The a(rt)nalysis: merging art, culture and data
There is a lot of excitement around “big data!” What happens when data intersects with arts and culture? A mystery for some, adulation for others. In any case, combining these two apparently opposed worlds brings out new learnings and new opportunities to better understand audiences, measure the value created, develop new business models, learn from creative experiences… The list goes on! Let us explain.
Each of us produces a large amount of data, whether it’s through our cell phones, social networks or online shopping. Data use then engages new expertise, such as machine learning, network science, and text mining. The results are products, services and platforms that we use every day, such as spam filters or recommendation systems on Netflix for example.
But that’s not all! When it comes to arts and culture organizations, understanding data allows them to make better business decisions.
The arts and culture sector in the “big data” era
Arts and culture organizations today have access to a variety of data about their audiences. This includes the number of visits to their website, but also information from videos, social networks or user comments. In addition to this, there is also what is commonly referred to as “open” data, such as government data, as well as “shared” data.
Reaching new audiences and building connections
There are two major aspects to the arts and culture sector: community and communication. To develop these, it is essential for arts and culture organizations to know, expand, and interact with their audiences. This is where data has its role to play! Data analysis can both help organizations learn more about their audiences, but also fill in any gaps identified through the development of new initiatives and programs.
Creating and measuring social value
Social value is at the heart of arts and cultural organizations. However, its non-monetary nature makes it difficult to measure. As a result, communicating its importance to funders and audiences is complex. Nevertheless, data that comes from social networks is increasingly being used by organizations to measure how local communities can benefit from their products and services. An organization’s popularity and influence can also be seen via the activity generated by their audiences, such as on Instagram or Twitter.
Developing new business models
Prior to the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, uncertainty was already slowly creeping into the business models of arts and cultural organizations. Several questions were beginning to emerge: how much would audiences be willing to pay to watch a live theatrical show? Or, how much would they be willing to pay to download it?
With the closure of public venues for several months and the increasing use of digital technology, the sources of revenue for the arts and culture sector have diversified. Many people have been consuming art and culture via digital platforms, for example through virtual exhibition visits or borrowing books online. The resulting amount of data is phenomenal! And for an organization that was looking to adapt its business model to the changing habits of its audience… it’s a jackpot!
Data and creativity: a curious mix?
When used wisely, data can support creativity by detecting the evolution of project risks on the one hand, and potential problems and solutions on the other.
So, the use of data analysis is full of possibilities! Not only in the field of arts and culture, but also on a societal scale, in a perspective of innovation and critical engagement.