Category Archives: 10wos

#10wos 04: Share and share alike (14-20 July 2014)

On the Monday of this week I had my standard three meals, in a non-standard arrangement of three different capital cities. Kicking off, early, in Edinburgh I flew into London City Airport, shared lunch with a friend, then onwards from Heathrow to Berlin. Definitely out of the ordinary and all the more fun for that.

The next bit of sharing came courtesy of my Airbnb host, in Kreuzberg, Berlin. I was on the verge, the very cusp, of considering putting my own spare room up on Airbnb earlier this summer. That plan has been shelved as I’ve had flat mates for the past few months. As for the Berlin residence though all worked out very well. A welcoming host, who gives you enough information to settle in, plus enough privacy to feel at home, makes for a fine ally in a new city. Such was the experience in Berlin, in a fine apartment.

As for the city itself: a grand capital, of which only the surface was scratched. I’ve posted a few photos already, given the urgency of showing that I was there when the German team brought home the World Cup. The story of the trip was a lot of walking, many fine buildings of varying vintages, some very friendly folk and a lot of good times, food and drink. Berlin is definitely a city to return to, to explore its neighbourhoods, galleries and open spaces. It’s an open city for the most part when the architecture is given space to breath and be seen. The transport system works well and the main railway station is a splendour to behold.

No one can escape the history of the city, nor are they allowed to. Berliners, visitors, city planners and civic leaders are continually re-evaluating their relationship to the political, social and architectural events of the past 100 years. The was government is run, its relationship with the people and the international perspective that pervades city life is constantly being negotiated and opened for discussion. There was a wall running through the city for a generation (actually two walls and an deadly no man’s land in between) which has left physical and psychological legacies across Berlin. The experience of living and being in Berlin now is shaped by the division which only started to be resealed 25 years ago. Then from the windows of an S-Bahn train you see long, thin areas of parkland and you know that they are now for every man and woman.

Sharing Berlin was also achieved with Amy, as you can see in the photos. Hopefully we’ll be back there before too long.

Keeping the Airbnb theme going I went on from Berlin to Latvia, initially to Riga and then on to the Positivus festival which features in lots of photos and posts already on this blog. This time a different type of accommodation sharing: my host wasn’t staying in the same place at all, so I had the whole place to myself. Rather than wallowing in the space I headed into town, getting a taste of the historic heart of Riga, its parklands, squares, cafés and culture. I was unaware that I was heading to this year’s European Capital of Culture, but such it is. Opera in the park, choirs on every corner, galleries and exhibitions all over town.

But then I had to depart for Positivus: a subject I’ve covered in plenty of depth already on this blog.

#10wos 03: Meta event (7-13 July 2014)

SNA detailFor 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.

#10wos 02: All the colours (30 June to 6 July 2014)

David and Liedewei in Breda10 weeks of summer continued with a trip to Breda in the Netherlands, I think this was my fourth trip and I’ve blogged about some of the others before. As you can see from the image of Liedewei and me they were all out for the Dutch World Cup effort at the time. I’m writing this post on the day of the third place playoff, featuring the Netherlands and Brazil: for many people this is always their high point of the whole tournament. Really. I’m sure.

Also featured: they got me riding a bike through Breda. Very odd… an upright position, one gear, no brakes (you gently pedal backwards to slow down) and we were on the right (thus incorrect) side of the road skipping between bike lanes and city streets. Highly recommended.

As in 2013 I was given the chance to head out to Breda, via Schiphol, to help with the end-of-degree interviews that their International Leisure Management students go through to finish their four year programmes of study at NHTV. The students deliver a ten minute presentation, then sit through 30-40 minutes of questions before we the interview panel decide upon a grade and congratulate them on completing their studies. It’s a very rewarding experience. Some of the key things I took away from the 2014 experience were…

  • The interview brings together some really interesting elements and it’s hardly revolutionary in its content. Students are asked to reflect upon their thesis and their time at university, to deliver a vision of sorts for their industry (on a theme of their choosing), and to comment on how their studies have set them up for the future.
  • While it has elements of interview, that’s not really doing it justice. The presentations tended to use Prezi, with some incorporating video that they had made themselves. The questions and answers often became more of a conversation with different contributors putting forward their own perspectives on particular topics.
  • Those topics varied widely, from co-creation of experiences to uses of technology and the sharing economy. Perhaps unsurprisingly there was some idealism in the ambitions of the students, but what’s the point of a vision without ambition?
  • I was also keen to ask the students about their experiences of a ‘competency‘ based education process – where they develop a series of competencies during their time at Breda. This approach sees them cover areas such as internationalisation and imagineering at different stages of the degree. It is partly intended to help them show potential future employers that they have the skills and experience to fulfil the requirements of vacancies that they would like to fill. The students generally found that some points of the course were stronger than others in delivering on this, with the later years cited by some as particularly effective in competency development. As a way to thread the programme together I can see that it has great potential as an underpinning of the students’ experiences and I’m glad I’ve been exposed to it in recent years.
  • The last thing to pick up on is the international elements of the programme, by name and by nature. The students travel regularly, picking up credits and experience from a wide range of destinations, organisations and projects.

Breda really is a lovely place. If I was better organised perhaps I would have spent more time out there, but I’ll be back one way or another.

The trip to Breda left just enough time for Edinburgh Napier’s graduation ceremony. There are some reflections here to ponder, but suffice it to say that the university does a good graduation. From the glorious Usher Hall to the relaxed and well supplied reception back at Craiglockhart it’s a good day out. I recommend it.

Then on Sunday I learnt a new piece of software which helped my draw some pretty social network analysis graphs. But more of that in the next #10wos.

Colours: Breda: orange; graduation: black, red, white, greenish; social network analysis: lots!

#10wos 01: Ties, reflections and projections (23-29 June 2014)

Brass monkey10 weeks of summer is a new project to get more stuff onto this blog: it’s all very well calling it ‘Intermittent notes’ but there really should be some notes to go with the intermittency. It will also help me track the passing of time, as we make our way towards the inevitable heat death of the universe. So #10wos is a prompt, a tool, a thread and who knows what else by the time we reach the end of August?

I’ve titled this post ‘ties, reflections and projections’ because in the space of a week I was prompted to think about the past, present and future from a mix of perspectives. Four events that as the week passed looked furthest back and peered furthest forward.

Part one: I work at Craiglockhart War Hospital. It’s not known by that name any more, these days it’s the Craiglockhart campus of Edinburgh Napier University. It’s quite possible that the building wasn’t known as ‘Craiglockhart War Hospital’ during the years in question, but that’s what Wikipedia has decided to go with. Over three years, from 1916 to 1919, the Craiglockhart Hydropathic was a place of refuge and treatment for soldiers in the Great War suffering from ‘shell shock’; patients who these days would possibly be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and similar conditions. What has kept Craiglockhart’s war history alive and relevant is its connection to Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen other ‘war poets’ and their publication ‘The Hydra‘. On Monday of this week I helped plan a project the university is running with the Edinburgh International Book Festival: we will be running a blog through the summer to cover some of their World War I centenary related activities, with student and staff contributions. The campus and its archives offer something unique to the festival and its visitors, which we are very happy to share with their world – there’s a small museum on campus, always open to the public. Later in the summer I’ll report back on the process of compiling the blog, as well as thinking about the events that have been put together by the Book Festival. These include ‘The Poetry of War‘, which has been produced with contributions and sponsorship from Edinburgh Napier, on Sunday 24 August.

Part two: Thursday of this week was my grandmother’s funeral. While not quite encompassing a full century, she had plenty of tales and memories from the twentieth century’s other World War and a lot more besides. Though this isn’t the platform to say too much, spending three days in the Weald of Kent where gran lived, my mother grew up and other relatives of mine are based now was an opportunity to think back on all our lives. It’s a lovely area of picture postcard villages, cricket matches, farms and oast houses that even looks good from space courtesy of Google Maps. Family photos were pored over and a few mementos gathered up for safe keeping: I’ve used one to illustrate this post, smoothed from many years of careful brass polishing. Thinking of you always gran!

Part three: Back to Edinburgh for the weekend where the university celebrated its 50th anniversary as a higher education establishment with a day and a night of events, talks, demonstrations, have a go sessions and all manner of other goings on. It’s an interesting time to be in academia, at a Scottish institution. The country has a proud (long) history of education and Edinburgh Napier plays its part in the current provision, having established itself as a centre of expertise and excellence in a range of areas. Looking ahead to the future we await the outcome of 18 September and whatever it may bring, though it’s fairly safe to assume that the university will survive, that festivals and events will continue to take place and that there will be a place for those who wish to understand and deliver them better.

Part four: Universities exist to educate, among other things, so it is always a joy to see the successful completion of degree courses every summer. Sunday of this week took me to the 2014 Business School Graduation Ball, complete with waist coat and bow tie. I can confirm that the future is in good hands.