Eric Jensen: The Role of Technology in Evaluating Cultural Value

The breadth of artistic and cultural practices that may connect to the development of cultural value has so far extended well beyond the reach of existing methodological frameworks and research methods for systematically capturing, analysing and accurately representing the different components of these impacts.

This critical review project will employ a rigorous cross-disciplinary, analytical literature and methodological review to identify and evaluate the different ways in which technology can be used to evaluate different components of cultural value. A wide variety of settings will be addressed such as arts and culture museums, arts and culture festivals, cultural events, local and national arts programmes, etc. In this project, my expertise in technology-enhanced impact evaluation is supplemented by a leading scholar in the role of technology in arts and culture, Professor Mike Phillips at i-DAT (Plymouth University). This desk-based research project addresses the uses, quality and possibilities of technology-linked evaluation methodologies and strategies, which could be used to help evaluate the development of cultural value in different settings.

This project will address the following research objectives:

1. Develop a catalogue of current uses of technology-enhanced evaluation methods and approaches to measure cultural value and related impacts.
2. Critically review the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies for evaluating different components and dimensions of cultural value in a range of contexts.
3. Develop a report describing different technology-enhanced methods of evaluating cultural value, including a master table of methods, technologies and approaches; along with a critical assessment of their strengths/weaknesses.

This research contributes to the Cultural Value project by informing the evaluation of cultural impact to support robust, long-term, empirical research on cultural value. Meanwhile, technological innovations have raised new possibilities for evaluating cultural value that promise to increase efficiency, reach and validity beyond that which is possible with conventional methods. This proposed project considers several technology-enhanced methods for evaluating cultural value, providing descriptions and critical assessments to elucidate their strengths and weaknesses. This project focuses on evaluation methodology per se, with the aim of supporting future empirical evaluation and research on cultural value. This project will review current literature on the use of technologies to evaluate the development of cultural value through events, institutions and digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, individual webpages, etc.

The project team will identify the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies and technology-enhanced evaluation approaches to suggest an appropriate framework for making best use of digital technologies in cultural value evaluation. The results of this critical literature review can be broadly applied to a framework that can advance how the value of cultural engagement is evaluated and employed.

This project will integrate a range of research approaches, embracing the partners’ knowledge of arts/culture engagement impact evaluation; software design; production and implementation; mixed methods data analysis; visualisation of digital programmes; and the requirements for integrating these new modes with more traditional cultural impact analysis. At its core, the project is focused on how we can capitalise on digital technologies to build a robust, evidence-based evaluation framework; while at the same time maintaining a critical perspective regarding the limits of the technologies’ contribution to evaluating cultural value.

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