Counting what counts – big data and the cultural sector

Counting what counts – big data and the cultural sector

By Professor Paul Moore
Tim Baker


This report argues for senior cultural decision-makers to grasp the potential of big data. It aims to set the issues in a wide strategic context.

Executive summary

The current approach to the use of data in the cultural sector is out-of-date and inadequate. The sector as a whole and the policy and regulatory bodies which oversee it are already failing to make the most of the considerable financial and operational benefits which could arise from better use of data. In addition, a significant opportunity to better understand and possibly increase the cultural and social impact of public expenditure is going begging.

It is high time for a step-change in the approach of arts and cultural bodies to data and for them to take up and build on the management of so-called 'big data' in other sectors.

This report aims to set the issues in a wider strategic context. The overall objective is to help senior cultural decision-makers to understand the importance and urgency of the need to think differently about the potential of big data and to encourage them to set in train changes to the environment, the metrics and the skills to make the most of big data and to harness its potential.

There are some fundamental barriers to the use of big data approaches in arts and cultural insitutions. The first is related to the funding environment. The sector currently largely addresses data from too limited a perspective. Too often, the gathering and reporting of data is seen as a burden and a requirement of funding or governance rather than as an asset to be used to the benefit of the artistic or cultural institution and its work. This point of view is in danger of holding the sector back. It arises partly from the philosophy of dependence, subsidy and market failure which underpins much of the cultural sector including the arts and public service broadcasting.

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Resource type: Research | Published: 2014