Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New NEA study on technology use and the arts

A new study has just been issued by the National Endowment for the Arts called Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation. There are a few things of special note about this research:

1) The findings: People who participate in the arts through electronic media are nearly THREE times more likely to attend live arts events as non media participants (59% vs. 21%). They also attend TWICE as many live arts events on average  - 6/year vs. 3/year. In other words, active participation in the digital media world does not compete with attendance at live arts activities, it may encourage it. I say "may" because this study once again raises the issue of causation vs. correlation. Certainly there seems to be a correlation between high consumption of art in digital form, and higher consumption of live arts. It could be that people that are passionate about art now seek it out in all formats, NOT that their digital consumption is somehow driving them to participate in live arts at a higher level. I think one can certainly draw the conclusion from this research that digital arts engagement is NOT sapping live arts participation. In other words, if live arts participation is declining, don't blame it on iTunes and YouTube... There are many other interesting findings related to age, rural vs. urban, education levels, etc - strongly encourage reading the full report, which leads me to:

2) The format: For the first time this NEA report is ONLY being issued online in an electronic format that actually includes multimedia content as part of the report, as well as a video greeting from NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman and commentary from Sunil Iyengar, the NEA's Director of Resrearch and Analysis.

Ultimately the message of the report is that arts groups need not view this new digital world where many people consume (and/or make) their art in digital form as a threat. It is only a threat if you do not embrace it. I think it is gratifying that not only is the NEA providing us with this report, but also in a sense modeling behavior in the format by which it is being issued.

PS. Thanks to Tom Cott and his great "You've Cott Mail" e-newsletter for first alerting me to this!

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