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Face à Fest
Face à Fest
Exploring the Relationship Between Facebook Use and the Festival Phenomenon.
Eric R. Alberts (3485595) Research Internship (MCMV10016) MA New Media & Digital Culture Ann-Sophie Lehmann
Eric R. Alberts
Table of contents
The festival as cultural phenomenon 1.1 1.2 1.3 The evolution of the festival formula Festivalisation and the present-day festival formula Double lives in the network society
5 5 6 7
The relationship between festivals and Facebook 2.1 2.2 2.3 Defining SNSs and the characteristics of Facebook Social capital, creating social networks, and consuming familiarity The modern festival, social discord, and differences with Facebook
9 9 11 13
Case study: STRP Festival and Facebook use 3.1 3.2 3.3 The city of Eindhoven, festival policy, and STRP Festival Facebook use by STRP Festival and its visitors Discussing the relationship between STRP Festival and Facebook use
15 15 17 18
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This study explores the relationship between the festival phenomenon and the usage of Facebook. On a long term the outcome of this study can help festivals to increase the efficiency and revenue of their communication and marketing efforts for future editions. On a short term this study can help to affirm and refute expectations concerning the potential outcome of the implementation of Facebook by festival organisations. Expectations concerning digital media in relation to festivals can be traced back to the words of former director of Theater Instituut Nederland (TIN) Dragan Klaici who formulated the potential of digital technology for festivals in his article “The Value of Festival Mapping”. Klaic believes “festivals that are willing to experiment with digital technology [have the prospect of securing] a significant secondary audience […] in addition to the primary audience attending live events” (Klaic 2007, 202). Klaic continues by stating, “internet [sic] has brought an opportunity to sustain audience loyalty and interest between the two yearly editions” (ibid.). This study finds these words the starting point for further analysis and narrows the terms ‘Internet’ and ‘digital technology’ down to Social Network Sites (SNSs).
The SNS is an online phenomenon that has well secured its place within the cultural mainstream. From an academic perspective it is worth noting that there is “a flurry of academic activity that has already started in the wake of the rise of these highly popular online phenomenon [and] we are at the crucial moment in the development of this field of study” (Beer 2008). Although there are many different perspectives from which to approach SNSs this study stays close to the type of research that examines what people do with it and who they do it with (Ellison et al. 2011). STRP Festival, one of the largest indoor art and technology festivals in Europe, has commissioned this study in order to get a better understanding of how its audience uses SNSs. Hence this study’s focus upon SNS usage in relation to another proliferating (cultural) phenomenon: the festival. This study draws on the words of Dragan Klaic when he claims “despite continuous growth of festivals and evident display of their complexity and diversity, there is surprisingly little research in the festival phenomena, especially […] comparative attempts are rare” (Klaic 2007, 203). This study does exactly that, comparing two key phenomena, which both have become important features of urban life in the twenty-first century.
There are several reasons why this study focuses on Facebook instead of other popular SNSs available today. STRP Festival, for one, has strategically chosen Facebook as their main channel for online marketing and communication related practices in addition to their
Dr. Dragan Klaic (1950) was director of TIN from 1992 until 2001. He studied dramaturgy in Belgrade and received his doctoral from Yale in 1977. He was affiliated with multiple art and culture faculties of universities across Europe. His professional life evolved around Europe and international cooperation. Dragan Klaic passed away in August of 2011.
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own website. Facebook, furthermore, is by far the most popular SNS compared to competitors such as LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace. Hampton et al., who conducted an elaborate study into SNSs in relation to American citizen’s daily lives, found almost everyone they interviewed (92%) uses Facebook. That is why Hampton et al. speak of Facebook in terms of a “nearly universal social networking site” (Hampton et al. 2011, 13). Another argument for choosing Facebook lies within its functionalities. Facebook allows for reciprocal social interaction between users mutually and between users and a festival within an online platform (i.e. a platform other than the one offered by a (offline) festival). This reciprocal social interaction is the centre of attention in this study’s exploration of the relationship between these two phenomena.
Before delving into this relationship, the first chapter, as a start, offers a global overview of the most significant changes the interpretation of the festival formula has undergone over the years. This chapter will dwell on the complex situation of the present-day festival and how it has increasingly become separated from its core celebratory function. The concept of social capital, which is embedded in all social networks, subsequently offers a way to comprehend how and why people create and extend social relationships both on Facebook and during the festival. The second chapter, then, will embed the findings from the exploration of the relationship between both phenomena within the provided context offered in the first chapter. The third chapter, finally, offers a case study in which the theory from the preceding chapters is compared with the results from a survey held among visitors of STRP Festival to see where differences and similarities between theory and practice lie. This way all dots between the different chapters get connected, hopefully offering an overview of the dynamics between the festival phenomenon and Facebook use.
According to Dragan Klaic “festivals could […] lead the engagement with the already existing digital technology in order to recycle their cultural offers and extend the shelf life of their products” (Klaic 2007, 203). For festivals to lead the engagement, however, some theoretical foundation of the dynamics between festivals and Facebook should first be established. In a time where festival organisations are confronted with large-scale budget cuts and increasingly rely on public support, thought-through (communication) strategies are becoming crucial in a festival’s struggle for survival. This study, hopefully, helps festival organisations in their difficult tasks by offering a theoretical backdrop that can help to surpass the gap with the new media. Provided they are critically assessed, new digital media like Facebook can offer opportunities that could steer festival organisations in the right direction and lighten the burden of their continuous fight for existence.
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The festival as cultural phenomenon
This chapter offers an overview of the changes the festival concept has undergone. Today, the festival industry is fast becoming a defining feature of city life in Europe in the twentyfirst century (Küchler et al. 2011). As will become clear, the present-day festival, which has become firmly embedded in the policies of European cities, hardly resembles the modern urban festival that emerged at the nineteenth century (ibid.). A proliferation of festival culture, known as festivalisation, has led to a global industry that runs the risk of neglecting original creative, artistic and celebratory purposes for the sake of productivity and longterm profit. This chapter is not intended as a teleological or chronological consideration of the festival phenomena but tries to point out the most important actors, which have affected the interpretation of the festival significantly. This chapter, thus, offers a global overview of how macro political and macro social processes set conditions for the festival’s development.
The evolution of the festival formula
It is hard to trace the emergence of celebratory events back to a single moment in time or to hold one specific institution accountable for ‘inventing’ the festival concept. What can be said is that for a long time the church was responsible for organising religious celebrations, which were tied to cycles of months or seasons. These events helped transcend the minutiae of everyday life yet could only be understood in terms of the everyday (Küchler et al. 2011). French philosopher and sociologist Roger Caillois was one of the first who attempted a theoretical approach on the festival phenomena. According to Küchler et al., Caillois “binds the festival firmly with the destruction of surplus value against which the history, texture and flavour of modern towns and cities across Europe could be narrated” (ibid.). Emerging from the industrial revolution, cities at in the early twentieth century contained an explosive mixture of diverse people and things. At this moment in time, the festival, allowing for transcendence and remembrance of the everyday, offered early twentieth century cities a valuable way to appropriate the festival for community-based politics (ibid.).
Marjana Johansson and Jerzy Kociatkiewicz describe early modern festivals, such as the Bayreuth Festival (1876) and the Salzburg Festspiele (1920), as events concerned with an elite audience and what was considered high art, reflecting the position and acquired taste of the urban bourgeoisie (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011, 396). These festivals also served a celebratory (remembering glory, fame, excellence etc.) and compensatory purpose (transcending the everyday by providing what local culture at the time could not provide) (Klaic 2006). After the Second World War expectations of what the festival should achieve changed, as a new democratic spirit spread through Europe. The founding of the Edinburgh
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International Festival and the Avignon Festival in 1947, for instance, were attempts to strive for unity and stability in post-war Europe (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011). Although these festivals were still generally concerned with prestige and taste of cultural elites they also sought for inclusiveness, accessibility and new forms of interaction between audience, artists and place (Quinn 2005, 929-930). Early editions of World Theatre Season, Automne de Paris and Holland Festival were similar: prestige and high art were still dominant elements but also “accommodated large participation of theatre goers in order to acquire legitimisation and some subsidies” (Klaic 2002). The festival of the 1950s already had to accommodate more and different demands than the festival of roughly fifty years earlier.
In the 1960s and 70s the aversion of dominant art paradigms and the questioning of the established social and political order invoked an explosion of contesting youth culture, which questioned boundaries of prevalent social and political order. Festival features like non-professional theatre and other carnivalesque or celebratory forms of intervention by social activist groups (e.g. feminism, environmentalism and gay rights) reshaped the everyday life (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011, Klaic 2002). Contesting and nonprofessional art forms that featured at international student festivals in de 1960s shook previously elitist Avignon and Venice festivals. After the peak of the student uprising in Paris in 1968, elitist pretentions could no longer remain unchallenged in the festival culture. According to Dragan Klaic “[a] range of new festivals, conceived as alternatives to established ones, appeared with clearly contesting agenda” (Klaic 2002). The pervasiveness and ubiquity of festival features in everyday life during the turbulent 60s and 70s gradually faded away. When they eventually did, festivals were increasingly expected to serve multiple purposes and public authorities began to monitor and evaluate festivals for granting subsidies (ibid.).
Festivalisation and the present-day festival formula
Public involvement in the organisation of the festival slowly but surely increased in the decades after the roaring 70s. As time went by, transcendence and collective remembrance we gradually rendered inferior festival objectives. According to Dragan Klaic, over the past forty years public authorities have come to expect of festivals to “enrich the artistic programming, develop, enlarge and diversify audiences, boost tourism, improve local employment opportunities, stimulate private/public partnership, [and] promote the image of a city” (Klaic 2002). The process of attributing this vast variety of demands to festivals and harnessing the festival for more market-orientated purposes started in the 1980s and is characterised as ‘festivalisation’ ii (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011). According to a
According to Küchler et al. (2011) it is still not sure what festivalisation means. They refer to Harris (2006) when stating “[t]he general perception is that it alludes to the tendency of seeking to hold major
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consultancy rapport commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council, festivalisation is “linked to the economic restructuring of cities, inter-city competitiveness, and the drive to develop cities as large-scale platforms for the creation and consumption of ‘cultural experience’” (AEA Consulting 2006).
Over the last four decades the cultural agenda of public authorities has become intertwined with economic, political and social agendas. This has cleared the path for festivals to evolve from merely being a way to display and celebrate the wealth of a city to a “device that can bring economic as well as social and cultural benefits” (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011, 387). The present-day festival can act as means to connect cultures and serve as a platform for intercultural engagement. It has the potential to acquire a healing function for areas torn by violence or political conflict. It may even “reinforce the self-confidence of an under-privileged community and celebrate its resourcefulness and newly found sense of purpose” (Klaic 2002). Whether the present-day festival lives up to these expectations is open for debate as academic attention to festivals is relatively recent. Researchers agree, however, that there is an efflorescence of festival culture (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011; Klaic 2006; Frey 2000) consisting of “an industry that is capable of generating experiences that are transferable and repeatable” (Küchler et al. 2011, 4).
Present-day festivals “depend on a complex logistic, much cross-marketing, wellorchestrated fundraising and a synergy of public subsidy, sponsorship and own income” (Klaic 2006). Festival organisations deal with politics and media looking over their shoulders, pressuring them with high expectations concerning attendances, ticket sales, and fundraising. Festivals that appear only once a year or biennially, moreover, struggle with structural discontinuity in staff and audience loyalty. Public authorities continue to play a crucial role, as their funding remains essential. They determine how to monitor festivals, how to evaluate them and why to fund some and others not (ibid.). According to Dragan Klaic “festivals risk to become battlefields of cross-purpose ambitions and needs, of divergent if not contrasting interests, generated from politics, economy, media, and distinct cultural realms” (Klaic 2002). Although festivalisation has the potential to be artistically innovative, a good way to ensure business and to develop and encourage profit, researchers do point to the potential risks (Frey 2000; Klaic 2006; Küchler et al. 2011; Kürti 2011) as the main purpose of festivals has shifted from celebratory to productivity and long-term profit (Richards & Wilson 2006).
Double lives in the network society
The changes to the festival phenomenon described above should be seen against the backdrop of a technological revolution, centred around information, which transformed the
popular events to provide extensive investment in refurbishing the city fabric; expand, albeit temporarily, the market for city output; and leave a permanent stock of physical capital and future growth”.
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macro social and macro political contexts that shape social action and human experience around the world (Castells 1996). We live in a world that is witnessing a revolution in information technology, a converging set of technologies, which is penetrating all domains of human activity (ibid.). Although this technological revolution is amplified through digitisation, or what Nicholas Negroponte refers to as the transformation of atoms into bytes (Negroponte 1995), the digital age is also becoming a unified environment “in which computer hardware and software define possibilities for actions and conditions of expression” (Rieder & Schäfer 2008, 2). The new human condition enables new forms of participation and collaboration, which converge media production and consumption on a global scale. Previously set borders between making media and using media continue to blur (Jenkins 2006, 245).
These macro processes set the conditions for the festival’s future. The continuous flow of activity, on-going and uninterrupted social processes, and overabundance of meaning in the network society cause for festival professionals to become increasingly dependant on media networks (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011, 402; Klaic 2002). The digital age requires festivals to invest in multi-layered communication strategies, orchestrated media exposure and sophisticated marketing campaigns, which have superseded rudimentary forms of publicity (Klaic 2002). In order for festivals to meet the new human condition they need to acquire double lives. One life is concrete, physical, and contained in time and space. The other one is virtual and takes place on the Internet and in other media outlets. Acquiring double lives helps “to overcome the pitfalls of [a festival’s] concentrated, intensive but inevitably short-lived duration in the never-ending typhoon of cultural production and distribution” (ibid.).
The latter explains why festivals are becoming more and more active on the Internet, including SNSs like Facebook. The next chapter will dive into the relationship between the present-day festival industry and the characteristics of Facebook usage. Before doing so, this chapter has tried to clarify that “[t]he organized festival of twenty-first century Europe is in fact light-years away from the picture capture [sic] by Roger Caillois in the first half of the twentieth century” (Küchler et al. 2011, 11). It should not be very surprising when similarities between the festival and Facebook are found. People are taken to be an essential part of festivals and SNSs alike and the memory of both phenomena is expressed through the relationships they create and reinforce. The proliferation of festival culture known as festivalisation, however, has led to a festival industry with an ever-decreasing time-span of funding, a generic attitude to institutional forgetting and a decreasing emphasis on the fostering of social networks across diverse communities (ibid.). Against this backdrop the next chapter explores the relationship between the festival phenomenon and specific social aspects of Facebook use.
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The relationship between festivals and Facebook
This chapter mostly draws on the influential academic research by Nicole Ellion et al. who have published multiple articles on SNSs and have closely monitored the growth of Facebook ever since its birth at Harvard in February of 2004. Drawing mainly on their research can be considered a limitation to this study’s attempt to explore the relationship between the festival and Facebook. David Beer, for instance, points to the neglected aspects of SNSs in Ellison et al.’s research such as “a more political agenda that is more open to the workings of capitalism” (Beer 2008, 528-529). Research by Ellison et al., however, proves to be helpful when looking at how communication practices on SNSs impact social capital outcomes. Their research underscores the importance of what individuals do with Facebook and whom they do it with (Subrahmanyam et al. 2008; Ellison et al. 2011). The step this chapter subsequently tries to make is how this usage of Facebook relates to the festival phenomenon, their visitors and their incentives. As will become clear in this chapter, the relationship between Facebook and the festival can substantially alter when the proliferation of festival culture, known as festivalisation, is taken into the equation. Before elaborating on the relationship between festivals and Facebook it will first be made clear what SNSs are and give an overview of the specific characteristics of Facebook.
Defining SNSs and the characteristics of Facebook
SNSs such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and MySpace are “online spaces that allow individuals to present themselves, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others” (Ellison et al. 2006, 3). More specifically, this study draws on the following definition of SNS:
[S]ocial network sites [are] web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within an bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site. (boyd & Ellison 2008, 211)
Today there is a large amount of SNSs to be found online, all of which have implemented a wide variety of technical featuresiii . Generally all SNSs make use of so-called profile pages: unique pages, created by individuals, which display “an articulated list of [friends] who are also users of the system” (ibid.). After creating a profile on a SNS you are encouraged to invite others into your network. In Facebook this process is called ‘Friending’, whereby a ‘Friend’ is granted increased access to profile information and more communication options (Ellison et al. 2011, 876).
For a further reading on SNS’s technical features see “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scolarship” by danah m. boyd and Nicole B. Ellison published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (2008).
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By 2011 Facebook is the second largest site on the Internet. It has more than 800 million active users of whom more than 50% log on any given day (Facebook.com). Facebook is far from reaching growth saturation, as the number of unique visitors is still increasing. In November of 2011 Facebook counted 160 million unique visits, growing 23% year over year (Compete 2012). Besides Friending users of Facebook have the ability to update their status, to comment on other users’ statuses and content, to indicate that they like someone’s content, and to send private messagesiv. Hampton et al. also looked at how much of Facebook users’ overall network is connected on Facebook and how this network looks like. On average, an American adult on Facebook has 229 Facebook friends. Compared to the number of active social ties in people’s overall social networks, the average user has Friended 48% of his/her total network on Facebook. The largest single group of Facebook Friends consists of people from high school; the second largest of people from college/university. The average Facebook user has never met in-person with 7% of his or her Facebook Friends and an additional 3% are people he or she has met in-person only once. According to Hampton et al., SNSs are also increasingly used to maintain contact with close social ties (Hampton et al. 2011).
The numbers and figures above correspond with other research revealing Facebook is used predominantly for communication among acquaintances and offline contacts than for connecting with strangers (Ellison et al. 2011; Ellison et al. 2007; Subrahmanyam et al. 2008). Despite Facebook’s technical features that allow for both maintenance of existing social ties and formation of new connections, Facebook users are primarily communicating with people who are already part of their existing social network (boyd & Ellison 2008, 211). SNSs are distinctive objects because they enable users to articulate and make visible their existing social network. This distinguishes SNSs from the first online communities, which were supposed to do the opposite: liberating individuals from their pre-existing social group or location, bringing together people based on shared interests instead of shared geography (Rheingold 2000; Wellman et al. 1996). Earlier virtual communities therefore largely facilitated meetings between individuals with no previous offline connection.
Regarding Facebook merely as a platform for transferring offline social relationships to an online environment does not fully capture the overlapping nature of online and offline interactions. Rather than conceptualising online and offline social networks as dichotomous and mutually exclusive constructs, they should be considered as permeable, intertwined networks. Social networks are diffuse with overlapping social and spatial boundaries. SNSs
For further reading on the demographics of SNSs and what people do on Facebook in the U.S. see Social Networking Sites and Our Lives (2011) by Keith Hampton et al.
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are a part of people’s social network, rather than being a separate set of relationships (Haythornewaite & Wellman 2002). With the help of SNSs people maintain and expand social relationships that enhance their communication ability (Lee & Lee 2010, 720-721). SNSs like Facebook do, however, contain many technical affordances that could be used to create new social connections. In addition to the maintenance and expansion of social relationships, Facebook and other present-day SNSs are structured to facilitate meetings with new individuals as well (Ellison et al. 2006, 5).
Keith Hampton et al. discovered “11% of Facebook users report having more Facebook Friends than their estimated overall network size” (Hampton et al. 2011, 25). This suggests users do use Facebook to get in contact with people outside their existing social network. According to Hampton et al. an explanation for this trend is that some Facebook Friends are ‘dormant ties’, social ties that were once important and active in someone’s network but for various reasons have become dormant (ibid.). Much in line with this hypothesis is the outcome of research conducted by Ellison et al. They found that Facebook users convert ‘latent ties’ (connections that are technically possible but not yet activated socially) into ‘weak ties’ (Ellison et al. 2007; 2011). Facebook users tap into dormant/latent/weak ties because they might provide useful information or new perspectives, but typically not emotional support (Ellison et al. 2006, 8). This distinction between weak and strong ties is closely linked to the distinction between ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ social capital popularised by Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone (2000). Bridging social capital refers to loose connections (e.g. acquaintances) and bonding social capital refers to strong emotional ties (e.g. family and close friends) (Ellison et al. 2006, 8-9).
Social capital, creating social networks, and consuming familiarity
The concept of social capital is used in multiple fields of research and is therefore difficult to define. The general consensus, however, is that social capital refers to the benefits individuals derive from their social relationships and interactions (Steinfield et al. 2008; Ellison et al. 2006; Ellison et al. 2007; Ellison et al. 2011; Lee & Lee 2010). Social capital can literally be understood as a form of capital (like financial capital) that is embedded in the structure of all social networks (Ellison et al. 2011, 875). The social and technical affordances provided by Facebook play an important role in helping users maintain, expand, and create social relationships and the social capital that is embedded within them (889). The concept of social capital, then, helps to explain why people tap into latent ties on Facebook, as these ‘Friends’ might become “useful recourses for providing individuals with a window into a diverse set of perspectives and information” (ibid.). These findings indicate, moreover, that users differentiate between ‘actual’ friends and ‘Facebook Friends’.
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Similarities with this use of Facebook can be found by looking at the festival phenomenon from the concept of social capital. Robert Cantwell, for instance, suggests a festival also “generate[s] its own community” (Cantwell 1991, 150). Latent ties between scholars, workers, local people, volunteers and artists are activated during the organisation of the festival and during the festival itself. The creation of this new community (i.e. social network) can be seen as individuals tapping into potential useful resources for providing a diverse set of perspectives and information. According to Cantwell the festival can be seen as “a kind of morale-builder; it strengthens the self-esteem” (ibid.) suggesting individuals derive benefits (social capital) from social relationships and interactions established during the festival. Similarly, Ellison et al. found a link between intensive Facebook use and low self-esteem indicating, “Facebook use may be helping to overcome barriers by students who have […] low self-esteem” (Ellison et al. 2007, 1163). Robert Cantwell continues by stating that the festival holds open the possibility of emergent, non-predictable cultural creation, something that coincides with Facebook’s technical affordances, which hold the possibility of non-predictable creation of new social connections.
Facebook and festivals both offer opportunities to create new social ties or networks. This similarity, however, does not necessarily set the festival’s relationship with Facebook apart from the one it could have with other (early) virtual communities preceding SNSs. One may assume that festivals rather bring people together based on shared interests than based on shared geography. It is likely, then, that festivals (just like virtual communities did) largely facilitate meetings (i.e. create social relationships) especially between individuals with no previous connection. One could state that the festival shows more overlap with an early online community than with Facebook since SNSs are largely used for communication among existing social networks. The assumption that festivals largely facilitate meeting between people with no previous connection, however, is refuted by research on the way people ‘consume’ festivals.
Richard Prentice and Vivien Andersen found socialisation and gregariousness to be prominent incentives for attending the Edinburgh festival. They found that the festival “is frequently somewhere to be with friends, rather than somewhere to meet new people” (Prentice & Andersen 2003, 24). The Edinburgh Festival appears to be a place for “the consumption of familiarity rather than difference” (ibid.). This coincides with the observation that Facebook is used predominantly for communication among acquaintances and offline contacts than for connecting with strangers. Empirical research by Ellison et al. found a robust connection between Facebook usage and indicators of social capital suggesting how Facebook “help[s] maintain relations as people move from one offline community to another” (Ellison et al. 2007, 1164). Juxtaposing visitation incentives of the Edinburgh festival with Facebook usage reveals greater overlap is found in the fact that
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people ‘consume’ both phenomena for maintaining and extending social ties rather than for creating social ties.
Research refutes the assumption that festivals and Facebook are visited more for meeting new people than for catching up with friends. Although festivals and Facebook both tend to be consumed more for familiarity than difference, individuals do tap into dormant and weak ties for (future) social benefits. People with low self-esteem, for instance, may gain substantial social benefits from new social connections. The festival and Facebook both share bridging and bonding dimensions of social capital, although they are not equally divided over both phenomena. Facebook is used primarily for bridging social capital (keeping in touch with old friends) and less for bonding social capital (close friends and family), as the affordances of Facebook do not necessarily encourage the creation of close kinds of relationships (Ellison et al. 2007). The festival, on the other hand, celebrates and reinforces existing social and cultural relationships associated with bonding social capital as festivals play an important role in creating trust and cohesiveness among community members (Gursoy et al. 2004).
The modern festival, social discord, and differences with Facebook
In the comparison between the festival and Facebook above there is an important actor left out of the equation: the proliferation of festival culture known as festivalisation (see chapter 1). As it has been made clear in the preceding paragraph, the festival and Facebook in their essence share common ground. In order to get firmer grasp of the relationship between the present-day festival and Facebook use, however, festivalisation needs to be taken into consideration as well. A good example why this is important becomes clear when looking at Susanne Küchler and Rosella Lo Conte’s comparison of festivals in two London boroughs. Festivals in the East End, a neighbourhood where people always have both worked and lived, appeared to be organised by outside charities, private bodies and organisations, rather than by community-based organisations. Festivals in Wandsworth, popular with young professionals, did have community-based involvement and lacked public funding. What they found was that the massively funded festivals intended to bring people together, hardly helped to overcome the history of segregation in the East End (Küchler & Lo Conte 2011). Perhaps more salient is that Küchler and Lo Conte discovered public funding of festivals to be one of the root causes of social fragmentation and disintegration in an inner city neighbourhood (191).
Drawing on Küchler and Lo Conte’s findings, public funding of festival culture intended to bring people together risks causing counterproductive effects, as it tends to “enhance the social and economic fault-lines that divide the urban setting” (192). Adding the proliferation of festival culture to the equation, thus, disrupts the picture outlined in the
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preceding paragraph. Rather than creating and reinforcing social relationships or creating trust and cohesiveness among community members the festival industry produces social discord and ghettoization (Küchler et al. 2011, 11-12). This image of the festival, obviously, does not coincide with the image of Facebook use outlined above. It remains uncertain whether the use of Facebook is able to replace the festival in creating trust and cohesiveness among offline communities. Although Facebook’s technical affordances can be beneficial (e.g. for those who have difficulties forming and maintaining relationships) (Steinfield et al. 2008, 444), research lacks substantiation that these affordances are also beneficial for offline social activities (Brandtzæg & Nov 2011, 457). A study of SNS BlackPlanet, for instance, reveals how lively discussions about black community issues did not move beyond an online discursive level of civic engagement (Byrne 2008, 336).
Festivals are events contained by time and space, separated from the continuous flow of information provided by the digital environment of Facebook. The festival temporarily provides “physical spaces for groups of people to enact their sense of belonging” (Beynon 2011, 214) and “a concentration, an experiential intensity in an otherwise fragmented and diversified world” (ibid.). Festivals of today are not only contained by time and space, they are even clearly separated from the everyday experience of the city and present a sanitized, healthy picture of the city rather than city life in all its complexity and multiplicity (Johansson & Kociatkiewicz 2011, 402). Festivals, furthermore, require active and fullbody participation and get people involved by forcing them to step outside their homes (Küchler et al. 2011, 7) thereby providing “collective experiences of what otherwise may only be experienced individually and fragmentarily” (Beynon 2011, 214). These aspects cannot be adequately provided by electronic means.
Drawing on the latter aspects, the festival and Facebook appear to be separated phenomena. The festival is a temporary event bound by time and space, which offers certain elements (e.g. live performances) that require full-body participation. This suggests an unbridgeable dichotomy between an online and offline phenomenon on a material level. This chapter has made an effort to evade such a pitfall by mainly focussing on the relationship between the two phenomena on a social level. This exploration has revealed how the festival and Facebook both offer opportunities for creating, re-establishing, maintaining, and reinforcing social connections that are sources for bridging and bonding social capital. As the next chapter will show, the social aspects between the festival and Facebook are also more entwined rather than clearly separated from each other. The overview of the relationship between the festival and Facebook offered in this chapter is not fixed. The relationship might easily become unstable when intensive public involvement and other aspects of festivalisation are taken into consideration as well. Festivalisation may run the
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risk of creating social disintegration and fragmentation. Potential beneficial social aspects contributed to the festival disappear, rendering the festival socially counterproductive.
Case study: STRP Festival and Facebook use
This chapter offers a case study of Facebook use by visitors of a particular festival to delve deeper into the relationship between the festival and Facebook use and to see whether the theoretic framework offered by the previous chapters can be supported. For the benefit of this case study a survey was conducted among visitors of STRP Festival v . Several volunteers were deployed asking people attending STRP Festival for their email address. These people received an email containing a link to the online survey a few days later. In total 382 people completed the survey, which could be filled out either in Dutch or in English. The survey contained, among other things, a section asking people about their use of Facebook in relation to the festival. This chapter draws on these and other survey outcomes to make claims about the relationship between STRP Festival and Facebook use. An important limitation to this case study is the fact that it looks at one particular festival bearing many similarities with the characteristics of festivalisation (an elaboration follows in the upcoming paragraphs). Future research, hopefully, will also explore the relationship between a festival free from public investment and Facebook to see whether it offers similar results.
The city of Eindhoven, festival policy, and STRP Festival
STRP Festival is one of the largest indoor music, art and technology festivals in Europe. The name refers to the former industrial area Strijp-S in Eindhoven, which used to be the home ground of electronics multinational Philips. In November of 2011 the festival celebrated its fifth anniversary in one of Philips’ former factories the Klokgebouw. Spread over ten days, the festival presented an interactive retrospective of fifty years Dutch media and technological art and featured a music line-up of well-known international performers and DJs in the weekends. STRP Festival is one of many events that annually take place in the city of Eindhoven. Ever since Eindhoven was granted the unflattering title ‘most boring city in the Netherlands’ several years ago, the cultural policy of the city dramatically shifted to the organisation of large-scale urban events. As a consequence, the image of Eindhoven significantly improved and in 2007 the city was awarded the title of 3rd Event City of the Netherlands by the National Event Awards. The municipality of Eindhoven, remarkably, was not content with its festival policy and set up an extensive evaluation in 2009 involving festival directors and other stakeholders. The evaluation revealed festivals
See Resultaten bezoekersonderzoek STRP Festival 2011: Een kwantitatieve meting onder STRP Festival bezoekers for the complete outcome of the survey.
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in Eindhoven are only granted passage when a festival contains a part of Eindhoven’s ‘DNA’ (i.e. a festival must pay attention to either light, design or technology). Examples of such festivals are outdoor light festival GLOW, and technology orientated STRP Festival (Quilligan 2011, 66-67).
Investigation of Eindhoven’s cultural policy by Emma Quilligan reveals that festivals belong to the mobility, environment, sports and events portfolio and do not fall under the municipality’s cultural policy. This distinction between festivals and culture is an indication that Eindhoven considers festivals to be a form of tourism rather than culture (ibid.). Considering festivals to be a form of tourism or simply a tool for the promotion of a city rather than a substantial aspect of cultural policy corresponds with Dragan Klaic’s description of present-day festival culture (see chapter 1 paragraph 2). Besides STRP Festival’s dependence of municipal support for continuity, the festival has to meet a wide variety of expectations. Eindhoven longs of an event, on a social level, to focus on liveability, meetings, and fun between different population groups. On a cultural level it has to create challenges for new initiatives, remember important events or sustain traditions. On economical level it has to contribute to a vital urban supply level (ibid.). Emma Quilligan concludes her analysis of Eindhoven’s festival policy by emphasising how much festivals stand in service of the municipality rather than acting as independent art forms. The municipal ‘themes’ (light, design and technology) are leading and are expected to contribute to the marketing of the city thereby risking a stagnation of festival innovation. These facets fit the characteristics of festivalisation described in the preceding chapters.
From the analysis of Eindhoven’s festival policy it can be substantiated that STRP Festival can be characterised as a present-day festival, exposed to and affected by the proliferation of festival culture. Whether STRP Festival therefore enhances social and economic fault lines or even causes social discord and ghettoization can only be assumed in the framework of this case study. What can be derived from the results of the survey held among visitors of STRP Festival is that it is typically an event to visit with friends and family. Nearly 75% of the people that were accompanied by others say their company consisted of friends and family members. When looking at visitation motives, moreover, only 18% say it came to the festival to network (i.e. meet new people). The three main incentives for visiting STRP Festival were ‘experience’ (60%), ‘curiosity’ (50%), and ‘program / line-up’ (44%). Visitors of STRP Festival, thus, are mainly curious for experiencing the festival’s cultural offerings with close friends and family. Visitors of STRP Festival are much less interested in creating new social relationships. These results, along with the contextual analysis, suggest STRP Festival is a typical present-day festival displaying typical social behaviour similar to a festival like the Edinburgh festival. As the previous chapter has shown, these social aspects coincide with overall Facebook use.
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Facebook use by STRP Festival and its visitors
In preparation of the 2011 edition the STRP Festival organisation aimed high at the use of SNSs, especially Facebook and Twitter. As a result the number of people that ‘liked’ the Facebook Pagevi of the festival jumped from about 3000 to approximately 7500 at the time the festival took place. 45% of the visitors indicate it saw STRP Festival’s social media messages, which is an increase of 14% compared to the year before. Out of all eleven communication channels used to promote the festival social media messages came in third, right behind the website (78%) and the posters (67%). Out of 41% indicating one or more means of communication encouraged him or her to visit the festival, furthermore, 10% points to social media messages as primary motivator. This makes SNSs the third most important motivator for festival attendance. Next to the festival’s website and its offline promotional activities, SNSs, then, offer an additional valuable way to generate attention for STRP Festival. These findings corroborate the words of Dragan Klaic when he states festivals have become increasingly dependant on media networks (Klaic 2002). In other words, STRP Festival has done well in acquiring a virtual double life.
The marketing and communication department of STRP Festival put a lot of effort in actively making use of Facebook’s technical affordances. Facebook Pages, for instance, offers companies, institutions and festivals alike an easy and low-budget opportunity to get in contact with audiences. In hindsight, STRP Festival was able to more than double its Facebook audience in a relatively short period of timevii . An explanation for this success can be found when looking at how and when STRP Festival uses Facebook. Visitors who ‘liked’ STRP Festival’s Facebook Page were asked to assess the festival’s Facebook use. Although there is room for improvement, the vast majority finds the festival’s usage of Facebook to be good on all six levelsviii . The majority (39%), furthermore, enjoys the fact that everyone can post a message on STRP Festival’s ‘Wall’ix. Visitors appreciate the festival’s overall use of Facebook and find their activities on the SNS to be a good supplement to the festival’s official website (more than 60% agrees with this).
The timing of the festival’s Facebook activities matches the period wherein people tend to visit the festival’s Facebook Page. More than 50% states their visits are the highest in the
Facebook Pages are for organisations, businesses, celebrities and brands to broadcast information in an official, public manner to people who choose to connect with them. For more information on Facebook Pages see http://www.facebook.com/help?page=262355163822084. The url to STRP Festival’s Facebook Page is http://www.facebook.com/strpfestival. vii The author observed STRP Festival’s Facebook activities on a daily basis from the first of September to the end of November. viii People were asked to assess STRP Festival’s Facebook use on six levels: The frequency with which messages are posted, the diversity of messages (e.g. photos, videos, polls etc.), the diversity in content (e.g. prize contests, announcements etc.), the use of @mentions (i.e. referrals to others on Facebook), the overall content of the messages, and the overall usage of Facebook. ix A ‘wall’ is the common name for the place where people can post messages, photos and/or links. Many people or companies that own a Facebook page choose to disable this functionality as it is prone to unwanted messages (spam) and requires moderation and maintenance on a regular basis. STRP Festival chooses to keep this functionality active but does remove unwanted and inappropriate posts.
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week just before the festival. This suggests the number of visits to the festival’s Facebook Page are directly linked to the frequency with which the festival posts new messages. This suggestion can be substantiated when looking at the months in between festival editions. From December through approximately August the festival seldom posts anything to Facebook. Not surprisingly, none of the visitors indicates their visits to the Facebook Page are the highest the months in between festival editions. Dragan Klaic states that festivals, which appear on a yearly basis, could lead the engagement with digital technology by “offering a continuous flow of information, news, and special experiences, real or virtual” (Klaic 2002). This statement is substantiated by 40% of visitors indicating they will visit the Facebook Page more often when STRP Festival chooses to post messages on a regular basis in between festival editions. Here STRP Festival still has room to increase and to sustain audience loyalty and interest.
Discussing the relationship between STRP Festival and Facebook use
The survey held among its visitors reveals how STRP Festival has successfully embedded Facebook within its marketing and communication efforts. The festival manages to mould Facebook into an additional communication channel, which is used to the overall satisfaction of the festival’s audience. There, however, still is room for improvement on certain levels of usage and the festival has not yet chosen to utilise Facebook’s affordances in between festival editions. STRP Festival has relatively late chosen to seriously bring Facebook into its marketing mix, thereby not yet fully profiting from the potentially good interaction between its festival and Facebook. The results from the survey lead to the observation that STRP Festival and Facebook work well together. Delving deeper into the relationship between STRP Festival and Facebook provides an explanation why this combination works so well. The relationship becomes beneficial not because they complement each other but because the way visitors behave at STRP Festival is mirrored in the way people use Facebook in relation to the festival.
STRP Festival is highly dependent of unclear public policy and is pushed towards city marketing and tourism instead of culture and art. From the theory on festivalisation, these aspects tend to overshadow a festival’s celebratory function, supplant community-based remembering, and could lead to a decreasing emphasis on the fostering of social networks across communities. STRP Festival yields the question whether its memory is able to outlasts its funding (Küchler et al. 2011). One might expect that a festival showing this much characteristics of festivalisation hardly resembles any elements of typical Facebook use. The survey held among STRP Festival visitors, however, rather reveals overlap between the social aspects of the festival and the way people use Facebook in relation to the festival. Visitors indicate they attend the festival with family and friends rather than to meet new people. Similarly, when asked if visitors gained new Facebook Friends thanks to
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the STRP Festival Facebook Page 87% says no. When askes if visitors learned about STRP Festival through their Facebook Friends 82% says no.
Visitors of STRP Festival who are also Facebook users are quite reluctant in carrying out the festival amongst their Facebook Friends: only 30% says they introduced STRP Festival to his or her Facebook Friends. Merely 15%, furthermore, indicates they commonly ‘Share’ STRP Festival’s Facebook messages on their own ‘Wall’. Although STRP Festival regularly links to other festivals and despite the given that more than half of STRP Festival visitors follow a lot of other festivals on Facebook, only 6% states they learned about other festivals through STRP Festival’s Facebook Page. These survey results show little crosspollination taking place between social networks. Despite Facebook’s and a festival’s potential to create new social ties, people are reticent in extending their social networks and prefer to stay within their existing social network. On a social level, individuals behave in similar fashion online they way they behave during the festival. STRP Festival should see their audience’s Facebook use entwined with social behaviour during their festival, not separated from each other. As Haythornthwaite and Wellman indicate, SNSs are a part of people’s everyday lives, rather than being a separate set of relationships. This case study uncovers the overlapping nature of social interactions between both phenomena.
The case study of STRP Festival along with the theoretical framework provided in the first two chapters hopefully offer some handles to comprehend the relationship between two key phenomena, which both have become important features of urban life in the twenty-first century. This study explores the relationship between the festival and Facebook usage in order to establish a foundation for future implementation of Facebook by festival organisations. In a network society that is increasingly relying on digital technology festivals could play a leading role by aptly employing its affordances to secure a significant secondary audience in addition to the primary audience attending their events. For festivals like STRP Festival that appear once a year, SNSs like Facebook bring an opportunity to sustain audience loyalty and interest in the period between editions. In order to increase the yield of a festival’s investment in Facebook an overview of the relationship between festivals and Facebook should be established. This study has tried to do this by contextualising the festival phenomenon, setting festival and Facebook characteristics side by side, and by offering a case study in which its theory is put to the test.
The interpretation of what a festival is and should be has changed significantly since the phenomenon was officiously established in the nineteenth century. The organised festival
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of the twenty-first century, which has become firmly embedded in the policies of European cities, has evolved from being a way to display and celebrate the wealth of a city to a device expected to bring a wide variety of benefits. Ever increasing expectations have led to an efflorescence of festival culture, known as festivalisation, typified by its transferable and repeatable experiences. The festival has morphed into an adequate tool for meeting tourism and city marketing ends but runs the risk of neglecting original creative, artistic and celebratory purposes for the sake of productivity and long-term profit. Besides highly depending on public institutions for financial support, festival organisations are increasingly becoming reliant of media networks. This explains why festivals are becoming more and more active on the Internet including SNSs like Facebook.
From multiple studies can be derived that Facebook is predominantly used for communication among acquaintances, family members, and close friends rather than for connecting with strangers. Facebook enables users to articulate and make visible their existing social network. Although Facebook is primarily used to enhance and sustain existing social relationships, users do wield its many technical features to create new social ties. From the concept of social capital, which is embedded in all social networks, can be explained that individual taps into latent ties because they might prove to be beneficial in the future. On first sight Facebook and the festival may appear distinct phenomena as festivals provide elements that Facebook cannot (e.g. live performances, experience, full body participation etc.). The concept of social capital, however, helps to uncover that the festival and Facebook both offer opportunities for creating and re-establishing social connections that are sources for bridging and bonding social capital.
The STRP Festival case study reveals that people this festival predominantly with friends and family members, pushing the desire to create or re-establish social connections into the background. This corroborates with the way people predominantly use Facebook. Survey results reveal visitors of STRP Festival indeed show the same overall social behaviour as they do on Facebook. The festival is attended and Facebook is used primarily for maintaining and reinforcing existing social connections. Theory suggests this relationship may easily change when potential risks of festivalisation are taken into consideration. Analysis of STRP Festival’s context shows how much of the festival’s existence relies on municipal support. Research by Dragan Klaic and Küchler and Lo Conte warns us that such public involvement can render a festival counterproductive, causing social disintegration, fragmentation, and even ghettoization. This image of the festival, then, does not coincide with typical Facebook use.
The STRP Festival case study is not intended to argue whether the festival causes negative social effects or not. It is rather intended to emphasise that the festival organisation should
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see their audience’s Facebook use entwined with their behaviour at the festival, not as dichotomous mutually exclusive constructs. Visitors of STRP Festival stay within their own existing social network, hardly displaying any form of bridging social capital. Little crosspollination takes place between social networks both online and offline, suggesting social behaviour is reflected in the way festival visitors use Facebook in relation to the festival and vice versa. The STRP Festival case study reveals people are reticent in extending their social networks despite the potential of Facebook and the festival to create new social ties. The outcome of the case study leads to the recommendation to first contextualise a festival and flesh out visitor’s social behaviour before contemplating the implementation of Facebook for any kind of purpose. If festival organisations want to lead the engagement by sustaining audience loyalty with the help of SNSs, they should take the overlapping nature of interactions between Facebook and the festival into account. Facebook is a part of people’s everyday lives, not a separate set of relationships.
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