Culture Insight and Innovation News – June 2015


Thank you for your support and feedback on our first issue, and welcome to all of you who signed up for this monthly dose of insight & innovation news. If you haven’t yet, you can sign up here.

May 2015 has been an eventful month for arts funding and technology, ensuring our second issue is chock full of fresh insight. If you enjoy it, and think others might, please feel free to share this post.

Digital innovation and the role of government

Sensis has released their latest (super-rich!) statistical report on Australians’ use of social media. You may or may not be surprised to hear that the proportion of people using social is no longer growing (69% of us have a profile, same as last year) but we’re definitely using it more intensely than ever before. In fact, almost half (45%) of us now check it first thing in the morning, and a similar proportion (41%) check it last thing at night. In terms of platforms, Facebook still dominates (check out the graph below) but some other services are growing faster, particularly among younger age brackets who favour visual platforms like Instagram and SnapChat.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 2.07.27 pm

Whilst social networking is stronger than ever before a new report from Ernst and Young says slow and expensive internet is now hurting ‘all aspects of business, government and the community’. 60% of digital opinion leaders surveyed for the report believed the Australian digital economy is less advanced than other leading countries. Despite some positive actions, such as establishment of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), the report insists the Australian Government is not doing enough to drive digital innovation.

Earlier in May, Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull delivered a speech at the CeBIT e-government conference outlining plans for the DTO. Reading the transcript, I was shocked to learn that Australia ranks 29th out of 30 OECD countries on the proportion of large businesses that collaborate with universities on innovation. We are missing a trick!

Ironically, in the same month we learned that the Australian Government will no longer be funding academic commentary website The Conversation. Sad news when concise communication of academic research appears to be more important than ever before.

Arts + technology

Mid-month the Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle brought together a really diverse range of speakers to share their way of working with digital technology. The (great quality) livestream is still available to watch online. For creative types I recommend having a listen to data illustrator Stefanie Posavec, who I had the pleasure of working with on the Native magazine cover artwork, and Sam Aaron, who is the genius behind brilliant music coding program for schools, Sonic Pi. Hollie Goodier from BBC Digital also has some great stats about TV & digital audiences. Word is next year they are planning an arts specific conference


Stefanie Posavec’s work Touching Air, based on data from large particulate (PM10) sensors

The luminous Martha Lane Fox has produced a new two-part radio series exploring how technology is changing the arts, which aired last week on BBC Radio 4. The first focuses on how musicians are going online to create and distribute their work as network speeds increase. The second is on the visual arts, and how artists like James Bridle are using the internet as a medium, a creative material and a means of collaboration. Both are available via the iPlayer – well worth a listen.

A host of fresh digital projects reached the public domain in May. Some of my favourites are the Lovereading Bookmap, a Google maps mashup which plots locations and places in literature on a map of the world (think Harry Potter at Kings Cross Station), and Citizen Ex, a piece of software which illuminates the jurisdictions we traverse when surfing the net.

Arts funding developments

Major arts funding changes are afoot in both Australia and the UK. Australian Minister for the Arts George Brandis will be re-appropriating $110m funding over the next fours years from his own arms-length funding body the Australia Council, to establish a new program within the ministry. The news came as a shock to the sector, sparking protests. RealTime has taken a closer look at the news.


A dance protest at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Twitter pictures: Chris Johnson

Meanwhile this week Darren Henley the new CEO of Arts Council England is expected to announce changes to geographic allocation of Lottery funding. The current 70% which is spent outside London will increase by at least another 5% within three years. The newly re-elected Conservative party have promised tax relief for the creative industries, whilst speculation abounds about whether they will maintain overall funding levels.

In the same month, an online platform that helps arts and heritage organisations with funding bids has won Nesta and the Open Data Institute’s (ODI’s) Heritage and Culture Open Data Challenge. Culture Everywhere is a web platform which helps users access publicly available data sets including the UK Census, Index of Multiple Deprivation and grant giving from Arts Council England. There’s a short video explaining the idea, and it’s already open for business (good timing in light of the above!).

In both countries, emphasis on alternative revenue streams will no doubt continue to grow. The Guardian has released a new resource on business plans, with tips for arts, culture and the creative industries, and this week’s Remix summit in Sydney will see hundreds gather to explore the latest thinking on culture, technology and entrepreneurship. I’m working at the event, so make sure to say hello if you’re heading that way.

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