Category Archives: networks

Critical Event Studies Symposium: a Friday in Manchester for #CritEvents

There’s a growing momentum around the idea of ‘critical event studies’, which has led to the publication of this edited book (including a chapter from me!). Themes include research methods, history, ideologies and encounters.

img_7199 img_7200My chapter is titled ‘The Strength of Festival Ties: Social Network Analysis and the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival’. It takes a broadly research methods focus, applying whole network analysis to the employees of the EISF on the eve of the 2014 festival. There are plans and hopes that this ‘critical’ agenda can lead to panels at conferences, further publications, and more symposia and gatherings.

 

Last Friday (9 September, 2016) saw the first Critical Event Studies Symposium, held at Mad Lab, Manchester. What follows are my bullet point notes from the day. Further material from the day is being posted to the main site, and the Twitter hashtag is #CritEvents. The format of the day encouraged discussion and conversation, critique and questioning. And some excellent note taking!

 

Making Events Critical 09-09-2016

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Critical Event Studies Symposium

Friday 9 September, Mad Lab, Manchester

Opening panel

Maurice Roche: background in mega events, particularly sporting and world’s fairs.

    • Outlines growth in events work, including HE.
    • Critical Event Studies: a response to burgeoning interest in events, and their meaning. Going beyond practise, operation and economic dimensions of events.
    • Events need to be understood in terms of conflict and contest: should be aware of this when we look at events, going beyond mainstream interpretations.
    • Contexts are vital: political and cultural, in addition to economic.
    • So what’s new? Roche sees this as a re-animation and re-discovery of existing themes. (See Roche: ‘Mega-Events & Modernity’.) Example of 1936 Nazi Olympics: what was happening in Germany, what was the IOC doing at the time? But a need to justify and explain this to other academic fields.
    • Roche in Sheffield: strange time in the city as economy crashes (steel, coal), while also planning for 1991 World Student Games. What was driving it, what was the legacy? Result being 25 years of debt, thus opportunity costs as a negative legacy. Therefore… conflict and contest.
    • Recognition of the complexity of events; the rise of the global east; contexts are changing; changing contexts influences changes in events; what of ‘the future’ and where are we going; Roche predicts a strong future for events, coming out of the recent growth.
    • Threats to events: see issues relating to FIFA, IAAF, IOC and other global institutions. Existential threat?

 

Beatriz Garcia:

    • Notes value and good timing for this focus on ‘critical events’.
    • This is the right time, following 30 years of theorising around events. Time to bring this together with the managerial angle, to build bridges and look at common terms, and themes can be looked at afresh.
    • Anthropological angle: myth and ritual and their place in events. Contemporary myth making. City branding on one level, but also how we see ourselves and how are we presenting this to ourselves and to the world. How do you tell the story? How do we judge whether an event is a success or a failure?
    • Notes Brazil: a sense of pride around opening ceremony, perhaps unexpectedly, a sense that the Olympics weren’t going to be a failure after all.
    • Events and festivals: differences between them. Events as to be experienced, mediated, global, building a new reality for the Olympics since the 1980s. The Olympics sells access, sells exclusivity, sells sponsorship opportunities… but this brings pressure from the needs of the media, so that the real experience is the televised one, rather than the live experience. Limited resources need to be spent where the greatest pay off can be found. Festivals are more about the lived experience, hopefully paying attention to the needs of the local audience. How to recover the festival from within the event city?
    • Garcia: personally inspired by 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where the city was overtly integrated into the narrative, ‘the city as a protagonist’. However, always a struggle to get the city into the picture. Saw 9/11 as a spur to retreat back into arenas, where they can be controlled. Since then security is a key priority.
    • ECOC: different from sporting mega events on the basis of scale, length, motivations, focus. See cultural events as being a harder context in which to justify position. Are they really a mega event? Do they get the media coverage that help to define sporting mega events? Is it possible to link the ‘business’ angle of cultural events (which is vital) with broader objectives relating to society and culture?
    • Notes that Olympics are broadening their scope, to take on board cultural elements. See ‘national houses’ dimension, presenting a mini World Expo.
    • New: the way we deal with the public realm, in that cities can’t really be shut off, so how to deal with protest and debate? Particularly in the context of social media. How to create a festival around a mega event in this context?
    • New: a discussion around how to tell the story. Does the 1980s vision of exclusive media access, the experts on screen, etc. still hold true? Where is the multiplicity of voices that is expected today? What place experts today? Stories are being told simultaneously through multiple media, that no one can control.
    • Challenge: making use of the expertise available. The ‘caravan of experts’ that exists around each mega event, who will provide a festival model for you (at a cost): importing ideas into your city, because they worked elsewhere. How is this providing an answer for the needs of your city? They can’t, without creating ‘non-places’, where anything that doesn’t fit the model gets covered up and ignored. How to make the most of knowledge transfer, while responding to what’s difficult and challenging and specific to each destination?
    • Agrees that we need to value place making, and how do you combine the necessity to learn and provide legacy, with the need for wonderment, and for each host to question the situation it finds itself in.

 

James McVeigh: Festivals Edinburgh

    • Edinburgh Festivals context: 1947 to 2017. Festivals rooted in the destination, with both historical and contemporary links to the festivals. Lends ‘authenticity’ to the festivals.
    • Impact assessment report (2016).
    • 2007 ‘Publicly-funded culture and the creative industries’ text started debate over the role of the public funding and later commercial successes.
    • Fault line between ‘important work’ and ‘popular work’. Led to ‘Desire Lines’, to pick out the influence between the festivals and the year round cultural provision.
    • Resident versus tourist: who are the festivals for?
    • Social impacts: who are the festivals for? Scope: festivals are more than fireworks… they last longer that just the moment of experience. Where is the voice of the resident? How to find the voice of different communities? How to bring audiences and communities into the conversation?
    • Festivals in the broader cultural economy: how to establish the link between festivals and broader cultural work, when this is poorly understood? Note that Edinburgh festivals are seen as a place to see new work, and recognised as such by the artists themselves.
    • Festivals’ role in audience development: why do people do things differently at festival time? See new work, engage differently.
    • Festivals Innovation Lab: how can festivals adapt and change, act as a laboratory of new thinking. Festivals should be at the vanguard of cultural thinking.
    • Societal importance of festivals: from Holi to Tomatina, Day of the Dead, etc. Festivals interrupt the day to day. They introduce work into new spaces. They can help you reimagine your city.
    • 1947: context of post-war austerity and European conflict, yet Edinburgh held a party, for the ‘flowering of the human spirit’.

 

Ellie Turner: Walk the Plank

    • Critical events: community participation and relevance. Giving people and communities a sense of place, and pride. Working at all scales, on land, sea and air. Telling a story through their work, their artists, makers, musicians, etc. Bringing international artists together with local artists, to build the capacity of NW to deliver such projects. ‘Impact’ is delivered from the start.
    • Key to connect with the community that you’re working with.

 

Q&A:

    • Have we been held back by a focus on mega events?
      • The biddable nature of sporting events means that they get a lot of attention, have to be able to justify themselves and get support. How do we define mega events: does it include ECOC? In Edinburgh festivals are seen as a concentration of space, time and activity… so a year long festival doesn’t make sense, it’s a branding exercise.
      • The distinction between attracting events and supporting those you already have and are created yourself. Where should funding come from: different pots of money for these different types of events?
      • Distinction between local and global: how to reflect both. How to retain knowledge, experience and expertise within the destination.
      • James notes timing of festivals’ founding, often in a time of change and/or crisis: post-WWII, 1968, post-Berlin Wall.
  • Where’s the critical? Are we being constrained by orthodoxies and how do we overcome them? How do we think radically?
    • BG: bring new people to the table.
    • JMcV: Edinburgh’s engagement with tech sector, viewing the festivals as a laboratory.
    • Should events and festivals have a limited life time? That they exist to fulfil a particular need, but that they should be allowed to die once that need has passed.
    • KW: notes opposition to Paralympics and whether this ‘circus’ is meeting the needs of its various communities.
  • Institute of Event Management and professional recognition:
    • How will outputs be disseminated from today? LP highlights today as a starting point, but that outputs will be disseminated centrally and by different participants.
  • What of local/global and other dichotomies:
    • Looking to roots of festivals: to what extent are there common factors in different places?
    • What happens when you take an event from one context to another, with a different cultural context?
    • How to address the complexities of societies and cultures and destinations: disconnected communities, etc.?
    • How to reflect the diversity of a community or destination? How to avoid the standard white, middle class audience? The diversity of a city can be its strength, but is this reflected in the producers, consumers, participants and audiences of a festival?
    • How ‘local’ are local festivals, which are produced by external organisations? E.g. Walk the Plank getting a contract to deliver events in your city.
  • Distinctions between festivals and events and processions:
    • JMcV: points to FE criteria for being a member, which includes lasting for at least three days.
    • Cultural context important, because what works for one location might not be applicable elsewhere.
    • Different conceptualisations of ‘public space’, and how some places seem to ‘discover’ phenomena that are common elsewhere.

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Open space

Questioning the role of ‘experts’

  • What is an expert?
  • Where is the expertise: local authorities?
  • What are graduates coming out of university equipped to do?
  • It sounds as though we need experts within the events industry, to avoid problems and potential catastrophes.
  • Research as an element of developing expertise.
  • How can Event Management courses be developed to meet the needs of industry: bringing the academic and/or the practical knowledge? How to address the variety of types of events, facets of the industry and so on?
  • Industry experience: situations where industry has to rescue event plans that go off track.
  • Experts having a clearer idea of realistic scale and scope for festivals and events, based on available budgets.
  • What of having experts from one city delivering events elsewhere: a means to the end of sustainability for the company? How to avoid the risk of damaging the original brand?
  • Expertise: tied to credibility? Each source being judged on its authority and justification. So, in the events context who carries that authority and validation?
  • Does the expert have to have the qualifications? What place experience? Perhaps the expert is the one to say ‘stop’.
  • Development of the events management education: skewed towards the operational, instrumental and evangelical? What have we done to this generation of graduates? Highlight the value of work placements and experience to build on the academic.
  • Different models of placements and internships within degree courses: concentrated, spread out, etc. A need to develop work based learning that suits the student and the employer – trying to avoid negative experiences that will put partners off in the future.

 

Is event management superficial and self-congratulatory?

  • Following on from Rojek’s critique of events (‘Event Power’).
  • DMcG: following up on this by identifying the critical work that has been done around events.
  • How does critical event studies avoid superficiality?
  • A sense that event practitioners are also blinkered in their approach to the industry… and yet look at Walk to Plank’s recognition that they are contributing to sense of place and pride.
  • How to take a critical approach, that draws on a range of ideas (authenticity, commercialisation, etc.), to deliver events that reflect those ideas. Easy to overlook these things in the need to be successful and sustainable.
  • Funding regimes: a need to satisfy funding requirements in order to get support.
  • How to educate students so that they can deliver events that are successful, can get funding, and can draw from the need to meet a range of objectives.
  • Rojek’s argument carries weight (though there are criticisms of how he delivers his argument).
  • Events education: moving away from hospitality and tourism. And yet… how does what we do match up with what employers are looking for. (Some might prefer the previous model!)
  • Legal matters: how to integrate legal content into an events management course? A dedicated module that covers ‘what you need to know’? Events students need to be aware of the broader legal context in which you operate, which includes some of the reasons why people might be protesting against your event.
  • Events struggling to have an epistemology and philosophy that defines it as being different. Without it, there will be questions over credibility, coming from other academic areas.
  • How are these courses then judged: on their level of academic criticality? NSS ‘intellectual challenge’?
  • The foundations of a programme might be crucial in its development: growing out of hospitality and tourism, or appearing independently of them?
  • Events literature: how to reflect and support the more critical work? See how Tourism has diversified, yet Events is still primarily publishing management/operational work in such journals? Critical work is being done, but it’s often published in non-events journals.
  • A possible parting of the waves? Management courses, and studies courses?
  • Do we see many students taking events courses purely for the academic side? Not really… the better academic students may well be generally switched on in all areas, or others are less keen to get involved in the volunteering side of things.

 

Events and festivals as liminal, radical spaces

  • Not quite every day life, but there are still rules.
  • Phases of ritual: liminal is central, the phase where someone goes from one state to another and is open to new ideas. A transformative phase.
  • What happens when the person goes back into the normal world?
  • A space of potential: other things are possible.
  • Venice Carnival: the wearing of masks to deliver equality, or at least anonymity.
  • Festivals that turn things on their heads: performances in different spaces; juxtaposing audiences and performers; altering the geography and flow of a place.
  • Transformative: do we see people being changed?
  • Ritual, carnival and liminality: Bakhtin, etc. …the potential for people to come back from a festival experience a different person. Does this work only at the individual level, but not for broader social change? Yet the individuals are what makes up society, and they have agency.
  • Thresholds: what does it take for an individual to let themselves go?
  • Examples: Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh; LIFT in London. Starting projects in order to produce and provide spaces in which new ideas can be discussed, phenomena created.
  • Does liminality apply in a sports context? Crossing a touchline into a space where different rules apply? Yet liminality suggests there are no rules.

Network creativity in Dundee: Mass Assembly 2016 #Mass16

Mass Assembly 2016Last Thursday, 26 May 2016, I headed up from Edinburgh to Dundee to Mass Assembly 2016. It was an early start, but the wonderful Scottish climate offers about 20 hours of daylight at the moment. That’s plenty enough to check on the new Forth crossing: looking good just now.

The whole event was devised and built around collaborations, networks, hubs and partnerships in the creative and cultural sector. I went along because of my interests in networks, as well as general support for Creative Edinburgh (one of the delivery partners). They worked alongside Creative Dundee to bring it all together. In the audience were those representing lots of other networks and organisations. A network of networks, a hub of hubs. All very meta.

The following notes lack much narrative. Rather than try to piece together the whole day, I have opted to copy and paste my bullet point notes. For further coverage of the day, please see the Storify constructed by Creative Dundee.

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Mass Assembly

26 May 2016, Dundee

Opening: Gillian E and Janine M

  • Setting out basis for the day, ref to ‘creative cities’ project that linked cities across Scotland.
  • Thanks to British Council and their support.
  • Notes boundaries that prevent people working together, including visas (in today’s case).

 

Session one

Canan Marasligil: Translation as a bridge

  • Discusses language (her personal journey) and translation.
  • Translation relying on networks, and translation can help build communities.
  • Project 1: #cityintranslation
  • Project 2: Spectacular Translation Machine. An activity based environment in which people translate materials (pictures) into their own words.
  • Highlights importance of networks for freelancers.

Josyane Franc: Creating the opportunities to engage the wider population (Saint-Etienne)

  • Links between Dundee and Saint-Etienne: both the first UNESCO City of Design in their countries.
  • Key stakeholders in network:
    • Buildings: concert hall, administrative institutions
    • S-E School of Art and Design
    • Cite du Design 2009: festival held in former arms factory, in the heart of the city
  • Process: took time to engage local people and administration
  • Local government: established ‘Design Manager’ position, to introduce design into planning of each new development in the city
  • La Manufacture: a creative district for the city, bringing designers, researchers, fab lab, companies, etc. – emphasis is on collaboration, within a focused built environment
  • Large scale project: involving residential, leisure and business environments
  • Future: national theatre due to open a space soon
  • Deliberate effort to publicise the network and the work it is doing
  • Important role of S-E biennale, which engaged local communities and other cities (international)
  • ’S-E changes design, and changes the idea of design’

Discussion: led by Clive Gillman

  • To create a community and a hub we need to think about: language, space, place, interactions…
  • Q: How do we describe a place?
    • A: The people. The people describe that place.
    • A: Ambassadors, at different levels, who play a part in the development of the city. From local politicians/authorities to activists.
  • Discussion led to urban/rural debate, including limits to what can be achieved in rural environments.
  • Digital: what can digital tools provide?
  • Real estate prices in urban centres can be astronomic, but still desired, yet workers are often remotely connected.
  • Libraries: what place libraries as a platform for social capital, knowledge, engagement, meetings, all parts of community brought together: making people feel comfortable in a space.

 

Session two

Steven Drost: Start ups and creatives – some thoughts / The live audit

  • The role of start ups, and start up culture, in the creative sector.
  • Start up culture is generally optimistic, but needs to be tempered by talking to communities and the people who will actually engage with them.
  • Lessons from start ups: iterate and improve; build a business around your ideas; work with pirates (not the navy).

 

Session three

Steve Hamm: The future belongs to crowds

  • Steve works for Swarm.
  • A trend towards a more crowd based approach.
  • Technology is taking us in this direction, allowing us to connect.
  • Economics too: the ‘firm’ operates to reduce transaction costs.
  • What of the connected world, where transaction costs are reducing, allowing for collaboration without the need for a firm.
  • Collaboration: necessary to collaborate with a diverse mix of characters.
  • The importance of meeting face to face.
  • Recording: important to track and capture the process and outcomes of a collaboration. Helps to produce something that can be shared.
  • Makes reference to SNA research into Broadway musicals: what’s the right balance between all new teams and those who are tired and stale with no means of introducing new ideas.
  • Uber: highlighted as a service that supports one group of users very well, but neglects others (e.g. the drivers). A need to develop a broader approach, of ‘user-centred’ or ‘community-centred’ design.

Alex Zacharias

  • From ‘August’ consultancy (New York).
  • ‘Responsive working’: encouraging companies to help businesses prepare for a new way of working. Large, old companies aren’t able to compete with newer ones, where they’ve been hamstrung by hierarchies and bureaucracies.
  • How to work with companies and individuals that don’t always see the need for change?
  • Key principles: open, learning, networked, iteration.

Discussion: led again by Clive Gillman

  • On ‘exploitation of intellectual property’: written into law that Creative Scotland works to support those who work with intellectual property. Yet also seen that many in the creative industries actually work with traditional means of activity: producing goods, etc.
  • A need for those who are being affected by collaborative work to be part of the process.
  • Super connectors: important in the development of communities, and can be found formally or informally; but can be important to look beyond these people in order to develop a broader understanding of the ways people might react to a particular project.
  • Embedding of artists and creatives within other sectors of the economy: what benefits can this bring?
  • Notes the importance of businesses working with creatives in order to reach creative solutions to problems: new ways of thinking can achieve breakthroughs, but it takes for the business to be open to new ideas and believing that they don’t have the solutions themselves.
  • Designers bring skills and superpowers to the table. Get yourself through the door!
  • Janine: notes use of ‘hot desk hangouts’ to get creative folk into organisations for a day, helping to show that creatives can have a place to work in that environment.
  • Nice section where different people stood up to talk about their projects and networks.

#UmbrellaMovement: December 2014 in Hong Kong

This Storify captures my tweets from a week spent in Hong Kong.

 

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 10: Journey’s end and Edinburgh festival shows, part four (25-31 August 2014)

Usher Hall10 weeks of summer would appear to be drawing to a close. If I were in Edinburgh just now I’d be looking ahead to the end of festival fireworks, which from a distance of a few hundred miles and a disputed border I shall have to enjoy vicariously. All the posts from 10 weeks of summer are linked through this #10wos tag. Before a few reflections here’s what happened in Week 3 of the International Festival, which took in the final hours of the Fringe and the Book Festival.

So there they are, just two events. The photo on this post is carefully chosen though, showing the end of the concert from my organ gallery vantage point. The end of the event, the closed music books, the covers back on the timpani and the audience filing out. They were superb: tremendous musicians who played so well together. (Even I could tell this, though others confirmed it to me.)

Totalling up my 2014 festival events then… four gala launches for @LoveEdinburgh; four regular festival events in Fringe Week 0 and nine the week after in the same blog post; ten after that; eleven more; then the two above. That’s 40. Add in the exhibitions I’m very glad I saw at Summerhall and the Edinburgh College of Art and you reach 42. Which is the ultimate answer to the question of whether this has been a good festival year for me. This could be a record.

This is of no consequence to anyone or anything but me. I really shouldn’t be counting, let alone putting the numbers in bold like that. Really, what have I become? A target hunting cultural magpie, taking little in and giving little in return beyond mere statistics? Then to put this online through a self-indulgent blog post? No wonder my readership stats are so small.

Same again next year, then?

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Way back when, the #10wos project was a way to get me back into blogging. A structure within which to record a few thoughts and avoid memories slipping away forever. Since Week 01 started (on 23 June) I’ve been to Edinburgh, England, the Netherlands, Paisley, Berlin, Riga, Positivus in northern Latvia, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; I’ve had a Twitter audience of 10,000 followers through @LoveEdinburgh, been in the audience for dozens of Edinburgh festival shows and events; swung through the trees at Go Ape; presented my thoughts through a festival panel and a conference presentation; congratulated scores of students on their graduation and, right about now, started preparing for the next intake. The next ten weeks may not be quite so eventful, which could be a good thing as there’s work to be done. Speaking of which, I’ve also been contributing to Edinburgh Napier’s blog on World War I events at the Book Festival.

I am very lucky and very happy to have shared many of these experiences with Amy. They have been all the more important and memorable because of her.

The sun is still shining on this Sunday afternoon in England. Many miles away a few tons of explosives are being lined up and checked before they punctuate the Edinburgh night sky and bring the 2014 summer festival season to a close. Tomorrow the city will wake up and smell the cordite in the air, hopefully smiling at the memory. Then the working week will begin… except it will be September by then. September 2014 in Scotland has a special ring to it. The count down to the #indyref Independence Referendum will no longer be counted in years or months, we’ll be talking in days. Me and my vote? I’m still swithering, because although I know what the sensible, correct, right and proper answer is, the occasional shot of adrenaline makes me wonder ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘what are we waiting for?’. Well, Scotland?

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.

#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.