For sentimental reasons I keep an eye on what research is coming out of Southampton University. One of the recent projects they highlighted, carried out with the help of researchers from Bath and Birmingham, looked at pop festivals. Specifically they wanted to know whether young festival-goers today felt that the events had “sold out” by attracting commercial sponsorship.
If you talk to people my age that’s not a question worth asking. Of course they have all sold out. And what’s more Pride festivals have sold out too. And science fiction conventions must be protected from commercial influences at all costs.
Apparently, however, we think that way because we are old and out of touch. The researchers commented:
Our research found that few noticed or were concerned about corporate sponsorship or how their consumption choices were being constrained. If anything the involvement of well-known companies and brands in music festivals had made these events seem less threatening and more accessible to a wide cross-section of people who identify with mainstream culture.
I can see that being true of SF conventions too.
Also of relevance to us is this:
One of the most striking findings was just how important events like Glastonbury are to those who attend them. Dr Andrew Bengry-Howell adds: “Lots of people drew comparisons between the sense of community they encountered at a music festival, and the lack of community they encountered in their everyday lives. The experience of spending time with people who share their interest in music and festivals, and, for some, the experience of camping, going to sleep and waking up with people that they perceive to be like them.
That sounds very much like what people say about conventions. Except the camping, of course. And the sleeping. Interesting.