After 'What Matters? A reflection on the value of arts and culture and four 'lies' of data

Julian Meyrick, Tully Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we consider some of the issues arising from the recent publication of our book 'What Matters? Talking Value in Australian Culture', co-authored with Robert Phiddian. We briefly describe the book's main arguments, especially the critical stance taken towards the use of metrics and numerical proxies in the evaluation of arts and culture. We reflect on its media reception, and its attempted intervening in an on-going debate about the role and meaning of cultural activities in Australian life today. We then identify four 'lies' of data - four disingenuous applications of quantitative method that substitute for the search for a more effective understanding of the problem of value as it appears in the cultural domain and related fields. The article concludes with consideration of an alternative approach to the evaluation of arts and culture that resuscitates the notion of their 'public good', following political historian Tony Judt's call for "a language of ends not means".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-426
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Art Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Arts
  • Australian culture
  • culture
  • data
  • Laboratory Adelaide
  • measurement
  • metrics
  • reporting
  • value


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