AIMAC 2015 CONFERENCE day one

(Word press is being a nightmare regarding spacing, I apologise if this is a bit of a mess.)

The first session delved into the idea of cooperation across the Mediterranean region and included 6 speakers from both universities and practitioners from the region. The first, but not only learning, was the translation earphones that were provided, as it was conducted in French, are really uncomfortable. (And they shorted out during the second last speaker, the artistic director of the Aix festival, who was the most engaging.)


The second is, despite this being the very first session, and the urging by organisers that we must stick to time, that no one tells people of this calibre/status to stop telling their stories (and it should be noted the panel was all male, facilitated by a woman, a fact pointed out by Dr Kate MacNeill from Melbourne University, who has earned her badge of honour already.) The supposed round table was actually six speakers presenting their own story one after the other, with almost no time for audience interaction or even interaction with each other. I have to say it’s my pet hate when we don’t manage panels effectively to achieve the dialogue component. But that is just me.

The issue of terrorism and political instability, particularly given the events in Lyon this past week, clearly hung over the proceedings, particularly when the engagement of Arab world is such a crucial area both regionally and globally. Monday night was to be a trip to the opera as part of Aix Festival. It was a Mozart opera, nearly four hours long, and as it was starting at 9:30 I had mixed feelings about attendance. The director of the Festival, however, informed us that we were to attend the final dress rehearsal, but in the light of the recent terrorist attacks, particularly in Tunisia, some of the performance needed to be rewritten as to be sensitive to the situation and the audience was no longer welcome. It was an interesting insight into the reality of artistic directorship in the modern environment.

There’s plenty of social time across the conference, and I’m very glad to have spent 2 days in the doctoral workshop as entering the melee of the conference proper without a few friends would be daunting. I’m happy to see a few Australians presents, Ruth who ran the doctoral workshop, and two of the senior figures in Melbourne University’s Cultural management program. No one from Sydney has been spotted as yet, suggesting our move south might mean I’m more connected into Australian arts management networks than I had been previously.
Lunch was held in the luxurious, but hot, grounds of Pavillion Vendome and featured pastis and local rosè. Yeah it was tough. All the Australians, or I should say Melburnians, congregated together and had a chat with the very charming head of MUCEM, the museum in Marseille we visit on Wednesday.

The afternoon kicked off the main paper tracks, at each time there are up to seven parallel sessions ranging from strategic management to consumer marketing. I’m likely to camp out predominantly in the organisational behavior and HR track as it’s my main research area, though I plan to also see some of the ‘big names’ and the people I’ve met along the way.

Paper one was an investigation into arts management and millennials, and I was surprised to find that no work had been done in this space before. This sort of generational analysis is standard in non-academic HR as it’s so crucial from a hiring and retention perspective.

Apparently this group of prospective employees, as determined by this particular study, see training and career development as being “somewhat unimportant” which is interesting from my perspective, writing on on this space. But my theory, one I shared with the speaker, is that we have conditioned people to be in control of their own career, thus do not expect organisations to provide training or career development therefore it isn’t seen as important.  I was happy to find this opinion was agreed with by others.

I was watching the presentations with two purposes, one to learn what research was out there, but the other to understand the structure and mechanics of presenting at conferences. I’ve decided to submit a paper to a conference in Adelaide in December, which would be my first foray into actual conference papers. The generally tough feedback given in the PhD symposium was not found so much in the general conference, a fact I learned was a conscious decision. And the presentation content and style was pretty general, nothing that revolutionary, but I’ve learned my lesson that this is not always welcome in academic circles.

I’m probably displaying my academic naïveté in some of the sessions as I get excited when people are researching areas that overlap mine. I probably wear my glee too obviously. Not cool. But it’s exciting to hear about communities of practice research in Estonia or how visual artists learn career skills in Birmingham.

At the end of day one we went off to see some art and culture, but I’ll cover that in my other blog.

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AIMAC doctoral symposium 2015 day two 

Welcome to the second day of the doctoral workshop.

Bernard Cova  from KEDGE Business School kicked off a discussion on publishing or perishing (that old chestnut) with a reinterpretation of the concept to Apollonian versus Dionysian research.  The first being less publications in A level journals, the second being more varied publications in those with lesser status.

So is it visibility or journal credibility? Is getting your ideas out there as important than publishing in the most prestigious journals. Citations versus journal status. In the end the answer maybe both. We need, as academics, to be visible but also to publish in the best journals we can. For us pressing our noses against the glass window of our first journal publication it’s all just theory isn’t it? We just want to be let in.
What was interesting is there is a push to move beyond academic journals to actual societal impact study. Thus getting papers into publications like Harvard Business Review which have a wider audience than just academics. And apparently Business schools are even thinking of changing their names to Societal Schools- as they impact society not just business. I might just leave that alone. But you can still see some eye rolling when it comes to practical application, and when you read my presentation feedback below you’ll see another example. But it’s academia, contribution to theory is the main goal.

No discussion about platforms like The Conversation that get academic ideas out to a wider audience, but I’m guessing it isn’t as well known in Europe as elsewhere.

Joyce Liddle  from IMGPT Aix-en-Provence University was more practical in advice, build your own network. Impact in your way. Yes academic but publish in places where your can contribute to the conversation. I could see Joyce at UTS as she has the same approach as many I encounter there. 

Gretchen, who I mention yesterday, also raised the idea of broader visibility, including media and social media. It’s all a platform for ideas.

Then we were off for the last doctoral presentations….including mine.

My presentation went well on one perspective and badly in another. The audience reacted well. Good questions and engagement. The feedback from the assessors was focused largely  on one point, which zeroed in on a big fear I have- I’m not academic enough. My presentation style is spare, I don’t use a lot of words on PowerPoint or data dump lots of references. So the assessor asked me what were the three key academic articles I’m responding to. And I don’t have that to the point I clearly need to. I’m working in a cross disciplinary way, not relating to an existing model or conceptual framework, so I can’t say I’m building on X author. Though of course in retrospect I could has said I’m building on the work of Jo Caust….but mind blanks at the time.  Consequently the feedback was I could be writing a consultant report not a PhD. OUCH. How to demoralise someone moving into academia late in life. 
I’m not arguing with the feedback, it’s likely spot on, but highlights what I think is my major weakness, articulated yesterday, that I may not be academically aligned to arts management as much as I need to long term (if I want an academic career, this whole process raises the question that maybe I AM a consultant long term, not an academic.) I did get a lot more feedback and discussion over lunch from both Gretchen and Ruth, the academic organising the doctoral program, which was incredibly valuable and extremely kind of them. In some cases my weakness was not my research, but my presentation which probably wasn’t “academic enough” in terms of demonstrating my theoretical understanding (which is there.)  It reiterates the fact  I think I need Melbourne based support within the arts management or business field as I enter the writing stage.  Ruth suggested a few names, including Amanda Sinclair, which anyone who has read this blog knows, I THINK IS AN ABSOLUTE LEGEND. I could only dream having advice from someone of that calibre.
So enough soul searching and whining. Now I’ve got 24 hours or so to decompress before the main conference starts on Sunday night. From here on this blog will feature the key themes in the HR track at the conference. (And my personal blog may get a post on life in Aix-en-Provence.)

AIMAC doctoral symposium 2015 day one

It was with a strong sense of nervousness that I arrived at the location for the International Arts Management conference doctoral workshop.  Would my research hold up amongst an international, highly qualified audience of my peers? Was my presentation appropriate? (We had limited guidelines.) Was I dressed right. (Hey, I’m superficial.)

The last question was answered pretty quickly- yes. As unsurprisingly the participants were largely women aged 25-40 and we all dressed similarly (arts stereotypes anyone?)

The kick off session on research methodologies from a Roger Bennett eased my mind about question two. It was interesting but also demonstrated that good presentation style counts for much, so I knew I’d hold the audience well. The second session, a really informative analysis of trends in publication in arts management and creative industries in Europe , answered a bit more and made me realise two things. One I know what I’m talking about, in particular my experience teaching cultural policy has served me really well in understanding key trends and theories. Secondly, my thesis is in an emerging area combined with a classic one. I’m taking a classic arts management theme, leadership, and looking at it in what was described in an avante-garde way.  I can tell by my positioning within the program that the scientific committee didn’t really know what to do with me.  This is good, as I’m charting new territory, but bad because I may not be ‘arts management enough’ for my potential examiners.  This has got me thinking about the positioning of my thesis and future career. While I’m working in now, and hope to have a job, in arts and cultural management, my thesis itself may be too interdisciplinary and narrative orientated.  I hope not.(Elaine if you’re reading this we might need to discuss.) I think I will get an indication as to how the academic world sees me with the acceptance or rejection of my recently completed journal article.

The key themes emerging in arts and cultural management, interestingly summarised by Anne Gombault, are:

  • The creative turn- the shift from arts management to creative industries.
  • The digital turn- the impact, or disruption, of digital on the discipline and sector.
  • Private art funding and entrepreneurship- a long term area in the USA and Australia but only now an issue in Europe as public funding diminishes.
  • Governance and evaluation- I was interested to hear there is still very little evaluation and measurement of cultural policy outcomes in Europe and boards have very little power or influence.
  • The avant-garde- which included areas like celebrity, careers and design thinking.
  • The classics- arts marketing, leadership (which I sort of fall in, but with a new approach), management control and dual leadership.

The post presentation conversation got into some interesting territory about the rise and fall of Eureopean dominance, but the informative comment of one of the assessors/advisors in the program, Gretchen Larsen from Durham raised the idea that it was more to do with the rise in neo-liberal thinking than geography (which I agree.) Later we got talking, she’s a New Zealander so we gravitated towards each other drawn by flat vowels, and I think I found my first kindred spirit. It’s interesting trying to read the political dynamics of something like this conference. 

The early afternoon was spent watching the first of the PhD presentations, and now I’m pretty confident that I can present effectively because a)  this is not outside my realm of experience and b) I know my stuff inside and out. And I’m ace at presenting, public speaking is my jam. (Shall revisit this tomorrow post presentation because I have the co-chair of the whole event as one of my assessors, who also happens to be the editor of the most prestigious journal in the space….so no pressure.)

The last sessions of the day on publication and coping with a PhD were well intentioned but probably didn’t teach me anything I hadn’t learned comprehensively at UTS, once again reaffirming my good choice in applying to go there. I’m extremely thankful for the guidance I’ve received, both from my supervisor and from the staff in general.

We broke at 6:30pm, and after starting at 8:30am, I was crushed. There was some sort of experiential art event planned later in the evening, but I know myself well enough to know a bit of alone time was needed before my ‘big’ day tomorrow. 

End of part 1 2015

Well it’s been an interesting first semester. I’m tying up loose end at the moment, getting ready to head off to AIMAC 2015 in Aix-en-Provence next week.  While my presentation is prepared I haven’t even started my notes, which is sort of a worry but not really as I never use notes anyhow.

But this trip signals the end of a pretty good 6 months.  As far as my goals are concerns, here is the output:

1. I published on The Conversation in May and ArtsHub this week.

2. I’ve now completed 32 interviews AND transcribed them all. (Phew)

3. I sent off my paper “Career development through communities of practice in the South Australian Theatre sector” to a journal a few weeks ago, but no response to date (deadline for submission was June 30.)

4. I’ll present next week at a conference (see above.)

5. I’ve developed the content, and had it approved, for the new Cultural and Creative Industries leadership course at UNSW Art & Design.

I’m pretty happy with that outcome.  It’s been a strange semester, a little solitary compared to last year. Not as much engagement with my cohort.  Though UTS researcher development has continued to be outstanding.

Next semester I hope to achieve the following:

1. Conduct another 20-25 interviews and transcribe them. (With a focus on profit-making creative areas and MEN.) Already scheduled a week in Melbourne for two groups in August.

2. Deliver potentially my last teaching semester at UNSW (more on that to follow.)  This will be a new experience as I have lectures and tutorials this semester as opposed to just seminars.  And I have to brief tutors, when we confirm them!

3. Start writing my actual thesis.  I was going to aim for another journal article, as I have an idea brewing, but I want to see what happens with this one yet as there will be at least revisions or at most a complete rewrite for a new journal.  May keep my idea for 2016 and concentrate on writing the contextual chapter of my thesis.

4. Another piece for The Conversation and Arts Hub.  ArtsHub is not challenging to publish in, so that’s not an issue, but the The Conversation carries a bit more weight. Will depend on issues in the sector.

5. I’d like to give one sort of professional talk this year, through an arts organisation or event.

If I achieve all of this I will feel 2015 has been academically/professionally successful.

The big news, however, is that we are moving back to Melbourne.  Our apartment is up for sale and goes to auction in September. With a 90 day settlement it means we will be resettling in Melbourne in late November/early December.  This is HUGE. We made the decision in January, but to actually go through with it….well it’s an adjustment.  I’ve lived in this apartment longer than any other place in my life (I moved around a lot.)  And to be technically ‘homeless’ while we try to find a rental in Melbourne (with a dog) is a bit scary. But the time is right, and I can continue my PhD journey from a new locale in 2016. (No need to change Universities as I am spending next year writing anyhow, and will fly up for researcher development.)  I may be giving up/losing the amazing teaching opportunity I have had at UNSW Art & Design, but they have suggested we turn the leadership course into an intensive, which would be brilliant for me.

So I’m taking a couple of weeks away as of now (sort of, next week is all conference, then I have a week of holiday in Hong Kong) before I get stuck back into the second half of the year in mid-July.