Measure the Value of Culture and Content

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recently released a report they commissioned, entitled “Measuring the Value of culture

At first, I was surprised by the complete absence of the digital within the report (there were no mentions of the words ‘Internet’, ‘digital’ or ‘online’) Surely the advent of museum websites, digitisation, smartphone tours, and born-digital art all call for different ways of measuring culture?

But in actual fact, the report was agnostic about the definition of culture. Its focus was more on the economic measurement of culture, with the specific concern of how the cultural sector can convince central government of its worth via sophisticated economic evaluation.

The report then focussed on the various economic methods that could be used as evaluation for culture, however it may be defined.

It led me to think a bit more about the factors that we might use for measuring digital content in higher education. In the Measuring the Value of Culture report, the focus was on economics, because economics was the language that would allow the cultural sector to engage central government in its arguments.

But for digital content (Open Educational Resources, open data, digitised resources etc), it might not be necessary to revert to an economic language. Rather it depends on who we need to convince of the content’s worth. And for this crucial decision makers what are the key measurements they will react to? Student satisfaction? Lecturer satisfaction? Increase in student numbers? Better student marks?

JISC has already published its Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources and there is current work taking place on OER Impact. Yet I wonder if these projects go far enough in not just defining methods of measurement, but considering who these measurements might actually be aimed at.

As the Measuring the Value of Culture report emphasised, there is a need for central government to provide firm guidelines on measuring cultural value. JISC needs to do the same, ensuring that its projects creating digital content have firm guidelines for their self-measurement, and providing them with tools to do so.

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