Get to grips with what big data means and what it can do for the cultural sector in this transcript of Anthony Lilley’s presentation from AMA conference 2013.
I'm a lapsed arts creative. I was a theatre director and producer dabbling in technology when I first came out of college. I then repaid most of the money I lost putting on ITC-level plays, by sorting out data, databases and box office issues for a few years and presenting (I believe) the first Arts Council-funded tour of seminars on the World Wide Web in 1994.
I diverted into being the creative head of Magic Lantern Productions, working in digital media and broadly in learning and media and broadcasting.
I was commissioned by Arts Council England and NESTA to work on the Counting What Counts report about eighteen months ago. I'd been banging on about what was coming - the world of Big Data and increasing amounts of data available being both an opportunity and a threat for the cultural sector. We started at a high level talking about the policy area around how we make the case for culture and public service broadcasting.
I've been a non-exec at OfCom for about five years until recently and I'm very concerned with being able to make an evidence-based case that when we spend public money on cultural things - whether that's BBC, Channel 4, arts funding, museums or whatever - we are able to show the impact of what we do.
I believe that increasingly we are starting to see - via social networks, through people's behaviour online that then affects their behaviours in the'real world' - positive impact in new and exciting ways which might help us make the argument for spending money as a society on culturally important things in addition to some of the ways we've used in the past.
I was interested in the theoretical end of how that might be done but when I started to dig into it, it became apparent that there's a set of questions about what 'big data' is that needed answering. And also a set of questions about how you get ready to take advantage of it because, none of us in the sector are the scale of Google and there are a lot of practical issues to resolve around how you get ready to take advantage of the opportunities. Counting What Counts looks at that stuff but it's not a practical guide. It's slightly more academic and a policy guide based in practice.