Digital Culture Research

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Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology

Digital technologies are disrupting established practices and creating new opportunities for innovation across the creative economy.  

Some arts and cultural organisations are experiencing transformational impacts, using digital technology to reach bigger audiences than ever before.

But how can we make the most of digital technologies?

“For over a hundred years our activity has been grounded in displays in buildings. The affordances of digital means we are rethinking this.”

Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta have commissioned independent research agency MTM to track the use of digital technology by arts and cultural organisations in England between 2013 and 2015.

Download the full report

Download the report summary

Results are now available from the first year survey of 891 arts and cultural organisations, including digital activities, barriers, enablers and impacts.

It shows that arts and cultural organisations have transformed their marketing and operations through digital technology, with many reaching bigger and more diverse audiences than ever before. They are also seeing major benefits for creation and distribution, whilst in other areas like new revenue generation, important opportunities remain.

One research participant, Tate Modern, noted that ‘Digital activity is forcing us to rethink out creative practice. For over a hundred years our activity has been grounded in displays in buildings. The affordances of digital means we are rethinking this.’  Tate Modern developed new interactive digital projects ‘Bloomberg Connects‘ to allow gallery visitors to connect in new ways with art, artists and other visitors and make their ideas visible around the gallery.

Sheffield Doc/Fest say that ‘as expectations of digital and interactive experiences for audiences grow, so too do demands on arts organisations to be more innovative in audience engagement.’  They worked with with EE, the University of Sheffield and Blast Theory on Digital Art2, a project to explore the interactive artistic potential of high-speed networks with support from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

Many arts and cultural organisations have introduced new digital activities for the first time in the last year, allowing the research to identify several major growth areas. Whilst live streaming is performed by only 15% of organisations, it is the fastest growing digital activity. More than half of those engaging in it say they started doing so within the past 12 months.

‘For the first time we have a detailed account of how theatres, performance spaces, galleries and museums in England are innovating with new technologies.’

Hasan Bakhshi, Director for Creative Economy, Policy and Research, at Nesta, said: ‘Digital technologies are disrupting how we work, learn and socialise, but there remains little evidence on how they are affecting the arts and culture sector. For the first time we have a detailed account of how theatres, performance spaces, galleries and museums in England are innovating with new technologies.  This evidence challenges preconceived notions about how the public engage with culture and illustrates the potentially vast dividends still to be reaped.’

Over the next two years, the research will map the changing picture of technology in the arts, so we can learn from the experience of those who use technology most effectively, and maximise the potential for the arts and culture.

Download the research summary and full research report to learn more about the use and impact of technology, major digital growth areas and the ‘cultural digirati’ in 2013.
Share your thoughts

We would like to hear your thoughts on this research. Please share your questions, comments and ideas by leaving a comment below.

Join the conversation on twitter, using the hashtag #artsdigital, or email us at digital-rnd@nesta.org.uk
Technical appendices

You can also access the MTM questionnaire for the research here.
Image credit: Elliott Franks courtesy of Royal Opera House