With the podcast still playing, I want to note this RSA event: The Big Society: Challenges and opportunities for membership organisations. (I wasn't expecting to tag anything with 'Big Society', but as the term gains currency and becomes more clearly defined I'm more comfortable equating it to models of civil society that I've looked at in the past.)
This event, led by a keynote from RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor (which is available for download from their site) looks at the role of membership organisations in creating links between people. Social capital makes an appearance, human fulfilment, the renewal of such organisations' goals and objectives and there are references to Putnam and such commentators. The part played by social media in affecting relationships between people is touched on, likewise the reciprocal nature (or otherwise) of what motivates people to invest in membership of the organisations in the first place. 'Experiences' play a part, if for no other reason than the appearance of the National Trust's Director-General: they can boast a membership of 6.6% of the population of England, Wales and N. Ireland.
And its relevance to me: what would happen if 'events and festivals' was swapped in for 'membership organisations'? Events bring people together, help them find common cause with others, can exemplify the relationships between people in a formal hierarchy (which may stifle them or set them free), and events provide opportunities to develop some of that social capital (bonding and bridging?). Festivals, particularly if led by a particular theme, set up the relationship between the executive and the membership: director and audience.
Does technology get a look in: absolutely, if it can provide the means, the media, by which these relationships are played out. In partnership with face to face gatherings, sure... that's city life after all.