Events and public defences
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Doctoral dissertation: Total festival experience


Maarit Kinnunen’s article-based dissertation constructs a model for total festival experience.

The summer of 2018 was an ‘all-time festival summer’: It seemed that Finns participated in festivals more than ever before and many festivals got their best attendance figures. Despite this, during the year there has been news of festival bankruptcies. The public funding has been diminishing for a long time and, for some of the festivals, the attendance figures have not been that good. Finland is a small country, so with 500-800 festivals, there are not enough participants for all of them. This situation forces festival management to pay attention to the festival experience, since it is one of the main motivators for attending a festival. Furthermore, festival experiences contain elements that can be used in building the festival brand; that in turn, increases loyalty, positive media coverage, ticket sales and sponsors’ interest.

Maarit Kinnunen (MSc, MSSc) studied festival attendees’ experiences in her dissertation, finding out that the main reason for many festivalgoers’ participation is the unique festival atmosphere, comprising an interesting programme, high-quality services and like-minded people who have positive and considerate behaviour. Kinnunen collected data from nearly 2,000 festival participants from 17 festivals all around Finland and developed a model for total festival experience. The model contains organiser- and attendee-induced elements, as well as external experience elements and atmosphere. The organiser-induced experience elements include the programme, services, arrangements, crowds, commercialism and/or non-commercialism and other values; while attendee-induced elements comprise participants, socialising and code of conduct. External experience elements are the place and the weather and/or summer. Atmosphere is constructed from all the previous elements.

Liminality is the most common term used by scholars when describing the essence of festival attendance. Entering the liminoid zone means leaving the mundane world and social structures behind and becoming a member of the festival community, that is of an anti-structural nature. Within the festival community, participants tend to be more relaxed, tolerant and open to participate in collective actions and shared enjoyment than in normal circumstances.

The work emphasises the importance of participants and their socialising and code of conduct for the co-creation of a festival atmosphere. The construction of the place identity for both locals and non-locals is also stressed.

Kinnunen found out that the programme and atmosphere are the main success factors for festivals while place, participants, services and arrangements could be differentiators creating a competitive edge for festivals. On the other hand, failed arrangements, programme, crowding and services are the biggest threats likely to cause negative experiences.

Public defence:

MSc, MSSc Maarit Kinnunen will defend her dissertation titled ‘Total festival experience: A mixed methods research approach to consumer experiences in Finnish cultural festivals’ at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Rovaniemi, in the University of Lapland, on Friday 30th of November at 12 o’clock in lecture hall Castrén. Kinnunen’s opponent will be Professor Tommy D. Andersson from the University of Gothenburg and the Custos will be Senior Lecturer Monika Lüthje from the University of Lapland.

Information on the doctoral candidate:

Maarit Kinnunen graduated with an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Helsinki in 1987. She made a long career in ICT, having worked as a project manager in the telecommunications, insurance and banking businesses. In 2008, frustrated with the fragmented work of ICT project management, she decided to make a career change and started studying tourism. She achieved a Bachelor of Hospitality Management from the Lahti University of Applied Sciences in 2010, and Master of Social Sciences on Tourism Research from the University of Lapland in 2013. She made her Bachelor’s thesis on geocaching experiences, and Master’s thesis on the contents and meanings of festival and event experiences. Kinnunen is one of the founding members of the Finnish Festival Barometer research, a longitudinal study on Finnish rhythm music festivalgoers. She has also consulted several festivals about their audience surveys and analysed their survey data.

Additional information:

Maarit Kinnunen
tel. + 358 50 577 9153

Information on the publication:

Maarit Kinnunen: Total Festival Experience: A Mixed Methods Research Approach to Consumer Experiences in Finnish Cultural Festivals. Lapin yliopistopaino. Rovaniemi 2018. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 381. ISBN 978-952-337-111-8. ISSN 0788-7604. PDF: Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 248. ISBN 978-952-337-112-5. ISSN 1796-6310.

Link to the e-version
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