Blog post

This week, our guest blogger Sarah from Dim Sum Digital gives us an introduction to Big Data.

'Gathering a group of arts organisations together to talk about '*measuring cultural value*' was never going to be an easy task. As researcher Franzi Florack pointed out in her opening remarks, every word in that phrase can be contested.

In the first of the two workshops looking at the sort of measures and metrics which could be useful when concerning cultural value (however that's eventually defined!) participants were faced with a series of questions seeking to assess areas including, but by no means limited to, economic, cultural and social impact.

This blog post contains some notes the day from myself and Julian as we start to focus on the issues. We both attended to help formulate the provocations for the next workshop which looks more at data aspects and would appreciate any input you might have to the debate.

Some of the issues raised yesterday:

  • is a framework to assess cultural value even necessary/relevant/desirable?

  • when co-producing metrics, (how) could participatory events be used for the activity?

  • how can evaluation be longitudinal enough to include community?

Working in groups, participants considered their own organisation's methods of data collection and evaluation. These included feedback surveys left in venues, interviews with visitors, random telephone cold call research interviews, social media monitoring and collation of newspaper reviews.

Some interesting points emerged including:

  • was collection and evaluation steered by financial imperatives?

  • notable that traditional marketing segmentation still seems widespread use across organisations.

  • changing role of front of house staff mentioned as venue 'hosts'.

  • the friction between rewarding loyal engaged audiences and developing new ones through outreach to non-audiences and non-visitors.

  • discussion about the extent to which data collection was driven with funders in mind.

The two of us were asked to finish the session with a very brief introduction into the big data session which will come next.

Julian spoke about the need to identify gaps in the data currently being collected, and also referred to some of the rhetoric surrounding the 'big data' agenda which, in itself, can sometimes put up barriers to finding new, collaborative ways of working.

I used two case studies from the media sector to illustrate different ways in which data is being harvested, visualised and analysed. The first was this example from ReFramed.TV and the second, this from

Before the next session on March 16, we will post some provocations into the internal critical friends forum and further debate via the comments here also most welcome.'