Research Output

The Strength of Festival Ties: Social Network Analysis and the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival

  The development of event studies as a field of research and education has misunderstood and misrepresented the social networks that underpin the industry. Such relationships are too often characterised in terms of stakeholders, which prioritises institutions over individuals. It is common to see a festival organisation represented as a single entity, likewise ‘the audience’ or ‘suppliers’. This is at odds with the lived experience of events: whether as a paid employee building a festival career; a willing volunteer seeking to make a unique contribution; an audience member co-creating their vacation; or a representative of an industry supplier, working across numerous clients in multiple environments. If event studies has to enhance its legitimacy within the industry it must strive to better explain phenomena that are familiar to and implicitly understood by event producers and visitors alike.

Social network analysis (SNA) complements stakeholder-based research and offers more, yet has barely been utilised. Numerous fields of research have made use of SNA, from tracking infectious diseases to mapping the spread of rumours through social media. Events are currently underrepresented in this body of work, despite the apparent advantages that they afford such research: communities can be relatively easily identified based on event participation; researchers are often already familiar with appropriate data-gathering tools; there is interest from the festival and events industry; and SNA lends itself to case study analysis, of which there is no shortage of opportunity among events.

This chapter provides background to SNA as a research method, from its antecedents to modern techniques and software that permit analysis of online and offline networks. The limited application of SNA in the events field is discussed, as is evidence of the importance of social networks to the industry. Critical arguments are then presented for investing in further research, to the benefit of both event producers and industry observers. A case study is presented from data gathered during the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival. The case study data presents both opportunities and limitations of this approach, offering recommendations for further research.

  • Date:

    11 June 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Palgrave Macmillan UK

  • DOI:


  • Library of Congress:

    H Social Sciences

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    390 Customs, etiquette & folklore


Jarman, D. (2016). The Strength of Festival Ties: Social Network Analysis and the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival. In L. PLatt, & I. R. Lamond (Eds.), Critical Event Studies, 277-308. Palgrave Macmillan.



Social network analysis, social media, event studies, festivals,

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