Monthly Archives: July 2011

Hong Kong: teaching trip, July 2011.

Higher Education in the 21st century: I’m just back from a week in Hong Kong, teaching on the MSc Marketing with International Festival and Event Management that Edinburgh Napier runs over there with HKU SPACE. It was a great week, meeting lots of new people and having the chance to discuss events, festivals and the development of the industry in different parts of the world.

I would love to write about it in depth, but I suspect these pictures might do a better job: a mixture of classrooms, hotel rooftop views and evidence from a data-gathering trip to a festival. I now have data relating to the efficient employment of a yard of ale, for example. Such rigorous research didn’t do much for my attempts to get over the jet lag, but neither did the rolling revelations of ‘phone hacking’ that finally hit home for News International in London – I was never going to sleep through that as it all kicked off.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m out there again.



It’s a full 12 months, 365 days, since I turned a pile of dog-eared Post-It notes into the seed of a PhD idea, so a appropriate time to mark some recent thoughts. I hope this is going to be a brief post, responding in part to the #iDocQ conference I discussed in yesterday’s post.

Included below you’ll see the poster I put together for my talk: short on detail for two reasons… firstly that I don’t yet have much of substance to talk about (no clearly defined theoretical basis, no research methods), but also because this was displayed through a projector and viewed from distance. It borrows from my Pecha Kucha slides and raises some topics that I tried to justify in my talk; with the commentary they pose more questions than provide answers.

Three key pieces of audience feedback from my talk:
  • What is the research question? What’s the problem being addressed?
  • On what basis is the gap in the literature being identified? …that these two disciplines lack sufficient exploration, or that the debate needs to be moved on?
  • Establish a theoretical basis for the work: define the mental frame of reference within which questions, conclusions and recommendations can be addressed.

My general response to the second of these points is that sometimes I think I’ve hit upon a new area of research on which little has been said, which rapidly turns to ‘time to catch up’ when I stumble upon a trove of existing work. As for the first and third topics, they have formed the basis of the refinements flagged in the title above. The following statements are full of value judgements, links to Wikipedia and leaps of imagination, but that aside…

  1. Social capital is desired: it binds communities, fosters civil society (reciprocally), supports social and industrial innovation and so on.
  2. Social capital is tied to social networks: connections are made, mapped, maintained and these two concepts are mutually reinforcing, to the benefit of individuals, organisations and society.
  3. Festivals and events have a large role to play in supporting social networks and providing opportunities for the creation and application of social capital: its is through events that we meet others, gain their trust and invest in shared projects.
  4. Communications technologies and social media have a part to play in supporting festivals and events (planned and unplanned) in this work: event producers and other interested parties can take advantage of these technologies, reaching stated objectives on the basis of enhanced social capital in a given community and/or location.
  5. This will necessarily have an impact on the audience or delegate experience, to the extent that they are instrumental to the achievement of those social capital objectives and are asked (perhaps implicitly) to subscribe to them: audience members will bring their own agendas to the party, negotiating the degree to which their priorities fit those of the event organisers and their stakeholders.
  6. These negotiations will be mediated through real life meetings and communications technologies.

Which leads to the proposed research problem:

How can social media and communications technologies best facilitate the social networks and social capital that are created and sustained by festivals and live events?

I’ve been having a quick look at some of the earliest posts on this blog, such as my round up of last year’s event management education conference at Leeds Met. The research question doesn’t stray from my thoughts coming out of that event, although to my eyes it’s a much more focused attempt to encapsulate the themes I’m interested in. A quick review of the research proposal submitted last December tells me much the same, so this is an evolution that can happily draw on the reading (and writing) I’ve done over the past year.

Speaking of which, my brief post has blossomed somewhat: I’ll prune that flower just here.

#iDocQ: PhD discussion conference.

#iDocQ: Information Science Doctoral Colloquium

Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Sunday 19 June 2011

This is the first of two posts to come out of this one day conference ??? the second will focus on the development of my own research ideas as a result (which I’m hoping to post tomorrow, the first anniversary of starting this blog). The following are sketchy notes from some of the keynote talks and the plenary sessions, as well as the work of some other PhD students (there were around twenty of us).

Ross Todd (@RossJTodd) opened the day and led with the information science theme, asking what is shaping our experience of information handling:
  • The means and motivations of people connecting and utilising information.
  • A theme of ‘networks of interconnections’.
  • Asking how does the information change us?
  • Describing the journey from information to knowledge.
  • Working towards building the infrastructure to help: school libraries and so on.

Brian Detlor (@briandetlor) discussed his work looking at how people use the web, particularly portals and intranets. The implications for his work stretch from electronic government to information literacy, but on the process of PhD research he highlighted:
  • Identifying a niche for your research, perhaps through an interdisciplinary focus.
  • Adopting a practical approach to defining research topics and data gathering opportunities: creativity and opportunism combining to create innovative research.
  • Building connections with others, whether within your institution or not, so that they can bring their skill-sets to the project.
  • Being generally open to various approaches and methodologies.

Both researchers use both qualitative and quantitative methods, which was roundly supported by everyone at the conference.

Forbes Gibb also spoke, narrowing on key considerations for PhD candidates:
  • Focus on a tight topic
  • Plan your research process
  • Own the PhD
  • Contribute to the research community
  • Challenge: ideas, received wisdom, supervisors, established norms
  • Have fun and be sure to resolve issues

The focus of the day was on the PhD candidates though, who all had a chance to present their ideas in a ‘one minute madness’ session: in turn we stood up, introduced our ideas, generally tried to say a bit too much then sat down as the next person took over. Good fun… to be seen again in a future class of mine or two I’m sure.

The conference abstracts reflects the breadth of topics being discussed, such as:
  • Storytelling, media convergence and participatory culture in public library everyday work practice
  • An approach to the semantic intelligence cloud
  • New arenas for learning: teacher students’ use of participatory media as tools for learning
  • Enacting information ??? cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • An examination of the effective use of information in an organisational context and how it can support decision making in the ‘real world’

…as I knew would happen I found myself among people who are considerably further down the road than I, who long ago answered some of the basic questions I’m working through: defining a clear research problem for starters. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, I gained a lot from the supportive atmosphere that permeated the whole day (and the preceding night’s conference dinner). As a teaching academic with four year’s experience under my belt I’ve got the sort of job that many of these students hope will follow their doctorate; for that I am grateful and hope that I can use the research and teaching to inform each other in the coming years.

There was full support behind making #iDocQ an annual gathering, rotating between the institutions that have combined to set it up (which includes Edinburgh Napier). Students will therefore be able to chart their progress from one conference to the next, using them as early summer waypoints. (Big thanks to Katie Morrison (@Miss_KatieMo) and all the organisers and contributors.)

Bringing together researchers from a wide range of topics, countries and methods worked really well: everyone had something to contribute and could learn a lot from the trials and successes of others. Getting support from some excellent researchers for the keynotes and advice sessions was crucial, so the closing word is from Hazel Hall (@hazelh) on what she looks for in a PhD…
  • Does it contribute new knowledge?
  • Does it have interest for peers in both industry and academia?
  • Does it demonstrate research competency in the author?

…sage advice, particularly for anyone who happens to have Prof. Hall as a supervisor.