Numbers, schnumbers: total cultural value and talking about everything that we do, even culture
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The purpose of this paper is to argue for the importance of separating out three key dimensions of culture’s value – definition, measurement and cultural reporting. This has implications for the balance between quantitative and qualitative methodologies in achieving a meaningful context for interpreting numbers-based cultural data, as well as for the management of reporting regimes – the process by which value is “conferred” – by individual cultural organisations and events. It concludes with a brief sketch of a new set of priorities for assessment processes based on a less unitized, more cooperative understanding of cultural value (a Total Cultural Value exercise) Design/methodology/approach – This paper is a keynote address from the Global Events Congress. Findings – Valuation processes are comparative processes. They involve benchmarking, standardisation, unitisation and ranking. Cultural activities have an incommensurable aspect that makes them resist this kind of assessment and not infrequently make a nonsense of it. This makes it difficult for policy makers to choose between them from a resource perspective. No new proof of worth is going to change this fundamental characteristic of culture. A Total Cultural Value exercise is “allocutionary” and helps cultural programmes “make a case” based on best use of the available data and a meta-cognitive appreciation of the biases different proofs of worth involve. Originality/value – Total Cultural Value is a new concept developed to bring quantitative and qualitative methods for valuing arts and culture together.
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