CHIME-Birmingham Centre For Media and Culture Research Hack Day

This is an overview of the ‘Music Data Hack #1’, which took place over the weekend of 10th-11th February 2017, and was organised by Craig Hamilton from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research in association with CHIME.

The aim of these events is to bring together BCMCR and CHIME researchers, BCU students, practitioners from the surrounding area, and festival directors to work collaboratively on the development of online data visualisation tools, product prototypes, and experimental analytical methods related to music. The first of these events explored possible uses and applications for data collected about music festivals.

Using data collected from a small group of volunteers at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival through a pilot version of a mobile application currently being developed for CHIME, the hack aimed to explore the ways in which the data could be visualised in ways that may be useful to researchers, festival organisers and/or music fans. Working in small teams, participants were asked to conceive, plan and build a working prototype within 24 hours.

Friday 10th – 2pm-7pm

As had been our hope and intention, the hack attracted attendees from a variety of backgrounds, including staff and students from different BCU faculties, and also external practitioners from large and small organisations. In all 18 participants arrived for the Friday session, which began with informal networking and team building.

At 3pm the overall aims of the event were presented to the group. This included an overview of the CHIME project provided by Loes Rusch, and an introduction from one of our project partners, Annemiek van der Meijden of ZomerFietsJazzTour. The processes of data collection used in the Cheltenham Jazz Festival pilot were then explained to the group, along with information about the next phases of the project, and how this hack could help inform that development.

The data provided to the group comprised of c15,000 lines collected over the weekend of 29th April – 2nd May, 2016, and was made up of the following:

  • Text/images collected via the CHIME prototype mobile interface at 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival (n = 145)
  • Tweets with the official Cheltenham Jazz Festival hashtag, #cheltfest (n = 1703)
  • Tweets with the UNESCO #jazzday hashtag (n = 12953)

Alongside the ‘core’ data sets, the following, additional data sets were provided:

  • Basic programme information from Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2016 (Stage times, artists, venues, capacities)
  • Results of automated computational Textual Analysis on core data (Sentiment Analysis, Hashtag searches, Character/word counts, etc)

Armed with this data, the teams were then set the following brief:

Working in teams, create an interactive online visualisation/interface that displays the data provided in ways that may help explore issues of cultural heritage among festival audiences, organisers and performers. We are particularly interested in how participants experience festivals through space (both the physical locations of festivals and/or through online spaces) and in terms of time (their experience during a particular festival and/or their memories of festivals over time). Ideally visualisations would have potential applications for data collected at future festivals and should be useful and/or meaningful to one or more of the following groups:

• Fans of Music (general), Jazz (particular), or Music Festivals
• Festival Practitioners
• Academic Researchers looking at Music Festival, Social Media or Audience Data
• General Audience

From 4pm onwards teams began to plan their ideas, organise their teams according to specific roles, and devise work plans for the next 24 hours.

By 6.30pm and the end of the first session teams had started to form ideas for their prototype. It was pleasing that the ideas ranged in technical scope and ambition, and that teams had negotiated internally ways of working that enabled participants with less experience of code and coding to contribute through other important activities, such as design, additional research, and planning.

Overall this session provided important groundwork for the following day, when the building of prototypes would begin in earnest.

Saturday 11th 10am-4pm

Our first session on Saturday focussed on an open discussion between CHIME Researchers, hack participants, and festival practitioners, lead by Nick Gebhardt. Annemeik van der Meijden from ZomerJazzFietsTour was joined by Ian Francis of the Birmingham-based Flatpack Festival, and William Soovik from GMLSTN Jazz in Sweden, who kindly joined us via Skype, to provide the perspective of festival organisers.

The discussion raised interesting points regarding the potential use cases for mobile apps at festivals that took in to consideration the activities of festivalgoers, the aims of the CHIME project, and the needs of festival organisers. The core map-based approach taken in versions 1 and 2 of the mobile app was generally seen as a positive feature, with ideas for possible applications ranging from the capture of information about and engagement with more ‘casual’ visitors to festivals (as opposed to more committed ‘regulars’ with whom festival organisers have already developed good channels of communication) that could prove useful, particularly at fringe/free events in public spaces. Navigation and familiarity with festival sites and artistic programmes were also considered as useful features, providing users with the feeling of ‘belonging’ to a wider festival experience, particularly where festivals are dispersed across a wide geographic areas, such as cities, and also extended timeframes. Hack participants posed useful questions and observations to both researchers and festival practitioners, and took on board responses in terms of the day ahead and the development of their prototypes.

The remaining sessions, either side of lunch, were a race against the clock for teams attempting to get their prototype visualisations and applications ready for the 3pm deadline, and included a ‘Paper Demo’ session as the final two hours approached. This provided teams with the opportunity to present their ideas in simple, graphic form. Feedback was intended to drive and focus the activities of teams in the remaining hours of the build.

At 3.15pm teams convened to hear 5 minute presentations of the completed hacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BCMCR Music Data Hack #1 – Completed Prototypes

The following ideas/prototypes were presented by the teams in the final session of the hack. Where possible, links are provided to the finished prototypes.

A Role/Sentiment Map of Cheltenham 2016

This visualisation was built using the Carto service and was based on the 145 data points collected via the mobile app at Cheltenham 2016, and subsequent ‘Sentiment Analysis’ of text. The map enables users to isolate data points in terms of sentiment scores and/or the roles of participants in the pilot. You can view this map here.

This particular idea was inspired by a test of the Carto software explored by another team during the Friday session, which displayed the same information using a Time and Location as the basis for its visualisation. Click here to see that visualisation, created by Paul Bradshaw.

Virtual Reality Data Exploration

Perhaps the most ambitions of the hack products, and taking also the Cheltenham data as it’s starting point, this idea sought to render the data collected from pilot participants into 3D virtual space. Users would be able to explore Cheltenham at street level across a condensed timeframe and encounter reflections (including text and images) at the very locations where they were originally posted. The team also described how further development could enable users to (re)experience an entire festival by ‘visiting’ stages and hearing recordings from artists pulled in via the APIs of music streaming services.

 

Festival Management Back-End

Based on designs and ideas for new features in the mobile application, this idea focussed primarily on the needs identified by festival practitioners during the morning session and sought to generate real-time analysis related to the experience and mood of festival visitors. The user interface would include several ‘gamification’ elements that the team hoped would make using the app more attractive, with activity linked to prizes such as free tickets or drinks discounts. Data collected via the app, along with real-time analytics, would be displayed to festival staff via a back-end dashboard, which the team demonstrated based on analysis and visualisations created in the R Package. The team felt this would enable more effective, proactive management of the festival space whilst at the same time forging a sense of community amongst festival visitors.

Exploring Festival Emotions

Based on components of automated text analysis this team built two visualisations using the Tableau and Carto services that displayed text according to colour-coded scales and separate emotional categories such as Anger, Joy, Sadness and Anticipation, derived from Sentiment Analysis. You can see both via the following links: Tableau Visualisation and Carto Visualisation

Recommendations & Discussion

On the whole we feel that the event was a worthwhile exercise and certainly one worth repeating at some stage. Participants informally canvassed at the end of the event indicated they would also consider returning for a further session. The main advantage of an event of this kind was the possibility of exploring different ideas and perspectives in a very short amount of time, with the technical aspect allowing some ideas to be developed beyond conceptual stage.

The next phase of this strand of the CHIME project will collect data at two further European Jazz Festivals, at GMLSTDN (Sweden) in April 2017 and during ZommerFeitsFest (Netherlands) later in the summer. This will produce two further datasets that can be analysed alongside the existing data from Cheltenham 2016, and could form the basis of a further hack event.

The sessions featuring Research Staff (on Friday) and Festival Practitioners (on Saturday) were useful in terms of providing context around the project, the data collected, and the aims of the hack. Additional sessions at future hacks could include those from practitioners involved in App/Visualisation/Data projects, either in terms of academic research and/or commercial projects. This would help provide context and guidance around the more ‘nuts and bolts’ elements of building data-derived prototypes.

Additional notes

Thanks to all participants for giving their time, efforts and expertise over the weekend. Thanks also to BCMCR and CHIME for their support in making this event possible.

A Storify of Tweets from the weekend can be found here

If you are interested in more information about the event please contact Craig Hamilton (craig.hamilton@bcu.ac.uk).

Strength in Numbers II

CHIME Associated Partner, Europe Jazz Network, has just published its ‘Strength in Numbers II’ report which provides details of the cultural and economic activities of the EJN membership.  I was involved in the steering group for the research and provided a context for the study in the report foreword.  You can read the report here:

EJN_Report_2016_final

Here’s a section from my foreword:
Jazz is increasingly becoming recognised as an integral part of European cultural and creative life. The music plays a crucial role in the development of artistic cultures, new voices and hybrid forms and, since 2011, has been recognised by UNESCO as an international artform that supports cultural understanding and social change. Within this context, Europe Jazz Network (EJN) has played a lead role in promoting and celebrating the value of jazz across Europe. The Network’s membership is the lifeblood of innovation and creative practice in Europe and clearly understands the importance of collaboration, networking and improvisation in bringing people together from different walks of life. At a time when the value of the European Union is being interrogated, when nationalistic and xenophobic attitudes permeate a number of European countries, and when European leaders disagree on solutions to the refugee crisis, EJN continues to demonstrate the value of jazz in bringing people together, the music’s ability to work across borders and nation states, and its potential to tackle meaningful social and cultural issues through creativity and innovation.
Over the last few years, the EJN has been leading programmes that promote gender equality, that engage with green issues, sustainability and carbon reduction, that involve intergenerational learning, that engage with migration and social mobility, and that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of jazz and different European places.

The Festival T-shirt

merchandise

Judging from the crowds lining up at the stands that sell festival merchandise, the festival T-shirt is a much sought-after item. At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival some of the T-shirt sold out quickly, at 35 USD a piece. The T-shirts at the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival (CNSJF) carried a similar price tag, which, to the island’s economic standards made them even more pricey. Then again, with a ticket price of USD 180 per night, the festival is the most expensive I’ve witnessed so far. Those who have dished out that much money surely want bring to home a tangible souvenir, and the price is not going to stop them.

The fate of many festival tees must be pretty sad. I, for one, have a decent stack of them at home, but I basically wear them around the house when doing chores. After all, the quality is usually rather poor, they tend to fade after a couple of rounds in the washer and many loose shape quickly. Still, buying a shirt is clearly part of the festival fun, and all those newly printed shirts, caps, scarves and tote bags at the vendor’s area certainly look alluring. Many head for that section straight away.

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ZJFT-shirts and some custom-made dresses. At the central tent in Garnwerd, people parked their car, unloaded their bikes and then changed into their festival shirt. The man holding up his 2008 shirt still had to change.

At the Summer Jazz Bike Tour (ZJFT) I photographed people who wore ZJFT-shirts from earlier editions. The festival has no fixed logo so the design changes every year. Most images play with musical instruments and bicycle parts, bringing out the unique and playful aspects of the event (past posters here). The design for 2011 had a sax with handle bars, 2008 and 2015 had a pump-like device that ended in a trumpet (‘a pumpet,’ as team member Nick Gebhardt called it), and the 2013 design merged a double bass with a unicycle (that sounds smarter in English than in Dutch). Not only are these shirts collectibles, they are also the perfect gear for biking from concert to concert, especially if the weather is as good as it was this year. By contrast, the CNSJF makes for a classy night out, and the festivalgoers wore much more festive dress than a printed festival shirt.

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The CNSJF spells it out for you: Proud to be part of the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival.

Everybody I asked at the ZJFT gladly posed for me, and those modelling their tee often announced they had a shelve full of them, typically of all the editions they had visited. With a T-shirt one supports the event financially and connects with the other attendants. But there is more. By wearing a festival shirt, the ZJFT-ers celebrate the festival’s heritage and traditions, which they have helped to shape. Indeed, the ZJFT has a high number of returning visitors, who truly perform the festival together with the organizers. After all, the event is as much about its tangible locations and concerts as it is about the intangible activity of connecting those locations by cycling through the landscape. That active role is understood by the participants, and the festival shirt helps to express it all.

 

Curaçao Blog no. 1: Sun, Sea and Sand – and All That Jazz

(by Beth Aggett and Walter van de Leur)

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Team member Beth supporting the C (it was windy)


The first day of September saw Amsterdam-based CHIME-members Walter van de Leur and Beth Aggett travelling to the Caribbean island of Curaçao to attend the ‘tropical edition’ of Rotterdam’s North Sea Jazz Festival. Curacao is a small island of around 160,000 people, lying just off the coast of Venezuela – indeed a good 8000km away from Europe and its jazz festival scene. It is however a former Dutch colony, with a rather turbulent past: Curacao was ‘discovered’ by the Spanish in 1499, conquered by the Dutch in 1634 and even seized briefly by the British in 1812 – all the while serving as an important ‘depot’ during the transatlantic slave trade (1640s – 1860s). Although it was primarily a trading post, there were around 100 small plantations established on the island during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, on which slaves lived and worked. Curacao’s central Caribbean location and free port meant it was also a stopping point for traders and travellers from all over, and it has a long history of in and out migration from the surrounding region and much further afield. The island is therefore connected to the European, African and American continents in myriad ways, resulting in a highly complex socio-cultural landscape. The locals’ mother tongue of Papiamentu, for example, displays components of Spanish, French, Dutch, English, and West African languages, and most Curacaoans are multilingual. In contrast, much of the architecture is distinctly Dutch, and there remain many tangible links to the colonial period. We noticed the Netherland’s coat of arms on government buildings, for example, and plaques commemorating visits of the Dutch royals displayed in town. Indeed it was only a few years ago that Curacao celebrated gaining independence; although the process of decolonization of Dutch Caribbean territory began in 1954, it wasn’t until 2010 that Curacao achieved full recognition as an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

 

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CNSJF Banner at the World Trade Centre premises

Also in 2010: the very first Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival (CNSJF). The country’s own charity organisation Fundashon Bon Intenshon produced this ‘sister’ event in collaboration with Mojo Concerts (owners of North Sea Jazz, who are themselves owned by the American company Live Nation). In bringing a ‘world-renowned festival brand’ to Curacao, the organisers hoped to attract a new demographic of visitors to the island – an international, wealthy, and sophisticated ‘jazz crowd’ – that would boost the country’s stagnant tourism industry. Like much of the Caribbean, Curacao’s economy is heavily dependent on tourists; its ‘sun, sea, and sand’ are the most important draw. The island’s capital of Willemstad, furthermore, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique colonial architecture – another crucial selling point. Indeed, the festival’s CNSJF website describes it as an ‘untouched paradise’ with an ‘authentic’ and ‘historic’ centre and ‘vibrant’ culture.

 

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One of the outdoor Punda Jazz stages

During the first lustrum of Curacao’s national independence, then, this small Afro-Curacaoan/Dutch/Caribbean/Central American island has been host to one of the largest and most significant events in the European jazz festival circuit/scene. CNSJF therefore is ideally situated to study a number of CHIME-related questions, such as the relationship between the festival and (constructions of) local cultural heritage. How are the heritages of both the festival location and the history of jazz music dealt with in the production of the festival? Does the music invite engagement with the heritage location, does it ignore it, or does it reconfigure the visitor’s relationship to place? In what ways can the presence of CNSJF act as a lens to interrogate concepts of cultural identity? Furthermore, how does the festival help us to think about the meanings and usages of jazz today? What are the possible synergies and frictions?

Interestingly, CNSJF is preceded by a low-key free festival called Punda Jazz that is organised by the bars and restaurants in the oldest district in Willemstad. With its strictly local acts, Punda Jazz provided an interesting counterpoint to its star-laden 180-dollars-per-day bigger sister across the bay. In our next blog post we will talk about our experiences at both events.

Two Jazz Festivals, One Great City

12_points_festival_logoThe 10th edition of 12 Points kicked off in San Sebastian last night. This year, the nomadic festival (that alternates between Dublin and different European locations) is being delivered in partnership with San Sebastian’s own Heineken Jazzaldia Festival, meaning that two jazz festivals are being presented simultaneously. Whilst this might seem strange at first, you soon realise that there is a genuine complementarity between the programmes of the two festivals; Jazzaldia features a number of leading American and European artists, from Diana Krall to Jan Garbarek, whereas 12 Points celebrates emerging talent and the diversity of improvised music from 12 different European locations.

There was clearly an appetite for the new among San Sebastian audiences last night, as people were queuing around the block waiting for the doors to open prior to the event.

victoria-eugenia_crop2The Victoria Eugenia Theatre provided a stunning backdrop to the event, as music from Denmark (The Embla), Spain (Marco Mezquida) and Germany (The Eva Klesse Quartett) enhanced, blended with, and confronted the space at times. Sound has a transformative potential both inside and outside the concert hall, and 12 Points encourages us to engage with a sense of place, to think about the similarities and differences between people and cultures through music, and to consider the importance of improvisation in art and everyday life.

20160719_203656In San Sebastian there are several jazz bars and clubs as well as restaurants that feature live jazz. In addition to the large Jazzaldia stage on the beach, you can also encounter street musicians playing jazz and view a number of colourful posters that advertise both festival events and local jazz gigs.

20160721_125458Being here, you are continually reminded of the importance of improvised music and its ability to transform our environment; jazz clearly supports cultural tourism and provides the perfect soundtrack to the city with its beautiful beaches, historic buildings, fabulous cuisine and nightlife.

 

 

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But the music also has a lot to say about San Sebastian’s place in the world and the city’s aspirations as the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

There is something special about San Sebastian’s place in the Bay of Biscay, not only with its distinctively Basque character but also with its proximity to France.

 

20160719_203624Just being here makes you think about different identities, the politics and the connectedness of people in Europe past and present, and the way in which culture clearly flows in multiple directions; like 12 Points, it cannot be reduced to simple boundaries and border controls.