One professor's Lowlands experience
By day, Utrecht University professor Daan Scheepers (45) and his research centre investigated what Lowlands festivalgoers thought about evolving gender roles. By night, after having closed the research tent, he took in a concert. 'My son told me I had to see Anderson Paak. I wasn't familiar with him, but from what I've read, he's often compared to Prince. As a Prince fan, that appealed to me. The concert was quite good, but he can't hold a candle to Prince.'
Scheepers' research tent was set up next to the Alpha Tent, the main stage at Lowlands, which reverberated with the sounds of performers including Ronnie Flex, Billie Eilish and Franz Ferdinand. Meanwhile, participants in Scheepers' study were hooked up to electrodes and outfitted with a blood pressure monitor on a finger and an arm. 'Through physiological measurements, we hope to find out with greater accuracy what people think about social changes, about evolving gender roles.'
Whilst setting up the equipment on Thursday evening, Scheepers was concerned about whether this method of measurement would actually work at Lowlands. 'They were doing a sound check in the Alpha Tent at the time. The deep techno beat made everything vibrate. My first reaction was: this is impossible, I have to go talk to the organisers. When the actual concerts started, however, it wasn't so bad after all. I'm confident that all of the measurements we conducted are valid.'
The male to female ratio was far more balanced.
Inland barge skipper
Scheepers and his group are accustomed to doing their research in a lab. Normally, there is little diversity amongst the participants: most are students, and the majority are female. 'That's why Lowlands was such a great opportunity for us to tap into a more diverse audience. Of course, female students were amongst the participants at the festival, too, but the male to female ratio was far more balanced. And some of the participants were people whom we never see in our lab, such as an inland barge skipper.'
Building site spotlight
After doing their research and checking out a concert, Scheepers and his colleagues headed to their pop-up tents. 'We were staying at the crew campsite. It's a bit further away from the festival grounds, so the music wasn't too loud over there. However, it turned out there was a building site spotlight next to my tent, which meant my tent stayed brightly lit throughout the night. Still, I managed to sleep all right.'
Scheepers considers the festival a success. 'This was obviously a unique opportunity to recruit a large and diverse study population very quickly. We will analyse the data and undoubtedly publish the findings in a scientific journal.' He left the Lowlands site on Sunday with a car full of data about how Lowlands festivalgoers actually think about evolving gender roles. 'And in the back was my pop-up tent, in all of its glory. I tried to fold it, others came over to lend a hand, but we couldn't manage to put the thing away again.'