Introduction Mead who proposed that the mind and ego

Introduction Since 2013, the city of Doha has been organizing and hosting the Ajyal Film Festival which was inspired by the Giffoni film festival in Italy, with the purpose of focusing on and empowering the youth through the cinema. In this event, selected films are displayed but it is the youth who act as judges and jury. Ajyal Film Festival, however, has been held in tandem with the Geekdom Exhibition which is a community engagement exhibition that focuses on pop culture themes covering film, video games, music, art, TV series and creative art. Combining the two events was intended to enrich the Ajyal Film Festival as a social and community-based experience, to expand the targeted audience, and to encourage interaction among audiences characterized by different demographics and psychographics. In 2016, Geekdom attracted over 9,000 visitors over five days. In 2017, the number was significantly higher despite the blockade on Qatar. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the Geekdom event by applying Joseph Rossman’s principles of symbolic interaction theory. The objective of this analysis is to evaluate the event and its effectiveness in delivering its goals, and to identify any potentials for improvement in the future. Literature Review Symbolic interaction is one of the earliest theories on sociology, originally developed by the American philosopher George Mead who proposed that the mind and ego are the product of society. Much of Mead’s ideas were later developed by his student Herbert Blumer who actually developed the theory and coined the term symbolic interaction (Aksan et.al., 2009). According to Blumer (1980), people interact to meaning which is attributed to objects and events, defining meaning as a physical attachment imposed by humans on those objects and events. In other words as Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2015) explain, according to this theory people behave not according to objective facts but according to how they believe. Hence, people behave based on the subjective meanings they attribute to other individuals, behaviors and objects rather than according to what may be objectively true. In fact, the entire human society is constructed through this process of interpretation, while taking into consideration the assumption that meaning is not constant, but rather, constantly changing through social interaction. According to social interaction theory, people interpret behaviors and then form social bonds or relationships accordingly based on their subjective understanding and definition of a situation. For example, although most young people are fully aware of the dangers of smoking, they still smoke because they interpret the behavior of smoking as something cool that is associated with a positive attribute image or interpretation (Andersen, Taylor & Logio, 2015). Understanding and evaluating an event or a situation, therefore, was not just a matter of assessing facts, numbers and data, but rather, a process of interpreting the interaction of meanings and symbols associated with the event. According to Blumer (1979), in assessing any situation or event, “one must see that activities of the collectivity as being formed through a process of designation and interpretation.” In short, symbolic interactionism according to Andersen and Taylor (2008) is essentially focused on face-to-face contact, and on understanding how people define situations to understand what motivates and drives their behavior. Society, according to this theory, simply exists in the imagination of people. Moreover, as Shneider (2010) argues, symbolic interactionism also proposes that individuals develop a sense of the individual self through interacting with others. Hence, it is the interaction among individuals in society and the manner in which they interpret others that they eventually reach a definition of their own selves. Blumer (1979) proposed a process based on three core principles in symbolic interaction, namely meaning, language and thought. In the meaning process, people behave toward others and react to them according to the assumptions and meanings they attribute to them. At the same time, language defines and reinforces symbols, making interaction understandable according to the names that individuals attribute to objects, concepts or actions. The thought process, on the other hand, is how individuals interpret the meanings of symbols, interactions, and situations and how the unknown can be understood or conceptualized based on known or previous knowledge. The symbolic interaction theory does not only provide a framework to understand how individuals interact in society, but according to McCall and Becker (1990, p.9) it also explains how groups and subgroups become their own worlds within society, based on common and shared interests, tasks, meanings and symbols. They propose symbolic interaction as an appropriate framework to understand and analyze subgroups or events or any context in which “people are connected through their joint involvement in a task or event of a repetitive kind. Whenever social events happen routinely, we can expect to find a world.”Likewise, Gordon (1997) argues that symbolic interaction is a powerful platform for the understanding and analyses of certain functions and professions such as event management, public relations, and leisure since the activities within these professions constitute active and repeated processes of participation in the social construction of meaning. This view is also shared among sociologists and practitioners with an interest in the world of arts. For example, Sargent (2010) argues that although art movements may be seen as the product of individual innovation and creativity, in reality, they are to a great extent shaped by social processes and meaningful interaction. Similarly, Schneider (2010) argues that the world of music is a world where individual artists develop a sense of the self and their identity through interacting with others who in turn attribute identities to them. Joseph Rossman was among the scholars who proposed an analytical framework for events based on symbolic interactionism (Berridge, 2003). The framework constitutes of six elements, namely interacting people, relationships, rules, objects, physical setting and animation. Each of these elements or dimensions can be used by practitioners when designing and executing an event, or when analyzing and evaluating an event. According to Rossman’s model (Rossman & Schlatter, 1989), interacting people do not only include the participants and guests, but the other stakeholders who may contribute to the event or may be affected by it, and these must be taken into consideration during the design as well as during the evaluation. Relationships, in turn, constitutes of the nature of relationships as a result of the interactions resulting from the event and its various aspects. Rules, on the other hand, represent the rituals, regulations, and norms that are incorporated in the event to direct or guide the behaviors of participants and others who are part of the event. In contrast, the physical setting of the event relates to how the space is designed, divided, and allocated to serve the purposes of the event. Objects, likewise, constitute of the physical and abstract items that are used to fill the setting and which are intended to aid interaction and to contribute to the creation of meanings and symbols, and these may include the lights, props, decoration, and any other items used by the organizers. Finally, animation refers to the movement of people from the moment they start interacting with the event until the end, and it may be seen as a form of choreography that is designed by the organizers for the participants, with the ultimate goal of developing the desired experience that contributes to creating the intended or desired meanings and symbols (Berridge, 2003). Analysis General Observations Geekdom was organized over five days, prior to which there was a significant level of publicity in the local media and international media that focused on the event as well as on the Ajyal Film Festival that was organized alongside with it. The publicity of Geekdom, however, was more focused on attracting a diverse local audience (Appendix I).The researcher has been involved with Geekdom exhibition since its inception in 2013 and has observed the growth of the event, its challenges, and the community reaction towards Geekdom. In previous years, a significant number of visitors came from neighboring GCC countries, but visitors from those countries in 2017 was negligible as a result of the blockade. Surprisingly, however, the number of visitors significantly exceeded the 9,000 level that was registered in 2016, partly as a result of the heightened international and regional interest in the Ajyal Film Festival, and partly because of the strong support that the event received from the local communities. Application of Rossman’s Model to Geekdom The Physical SettingThe physical setting of the event is summed up in the blueprint figure (1) below which shows how the event was divided into clearly-defined sections such as the exhibition space, the artists area, the screening area, the gaming area, the Geekdom Café, and so forth. The design of the physical setting was intended to achieve a number of purposes. First, it had to be sizeable in such way that it could warmly and conveniently host a large number of visitors from all ages within a short period of time. The design also took into consideration the need to expose the visitors to the different aspects and themes of the event without overloading them with information or choices, but at the same time, ensuring that their interest and excitement level remained high as to the availability of choices of activities that they could participate in. The overall design was also simple and friendly to those visitors with an experience with similar events as well as to first-timers. In terms of experience, the purpose of the design was to make visitors feel comfort, convenience, and accessibility from the very moment they left their cars. Figure (1): Geekdom BlueprintAnimation The Blueprint in Figure (1) also illustrates how the animation of the event was choreographed in such a way to contribute to the smoothness and ease of movement, while at the same time enabling individuals to move quickly to the areas of their highest interest. For example, the screening area was the first to access and this was intended to make access very quick and convenient to those visitors coming for the film festival, and this section was adjacent to the artists corner because the themes were close and also to shield the visitors from the higher levels of noise in the gaming area which was placed at the opposite side in the center. The café area, on the other hand, was close to the gaming and exhibition corner as well as to the selling areas for convenience and to offer parents the opportunity to separate from their children if necessary while staying close to them. Interacting PeopleGiven the wide diversity of audiences and stakeholders targeted, this element was probably the most sophisticated to consider during the design. The stakeholders constituted of diverse target audiences including families, youth, adults, locals, internationals in addition to local, regional and international media (including TV, online media, press), in addition to the participants in the event (eg. various types of artists from different backgrounds) not to mention artists affiliated with the screened films and exhibited artworks. The stakeholders also included community leaders from different disciplines and backgrounds as well as experts in various fields. Apparently, the organizers invested a lot of effort in meeting the needs and expectations of each of these stakeholders and this was seen in a number of ways. For example, over 1,000 workers and volunteers were trained to address the needs of these individuals and groups regardless of the diversity of these needs. Similarly, specific areas were designated for certain stakeholders such as TV media and press, the film critics and other formal guests of the film festival. Likewise, there were personnel prepared to deal with any incidents involving a lost child. ObjectsObjects, both physical and abstract, played an extremely important role at Geekdom. For example, goodie bags that contained useful branded items such as a canvas bag, a pad and a pen, were the first physical object encountering visitors, adding to their delight and constituting collectible items as each year carried a new branding theme. Signs all over the exhibition were visible, colorful and pleasant to see while at the same time, facilitating the movement of individuals and crowds across the area. Moreover, the decoration in the physical setting reflected the diversity of themes as well as the nature of the artworks exhibited and presented. The setting was also well-lit but the intensity and coloration of lights varied from one section to another to fit the design, function, and theme of each area. At the same time, the physical setting was also designed in a way to create an ambiance with varying noise levels that suited the themes and activities of each area, with the overall result of ensuring that the whole place was bustling with sound but without annoying or distracting visitors. Moreover, the Freedom Wall represented a very exciting object where visitors could express their own written words, graffiti and even identities in total freedom as a contribution to the art of the exhibition. RulesDuring the design phase of the event, the rules element apparently received a lot of attention. The purpose was to create a very well-organized event but with the minimal degree of intrusive formal rules to ensure that the experience remained fun-focused, friendly, and warm throughout the entire visit. This was accomplished by using a very friendly and clearly-defined physical space, clear signs and pathways, as well as the allocation of volunteer helpers at each and every corner to provide directions or answers with a smile, assure adults and families that order and security were prioritized, and to make the visiting experience as smooth as possible. Even in the tournaments, the rules were not written but informally explained. For example, if someone wanted to play a video game, he had the opportunity to have one go, but if registered in the tournament, then a different set of rules was explained by the volunteers and organizers at the gaming section (Appendix II, Figure 1). Relationships The organizers of the event seem to have focused on building several types of relationships in the design of the event. First, there was a clear interest in creating a family-friendly environment throughout the whole event. Secondly, and in contrast, the event was also packaged and delivered as a place where even young children and adolescents could move around, interact, and be involved in various activities on their own, both safely and independently (Appendix II, Figures 2& 3). These adolescents as well as adults could interact with video game geeks, art collectors, artists and other contributors and participants under the watchful eyes of volunteer helpers at every corner, and they could even contribute with their own art if they wanted by drawing or sketching on the Freedom Wall. It is also worth noting that the event also focused on creating opportunities for young and adult participants to interact and create shared experiences focused on objects and themes of pop art, specifically those that centered around artworks from the 1980s and 1990s. For the adults, this was a form of nostalgia and for the younger ones, this was an opportunity to connect with the adults who were once children. In a way, this became a space in which individuals and groups from different generations found opportunities to engage in meaningful and exciting communication that transcended the age gap between them (eg. fathers/mothers and sons discussing aspects of their childhood with their children). Conclusion & RecommendationsFor the fourth year in a row, the event was successful in terms of attracting and attracting large number of visitors and participants who were eager to return, especially given the diversity and wealth of artistic and cultural themes around which the event was organized. From the symbolic interaction theory, it is evident how this event was organized not only as an experience around arts, but also around the construction of different and shared meanings to various groups and participants. Through the repeated organization of such events, culture and arts are not only enriched, but they are also sustained and new and richer forms of expression and communication are also motivated and encouraged. The only issue that may be worth considering in the future as significant is the separation of Geekdom from Ajyal Film Festival as it is now drawing huger crowds and sooner or later, it may require a much bigger location where it can be held as a standalone event.