environment: a managed experiential brand, which you are familiar with before you arrive… so how can it be a forum for ‘free’ expression? ??This was termed a ‘fantasy of festivity’, where the kids fulfil their destiny to live out the experience they’ve come for, buying into the brand of Glastonbury then posting it online for their friends and the world to see and comment on. ??The research was based around online social media analytical tools, of which there are many: try Googling for it apparently! ??We saw examples of Wordles and so on, drawing on a great deal of social media data, and mainstream/formal sources of information. ??My question: how to square this super-controlled brand narrative with the disparate and uncontrollable nature of social media? ??Do the audiences have to buy into the creation myths and other aspects of the festival’s image, is negativity drowned out, is there a myth about the diversity of opinions that emanate from such a festival? ??Key theorists for this work are:
(Apologies for the Wikipedia and Google Books links there: it’s a start, particularly at 1am.)
So that’s where we leave things for now, with one more day to come. ??I’m looking forward to it – this is just what I’ve needed to feel I’m playing a part in this academic discipline, while learning a lot about how others see the subject, how it’s progressing and where I can fit into that future.