Here are some thoughts and findings from phase one of a project I was involved in (and remain involved in phase two). Hopefully anyone interested in libraries, arts, culture and arts education will find it useful.
“Among Ideal Friends (AIF) is a touring performance project developed by The Spark Arts for Children in partnership with Libraries in the East Midlands. Working together to deliver and transport high quality family theatre performances and workshop activities, inspired by books and stories for children, families and schools, alongside training for library staff and community volunteers.”
A Boy and A Bear in a Boat (one of the AIF shows, by Stewart Melton adapted from the book by Dave Shelton)
I worked with The Spark Arts for about a year on this and it was great to be able to vary and refine the approach to evaluation throughout. As someone primarily in the arts & events field, the role of libraries in the wider cultural sector was not something I would have previously considered myself particularly well informed about. Considering that they represent a nation-spanning, universally provided range of facilities or venues usually offering free and unlimited access to assorted cultural experiences, goods and services… in retrospect, well, that seems like an oversight! Especially given the recent and emerging debates around cultural democracy and everyday participation.
How do you get to know more about what kinds of people attended an event?
Two fairly common quantitative approaches to this question are surveys and segmentation. Regarding the latter, we’re talking specifically about geodemographic segmentation, rather than sales or marketing based segmentation.
What if someone was able to do both and compare the difference in results?
Or is this more like a Ghostbusters ‘don’t cross the streams’ kind of thing? Read on and find out.
(Note this is a longer version of an article originally published on Arts Professional : link)
Leicester Arts Festivals (LAF) is a support network consisting of twenty-four arts festivals and a number of supporting organisations, established in 2014. The festivals range in audience size from the hundreds to the hundreds of thousands, from the recently established to the decades old, and between them covering almost every art form, organisational type and event format imaginable in one of the most demographically plural cities in the UK. Amongst other activities, the network completed a year-long research project, collating baseline data and a comparative analysis of audiences from participating members. From twenty-four festivals, eighteen participated in an organisation survey and six participated in a survey of their audiences. Some interesting highlights and relevant issues for the wider festival and event community to consider are suggested below.
A proof of concept to establish how timelapse 360 photography could be used to count crowds and examine general crowd dynamics at events.
Outdoor events of all types, and especially those that are more temporary, moving (parades, processions) free to attend or unticketed typically have a difficult time establishing accurate figures for attendance. Organizers may be incentivised to over-estimate these figures for funding or political reasons; they might also be incentivised to under-estimate these figures for licensing reasons. For sufficiently large events, or events that have taken place multiple times, organisers and emergency services will likely have produced an estimate though the methods and assumptions behind these often vary and there is rarely a clear process by which the process can be examined or scrutinized. Clearly from history and policy, a scientifically accurate estimate of attendance is rarely a requirement, arguably even ticketed and paid events could feasibly be wrong about their levels of attendance. Increasing study of events of all types mean this is a key area or investigation, or at least a key ‘stat’ for discussion. The technical feasibility and time required to carry out head counting, sampling and wider estimation is generally beyond the usual time-pressed event organiser.
Open Data Kit + Audience Finder = Open Audience Finder?
I’ve worked on audience surveys for a long time and I’m always looking to improve my methods. Relatively recently the roll out of Audience Finder from the Audience Agency has done a lot of good in standardizing many basic questions and methods for a range of arts organizations. (see standard questions: link)
This makes a lot of people happy as they have a basis for comparing and contrasting their results with others. Most of the arts organizations I’ve worked with see the value, one way or another. Everyone has their own tweaks or preferences to suggest but some collaboration around some standard questions is generally a good thing…
Around the same sort of time, I started learning about and putting Open Data Kit into use, for various audience and other kinds of end-user/patient surveys. Hence the combination of the two, and in this post, I will be describing how you, with less technical expertise than you probably think, can use it too.
Here’s an example of just some of the things QGIS can do. In particular, I am using some of my own data collected at the relatively recent Leicester Belgrave Mela from audience members. (Thanks to the Mela for doing the fieldwork!)
Just viewing OpenStreetMap (OSM) data in QGIS. Until we specifically download polygons/points/lines QGIS is only really doing the same job as a web browser at this stage but it is obviously very handy to not have to download a whole map to even get started. This also means the most recent data is available.