Embedding and demonstrating the value of technology-enhanced cultural impact measurement for arts and culture organisations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sociology


The museum and galleries sector faces the challenge of developing effective methods for refining objectives, designing and implementing robust evaluation measures. Technological innovations have raised new possibilities for evaluating cultural value that promise to increase efficiency, reach and validity beyond what is possible with conventional methods. However, methods of evaluating cultural impact still need substantial development to support robust, long-term empirical research on cultural value. This proposed project brings to bear AHRC funded research findings pertaining to several technology-enhanced methods for evaluating cultural value. This project will enable the project partners to share expertise and develop an evaluation framework that works across different types of museum collection.
The project will encourage 'wider use of evaluation as a tool within the cultural sector itself, rather than as something carried out just for accountability purposes' aligned with the need cited in the Cultural Value Project Report. Specifically, this proposal will enable museums and galleries to explore, discuss and test the innovative automated evaluation systems created as part of the Qualia (R & D Fund for the Arts) and SMILE (Digital Amplification) research projects. This proposal also builds on the 'The Role of Technology in Evaluating Cultural Value' project, funded by the AHRC's Cultural Value Fund.
The partnership represents key players in the national cultural landscape, securing participation from a broad range of disciplines, art forms and venues. In common they have expertise, knowledge and experience, as well as a shared interest, in the core aims of the proposed research. Crucially, they are also in the position to put new knowledge developed through recently funded AHRC projects directly into practice to benefit audiences by establishing a more responsive mode of cultural engagement underpinned by improved audience data.
The academic partner will work closely with education practitioners at the partner organisations and support them to embed evaluation of cultural value development into their normal programmes through the innovative use of automated systems. The project will enable the partners to work with users and stakeholders on co-creation of structures for applying new digital evaluation tools. At the end of the project the academic partner and partner museums and gallery practitioners will share case studies of their work on the project at a showcase event at the National Gallery and on a project website.
The first part of the project will be delivered through a series of workshops at each partner venue. These workshops will enable practice partners to work with the project team to identify where the work of previously funded AHRC research projects (SMILE and Qualia) can be implemented in programmes for families, teachers and children and young people within their learning programmes. In an end-of-project showcase event, partner institutions will present case studies to demonstrate the range of possibilities for measuring cultural value that is afforded by technology-enhanced evaluation. This final event will take place over two days.
Day 1 (Showcase event): Used to demonstrate to other cultural organisations the possibilities and options available through the use of technology embedded impact measurements for audience research and evaluation. This will include 'break out' sessions facilitated by project staff to assist cultural organisations with creative problem-solving in using technology to embed robust evaluation in children and young people programmes.
Day 2 (Getting started event): Devoted to practical sessions, with different sessions helping cultural organisation staff with the key elements of the process for embedding this research knowledge in their practices. In addition, a technology provider will be actively setting up systems for institutions throughout the day.

Planned Impact

This FoF project will pilot the application, transferability and scalability of innovative approaches, methods and automated evaluation tools emerging from previously funded AHRC research. In particular, this project addresses the call for action in the Cultural Value Report (and associated Evidence Briefing) for "wider use of evaluation as a tool within the cultural sector itself, rather than as something carried out just for accountability purposes. Better evaluation can help cultural organisations and practitioners learn from [...] their audiences". Indeed, in supporting cultural institutions implementation of technology-enhanced evaluation stemming from prior AHRC-funded research, the project delivers chains of influence, including with: cultural organisations that need audience data, practitioners in arts organisations who need the tools and know-how to conduct gather and analyse audience data efficiently, funders and policymakers that measure the success of arts organisations by the data they provide and audiences needing a voice but often excluded from feedback and evaluation processes.
This Follow-on Fund project involves knowledge exchange, active dissemination and proof of concept activities. In Phase 1, knowledge exchange and proof of concept work will embed the know-how from the aforementioned AHRC research projects into daily practice at the National Gallery and University of Cambridge Museums (partner organisations). The Phase 1 workshops and network development will provide practitioners with the means, the methods, and the know-how for implementing more effective evaluation and cultural value measurement within museums and galleries. In Phase 2, the 'case studies' of automated cultural evaluation produced by these proof of concept activities will be used as the basis for sector-wide active dissemination spearheaded by the participating institutions. The case studies created through the project will demonstrate the important challenges cultural institutions face with regards to implementing effective evaluation and demonstrate how they can use technology with robust evaluation methods to address these challenges.
To deliver impact through this project, the following steps are planned:
(1) Embedded automated evaluation systems enabling real-time results to emerge from ongoing automated data collection and analysis at partner institutions.
(2) Case studies: Publicly available documents, with associated Powerpoint slides and videos.
(3) Showcase event. Showcase event will feature the practice partners' use of the technical systems and know-how from the previously funded project, as well as direct presentation of findings from the previously funded research. Grounded in the case studies, the event will provide an accessible and highly practical way of disseminating and developing practice impacts from the previously funded AHRC projects. Also includes a 'Getting started' event. Highly practical 'hack-a-thon' style day-long event, setting up cultural institutions with good structures, technical systems, survey questions and automated analysis to start measuring cultural value immediately. This event will feature expert facilitators across the range of key practical and methodological issues that were identified as barriers to implementing robust cultural value measurement in cultural organisations by the previously funded research. The entire focus of this event will be on establishing a lasting legacy by not just talking about options, but taking the practical steps required to get organisations started with automated evaluation.
(4) Website with resources on technology-enhanced evaluation. The website will feature the case studies, recordings from the Showcase event and reports, articles and findings from the previously funded research. The University of Warwick will host and maintain this website for at least 5 years after the end of the FoF project.


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