Refinements.

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?
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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.