Making culture count: The politics of cultural measurement
Published: Monday 14th March 2016
Cultural development and creativity are now internationally recognised as important dimensions of human rights and contemporary governance. The production of accurate data has become central to public policy and how the cultural lives of citizens are understood.
Measurement tools and systems of evaluation have the potential to enrich our understanding of culture's role in wellbeing, vitality and citizenship, but what is the potential for harm? What are the governmentalizing and instrumentalizing effects of imposing these tools and systems on communities not our own? Cultural activities are often complex and unfold in non-linear, unpredictable ways, posing challenges for evaluation, particularly where resources are limited.
Misguided development intents historically overlook critical representational issues of traditional knowledge and intellectual property. When focused on benefits and outcomes that are disconnected from actual the actual cultural life of a community, external benchmarks become limiting due to a technical dissonance and lack of geopolitical specificity.
This paper offers an alternative conversation on ‘the politics of cultural value’ by drawing attention to unregistered systems of knowledge through discussion on series of creative evaluation and cultural development case studies in Australia, Canada and Indonesia.
Originally from Canada, Dr Marnie Badham is an artist-researcher exploring representational practice (policy, art, research) with underrepresented and socially-marginalized communities. Recently awarded an Early Career Researcher Award and Melbourne Social Equity Institute PostDoc Award, her current research interests include ‘socially-engaged art’ and ‘the politics of cultural measurement.’ Driven by social change interests, Marnie’s practice-led research takes a participatory-advocacy approach, using arts-based methods within community partnership contexts. Currently a Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Marnie convenes the Masters of Arts and Community Practice program at the Centre for Cultural Partnerships.