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Digital Culture in 2014

This week we published the results from the 2014 Digital Culture survey, based on the responses of 947 arts and cultural organisations in England. It’s only the second year of this major 3-year study, but we’re already seeing an interesting evolution in how arts and cultural organisations use technology.

In particular, where the 2013 survey uncovered relatively fast rates of technology adoption, this year’s survey paints a picture of organisations consolidating their digital activities and enhancing their impact.

Three out of four organisations (73 per cent) now say that digital technology is having a considerable positive impact on their ability to fulfil their mission effectively, up from 60 per cent in 2013.  

When we established the Digital Culture study alongside the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, we had the dual purpose to create a benchmarking resource for the sector, and measure the impact of the Digital R&D fund.

The survey findings suggest that the Fund is well-aligned with the main trends we’re seeing emerge in the data:

  • Significantly more organisations are using digital technology to generate alternative revenue streams,
  • Organisations are optimising their web presence for mobile and enhancing their use of social media to engage audiences, and
  • Increasing numbers are use of data and enhancing their data capabilities.

These trends are reflected in many of the R&D projects supported by the Fund, such as Degree Art who this year, along with partners Snowflake Digital and Kingston University, have developed an e-commerce platform and social media guide, which is helping visual artists and galleries grow the online art market.

In 2014 we also supported the Royal Opera House built a responsive hybrid-app to improve the mobile ticketing experience and explore the market for digital programmes and mobile donations, which is now fully operational.

This has also been the year of growing data exploitation, with four ‘Big Data’ projects funded to develop tools and platforms for better data capture, interpretation and decision-making.

They survey results suggest that organisations’ use of technology is increasingly effective. Seven impact domains have seen significant increases, all of which relate to either audience engagement or business models - the two core aims of the Fund.

The survey also sheds light on the value of Research and Development (R&D) for arts and cultural organisations. Those enjoying the biggest benefits from digital technology are almost twice as likely to be employing R&D techniques like user-centred design.

However, organisations are not equally benefiting. Some groups, such as museums and performing groups (particularly smaller ones), appear to be adopting fewer of the digital activities measured in the survey, and fewer still are reporting major impacts on performance against their mission.

And although 75 per cent plan to adopt at least one new digital technology in 2015, respondents continue to report important barriers to achievement of their digital ambitions: 70 per cent of arts and cultural organisations cite lack of funding and time, and over a third still feel that they do not have the in-house skills, IT systems or the necessary expert advice to meet their digital aspirations. 

We’re looking forward to conducting further statistical analysis on the data, in particular the survey’s longitudinal dimension. Almost half of the 2014 participants also responded to the 2013 survey, which will enable us to track the journey of organisations over time. Data collection for 2015 will begin in June, bringing a third year to this this growing dataset, and enabling us to explore causal relationships between organisational behaviours and performance.

For now, the 2014 report covers the main developments of 2014, and identifies the top trends for the year ahead. Alongside the report are a series of fact sheets which highlight key findings for the six main subsectors included in the study: Museums, Galleries, Performing Arts Venues, Performing Groups, Combined Arts Centres, and Festival and Events.

We are also sharing the data publicly through a dedicated online portal, in the hope that the study can be a valuable resource for others in an ever-changing digital landscape. Participating organisations are able to compare their answers with others of a similar type, size and location, and anyone interested can filter the full sample to view the results for a particular part of the sector.

We’d love to hear your perspective on the results, and any insights you glean from the portal.

What do you think will be the key to digital change in 2015?


Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Director, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Hasan oversaw Nesta's creative economy policy, research and practical work.

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Tandi Williams

Tandi Williams

Tandi Williams

Research Manager

Tandi managed the research elements of the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, a £7 million programme to support the arts sector to experiment with digital technology.

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