Category Archives: Edinburgh

Writing to the future: #DearestScotland…

dearestscotland_logo_trans1It’s taken me a while, but I’ve just posted my letter to Dearest Scotland. You’ll find them here online at www.dearestscotland.com.

Dearest Scotland is a postbox to the future of a country. In their own words: ‘Regardless of which way the referendum result went, we’ve been encouraging visions that focus down the line. What might Scotland look like in the future? What do we actually think about our nation? What might our landscape, education system and high streets look like in five, ten, twenty years’ time.’ Having known about the project for a while through a personal connection I knew I would eventually put something down, though it’s take a while for the moment to feel right. Please read on if you’d like to know what I had to say, but if you’ve not got time for that you can go straight to their submission page to write something yourself!

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Dearest Scotland,

This letter is coming to you from the past, from December 2014, which might be many months or years before you read this. I’m writing it in my present though, reflecting on events that are ongoing and uncertain.

When I look out of the window I see that I’m flying at 36,000 feet. The place I departed several hours ago is Hong Kong, where the final few acts of an astonishing period of civil disobedience are playing themselves out. Civil in the civic sense, but also in the mostly calm manner in which they have been taking place in recent days. A movement of citizens, particularly students and academics, had established a sprawling, thriving camp that dominated an eight lane highway in the commercial heart of the city for over two months. When walking through the camp what you saw were the tents of protesters, a media platform from which to reach a much bigger audience, small print works, a study area powered by exercise bikes, a garden, micro kitchens, communal supplies and thousands of posters and signs. Signs demanding recognition and representation, rights and responsibilities, in the face of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. These were people who understood the democratic deficit of their situation and weren’t going to wait for someone else to do something about it on their behalf. By the time I left Hong Kong the main camp had gone, dismantled by bailiffs under a court order that riot police were helping to enforce. The protesters had, for the most part, obeyed the court and packed up; none resisted in a violent manner. The short term mission to force more open, more localised and more representative elements into the city’s governance had failed, yet the protesters remained defiant, undeterred and ultimately optimistic for the future.

Scotland, please allow me to ponder the parallels with your own recent history. It will be a stretch, but I hope you’ll indulge me. For those two months of street occupation, read your two years of debate ahead of September 2014’s independence referendum; for overbearing influence from Beijing think of a Westminster-Holyrood devolved relationship, that some have always seen as unsettled and in need of overhauling. Both campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful, yet the initial spark for greater representation spawned wider debates, about the kinds of societies that citizens wanted to live in. How should a distant centre of power relate to those on its periphery? What do the two campaigns foretell, of an inevitable move towards greater local autonomy, or the uneasy truce of a temporary status quo? What will be the impact of greater engagement and active involvement by a new, young generation who have felt politics reach out to them and taken it by the hand?

I remember walking to work on 19 September, the morning after the referendum. It seemed no one wanted to make eye contact, there was a distant expression in people’s eyes. To put it in words it was a look of… oh dear, what have we done?! A sense of having missed a unique opportunity? A vacuum of thought and discussion, for what else were we going to talk and tweet about now? Shock at the way the Prime Minister, on the tarmac of Downing Street, had already linked further Scottish devolution to constitutional reform across the United Kingdom? Maybe we were all just tired.

The parameters of Scotland’s national discussion had been replaced by a new context: oil, currency, the EU and other priorities had swiftly been replaced by tax, spend, voting rights and party politics in the House of Commons. It was a rude awakening and had the air of trap about it, seeking to catch Scotland out when its guard was down.

Only time will tell where we go from here, how many of these themes come to dominate the debate from time to time in the years ahead. There is cause for optimism though Scotland, for you have proved yourself again and again: able to engage in informed discourse, to involve the whole country in a national conversation, and to wake up the next day apparently without a damaging hangover or destructive resentment. There have been three referendum votes in recent memory: 1979, 1997 and 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have less time to wait until the next one, for this topic is alive and kicking. After all, we’re only pausing to draw breath before the next UK general election in a few short months.

Keep the spirit of debate alive, Scotland. Build upon it when you gather with your friends and families at Christmas, at the weekends, at birthdays, cafes, pubs and libraries, online and on each other’s doorsteps. Demands for greater representation may have looked different in Hong Kong compared with Hawick or Helensburgh (the ‘official opposition’ to change certainly did) but there was an energy to both these campaigns in 2014. An energy and an optimism, for whatever the future may hold citizens have found their voices and they won’t forget the impact they had.

To the future Scotland, to the future me, let’s see where we choose to go next.

David Jarman.

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The Dearest Scotland image above has been plucked from their site. I hope this will be permitted.

Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods: International Journal of Event and Festival Management: Vol 5, No 3

Word reached Edinburgh this week that a paper I’ve been working on with three Edinburgh Napier colleagues has now been published. This news is very welcome to us, and you can find further details here:

Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods: International Journal of Event and Festival Management: Vol 5, No 3

The work started life as part of the literature review for my PhD. The early (and unfinished) resolution of the PhD work opened up the opportunity to make alternative use of the material. I was very fortunate to have three supervisors who were keen to continue working on these themes and we are all very happy to see the paper in print and pixels.

One of those authors, Prof Hazel Hall, has also blogged about the publication. As she says: ‘We conclude that although the importance of relationships sustained within networks has long been recognised within the industry, and that festival cities offer dynamic environments in which to investigate the workings of social networks, there is scant reflection of this in the event studies literature. A research method is proposed as suitable for application across a diverse range of festivals and events.’

I hope to continue working on that proposed research method, with more news to come as progress is made.

The full citation is:

Jarman, D., Theodoraki, E., Hall, H., Ali-Knight, J. (2014). Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods. International Journal of Event and Festival Management 5(3), 311-322.

#10wos 06: I @LoveEdinburgh and not just for one week (28 July to 3 August 2014)

IMG_3329For a few short days I held in my hand the power to reach thousands of people through the @LoveEdinburgh account on Twitter. I wrote up my hopes and plans for the week just as I was taking up the reins, you can read them on the blog here. I am happy to report that the follower numbers went up during my week, though not quite to the 10,000 that remained tantalisingly close yet out of reach. Here are some thoughts from the week.

  • I stuck to the theme of Edinburgh’s August festivals for almost all of my tweets. I wanted to have a distinct identity while running the account and focusing on the festivals seemed a timely way to do so. I had, after all, chosen this particular week months ago with the Fringe’s previews in mind, so it would have been a missed opportunity not to talk about them.
  • In the lead up to the week I lined up a few special events as well – invites to some of the venue media launches, that sort of thing. That gave me some set piece events to cover, hopefully adding some value by giving an insider view from time to time. It was good to see that the official venue accounts retweeted my posts from time to time – Assembly Theatre was most active in this regard; Pleasance much less so.
  • There were some topics that I avoided: the #indyref for example. The previous incumbent said that he had found it problematic when he mentioned the referendum, so the nearest I got was to retweet a message about making sure people were registered to vote.
  • On the subject of retweeting, I avoided doing it as a rule. There were a few occasions when I was asked to RT something by someone I knew, or for a cause I supported, and I was happy to do so. My general feeling though was that followers of @LoveEdinburgh are interested in the voice of the curator, rather than receiving a relatively large number of second hand tweets from other sources.
  • With the same thought in mind, I didn’t spend much time looking through the feed of tweets that previous curators had signed up to. I decided early on that I would send my own tweets, that I would respond if people replied to them, but that I wouldn’t do much in the way of dropping in on others’ posts. That might be seen as antisocial, but I kept my regular account going for that sort of thing.
  • Along the way I posted a few photos – during the venue launches, for example. I could have done more of this as images tended to get a reasonable response. This had been a regular approach of the previous curator and I know that he enjoyed the positive reaction he received from doing it.
  • In the first few days I was picking up 20-30 followers a day, so it seemed perfectly feasible that the account would get to 10,000 while I was looking after it. My bright idea was to set up a competition to mark the occasion if it happened and to ‘reward’ the 10,000th follower. The prize was sourced with a local business and all was going well. However, there were a couple of commenters that questioned the wisdom of this approach as it wasn’t inclusive for the existing followership. An interesting perspective and perhaps a valid one, though that hadn’t been my intention of course. There are apparently ways to pick a random person from among your existing followers, which would have been good to know. Lesson learned therefore. I can report that the growth in followers seemed to stall around the time I announced the competition though, so maybe it was a tad counter productive!
  • With the festival kicking off, work to do, places to be and people to see I didn’t always have time to put much into @LoveEdinburgh. That meant quite a slow start, which was a good thing I think as it helped me work out what to do with the account, gave me some breathing space before the Fringe kicked off and helped separate my week from the previous curator. Things picked up though and I really enjoyed it when friends commented that they recognised the face in the account’s profile picture! (A picture carefully chosen for its inclusion of the lovely Union Canal in the background.)

As the week drew to a close I didn’t have much of a final flourish planned. What I had taken over from, at the start of my week, was quite a crescendo of activity. That reflected the higher level of interaction that my predecessor had had with the followers; I was very happy to wait for those late-weekend conversations to die down before posting much myself.

My closing hours were perhaps the opposite: they were somewhat taken away from me. During the mid-evening on Sunday I opened up my Twitter app to check for any mentions, to see that the picture had already been changed and the next host was sending out messages! This wasn’t exactly what I had expected nor planned for, so there wasn’t much chance to say goodbye.

Hopefully I did my bit to bring a little of the Edinburgh festivals online. The weather was excellent for the most part, the shows I saw all good and there was a lively vibe in the city. Not every city has residents who are proud of where they live, but Edinburgh has a special place in the hearts of just about everyone I know. Some were born nearby, others have travelled far to be here. It’s not just the castle atop a volcano that happens to sit in the middle of the city. It isn’t only the festivals and the universities and the history and the architecture. This is a place where new ideas are given a chance, where those of all backgrounds can have a voice, as can those who are here to reinvent themselves. This makes it hard to leave – just ask the people who love Edinburgh so much they come back every August, who I’m sure wish they could just move here.
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Here’s a Storify of some tweets I sent while running @LoveEdinburgh. Please remember that the picture associated with the account changes on a weekly basis!  

Curation: pre-@LoveEdinburgh guardianship

Edinburgh_from_Murrayfield_roofThe clock is ticking around to midnight and I’m about to take over the @LoveEdinburgh account on Twitter. It’s what they call a ‘rotation project’, where a different person runs the account for a week before passing it on. Thus far tonight the preceding guardian has stepped back, announced my forthcoming curatorship and I’ve gotten caught in the crossfire of messages! I fear that it might be difficult to know from which account I’m replying at times, but we’ll see how we go. I’m going to lie low for this evening anyway; no need to jump straight in.

It’s proving hard enough just to pick a photo of myself to use as the account’s avatar.

At the time of writing @LoveEdinburgh has 9,825 followers. I suppose a successful week means not losing too many of them, maybe even adding a few. There are some other things I’d like to do though, besides the metrics. Firstly the community around the account will hopefully be welcoming and help me shape the narrative as we go – I’m very interested to see how that plays out. I suspect there’ll be folk who engage with the account whoever’s running it, while others will be more or less active depending on the topics up for discussion, the photos posted and so on. My hunch is that I won’t track or respond to many Direct Messages: there’s only so much I can keep my eyes on at once.

I want to use different media as we go along, building on text and photos with the occasional Audioboo clip and whatever else comes along. It might make most sense to create, and post these to Twitter, from my usual account (@dsrjarman) and use that as the basis of an @LoveEdinburgh posting.

What will I write about? Well, after seeing a few friends take on the account over the winter months I thought ahead and plumped for late July into early August. It’s no coincidence that we’re on the verge of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (@edfringe) and as such there’s plenty going on in the city. I’ll be going along to the media launches of a few venues, then keeping my eyes open for more festival goings on along the way too. Let’s see how Fringe venues, performers, promoters and, of course, audiences both near and far engage with @LoveEdinburgh. I would have thought that reaching 10,000 followers would be a good start when pushing your show…

In seven days’ time I’ll pick over the experience. If I’ve the energy.