An escalation in communications technologies, which can be accessed by event producers and audiences 24 hours a day, connects festival communities in real time across a city and around the globe – this extends beyond trying to sell more tickets. The doctoral research being discussed seeks to analyse such networks, whether centred on a specific event or across a community that produces and supports a portfolio of established festivals through the year. As social network methodologies receive considerable attention from politicians and policy research organisations, so the academic community is exploring the application of such ideas to a wider range of subjects (Cameron, 2010; RSA, 2010; Christakis & Fowler, 2010). The nature of Edinburgh’s festival economy – replete with substantial support from both public and private stakeholders, close links between the festivals and innumerable short term employment opportunities – suggests that the networks which sustain it are ripe for examination.
Two varieties of social network are relevant: one based in the physical ‘real world’ the other ‘virtual’, mapped out in social media. The nature of these parallel and overlapping networks is therefore of interest, asking to what extent they replicate each other, what flows through these networks, where power lies and who is, ultimately, excluded. When a festival is represented both in person and online, is it the same person who presents that identity and seeks to influence the way it is regarded by others in the community? Where different people are charged with this responsibility what impact does this have on the voice, approachability and other characteristics of the organisation’s personas? Links to the wider host community are also of relevance, with the potential for arts festivals to act as ‘boundary objects’, providing opportunities for others to integrate and contribute their resources and expertise to the broader network (Arias & Fischer, 2000). This latter point draws out some of the policy implications of this work, for the role of festivals and events in the creation of social capital and more cohesive societies is receiving increased attention (Foley et al, 2012).
Existing work on ‘leisure in the network society’ provides a reference point for research into social networks, social capital, social media and social gatherings (Richards, 2010). This research reflects continues work on these themes, through a systematic review of the literature and primary research based on appropriate social network analysis methodologies.
Arias, E.G. & Fischer, G., 2000, Boundary objects: Their role in articulating the task at hand and making information relevant to it, International ICSC Symposium on Interactive and Collaborative Computing (ICC'2000).
Cameron, D., 2010, Big Society Speech: 19 July 2010, retrieved January 14, 2012, from http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/big-society-speech/
Christakis, N.A. & Fowler, J.H., 2010, Connected: The amazing power of social networks and how they shape our lives, HarperPress, London.
Foley, M., McGillivray, D. & McPherson, G., 2012, Event policy: from theory to strategy, Routledge, London; New York.
Richards, G., 2010, Leisure in the network society: from pseudo-events to hyperfestivity? Tilburg University, Tilburg.
RSA, 2010, RSA Journal, Autumn 2010, The RSA, London.