For the past few years I have been fortunate enough to attend some excellent academic conferences through the summer weeks. For 2014 I went one further and was on the organising committee for the 2014 LSA Conference, hosted by the University of the West of Scotland. My experience of conferences seems to have changed somewhat, for I didn’t leave this one with a raft of notes that I felt needed to be integrated into my modules. This time around it was more a case of hearing updates on a wide range of projects, research approaches and discussions. From David McGillivray’s (@dgmcgillivray) keynote on digital technologies and events, to Daniel Turner (@DanielTurner27) reflecting on Aberdeen’s experiences when bidding, unsuccessfully, for the 2017 UK City of Culture. Gayle McPherson (@gmp01) did a fantastic job as conference chair and it was great working with her and the rest of the team. Potential projects could follow, we’ll have to watch this space for more. Some slightly random notes from the conference follow in the bulletin points below.
Firstly though, I presented the fruits of some research the my Napier colleague Jane Ali-Knight and I have been doing with the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I’ve been talking about social network analysis for a number of years, but now have some actual data! Very exciting. The image that accompanies this post is from the resulting work: a close-up of what the SNA software (Gephi) has done to identify some communities within the overall population. I was happy with the way it went, though I probably spoke to quickly to try to cover everything I wanted to say. There were questions, interesting points raise and generally a successful proof of concept. The next step is to present the information to the Science Festival to see what they say.
Other conference contributors had this to say (with apologies if I’ve misrepresented or misinterpreted their work):
- James Higham: 65,000 people went to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to watch Wales’s 2011 semi-final in the Rugby World Cup, even though the match was in New Zealand. The live audience was a capacity sell out, of just 60,000.
- James Higham: challenges being faced by sports events today include the reproducibility and transportability of the event, so how can they stand out?
- James Higham: sport has strengths in terms of authenticity – the competitors’ effort, uncertainty over the result, fans seeking unique experiences, co-creation opportunities, access to ‘back stage’ coverage.
- James Higham: sports event administrators must make a choice between producing events which are footloose and transportable, or deeply rooted in local cultures.
- Kath Woodward: on the topic of ‘time’ and the way events link past, present and future.
- Kath Woodward: a sports event will look back to past records and competitions; to the present with the breaking of records and writing of new chapters; to the future with the qualification for tournaments and the accumulation of league points.
- Kath Woodward: noted that she decided to write a text in real time during London 2012, which I did as well as it happens.
- Debbie Sadd: reported on Bournemouth University’s FAME model for assessing events, linked to FestIM.
- Debbie Sadd: they’ve been using social network analysis to pick out relational data in social media (Twitter) exchanges, based on Gephi and NodeXL software. Noted differences among events which manage to extend the social media conversation beyond the event itself.
- David McGillivray: accelerated leisure in the digital age… seeing distinctions breaking down between work and leisure, with time and space no longer demarcated as once they were.
- David McGillivray: there is a pressure on us to be connected, with digital communities increasingly focused on those we share physical proximity with as well.
- David McGillivray: discusses the efforts of some event owners to try and protect their properties (and sponsors), alongside efforts of social media, Citizen Relay and Digital Commonwealth.
- Daniel Turner: noting that Aberdeen doesn’t fit the bill of an industrial city now in decline, for it is wealthy; but it’s isolated with a transient population, many of whom go to London for their culture.
- Daniel Turner: on Brighenti’s work on bidding for events (2005) – bids need to be (1) technically strong; (2) communication of the narrative is key, as is having a narrative; (3) lobbying is important to get support from stakeholders. Aberdeen suffered in these respects in its UKCOC bid, though there may be positive outcomes from defeat.
- Dave O’Brien: ‘neoliberal’ is now a catch-all term, used by the left to describe and attack people they don’t like. As a concept it entails replacing political judgements with economic ones, manifested in monitoring, auditing and target setting.
- Dave O’Brien: 2010… DCMS carried out a study into how it should operate, the result of which was a market based principle for justification of involvement in projects. Hard for both left and right to feel comfortable with this.
- Dave O’Brien: so how else to value culture, other that woolly ‘it’s not economic’? 10 years of debate in UK has led to many documents and reports.
- Dave O’Brien: ACE ‘Arts Debate’ (2006): pitched themselves as unique, with their research saying they were great! Heritage Lottery Fund: seeking to create evaluation framework… but how to measure intangible issues? Do any of these approaches produce the sort of data the Treasury wants?
- Dave O’Brien: issues of both validity and reliability when measuring cultural value… the underlying questions are wrong and the tools available aren’t suitable.
- Joe Aitken (GCMB; expert panel): cites ‘Strategic Major Events Forum’ as decision making forum for Glasgow. GCMB has policy of ‘people in, images out’ that underpins their work. Glasgow 2014 as part of a trend for the city, with past events over the years and much to come.
- Paul Zealy (Glasgow 2014 ; expert panel): G2014 legacy is key and always has been. Economic legacy in contracts, apprenticeships, local training and future tourism. Regeneration also happening, though much is intangible. 10 year legacy research commitments have been made through ‘Assessing Legacy 2014‘.
- Jill Miller (Glasgow Life; expert panel): decision was made to attract events in order to accelerate policy in a range of areas. Looks back to 1990 ECOC as helping to change attitudes. Glasgow has learnt lots from previous hosts and is passing this on to the next. Delhi handover as a dress rehearsal for working across all 32 local authorities. Anticipates £25m of value from £3.6m investment [not sure where this money is going, sorry].
Other points of note from the week included the conference dinner (taking place while Germany took Brazil apart in their World Cup semi-final) and the post-dinner ceilidh (which was very warm). Then conference drew to a close in time for me to get through to Edinburgh for a very enjoyable Creative Edinburgh ‘Glug: Haptic‘ event. All that’s left, as we progress towards Sunday evening, is to see if Germany can overcome Argentina in the World Cup final… quite a prospect for those travelling to Berlin the following day.