At Patternmakers, if we don’t have our heads down in data models, we have our heads up in the clouds – the data clouds, that is.

We’ve been thinking about where arts and culture research is heading in 2017, and here we share with you the top five trends on our radar.

1. Data culture

In 2016, we saw more arts professionals becoming curious about data, and in 2017, we’ll see a data culture begin to flourish in the arts. This will be evident everywhere from conference programmes to new job titles like Data Scientist and Arts Analyst, popping up in larger organisations.

But as the saying goes, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed, and some parts of the arts are more ready for data culture than others. We find it's less about resources and more about leadership – and we're going to see more data savvy leaders coming of age very soon.

2. Less surveying

That's right - we're predicting (and advocating for) less surveying in 2017. Yes, surveys will always play a role in research, but quite frankly our industry is over surveying and we're advising many of our clients to start scaling back. Respondent fatigue is one critical reason, but there are other reasons (like #3 below) that surveying is no longer likely to be the best methodology.

Survey Monkey has made it too easy for anyone to whip out a survey without setting aside the necessary resources and time to properly analyse the data. For a survey to be meaningful, it must align to a broader strategy which details how the results will be used and applied.

3. More ethnography

Instead of surveying, we’ll see more arts research projects use qualitative techniques. Interviews and focus groups are already standard practice – but we're predicting the rise of the less popular but cost-effective ethnography, with its digital cousins netnography and webnography.

Ethnography, which involves the systematic observation of people, we believe has enormous potential for helping us understand how people relate to cultural spaces and participate in the arts. We’ll also see more online focus groups and discussion boards which are gaining popularity in the private sector.

4. Experimentation and action research

As the pace of change accelerates, so too must our research methods. Action research involves a continuous process of action and reflection, where we test and learn rapidly by doing.

This is one of the best ways to extract tangible value from research, but it involves close collaboration between researchers and practitioners over time. We think the spirit of experimentation, though not for the faint-hearted, is ideally suited to the arts and its time is nigh.

5. Insights to action

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail – implementing research insights and recommendations is just as important as conducting the research in the first place. But resources do need to be set aside for interpretation workshops, action planning and implementation to get the most out of research resources. 

Think bigger picture when planning your research. When defining research objectives and drafting project plans, include what actions you will take, what you will do with the research insights – and importantly, how it will be managed.

What do you think about these trends? Are you noticing them in your workplace?

If you’d like to learn how to make the most of the data you have, or find out how the future of your organisation could benefit from these trends, have a chat with us - we offer complimentary 1-hr consultations to help you refine your ideas. Contact us today.


About the Author

Tandi Williams
Managing Director

Patternmakers’ Founder and Managing Director Tandi Williams is an experienced consultant and arts and culture research specialist.