Annalisa Cicerchia

Why we should measure, what we should measure

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Social Impact Assessment; Cultural Sector; Cultural Statistics; Cultural Policies; Cultural Indicators.

«Art is good for you» is a statement with which few would disagree. Many are ready to support the proposition with stories and anecdotes, but few are able to document these with robust data-based evidence. Four broad aims underlie cultural policy, at least in most European countries: the promotion of cultural identity, cultural diversity, creativity, and participation. Each entails different impacts. The economic and social impacts of culture and the arts have been investigated since the late 1970s, but the results are still uncertain, especially socially. The pioneering work led by Matarasso nearly two decades ago listed fifty social impacts of participation in the arts, and posed a set of fundamental conceptual and methodological questions. Since then, on the same subject and on related subjects (arts attendance, cultural participation, arts or cultural practice, cultural indicators, social impact indicators, etc.), a huge amount of literature has been stacking up, but many of the key issues that Matarasso raised remain unanswered. While funding for both research in the field, and for cultural activities themselves, continues to suffer severe and unending cuts almost everywhere in OECD countries, institutions and policy makers demand evidence, call for data, and crave indicators. Drawing ideas and insights from the rich and lively international debate on arts, culture and social metrics, this paper focuses on three sets of questions among the many posed by Matarasso, by his followers and by his critics. The first set is about concepts (measurement, social impact, culture and the arts), the second about actors (who measures, and for whom), and the third about the purpose/s of measurement. It will not dwell on the remaining set of questions, which is apparently the most appealing - i.e. how measurement should be done - but attempts to show that this is greatly influenced by the choices made about the previous three.

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