International conference abstract accepted

I had my conference abstract accepted for the 22nd International Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies.  Organised by Stadtarchäologie Wien this conference is an annual event, having started in 1996.

This is the first international conference I have presented at as a practitioner-researcher and I am taking part in the PhD/Masters session, presenting on my work around digital cultural asset mapping.

The themes for the conference include digital archaeology, virtual and augmented reality for interpreting heritage, using historic maps and round tables and discussions on cultural heritage.

View my abstract on the CHNT website at

More information on the conference programme for 2017 can be found here with conference proceeding publications here.



“Mini publics”- practice and research

I attended a seminar today at UWS about academic blogging, which is something I have left alone for a while but always intended to get back to (this is what not to do, for I think blogging is often best as a regular and scheduled activity).  I thought I would “revive” my blog here as a little reflection on today’s seminar and as a way of pressing play on this blog again.

The seminar was organised by UWS Centre for Social Science and Creativity (CSSC) and invited speakers were Pat Thomson,  Paul Cairney and  Jane Tinkler  who all provided inspirational presentations about their own practice and their thoughts on the role(s) of blogging in academic life.  If you follow the hashtag #uwsblogging  you can get a feel of the discussions, it was even trending in Glasgow for a while!

I was particularly taken by the term “mini publics” used by Pat Thomson as it made me think about all the projects I have been involved in recently and in the past, and what those audiences were.  For some of the projects like Digital Commonwealth  blogging was integrated within these practices and was an intended teaching and learning outcome, I’ve tinkered with collective blogging based around training sessions and seminars  but for others the work was documented as part of an institutional publication  or went unblogged as it was part of everyday work in a particular role. I have also been employed specifically to blog, as I was the IHBC newsblog consultant   for several years and wrote about the work of that organisation and current heritage and cultural issues.

The visibility of researcher work discussed by Jane Tinkler was fascinating.  I am only a “Phd-er” (again, Jane’s term, not one I had heard before but very relevant to my own academic identity; am I currently “invisible”, “solidly middle”, or an “influential-communicator”? ) What do I want to be as a practitioner-researcher? (another term I have only just learned, which seems very relevant to my own approach (comes from Little et al, 2013).  I’ve only just completed my PhD transfer event, so these issues are very fresh in my mind.

I am a visual thinker.. but I also love writing, I think today’s session has given me a kickstart back to posting on here again.. here is my short visual summary of the session.  My featured post image is space for contemplation, for this is what the session gave me!

IMG_5534 Continue reading “Mini publics”- practice and research

Scottish Graduate Social Science Summer School reflections

I am really glad that I attended this summer school, I was a little scared about going as I did not know anyone and it was the first big academic conference I had been to since starting, but even the application process was really helpful (as I had to write an abstract of my PhD), and in attending I met people working in lots of different academic areas, and made some great friends.

The School was a mixture of talks, workshops and social events, based in the rather grand buildings of Edinburgh University. Five days of packed programme were organised, and I had booked different sessions so that I had some full days and some half days (planning to fit in some reading and writing in my ‘spare’ sessions).

The sessions which I booked were:

  • Designing creativity and innovation in research (we wrote mini manifestos)
  • Evaluating your digital impact (this was really useful for me as I found out lots of ‘academic networking’ tips and learned new things about how paper rankings and academic profiles on Google Scholar work)
  • writing for a broader audience (useful to be reminded of this, some good tips and food for thought)
  • what I did with my PhD (career routes post PhD, I learned a lot in this and it got me thinking about work en route to PhD completion in terms of papers I might write and things which will help me post PhD)

One of the sessions I found most helpful was a coaching session encouraging us to get ‘your PhD your way’, led by Will Med encouraging us to reflect on our core values and also learn to tame our critical gremlins. I had never thought about coaching before, but I have returned to the techniques which I learned that day on a regular basis and am very thankful for this session.

The weather was unseasonably warm for Edinburgh in June, which led to some picnic dinners and very pleasant walks between campus and halls (living in halls again was a fun reminder of undergraduate life though I am glad I have my own space back now!). We were priviledged to enjoy some time out on the fringe terrace roof garden, teaming up to try out a quiz.


The Quiz with a naughty book! #summerschool #phdchat

A photo posted by @ali_instagramming on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:33pm PDT

In summary, I would highly recommend attending these academic summer school type events, it may sound like a lot of time away but I found that sharing experiences with others and having a period of taught activities covering different disciplines and skills was a huge boost.



Link to programme

Scottish Graduate School of Social Science




Digital academia (#JobsQ), museums week and dividing my time

Contrary to how my online persona may appear, I do not actually spend hours and hours on the internet, I am actually quite judicious about dividing my time between all the things I have to do so that online research and social media connections are a productive and useful part of my day rather than a time sucker. I have also been looking into ways to incorporate exercise into my week (partly as I have signed up to a 10k in May.. eek, but also because I do generally enjoy the exercise when I do it and know it actually does me good mentally and physically). I am currently adopting Fitbit to get my 10,000 steps a day, go to my local gym and booked into a lunchtime Renfrewshire Leisure Body Pump class today (which I was delighted to discover has the most reasonable student price of only £3.75!). A number of the PhD ‘how to’ books (and several blogs I follow) all speak about the importance of balance in dividing your time and making time to take care of your health. Internally, I probably know these things, but sometimes a friendly reminder helps, as does a bit of quiet space (recently discovered this room at UWS):

Space for contemplation
Space for contemplation

Yesterday I followed the #JobsQ Twitter feed from the digital academia conference in Warwick. I had been alerted to this via a phdchat tweet which Emma Cole (@Emma_Cole1) had suggested, she is experimenting with vlogs to reflect on and share her PhD experience.  Here is her vlog which reflects on the days teachings, and a copy of two of the presentations available, with many great tips (follow also The Thesis Whisperer’s blog , Dr Inger Mewburn also spoke at this event)

I find Twitter is quite useful for virtual conference attending (and very cost effective, of course).

All this week is ‘Museums Week’, an international event organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, which encourages professionals and the general public to share their experiences of museums and heritage using daily themes on social media. I have been joining in with the daily themes (yesterday was ‘behind the scenes’ secret museums day, and today is souvenir day). I find it fascinating to see the tweets from all over the world, and enjoy making a little contribution to the discussions.

From a PhD point of view, I find that these different ways of presenting heritage attractions to the world are rather interesting and tap into the public engagement, marketing and image making/ placemaking agenda as one can gain an impression of the character of a museum or attraction as expressed in its digital presence, its physical souvenirs are also part of this. I have been reading about perceptions of cultural heritage and opinions on the management its ethos in a publication edited by Waterton and Watson (2015), which (among other things) looks at leisure landscapes (Haldru and Boerinhoudt), the origins of tourism and different perceptions of heritage globally (Light) and also the cultural planning and conservation policy contexts for this (Pendlebury). I also like the tips in the presentations above.  Much food for thought.

I am really enjoying perusing and reflecting on academic articles and books again, my brain is full of happy endorphins (I know that it is exercise which is meant to do this, hopefully a bit of body pump, which I have not done for at least a year, will also help my afternoons reading and concentration and burn off some of the extravagant drink choice I made yesterday whilst taking my reading out and about!).

What do you do to help nurture your connections and maintain your overall good balance?

Books referred to:
Waterton, E. Watson, S (2015) The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke

A festival of ideas- ‘culture’ ‘creativity’ and ‘heritage’ conference reflections

Embed from Getty Images

I have chosen this image to include at the top of the post because it is similar to one used within the talks which I attended today as part of the RSA Festival of Ideas organised by the RSA Fellows Media, Creative Industries, Culture and Heritage Network (p.s. for bloggers and potential bloggers, using Getty images for non commercial purposes to embed on a blog = free and legal, find out more here!  I generally like to produce my own images but sometimes something like this work really well).  It shows a large cruise ship in port visiting the world heritage city of Venice, and represents a dramatic visualisation of one of the key issues debated at the sessions; the relationship between tourism, heritage and culture and the potential conflicts which can arise.

I thought it would be useful to review my thoughts on the day, and how these might relate to my PhD.  For those of you with an interest in all things culture and heritage, I also hope this is of interest to you.

Session 1- The Future of Funding for Festivals in Scotland

This session was chaired by Professor Joe Goldblatt (QMU Edinburgh) and featured talks by Nick Barley from Edinburgh International Book Festival, Leonard Harper Gow and (my PhD Director of Studies/ supervisor) Professor Gayle McPherson.

Nick Barley talked about how the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) worked, and the different ways in which its funding helped ensure successful operation and continued growth. I was fascinated to learn about the global versions of the EIBF and also that there are a number of free events which are unticketed and ‘turn up and go’.  There was a lot of discussion about the importance of the audience and also some barriers to attendance.  Perhaps I am a bit of a cheapskate by nature, but even though I am probably technically part of the intended demographic for the Book Festival I have never been because it is in Edinburgh (= train or bus fare, then more for tickets and probably again more for picnic/ lunch or drinks). I have to really, really want to go and see something to pay £10 for a ticket, I often make a wishlist for AyeWrite then whittle it down to 1 or perhaps 2 events as I feel a bit guilty about spending so much cash to go and see a book talk (where I probably buy the book as well, as I wouldn’t be going to a paid event in the first place for an author who I did not already admire!). I am always on the lookout for free events and now that I am a full time student again my student discount card is of course very useful in this respect. The whole economics of festivals and events fascinates me. This is one of the many reasons why I give my time freely to Glasgow Doors Open Day, that most egalitarian of festivals where everything is free and I get to share my passion for my adopted city with other people (and often learn a lot from those who go on my events too!). I was amused and happy to read the recent Heritage Lottery Fund/ BritainThinks report (20 years in 12 places) where Glasgow’s heritage was discussed and there was such a positive reception on HLF funding and 70% of people thought that heritage was part of their identity (source)).

Gayle spoke about ‘festival funding: friend or foe’ using many international examples and debating the relationship between festival events and local identity.  The importance of festivals to communities and the ability to leverage events to create social change and active citizenship was highlighted (emphasising ownership and the right of everyone to participate rather than just a certain type of audience).  In Scotland festivals can receive funding from a variety of public sources (such as Events Scotland, Creative Scotland, Visit Scotland and Sport Scotland) depending on how they are positioned; some are local but have grown in international reputation whilst others set out to be international in focus as part of mega-events).  Gayle discussed how space and place are important in this positioning and how some cities like Singapore have a year round programme of events themed with their identity and promotion, and how in Canada culture is often seen as enhancing the quality of life of an area and city policy taps into this.  The possibilities for creating a ‘culture of connectedness’ around events and festivals and their funding and promotion was also explored.
Embed from Getty Images
Leonard Harper Gow spoke about the origins of festivals in the Scottish Borders, using ‘horse and harvest’ to summarise the tradition of the common ridings and agricultural shows.  The area also has the Borders Book Festival and Borders Walking Festival.  I have fond memories of local shows and fayres in the Borders and North Northumberland (and indeed, the heilancoo show in Glasgow which could be said to be an urban version for the Highland Cattle Society, and the famous Glasgow herd doesn’t always win!).  Rock buns and craft tents, and even dog racing, I have face painted and exhibited at various ones over the years, and even represented a Council I used to work for by manning the ‘put a pin on the map where you see things you would like to change’ stall).  I was interested to hear about the range of events involved in his festival, and the importance of this for young people in the area (and the ticket price discussion came up again).

The panel discussions touched on many topics, from how funding worked (Local Authority support and public funding, product purchases, merchandising, ticket sales, patrons, benefactors, friends, donors, sponsors..), the concept of glocalisation (where local festivals are taken to a global audience), the promotion of festivals and events (though social media and local/ national programme distribution), challenges of broadcasting of festival output (what do you broadcast and why, how might this work across a multi-venue programme with varied audiences as opposed to a single large stage) and the local funding situation in Scotland compared to other areas of the UK and the rest of the world.  The audience questions were interesting; also as people introduced themselves they also said where they were from; I didn’t know Edinburgh also has an Irish Festival and a Magic Festival, as well as the obvious big ones in August!

Provocation- fashion and wellbeing

Mal Burkinshaw (from Edinburgh College of Art) gave a provocation on fashion and wellbeing,  and explained how his ethical stance towards this had influenced his own career and teaching philosophy.  he showed typical fashion magazine style images and told how he used these to challenge students (and us as viewers and consumers) to look at the images which they portrayed, and consider the messages they sent about norms.  I was interested to learn that they have a diversity network which helps embed this in the learning (an exhibition is currently on at the Scottish National Portrait gallery showcasing the work).

Session 2- Creativity

Session 2 was my favourite of the day; I found Professor Pier Luigi Sacco’s presentation on ‘socially sustainable models of creativity in culture-led development’ to be highly engaging and full of inspiration (not that the others were not, it’s just sometimes a presentation makes your brain do happy things!).  Professor Sacco spoke about the importance of digital tools in everyday life and culture and emphasised the how public participation and active citizenship means trust building; digital storytelling, co-created public art projects and using technology can help create new approaches to participation in culture among communities.  The concepts of culture 1.0 – 3.0 intrigued me, I must read more about this.

I enjoyed hearing about Bookkupy Siena, which is a social media storytelling celebration, the website describes it as ‘the first large scale group story-telling experiment ever to be organised in Italy’ (source Siena 2019, candidate European Capital of Culture city website). Islamabad Civic Hackathon was also mentioned, I later had a look at their website and it is a really interesting example of how people can use technology and design to solve problems and challenge issues which affect them.  I am aware of local hack days and events; ‘hack’ to me is not a comfortable term as in my cultural upbringing it implies disobedience and bad things like in the War Games film (but I do like the concept of using tech for good!  I love Mozilla open source technology and had a whale of a time at Mozfest, as you can see from blog entries on this).  Collective co-creation, learning together, having fun with technology, sharing skills and storytelling, joy!

Session 3- Heritage

The introductions to the heritage session were presented by Jane Jackson of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (hands up, one of the many reasons I attended this day was because IHBC helped organise it and I am their newsblog consultant so on this occasion I was Tweeting on their behalf on the day), Professor Mairead Nic Craith of Heriott Watt University and Dr Graeme Purves from the Built Environment Forum Scotland.  This embraced such diverse topics as heritage skills and importance of heritage professionals, the poetry of the Forth Bridge and the evolution of town planning, all in only 3 minutes each).

I have to confess I had a little bit of a brief ’academic star struckness’ moment as I had only just recently read one of Francesco Bandarin’s books, and here he was! It was also nice to hear some ‘history of….’ type discussions as it reminded me of old uni lectures and also gave me new information and food for thought. His presentation was ‘Cities as Heritage: results and challenges’.  Memories of studying the ‘secteur sauveguarde’ system in my postgrad at Dundee came back to me, and I thought about how I was so keen to see Le Marais when I had the fortune to spend a few days in Paris a couple of years ago (I’ve always had heritage holidays, my head seeks out historic buildings and arty/cultural destinations taking comfort in the luxury of cultural wandering).  Within the presentation, the main threats or challenges which historic cities are likely to face were discussed:

  • cityscape
  • iconism
  • loss of the urban fringe
  • infrastructure development
  • tourism

A new way to look at the city in all of its contexts was also discussed as a way to address these issues, suggesting matters which policy makers should look at:

  • archaeological layers
  • geological and hydrological layers
  • morphologies and typologies
  • memory and places (the intangible)
  • contemporary creativity

It was suggested that the Berlin Neues Museum might be a useful example of contemporary creativity, fusing these points together.

Piet Jaspaert from Europa Nostra looked at ‘mainstreaming culture and heritage’.  It was useful to know more about Europa Nostra, I periodically look at their website but it was informative and useful to get an overview of their activity with an engaging presenter discussing their work. I was also intrigued to learn that they are on the lookout for partners; Piet Jaspaert specifically mentioned some key pieces of European Commission documentation which has only recently been adopted (21 May, 22 July and 26 November 2014) and I think this is something I could investigate further, especially with forthcoming ‘Cultural Heritage Counts’ event in June this year (link).

Storify of the day

I created a Storify featuring tweets on the different events of the day.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I find this is often a helpful way to collate information and remember the day.

What I will take away from the day with reference to my PhD study areas:

  • That kind of inspiring ‘ideas everywhere’ feeling, where (like certain parts of this blog post) one thought takes me to something else which then grows arms and legs.  Inspiration does however sometimes needs a bit of reflection and order prior to public presentation, ahem.
  • reflections on the selection of presentation styles used, uses of provocations, and ways to present my ‘speaker biography’ (I have spoken at various events before, but always find it difficult to summarise myself)
  • reflections on how I consume culture, from free events to paid
  • how culture has many strands and means different things to different people
  • a useful selection of case studies illustrating different issues in cultural heritage, some of which I will investigate further in academic literature searches, together with knowledge of more people who work in the areas discussed
  • greater knowledge of the multi-modal nature of festival funding, and the fact that there is not a ‘one size fits for all’ model for this (every festival is unique and has a different raison d’être)
  • more things to look up regarding European policy
  • more good news on the digital storytelling front, and some more Twitter feeds to follow (I love the idea of Bookkupy- follow hashtag #Bookkupy and Siena2019 for info, though I feel it might challenge my somewhat basic Italian skills!)
  • confirmation that community = key (as festival attendees, purchaser of products/ consumers of culture, volunteers who embrace their local culture and traditions, knowledge and enthusiasm for an area and activists for social good)- this reminded me of the work of ‘nothing about us without us is for us’ in Govan, Glasgow by Northlight heritage) and all the debates around community engagement and how it works (or not!)