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5 characteristics of the ‘cultural digirati’

Findings from the Digital Culture research report on 5 key behaviours of leading organisations

Rohan Gunatillake
Nov 11th 2013

Today sees the launch of the Digital Culture report which shares the results of the major new survey of almost 900 arts and cultural organisations on their usage of digital technology across all elements of their work.

When the organisations are ranked by how important they judge digital technology to be to their different activities (creation, marketing, distribution and exhibition, preserving and archiving, operations and business models), a cluster of organisations stood out in the data and have been classified as the so-called ‘cultural digirati’.

They represent a varied group of organisations, from the viewpoint of their art and cultural forms, their size and their region. However in many areas they share some important characteristics and behaviours that are significantly different from the sector as a whole:

1. Create new ‘born digital’ work
The ‘cultural digirati’ are 2.2 times more likely to make creative work explicitly for new digital channels.

2. Using data in the development of new products & service
The top 10% are are 2.5 times more likely to be actively using data analysis to create targeted products

3. Distribution of digital expertise 
This group will be twice as likely to have digital expertise spread out across the organisation both across functions and levels of seniority. This is in contrast to organisations who tend to silo digital practice to only one or few elements of the organisation.

4. Impact on strategy
The ‘cultural digirati’ are 2.4 times more likely have had digital technology positively impact organisational strategy. 

5. Impact on revenue 
It’s also 3.2 times more likely that technology has had a major positive impact on this group’s revenue.

These are really interesting results and whatever type of organisation we represent and however digitally mature we think we may be, they ask us some great questions for any organisation to explore:

  • how are we exploring new digital channels as new domains for our creative work?
  • how mature is our understanding of data and how can we use it to drive practical insights?
  • does digital expertise sit in all parts of our organisation?
  • how is our experience of digital changing our overall strategy?
  • where are the opportunities for direct return on investment for our digital practice?

Read the full Digital Culture Research reports here.

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  • Clare Reddington

    The beauty of arts and culture is in diversity – so the term ‘cultural digerati’ makes me pretty uncomfortable – it contains an implicit notion of elitism, technology fetishism and a notion there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of doing things. Talent and audiences are at the heart of what we do and if we (at Watershed) have mastered anything it is being open/curious, willing to take a risk and embracing of change. How do we aspire to characteristics that are ‘of the internet’ rather than ‘on the internet’ and avoid creating unhelpful new judgements and rankings?

    • Rohan Gunatillake

      Thanks for your comment Clare and it goes without saying that the Watershed’s approach as you outline is a vital one.

      If one digs into the full Digital Culture report, you’ll see that it too is at pains to avoid rankings which we all agree are rather unhelpful. But it’s worth noting that the origin behind the so-called ‘cultural digirati’ grouping is a statistically robust clustering of responses – so whatever term is used to describe it, there is clear cluster of organisations who are behaving in the ways outlined in the post.

      What feels most important to me is not the terminology but two particular things

      a) that behaviours like distributing digital expertise across organisations, making work ‘of the internet’ and intelligent use of data are the types of behaviours that are to be encouraged and

      b) that through the survey there is now a whack of robust data which can be used as a benchmark for the future