A considerable amount of research has been done in recent years to explore the European Capital of Culture initiative. Here's the European Commission's home page for the project. Here's a document setting out 'An international framework of good practice in research and delivery of the European Capital of Culture programme' that I didn't know existed until about ten minutes ago. Meanwhile Robert Palmer and Greg Richards's reports on capitals past has led to the creation of Eventful Cities, a 2010 text designed to emphasise the importance of events for cities and steps to be taken to maximise their effectiveness.
I've recently been mining it for teaching resources and ideas for integrating some of its ideas in the new direction my own research might be going. A concept that stood out (p371) is the way events can reclaim (urban) space for community use, with a whole host of benefits: we're used to events being used to purportedly regenerate areas of the urban landscape through investment in infrastructure and such legacies, but this is an argument for regeneration of a more social and cultural kind. It doesn't take much of a leap of perception to swap our 'urban' for 'virtual' space and there's a clear link between the community's online and offline lives. The event captures our attention and our imagination, prompting us to view the space(s) in a new light, make new connections with others and reassess our relationship with that space. Events at catalysts.
What form do these events take: they needn't be focused on technology to reshape our connections with that world, just as a 'real' event doesn't have to have an overtly social (or social policy) focus to bring about the benefits we seek. In fact, it possibly shouldn't - although technology is such a dynamic field at the moment that it holds people's attention all by itself.
One such event recently is written up here. The event: #begoodbesocial at the Melting Pot, Edinburgh. The aim: bringing together third sector organisations to share ideas and strategies for social media. The collaborative atmosphere flagged up in the review is between people and organisations, while also demonstrating that a mixture of methods are needed to promote that working relationship: online is fine, face to face is ace.
Meanwhile the idea that 'festivals' can act as 'laboratories' is at the heart of this. Without looking too deeply into the project it brings together the Future Everything conference/event in Manchester along with many other organisations. They want to explore the idea of using festivals (primarily music based it seems) to explore new ways of working in the arts:
'We are looking for projects that engage the festival audience and artists in a participatory experiment in creating a new kind of artwork, a new form of participation, new understanding on art or technology, or a new and innovative way of presenting inspirational art. Proposals should experiment with the festival format, transforming the festival environment into a lab or experimental space.'
...I wonder if someone'll pay me to go.
And, thanks to the b3ta digest 459 (which dropped into my inbox this morning) here's a corporate advertising take on the whole thing from Absolut vodka. They're promising to take over disused spaces in order to: reach their objective in selling more product... via the medium of real life eventful experience. I'll let you know how it goes.
Festivals, events, social media and technology: helping you see your world in a new light.