Monthly Archives: December 2013

Festivals and events of 2013

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Since the beginning of September I’ve had a small pile of used event tickets, programmes and flyers on my desk, waiting for me to report on my cultural highlights of the second half of 2013. If I don’t remedy this situation my patience will snap, the urge to tidy up will see this paper in the bin and an opportunity missed. To get the job done I’ve had to resort to bullet points, so here goes:

  • Edinburgh’s summer festivals had another good year and I again counted myself lucky to live in a city that friends are keen to visit: it’s a pleasure to put them up and a bonus to see a broader mix of events and performances as a result.
  • During the Fringe this included ‘Chalk Farm’ (relating the personal experiences and dilemmas of those caught up in the 2011 riots) and ‘CIRCA: Wunderkammer’ (an Australian display of strength and athleticism).
  • This was also a summer of music. Beatboxing and hip hop came courtesy of ‘Stanley Odd’ (Scottish) and ‘Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum’ (Australian). On the orchestral side came Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ courtesy of the International Festival Chorus and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Usher Hall: stunning.
  • The International also ran a well attended series of talks under the ‘Interfaces’ heading. Described as exploring ‘moments when changes and advances in technology enter our lives and affect them in ways we could never have predicted’ there was a roll call of some of the cultural commentators I’m most interested in hearing from. In several separate events these included: Aleks Krotoski, Paul Mason, Ben Hammersley, Emily Bell, Tom Standage and Jonathan Mills. An international festival in full flow is a perfect setting for this kind of cultural exchange, with the topics and discussions ranging far and wide into politics, technology, protest, unrest, identity and the turbulent progress of progress itself. I hope that both the contributors and the audiences enjoyed the events and that the EIF continues this good work.
  • For pure enjoyment nothing topped a night at ‘Hot Dub Time Machine’. Take yourself along, fully hydrated, as anyone who’s had any interest in popular music since the 1950s will have a ball.
  • Sticking with the music theme, I saw Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans) at the Book Festival, talking with Ian Rankin – who looked like he was having as good a time as anyone in the tent. Other EIBF events included Christopher Brookmyre (thank you to EIBF for my ticket) and Alistair Moffat being interviewed by James Naughtie (thank you to Edinburgh Napier, as we sponsored this event).
  • Out with the festivals I’ve been along to some excellent gigs: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (Edinburgh, Usher Hall); Bonobo (Edinburgh: Picturehouse; Glasgow: O2 ABC); and, KT Tunstall (Glasgow: O2 Academy). 2014 may struggle to match that mix, all of which were excellent and great fun too.
  • There’s been some sport too, seeing Scotland’s cricket and rugby union sides fall to Australia (the former in bright sunshine, the latter with the lights off at Murrayfield), with a little more rugby against Japan (a win!) and South Africa (not a win).

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2014 – Scotland’s year of sport, culture, Homecoming, politics and possible independence. There’ll be plenty of events and festivals along the way and perhaps some more regular blogging.

Happy New Year!

Talking head(s) @audioboo

IMG_1692Over the course of Edinburgh Napier’s 2013 autumn term I’ve been experimenting with Audioboo.fm as a podcasting platform, adding another level of communication with the students on two of the modules I’ve been working on. The process has been pretty straightforward:

  • using the Audioboo app on my phone I record up to five minutes of audio, give it a title and a category and click ‘Publish’
  • a bit of magic happens in the cloud then after a minute the post is visible on my Audioboo page
  • from there I copy the embed code and paste it into a Label on Moodle that’s positioned next to that topic’s other resources

I try to get the recordings done in a single take – maybe I should put together a bloopers reel, complete with coughs, expletives and a fair smattering of umms and errs. From the beginning the intention has been to try to link one week’s topics to the next, reflecting upon seminar discussions, guest speakers, relevance for assessments and whatever else makes sense at the time. I’ve avoided the temptation to add music, jingles and the other paraphernalia of a radio show, but who knows what treats might be in store for future modules? The simplicity of the Audioboo platform helps too: a free account gives me just five minutes to play with and that’s enough to be getting on with. The app and the web page are easy enough to navigate, though can feel underpowered in terms of statistics and metrics.

Speaking of which, I have (according to Audioboo) had some impressive listening figures:

TSM08103 ‘The Impacts of Festivals and Events’ (40 students):

  • 12 recordings (11 topics + one revision post)
  • Highest play count: ‘1.5K’ (this was for the introductory week)
  • Total play count: 9,370 (average = 780)

TSM09102 ‘Planning and Public Policy for Festivals and Events’ (95 students):

  • 16 recordings (11 topics + five revision posts)
  • Highest play count: ‘4.7K’ (again for the introductory topic, which is embedded below)
  • Total play count: 35,930 (average = 2,245)

All of Audioboo’s play count information is neatly rounded up to the nearest ten, then the nearest hundred once you get over 1,000 – for this reason I do have some doubts about the accuracy of some of these data. What counts as a play? Is it enough for the embedded player to be called up from their servers? There has been a drop in play counts across both modules from earliest to more recent, apart from a single reverse among the TSM09102 batch, so the jury is perhaps out on that one. If actual plays (partial + full) are what counts then this would appear to be a success – that’s a lot of listens. The posts are all publicly available too, each one automatically announced through my Twitter feed during its publication.

It is of course little surprise that so many people would want to hear my utterances, but I’m sure I hardly need to add that. Ahem.

Looking ahead to future modules I’ll carry on working out how best to use this technology. I could take it out on the road, exchanging my bedroom for the streets of Edinburgh on Hogmanay later today, or the pitch of Murrayfield at the 2014 Six Nations games. A further step would see students themselves contributing to a recording, or taking it upon themselves to do the whole thing: contributions from different seminar groups to the same podcast perhaps. There’s plenty of potential in some coverage of the events that the students themselves organise and attend, linking their work to both the module and the broader programme of study. I may start playing with SoundCloud as well, which seems to offer more but might see a return to the simplicity/flexibility debate.

Overall: podcasts have been good for me and hopefully good for the students.