Data-centric policies and practice:implications for publicly funded arts and cultural organisations in England

Butterworth, Christian (2020) Data-centric policies and practice:implications for publicly funded arts and cultural organisations in England. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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In this thesis, I examine organisational responses to data-centric policy changes in publicly funded arts and cultural organisations in England (ACOs). This research examines a period of time (2015–16) when ACOs were implementing Arts Council England’s (ACE) requirements to share audience data and engage with data analysis tools, the aim of which was to promote a ‘healthy and competitive sector’ and ensure that ‘more and more people up and down the country enjoy great art and culture’ (Arts Council England, 2015, p.15). This data sharing policy (DSP) sits within the context of a big data discourse in the arts and cultural sector to promote ‘data-driven decision-making’ (Lilley and Moore, 2013), leading to the emergence of an arts ‘data culture’ (Arvanitis et al., 2016). This research takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing principally on arts management and organisation theory, and employs empirical evidence collected through semi-structured interviews with senior managers in the publicly funded arts and cultural sector. Analysis of the data highlights four key insights relating to the work of arts managers in the context of implementing ACE’s data sharing policy and the wider ‘datafication’ of the arts and cultural sector. First, the emergence of an arts data culture is the product of long-standing data subcultures1 gaining prominence following greater dialogue, opportunities, and policy pressures for ACOs to utilise data effectively across their organisational decision making. Second, while some arts managers are proficient in ‘data-centric’ practices, there remains a significant gap in data literacy and data handling sensitivity among a number of arts managers working in the sector. Third, the new-found emphasis on data-driven decision making challenges arts managers’ perceptions of their own professional identity and sense of agency as leaders of artistic organisations when making artistic decisions, as their experience and tacit knowledge may hold less weight than the objective ‘facts’ provided by data. Finally, ACE’s data sharing policy challenges arts managers’ and their organisations’ ability to satisfy the opposing legitimacy requirements of the multiple actors they are accountable to, leaving them ‘stuck in the middle’ of policy requirements.

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Thesis (PhD)
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11 Mar 2020 09:30
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 02:49