Making Digital Work: Data

Making Digital Work: Data

By Digital R&D Fund for the Arts


Learn how to get the best from your data with support from this guide, which shares learning from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.


Data is everywhere. Much like physical infrastructures such as energy, transport and water, the global data infrastructure underpins our lives. An unprecedented amount of information is being created and shared online, offline, voluntarily, and unconsciously. Artists are using it as the basis of their practice - as a subject and as a material, businesses are using it to create new and improved products and services. People are using it to seek guidance on their lifestyle choices.

The potential of data to affect and reflect our lives is immense. Data is more than just spreadsheets. It's a technique for gaining deeper understanding of the world around us with an abundance of stories waiting to be discovered. Data becomes really powerful when you bring together from different data sources and use it to surface new insights. This is only possible when we open up our data and encourage others to do the same.

Data is a key learning theme from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Data is influential when used correctly, and in context. Learning how to get the best from you data is the first step. Understanding what data to share, what data you could collect, and how you can combine it with data from other sources is next.

Insights First, Data Second

Data is the next big thing in the arts. The problem is that a lot of us don't really know what to do with it. So we don't really do anything with it. Or even bother collecting it in the first place. It's a bit of a hassle to gather the stuff after all. And it's definitely a bit of a hassle to analyse it.

Even if we do recognise the worth of our data and make the time to gather and analyse it, if we're a freelancer or a small organisation - as much of the sector is - it can feel like our contribution is insignificant since the data can only tell a little story. So perhaps it's unsurprising that the cultural sector is data-shy. We don't generally spend money to generate datasets in order to inform our decision making, certainly no more than just enough to satisfy minimum reporting requirements.

Cultural policy consultant John Knell believes that the secret to cracking the data conundrum is to avoid the D-word entirely. Instead, he suggests we focus in on the idea of insights. We need to embrace the idea of initiating enriching conversations, both internally with colleagues and more outwardly facing with peers and of course audiences.

Download the guide to read on:

Making Digital work: Data (PDF)

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Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2017