Could Open Data Help Arts and Culture Listings?
A Discoverability Report
IssueDigital technologies and the arts
Rob Ashelford, Luke Piper, Ben Proctor, Esko Reinikainen, and Amy Richards
Based on “desktop research”, consultations with arts and culture organizations, and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in the United Kingdom, this research project aims to answer the question “can open data help to make [event] listings more efficient whilst reaching new audiences?”
One of the key findings of the research is that open data is not well understood in the cultural sector. The researchers note that “most of the data publishers we spoke to as part of this discovery want to retain control over who can access and share their events listings data. Some organisations believe that they are offering open data but, in fact, provide shared data”.
The research team from Nesta worked with Satori Lab (a digital consulting group) to assess the current state of “the problem space” (i.e., key challenges related to open data event listings). They conclude that:
- “There is a lack of common standards and technical competence or will around the use and potential of data across cultural institutions”.
- “Event listings are not published as open data, and this creates barriers to innovation. It also reduces opportunities available in an otherwise data driven world”.
After reviewing many online event listings, the research team found that the listings tend to rely on too many manual steps, which is both labour-intensive and expensive. They note that this “acts as a barrier for small, local, or innovative services to enter the listings market and makes it harder for potential audience members to find out what events are actually taking place”. The consultations reiterated the belief that “audiences (or potential audiences) are missing out on events because the listings ecosystem is not working effectively”.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations for arts and culture organizations, listings publishers, and policymakers. A key recommendation is to increase digital and data literacy in the sector. The report notes that the inability of the cultural sector to successfully address open data challenges “suggests that there are not enough people [working in the sector] with the relevant fluency with the language and concepts of data infrastructure”.