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Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies

January 22, 201422 January 2014

Digital technologies and the arts

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Between May and July 2012, the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed 1,258 arts organizations that had received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts between 2007 and 2011. The survey results cover the use, benefits, and challenges of digital technologies for American arts organizations.

Regarding technology use, arts organizations most commonly have a website (99% of surveyed organizations) and a social media presence (97%). On the other hand, only 27% of organizations host podcasts, while 22% host webinars or educational / instructional content. Mobile apps are not yet common: “only a handful of arts organizations have developed apps to serve their mission”.

Digital technologies are changing the frontiers of art: 77% of respondents agreed with the statement that digital technologies have “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art”.

Regarding the importance of the internet, at least nine out of ten responding organizations indicated that the internet is important for:

  • Promoting the arts (96%).
  • Increasing audience engagement (also 96%).
  • Using their organization's resources more efficiently (92%).
  • Identifying sources of funding (91%).
  • Gathering research and data for grant applications (90%).

On the subject of public engagement, very large majorities of respondents agreed that “the internet has increased engagement in the arts by providing a public platform through which more people can share their work” (92%) and “because of the internet and digital technologies, the arts audience is more diverse than it was in the past” (83%).

Social media tools have substantial impacts on arts organizations’ work, including helping organizations clarify what they do and communicate how people can engage with their mission. Social media also help organizations communicate with alumni, patrons, and audiences (and help these groups of individuals communicate among themselves).

However, the survey also found that digital technologies have their limitations and drawbacks:

  • 74% of respondents said that it is somewhat or very true that their organization does “not have the staff or resources to use social media effectively”.
  • 74% agreed that “the internet and related technologies have created an expectation among some audiences that all digital content should be free”.
  • 71% agreed that “digital distractions such as ringing cell phones and audience member texting are a significant disruption to live performances”.

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