Bookman #133: Research and data

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This winter's Boekman is about research and data. What do all the data and research collected in the cultural sector tell us? Indicators such as audience reach or own income can provide a one-sided perspective on quantitative results without considering their impact on an institution's policy.

A number of authors identify a gap between scientific research and cultural practice. Researchers Anna Elffers and Francesco Chiaravalotti make a number of proposals to close the gap between research and practice. They believe that they "need to start thinking less simplistically about research as a way of determining 'what works and doesn't work'" and that "entrenched ideas about what research is, what research methods and data are useful [...] need to be shaken up." They see the way university research is conducted as a barrier to a good connection with practice. "The result is that useful knowledge for cultural practice is hidden away in academic journals that are only freely accessible if you have an appointment at a university or college."

Useful knowledge for cultural practice is hidden in academic journals

In contrast, many in cultural practice often have an incomplete picture of what research is or can be, which can lead to opportunities being overlooked. Elffers and Chiaravalotti also mention the misconception "that research is only good research if it is standardized and the outcomes consist of 'hard numbers,'" in other words measuring the value of culture deserves rethinking and should start from defining those values from within the sector itself.

Measuring the value of culture deserves rethinking

Madelief van Dongen discusses the use of social media in her article "Cultural organizations and social media. The question of what institutions want to achieve with these means is important and determines the strategy and the appropriate content.

In their article "Accountability with data," Sjors Overman and Claartje Rasterhoff wonder whether accountability with data is a blessing or a burden. "Data arise from socio-cultural park practices: at the same time, data influence those practices: choices have been made about what is and is not collected, they give the illusion that phenomena can be categorized and classified [...]." The authors describe a number of areas of tension that can arise from "datafication" and provide insights that cultural organization can benefit from.

The illusion that phenomena can be categorized and classified

Pieta Verhoeven points out in her article the importance of comparable measurement systems in the different regions. The Regional Culture Monitor (see also page 8) is an important instrument in this. Qualifying cultural and foreign policy is not easy either, according to Mirte Berentsen in her article. Databases are used that are incomplete due to a lack of good measurement methods: "While the need for data is growing, clear guidelines for measuring and assessing it are lacking."

This and more articles can be found in Boekman #133, see also

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