Monthly Archives: October 2010

Events in the connected city (part two): claiming space.

A considerable amount of research has been done in recent years to explore the European Capital of Culture initiative.  Here’s the European Commission’s home page for the project.  Here’s a document setting out ‘An international framework of good practice in research and delivery of the European Capital of Culture programme’ that I didn’t know existed until about ten minutes ago.  Meanwhile Robert Palmer and Greg Richards’s reports on capitals past has led to the creation of Eventful Cities, a 2010 text designed to emphasise the importance of events for cities and steps to be taken to maximise their effectiveness.

I’ve recently been mining it for teaching resources and ideas for integrating some of its ideas in the new direction my own research might be going.  A concept that stood out (p371) is the way events can reclaim (urban) space for community use, with a whole host of benefits: we’re used to events being used to purportedly regenerate areas of the urban landscape through investment in infrastructure and such legacies, but this is an argument for regeneration of a more social and cultural kind.  It doesn’t take much of a leap of perception to swap our ‘urban’ for ‘virtual’ space and there’s a clear link between the community’s online and offline lives.  The event captures our attention and our imagination, prompting us to view the space(s) in a new light, make new connections with others and reassess our relationship with that space.  Events at catalysts.

What form do these events take: they needn’t be focused on technology to reshape our connections with that world, just as a ‘real’ event doesn’t have to have an overtly social (or social policy) focus to bring about the benefits we seek.  In fact, it possibly shouldn’t – although technology is such a dynamic field at the moment that it holds people’s attention all by itself.

One such event recently is written up here.  The event: #begoodbesocial at the Melting Pot, Edinburgh.  The aim: bringing together third sector organisations to share ideas and strategies for social media.  The collaborative atmosphere flagged up in the review is between people and organisations, while also demonstrating that a mixture of methods are needed to promote that working relationship: online is fine, face to face is ace.

Meanwhile the idea that ‘festivals’ can act as ‘laboratories’ is at the heart of this.  Without looking too deeply into the project it brings together the Future Everything conference/event in Manchester along with many other organisations.  They want to explore the idea of using festivals (primarily music based it seems) to explore new ways of working in the arts:

‘We are looking for projects that engage the festival audience and artists in a participatory experiment in creating a new kind of artwork, a new form of participation, new understanding on art or technology, or a new and innovative way of presenting inspirational art.  Proposals should experiment with the festival format, transforming the festival environment into a lab or experimental space.’

…I wonder if someone’ll pay me to go.

And, thanks to the b3ta digest 459 (which dropped into my inbox this morning) here’s a corporate advertising take on the whole thing from Absolut vodka.  They’re promising to take over disused spaces in order to: reach their objective in selling more product… via the medium of real life eventful experience.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Festivals, events, social media and technology: helping you see your world in a new light.

Events in the connected city (part one): alt focus.

I’m trying to develop a new driving idea for the PhD, giving it some grounding and possibly a unifying structure: a rallying call, if you will.  It’s early days, but I’m pondering a shift in focus – from both events and technology to the context in which they’re brought together.  This would frame the debate, provide a rationale for investigating particular themes and open up opportunities for case studies and examples.

I’m wondering about focusing on ‘events in the connected city’.

So much of human culture, economy, society, ideas and politics takes place in cities, and they’re focal points for technology.  In cities we see people meeting, attending events, contributing to the world around them and the lives of their communities.  Innovations and the innovation process is focused on cities in many cases, partly through the public institutions which can promote it, but also the companies, charities and other civil society organisations which drive it.

Meanwhile events and festivals are at the heart of many a city’s annual cultural, political, religious and business cycles.  How do these events work and what impact has technology had on their workings?

That’s my starting point; I’ll be spending time trying this structure out for size against some of the ideas I’ve already set out, getting a feel for what fits.  Meanwhile, here are a couple of images entitled Festival City, taken in Dubai and hosted on Flickr under a Creative Commons licence: why spend generations building a reputation as a festival city when you can grow one in the desert?


VIP Art Fair


The internet has the best festivals – arty ones at that.

Should you click on the link above you’ll get to the ‘VIP Art Fair’, which from one angle looks like a shop window for artworks. There’s more to it though, because there’s a virtual event element to it: just as an art fair (such as the Freeze Art Fair currently in London) exists for a short time, so this VIP event is time limited.

I know this because I heard it on the BBC’s ‘Digital Planet’ where the organiser was interviewed. During the interview he used the words ‘evaporative experience’ and ‘impending event’: capitalising on the unique nature of a time limited opportunity to focus attention… and I guess encourage spending by art lovers.

RSAnimate: getting that message across.

I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, but I’ve talked about that before.  Why am I a fellow… it’s partly to support work like this:

The range of expertise that they attract to the RSA events is astonishing at times, tapping into a wealth of knowledge and understanding that surpasses even In Our Time on Radio 4.  This particular talk looks at what motivates people to give of their time for free, or for non-economic rewards – contributions such as Wikipedia and other open sources projects.  There’s a cross-over here with the themes I’m interested in for the PhD, with events being experience, created and enjoyed thanks to the dispersed contributions of the many.

Enjoy the 10 minute video!  There are plenty more to have a look at.


The RSA makes their audio and video material available for distribution under a Creative Commons licence.  Details of their licensing policy are here, with the Society’s homepage being

Data journalism.

Have I mentioned how much I admire the work of David McCandless and the very idea of ‘Information is Beautiful’?  You can get the book, a great Christmas present for the more cerebral – or visually stimulated – members of your family.  You can follow the blog on their site.  You should start with McCandless’s TED talk though, for insight and some lovely examples of their work.

This is relevant to me and my potential research, because I want it to be.  I want to have data that will enable and encourage me to present it in innovative, spellbinding ways.  I don’t imagine it’s easy, yet these folks make it look effortless – the image slips away into the background, leaving the message up front and personal.

A guide to help: How to be a data journalist (Guardian)

And a straightforward starting point thanks to Abhishek Tiwari on choosing the right kind of chart.  I should link to the relevant page, rather than hosting a copy on this blog, but as I can’t find a suitable page to link to (and have only a download link as an alternative), here’s the document:

Remember everyone: be creative with your data for it can be beautiful.  You owe it to yourselves and your readers to communicate your message in the best possible way.

Edinburgh Fringe: constitutionally challenging.

Recently, in the past few weeks, I was informed that I’m a member of the Festival Fringe Society in Edinburgh. There are a couple of hundred members, with varying degrees of contribution to the society and festival it supports, and they are the folk who get to vote in trustee elections and so on. I knew I once was a member, but it seems no one’s taken my name of the list – literally, the Board have decided not to revoke memberships while they go through the current constitutional discussions.

And so it came to pass that I found myself at The Hub last week listening and occasionally contributing to the detailed, wide ranging, sometimes repetitive discussion. I arrived late, thanks to teaching commitments, which also serves to restrict the number of questions one wishes to ask: maybe they’ve already been answered?

It was really good to see a number of people who I usually only cross paths with when they’re working or we’re both drinking at the end of night on the festival tiles. The next occasion comes in a month, when a special meeting may vote on the final proposals put forward I believe. It’s not for me to comment here on what I think of the arguments, partly because a lot of it is about the balance between interest groups, yet the definitions of who falls into which group seem to lack… definition. At stake however is the future of the Fringe, whether it remains a festival to which 99% of shows subscribe to the Society and avail themselves of its services, or, not.

The others at the meeting had much more at stake than I, so I kept my own counsel for much of the afternoon – after all, surely my questions had already been discussed, no?

Event Technologies workshop: slides.

As flagged a month or two back I recently took part in a workshop organised by Edinburgh Napier, or more specifically my colleagues at the university.  The theme was ‘event technologies’, from planning and logistics software to virtual meeting spaces, and my contribution was focused on social media.  I’m indebted to having attended similar workshops in the past – primarily aimed at an industry audience, this is an area where academia needs to catch up.

I think my bit went OK, although I overran (with permission of the others who were there!).  Here are my slides:

And this is the three minute video I showed at the end on the use of social media in the UK (2010) – great music, lovely clip.