Why a scorecard of quality in the arts is a very bad idea

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Abstract

Foxes were introduced into Australia from Britain in the 19th century for the recreation of faux-English huntsmen. They destroyed dozens of native species. In the 21st century a parallel is at hand in an export of cultural metrics from Australia to the UK. The impact may be equally damaging.

Culture Counts, developed in Western Australia by the Department of Culture and the Arts, is a computer dashboard data program, designed to be used across art forms. It is currently being trialled for wider rollout by Arts Council England. Its aim, according to a Manchester-based pilot, is “a sector-led metrics framework to capture the quality and reach of arts and cultural productions”.

What is proposed is substantial, serious, and no doubt well-intentioned. Unusually for a government-led measurement scheme, arts practitioners as well as policy experts have helped develop it. Yet we at Laboratory Adelaide - an ARC Linkage research project into culture’s value - view the venture with dismay. We argue that the approach is wrong-headed and open to political abuse.

In essence, Culture Counts is a quantitative scorecard for artistic quality, with a set of standardised categories translating a set of verbal descriptions into numbers.
Original languageEnglish
TypeOnline article
PublisherThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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