Monthly Archives: February 2011

Open innovation.

Inspace, housed within the University of Edinburgh, has hosted a number of events that I’ve enjoyed over the past year – from mushroom-inspired improvised music to film screenings. On Wednesday 23 February I attended an ‘openness’ discussion: open innovation, open data, collaborations, etc. Lead organisations were Amb:IT:ion Scotland and the Festivals Lab. The event was also streamed live online, to people such as David McGillivray who has posted a thorough and thoughtful response on his blog.

Maybe you didn’t have to be there, man.

The venue is a few yards from Appleton Tower, which hosts Fringe Central during August and therefore the Fringe Society’s AGM. There was a tangible shift in attitude towards opening up data between the two events, with lead contributors to the more recent discussion much more enthusiastic. Of course, that also reflects the different relationships that exist between the people concerned and the data at hand: one lot are ready and willing to get stuck into playing with the numbers, locations, bits and bytes; the other have business decisions to make, bills to pay and stakeholders to satisfy.

I left the meet up with optimism that more organisations will take hold of the opportunities that freeing up their data makes available to them, so long as it is managed and controlled to their best advantage. David’s subsequent blog also applies these ideas to the Higher Education sector, including the idea of ‘Learning and Teaching Innovation Labs’ within institutions: I think this is a fantastic idea, but would caution that it may need to have its roots at a very local level, so that academics can see what’s being done by their immediate contemporaries. Nicholas Christakis has taught us of the power of networks, so the best way to do something really innovative and open in education is to seek out those who have already picked up the ball and started running.

Image: ‘The Secret Sounds of Spores Spectacular! – Fri 21 January 2011 -0339’



Tuesday morning: with barely minutes to go, as I sped through the central belt to Glasgow, my Twitter feed told me my meeting had been upgraded to a summit! This was fantastic news – really set the tone for a productive catch up with some other event management/studies academics. The fruits of the meeting will take many months to play out, but a comment on the experience is well worth recording. Maybe it’s because academia has so recently embraced events that there’s an opportunity and a willingness to try new teaching arrangements – there’s lots of talk about using new technologies, working with others and acting for mutual benefit, but I don’t necessarily see too much evidence of it catching on.

Topics included software platforms (Posterous, Twitter, Prezi, etc.); the Quality Assurance requirements/demands of institutions; practical ways of encouraging students to communicate across the vast distances of Scotland; and innovative ways of assessing the fruits of such work. Creative ways of developing modules could be very advantageous for students beyond university: materials produced and consumed using social media could be accessible forever, both to those who created it and those in future cohorts.

…and that would require a shift in attitude for some as well. Embracing a spirit of openness is very fashionable at the moment; I hope it becomes the norm in terms of collaboration, government data and marketing in the arts for example. When you’re asked (nay, required) to comment openly on the work of others it can be a little trickier. This might be the work of your tutor (as embodied in a YouTube clip embedded in a blog perhaps) and it might be the work of your fellow students, who’ll then have a right of reply. The task is set: to establish learning environments in which this is accepted and to manage expectations such that all students can gain the confidence to participate.

My post earlier today featured HEFCE’s Collaborate to compete, which highlights technology and online learning, regardless of whether this comes from on high or is directly developed by academics themselves. Surely it’s a no-brainer? The truth of the matter is that unless universities and enough of their staff take this on board and run with it, they’ll be faced by students who wonder if they’ve stepped back in time in order to gain their qualifications. UCAS applications may be rising still higher, but its a qualitative shift as well: the expectation to keep pace with even the most mainstream new media must be met!

Here’s to future summits and continued experimentation.

This image, appropriate as it is, is tagged with ‘Glasgow’, ‘Tramway’, ‘April’, ‘2008’, ‘Mogwai’ and ‘Triptych’. As such it reminds me of my only other trip to the Tramway: to see the Cinematic Orchestra, also at the Triptych Festival – now sadly lost to Scotland.

Image: ‘Unrealistic’



The Event Expo: Glasgow, 9 February 2011

The ‘Event Expo‘ was a one day conference at The Garage in Glasgow: by event management students, for event management students. (Yes, it was in a night club. Got a problem with that?) Plenty of variety on the bill and an impressive line up of speakers. These are brief notes on Joe Goldblatt’s (popular and well attended) talk.

  • The internet has contributed to the globalising of the events industry, as part of a globalising economy.
  • There’s a need to be aware of ‘black swans’: unexpected innovations which change what’s possible and therefore can affect a whole industry… you have to keep up.
  • Joe was eloquent in linking special events to various academic fields, maths, Enlightenment themes and the ability of all locations to use events: a level playing field?
  • Four forces affecting events:
    • Population growth, particularly as societies overcome Malthusian limits on population growth; will also be reflected in rise of BRIC nations – note awarding of mega events to Russia, Brazil, Qatar, etc.
    • – ‘The next economy‘: a complex world, demanding experimentation and pragmatism, where the current economic environment is one of uncertainty. Joe noted his recent paper on key areas affected by the global recession on events, following industry research:
      • less sponsorship
      • overall slowdown
      • ticket sales
      • food and beverage sales
      • charges for previously free services
      • loss of some events
      • more competition
      • new levels of creativity
      • more technology available
      • consolidation within the industry
    • Technology: a discussion about the need to set up apps, use augmented reality, virtual events and to carry on experimenting.
    • Environmental: noting that the environment in which such discussions take place is one informed by Rio 1992 and subsequent summits.
  • What do we do now? The answer is certainly one affected by the policy objectives of government agencies (People 1st, etc.) as well as important reports (Tourism  Framework for ChangeBridging the Gap [London 2012]).

The whole day was well received by those who attended, with students from across the central belt in particular. Will there be another…? Depends on next year’s cohort of students.

Late February round up of quick links, software and half-formed responses.

The limited nature of my engagement with Delicious is based on the idea that if I particularly like a website or want to keep a record of someone’s blog post I’ll note it on my own blog and add a little comment to remind myself what was so great about it in the first place. Fortunately it’s often self-evident what’s so great about the sites, as will hopefully be the case with the links below…

When it comes to websites which capture the work of single person, ranging from academic to journalist to general polymath I’m particularly enamoured by Aleks Krotoski’s. She’s recently finished her 365 Flickr project to illustrate the opening three paragraphs of George Orwell’s 1984, some 369 words. It took a while to watch the slideshow, but if you’ve time look through some of images it’s very rewarding.

This morning I finally made time to read Jennifer Jones’s post on writing tools, which these here thoughts build upon.

Scrivener has the potential to act as a traditional word processor, yet most of the comments I’ve read and watched compare it to old skool typewriters and extol its virtues as a much better fit for how we actually compile and write papers and other pieces of text. (See also Prezi and slideshows.) For longer documents the ease of use by which sections can be manipulated, moved and otherwise messed about with is impressive. I’m planning to give it a go by importing my PhD proposal, then waiting until I next have to write something of any length.

Jennifer’s post also links to her passionate piece on the joys of the Kindle. Its ability to let you carry so much around, comment on papers and PDFs, import and export documents is very appealing. Something to think about when the need arises and the wallet allows.

Mendeley gets another mention… something I should really get into, but I know all that!

It’s so valuable to have these software and hardware resources to draw on, yet even more so to be able to share the thoughts of others in similar situations. I’m sure it was ever thus in one form or another, but the joys of social media both expand that community and bring it closer together.

On a similar theme is Ana Adi’s post on screen captures, based on web tools. There’s such a variety of options available to consumers these days that we’re truly spoiled for choice. This feels like it could be a golden age for technology and social media (before net neutrality comes under serious threat, again), or it could be just the beginning.

Finally, a posting on my blog of a document which David McGillivray brought to my attention by adding it to his. 

The Online Learning Task Force’s Collaborate to compete is a call to arms for those keen to work between institutions within higher education. (The OLTF is HEFCE funded, though its recommendations are widely applicable.) I’ve commented on David’s post, but in short I think there’s much to be commended in their work from my perspective: meaning that I can see how their ideas would apply to me and current projects. I think a lot of what they’ve recommended is skewed towards what university executives should be doing to move their institutions towards a more collaborative future, ignoring to some extent the opportunities already open to academics to push things on themselves.

Who’s to say we won’t reach a time when fine intentions from above are met halfway by several years of experimentation and good practice from the coalface. Collaboration between institutions means good communication between universities; we can only hope that there’s a comparable sharing of ideas within them as well.

Travelogue 16: ‘away and home 21.02.03’

I remember writing this post as it gook about two weeks to compile and twenty minutes to type up: a compilation of some standout memories from a year in Australia. I returned to the UK with little focus on what was to come next, although it didn’t take too long for some projects to fall into place.


You’ll note my remarkable prescience about the 2003 Rugby World Cup. I shall make no predictions about the 2011 competition, although it’s good to see some flowing rugby from England in the current Six Nations.


If you want some background on any of the highlights listed in this travelogue please get in touch. The next post came out over nine months later, though I might just repost it a little sooner.



away and home by davidjarman

Current projects: Twestival and Breda.

I’m involved in two very interesting projects at the moment and this post is to introduce them both and record where we’re up to just now with them.


First up is Edinburgh Twestival 2011. Every year cities around the world put together an event for a chosen charity ??? all the events take place on the same day and in alternate years they all share a charity as well. 2011 is one of the other years, where each city chooses a local cause: Edinburgh’s Twestival is raising money for St Columba’s Hospice, which is on the north side of the city. When the word went out for people to help it seemed too good an opportunity: this here blog is all about the mix of social media, events and cities, so where better to get involved… pretty in-depth research if nothing else. The date for your diary is Thursday 24 March, the main site for the event is here and you’re all welcome once the tickets go on sale in a couple of weeks.

It’s been really interesting seeing how the event’s taken shape, with a committee of around ten people drawing on their skills, expertise and contacts to quickly build momentum. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect to it all so far is the wealth of support that exists within Edinburgh’s Twitter community ??? each announcement (venue, choice of sponsor, etc.) is greeted with a surge of interest and many a retweet. My role is pretty marginal: I turn up and try to ask useful questions, or get in touch with people I know who might be able to help. So long as that’s enough I’ll carry on enjoying being involved.

The other project I want to note here is my involvement in a forthcoming visit to Edinburgh by students from a Dutch university, along the same lines as the previous cohort enjoyed just before the 2010 football World Cup (where the Netherlands made it through to the final). The university is NHTV Breda, in the south of the country midway between Amsterdam and Brussels. Some 90 or so students are due in Scotland for ten days, where they will work in teams of about six to research one of four venues in the city. My job is to try and line up those venues, help with finding guest speakers, university room bookings and so on. 90 students… that’s quite a few.

I’ll also be going out to Breda for a few days shortly before they head to Scotland ??? my chance to introduce Edinburgh, eat well and enjoy a few days in a really lovely city. Call it a treat at the end of the year perhaps, though it’s one that takes some work to put together. I guess I’m really waiting for the last night party again and hearing about the great time that the students will hopefully have had. Last year’s group went to the Highlands, Murrayfield, ghost walks, all over Edinburgh and many were keen to come back for their Masters. That will take a couple of years at least; these are only second years, but very ambitious with it. (They could teach Edinburgh Napier’s students a bit about taking the opportunities that open up to them.) I shall finish here with a few photos of Breda and the university, with more to come later in the year when I head back there. There’s every chance that the next batch will have a few people in them!


The Guardian Hacks SXSW


The Guardian has the best conference-festival-hack-day-event, it’s due this time next week. The conference-festival is South by South West, the hack-day is a way to bring people together to make stuff for following SXSW, and the ‘event’ nature of it all means that contributors have to be focused for those two days.

And there’ll hopefully be a legacy too: tools devised on 12 and 13 February 2011 will be available for future events, hopefully for anyone who wants to make use of them. It’s not dissimilar to the work Mark Coyle (from the BBC’s Olympics coverage) talked about during the EventScotland conference just before Christmas. In both cases the event is a catalyst for new ideas to be generated, put into practice, tested and refined. When the next opportunity to use them comes along, whether it’s another conference or the 2014 Commonwealth Games, they’re sitting on the shelf ready for further development.