“Stuck in the middle”:Satisfying the divergent legitimacy demands of Data Sharing Policy.

Butterworth, Christian and Whitham, Roger and Fahy, Kathryn (2017) “Stuck in the middle”:Satisfying the divergent legitimacy demands of Data Sharing Policy. In: 43rd International Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts, 2017-10-122017-10-14.

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In this paper, we examine how UK Arts Managers identify and deal with the challenges of satisfying the opposing legitimacy requirements of the multiple actors they are accountable to when adopting Arts Council England’s newly mandated Data Sharing Policy. In these politically fraught times, the publicly funded arts landscape is shifting in a data-driven direction. Policymakers see the use of data as offering a significant opportunity to increase understanding and potentially boost the cultural and social impact of the work they fund. Whilst this step change policy aims to promote a ‘healthy and competitive sector’ and to ensure that ‘more and more people up and down the country enjoy great art and culture’; our findings suggest that policy of this type generates tensions for how Arts Managers demonstrate and maintain organisational legitimacy with the different legitimating actors going forward, leaving them “stuck in the middle”. Our research takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on arts management, organization theory, and design perspectives; using empirical evidence collected through semi-structured interviews with senior managers in publicly funded arts organisations. We identify four core legitimating actors Arts Managers see the need to demonstrate legitimacy to when engaging with Data Sharing Policy: The Arts Council, the policymaker; The Information Commissioners Office, the independent legal authority who uphold data privacy law; Their Peers, other funded arts organisations or artists; and The Audience, those whose data is the central interest of the Policy. The divergent requirements of these key legitimating actors sees our analysis highlight three themes relating to Data Sharing Policy: Data Sharing vs. Data Protection; Comradery vs. Competition; and Integrity vs. Control. These themes emerged from the participants’ understanding of their legitimacy requirements with these key actors along three distinct, but not exclusive, dimensions of legitimacy: Relational, Moral, and Instrumental. We find that because the legitimacy requirements arts organisations are expected to satisfy are conflicting; there is no perceived action Arts Managers can take that does not have a consequential impact on their legitimacy with at least one of these actors. Arts Managers are therefore faced with the challenge of needing to prioritise which of these actors is more important for their organisational legitimacy going forward. This notion is well exampled by one participant who states: “It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place […]. We try to do everything above board – you know, making sure we do what the Information Commissioner says we should do… but then the Arts Council drop this on us […] we’ve now got to decide who has the bigger voice per se […]”. We find that whilst feeling ‘stuck in the middle’ of these key legitimating actors, participants draw on the different dimensions of legitimacy to help make sense of the policy landscape they find themselves in. We believe this research sheds light on the relationship between multistakeholder policy – such as the Data Sharing Policy – and those who are tasked with satisfying the opposing demands of each stakeholder – the Arts Managers.

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Contribution to Conference (Paper)
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43rd International Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts
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02 Mar 2020 16:25
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 14:43