Ozeculture Conference 2002
originally published in Online
Currents, October 2002 and reprinted with kind permission of the
publishers Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd.
Australian culture has
grappled with commercial necessity since George Howe published Judge Barron Field’s The
First Fruits of Australian Verse and the Tegg brothers sold Manual for Intellectual Improvement in their
Sydney bookshop during the first decades of the colony.
Apart from minor engagements before the Second World War,
Australian government has subsidised cultural activities for the past fifty
years. A prime mover of Australian government support for the
arts, Dr HC Coombs, was an economist.
One cultural sector -
public libraries - paused with other types of libraries to consider the big
picture at the Australian Library and Information Association’s conference
on May 20-22 (see Searching for the Next Sigmoid Curve, Online
Currents, July/August 2002).
A week later, the
Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) [i]
held its second OZeculture conference, Taking the Next Step, to induce
thoughts on Australian culture in the digital age. The setting was the City Recital Hall in Sydney.
The participants included over 200 presenters and delegates, mainly
from arts and IT businesses, government bodies, museums and galleries, and to
a lesser extent, representatives from library and archival institutions.
For readers of Online Currents, its program provided an
opportunity to explore the issues facing one industry in managing information
and technology and to stimulate thoughts on information management in other
THE BIG PICTURE
Dr Terry Cutler’s
environmental scan was similar to those he had articulated at the ALIA 2002
conference and in the Australian Society of Authors’ Colin Simpson Lecture [ii].
Technology has changed our
world, but there is a danger in thinking that we are on track.
It is producing ‘borderless knowledge worker elites’ with multiple
citizenships in virtual communities. But
it is still in the primitive stage. There
is an absence of risk taking. There
is not enough disorder, one of the ingredients of invention.
To maximise network effects,
national interests need to redefined, influenced by the both global and local
imperatives, e-savvy business models, increased value on people and intangible
assets, and relationships with investors and partners of quality.
Intellectual property (IP) is
the big topic of our time. Tensions
between the strong IP people (such as publishers) and those who want less
protection need to be resolved. Patents,
which require registration and have time limits, may provide some of the
answers for copyright management.
The interface between arts
and business has great potential. ‘The
arts are an essential component of any ICT industry development plan’. The challenges include long term thinking (‘reinvesting on
a generational basis’), linking pre-internet and past-internet collections
and ‘moving into the spaces between the main tracks’.
David Kennedy from the
National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE) concentrated on the Creative Industries Cluster Study Report [iii].
The creative industries
consist of core and partial sectors. The core industries are represented by
film, music, broadcasting, publishing, games, interactive media, industrial
and visual design. Partial
sectors are software design and development, advertising, architecture and
The report concludes that
Australian creative industries are poorly organised. We are in the early days of the digital revolution, which is
expected to run for fifteen to twenty years. Cluster dynamics are weak (cross-industry linkages are weak, although
legacy industry silos are strong). Key
barriers are industry fragmentation, unknowns in digital business models,
unknowns and under-investment in digital rights management, a weakness in
specialised capital markets, and the need for new and better business and
technology skills. The boundaries
between culture and commerce are continuing to blur.
Globalisation is being accelerated by digital networking and the chase
for economies of scale. Big
structural changes are afoot, particularly in relation to production and
distribution, as increasing economic value is placed on content and services.
It is important that we
understand the nature of the problems, address market failures through
innovation policy, and address structural questions (while recognising that
not all problems are structural problems requiring cluster solutions).
To position Australia within
a global digital value chain we need to do several things: create a digital
infrastructure for production and distribution incorporating
telecommunications and broadband; link creative industries into services
sector innovation systems; and include support for the arts in innovation
policy. Or, in other words,
developing capacity and capabilities through networks and clusters.
cultural and industry policy objectives and support mechanisms will involve answers to two key
questions. Does the scope of
innovation and cultural policies need to refocus or widen? How will different kinds of strategies - innovation, cluster,
structural - be integrated with established support mechanisms and agencies?
To find answers, we need better industry data and industry statistics.
Film Australia’s Kim
Dalton, who followed David Kennedy, stressed the importance of broadband in
linking content with delivery mechanisms.
His assessment of the Australian situation was that we are falling
behind other countries like Canada and UK, which have more cohesive policy and
DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT
Terry Culter’s assessment
of digital rights management as the issue of the age set the stage for
presentations on current legislation and problems by Mia Garlick and on
frameworks, language, models and standards by Dr Renato Iannella.
Dr Jane Hunter spoke about the Indigenous Knowledge Management Project
at the National Museum of the American Indian.
In outlining work on data dictionaries, models and language in a
complex area, she pointed to interoperability metadata, workflow and
transaction solutions of potentially wider relevance to museums, libraries and
other cultural agencies.
Professor Bruce Royan talked
about SCRAN, the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network, an independent
educational charity that manages digital resources on behalf of 360 Scottish
libraries, archives, museums, galleries and other contributors.
With a staff of twenty two, it obtains and administers grants on behalf
of members, creates content and controls IP rights.
Using XML and Filemaker Pro to describe and massage legacy files, its
repository of digital objects (currently 1.2 million records and 150,000
images) includes text, pictures, oral history, folk archives, film and sound,
digitised at the highest resolution level.
Although it receives grants,
SCRAN is sustained largely by licences. These
consist of the following elements: grants to contributors in exchange for
perpetual, non-exclusive, world rights; sale of variable licences to
educational institutions, students and library users; and a ‘snap-back’
clause in the eventuality of more commercial development.
Intellectual property is protected by watermarks and fingerprints.
Other presentations were
devoted to cultural organisation and supplier relationships, online
transactions, online learning, managing websites on a small budget, new media
art, audience relationships, visual arts management, community development,
publishing and doing business digitally.
The work of libraries,
archives and museums in Australia was highlighted by, among others, Ted Ling
on the National Archives of Australia’s digitisation-on-demand service and
by Adlib’s Sonya Finnigan on the Tasmania eHeritage project, Australian
Pictorial Thesaurus and Museums and Collections at Macquarie University.
Alan Corbet gave an important
lesson to other cash-strapped cultural organisations in his talk on Jazz
Western Australia [v].
His objectives for capturing his target market were crystal clear.
His understanding of the hurdles required no reality check (jazz is a
minority interest, there is almost no information about it in the main press,
and WA is geographically isolated). His
approach has been modest and achievable (develop his own skill, establish a
strong identity, use free hosting services. produce within existing limited
capability, and develop partnerships).
Australian culture is a $8.7
billion sector of the Australian economy, comprising creative arts,
advertising, live performance, film, radio and television, print publishing,
public library, museum, gallery, photography and architecture sectors.
Investment by DCITA, the
Australia Council and other government agencies – at about $3.5 billion
annually – is important. According
to Gulberg, Government funding for core arts sectors increased rapidly between
1969 and 1974, declined in real terms over the next ten years, increased up to
$223 million in 1992 and has now reached a plateau.
Employment in the arts increased by 300% between 1976 and 1996.[vi]
Although Government support
has had an impact, not everyone is entirely happy with the result.
Despite growth in economic terms, commentators express reservations
about the impact of Government policy. Katharine
Brisbane, speaking about Australian theatre, represents this unease: ‘There
needs to be a reassessment of the way the Australia Council works…I don’t
know what its priority is now. Current
writing is bland and theatre too polite; it takes too long for plays to get to
their audience; scripts aren’t being revived, theatre companies aren’t
investing in new talent, and too few artists speak on behalf of the
Converting Australian culture
into an e-culture will involve more than simply marrying arts with information
To find the right answers for
the next decade and beyond, Government reviews of cultural and ICT sectors
have become the order of the day. In
addition to the creative industries study, recent reports have focussed on
major performing arts organisations, the small to medium performing arts
sector, the visual arts sector and Australian heritage collections.
The Australia Council’s discussion paper, Planning for the Future,
presents trends and opportunities for all artforms and proposes strategies for
planning, supply, demand and infrastructure. [viii]
thoughts of the Director General of the NSW Ministry for the Arts, Roger
Wilkins may be indicative of broad government thinking.
Mapping the arts and creating a better framework is a high priority. Strategies need to employ ‘whole-of-government’ approaches, involving other
to arts problems will be found in improved networking, improvements to
infrastructure and tax deals for artists.’
of the complexities of shaping direction are flagged in the February 2002
issue of Media International Australia: the competing logics of art as
profit and art as identity, the differences between cultural and creative
industries, and the interplay of state-reliant and commercial enterprises. [x]
‘Being strategic is more
necessary than ever,’ says Ben Wilmot in Getting Clustered, ‘but it
depends on what you mean by strategic’. Quoting
O’Donnell and Maier of the Intellectual Capital Research Institute and
Imagination Lab Foundation, he asks whether strategy is still relevant in
complex, unpredictable, yet somehow adaptive contexts.
And, quoting the authority on organisations, Henry Mintzberg, he
wonders whether the distinction
between planning and implementation is sustainable: ‘Strategy is a matter of
learning, negotiation and adaptation. Strategy is a process.’
Culture, as Charles
Leadbeater has pointed out, is a thin-air business – ‘the assets people
work with are as ephemeral as their output.’ [xii]
Defining the value of Australian culture is elusive, but essential.
Future Australian arts policy is dependent on better standardised and
accessible information for improved understanding and on information systems
to facilitate its capture and presentation.
The need to press home the
value of the arts has generated a plethora of reports, particularly since the
seminal work of Baumol and Bowan in the 1960s and 1970s[xiii].
The Arts Council of
England’s recent report by Michelle Reeves on measuring the economic and
social impact of the arts notes the lack of conceptual clarity and narrow
conceptualisations of social and economic impact, the reliance on
self-reporting with little corroborating evidence on impacts, over reliance on
official statistics which give a partial picture of the arts and creative
industries, lack of methodological transparency, lack of a common framework of
research principles, assessment processes and standards for evaluation,
simplistic and naďve explanations for attributing positive outcomes to arts
projects, and over claiming in conclusions and recommendations through unfair
In putting forward a model
for effective arts-impact evaluation, Reeves acknowledges the sector’s
tendency to rely primarily on aesthetic rationale and intrinsic values.
But, ‘while these arguments are still valid, changing policy
priorities has meant that alone they are no longer strong enough to enable the
arts to win more resources’. The
point is emphasised by David Throsby in Economics and Culture. Cultural value, he says, consists of aesthetic,
spiritual, social, historical, symbolic and authentic components. These values
must be respected even though they aren’t grounded in money and can’t be
counted and weighed. The arts can
never be reduced to figures. But
economics, he says, is central to the way the arts are managed. [xv]
Many cultural bodies are
browned off by number crunching. Dr
Brian Kennedy, speaking at an Australia Business Arts Foundation breakfast on
21 May said: ‘There has been too much emphasis by society and governments on
quantitative measurement…we at the National Gallery [of Australia] prefer to
measure our success in experiential terms, such as how memorable they are, or
how intriguing, innovative, thought provoking, diverse’. [xvi]
At the National Library of Australia’s Peak Bodies Forum, held in
February 2002, the meeting expressed the view that ‘there is value in trying
to move the focus from strictly economic issues: social and cultural value is
not necessarily measured in dollar terms.’
The Statistical Working Group
of the Cultural Ministers Council was formed in 1985 because of concerns that
‘a lack of reliable data was hindering the development of national cultural
strategies’. In 2001, it
produced a new Australian Cultural Leisure Classification, aimed at a more
standardised approach for data collection across sectors, and is currently
working on measuring the social impacts of creative participation in arts, among
Julian Meyrick, in See How
It Runs, illuminates the importance of this agenda in his story of the
Nimrod Theatre. Prefacing a
chapter, Figuring Nimrod, with the words of Kitson Clarke - ‘Do not guess,
try to count, and if you cannot count, admit that you are guessing’ – he
demonstrates the value of both quantitative information and qualitative
comment in understanding and navigating the arts.
Structure & modus
The Australian cultural
sector - as was highlighted by John Rimmer in the first Ozecuture conference
– has a few major players around which smaller players cluster.
The need for concerted
infrastructure development is a common thread in many government planning
documents. DCITA’s Ozeculture Making IT Work program is indicative of
a decade-old government strategy to encourage arts and IT collaboration.
The creation of a National Collections Advisory Forum, a consequence of
the report on Key Needs of Collecting Institutions in the Heritage Sector [xviii],
is indicative of a trend towards more integrated management of archives,
libraries and museums by government.
the Government agency specialising in information technology,
has attracted recent criticism on its role and place. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Sue Cant, for example, reported
confusion following the transfer of its ICT industry policy role to DCITA
following the last federal budget [xx].
Professor John Houghton, in ICT
Development in Australia, recommends
a single department or agency with direct responsibility for the industry. [xxi]
Chief Executive, John Rimmer, is probably right to insist that developing a
knowledge and information economy is broader than sectoral ICT interests.
About half of government
cultural spending supports physical infrastructure and facilities (such as
public libraries and performing arts venues), which in turn sometimes act as
conduits for funds to other organisations.
Rosalind Crisp, comparing Australian and European funding models for
dance, expresses the view that this type of fund distribution doesn’t go far
enough: ’In Australia …there
is basically only one decision-making body, the Australia Council [and a] few
producers with money in Sydney. This
situation puts a stranglehold on the development of dance practices.’ [xxii]
There is a perception that
cultural businesses, including major subsidised cultural institutions, require
better governance and business skills. The
recent Small to Medium Performing Arts Sector Report, for example, commented
on the ‘need to strengthen the sector’s administrative capacity to provide
a more stable business and operating environment.’ [xxiii]
The cultural sector relies
heavily on part-time and contracted workers and there is a massive labour
oversupply. As Stuart Cunningham
pointed out at the Social Sciences and Humanities Summit in July 2001:
’14,000 students graduate from American music schools each year with 300
jobs awaiting them; 20th Century Fox receives about 10,000 screenplays
annually of which they film twelve’. [xxiv]
The melding of business, arts
and information skills was evident at the Ozeculture conference through people
like Alan Corbet and David Eedle, a former stage technician, who has developed
Dramatic Online into a profitable specialist electronic aggregator, news and
job list distributor within the space of two years.
and linkage policies are key recommendations of the Australian Computer
Society’s ICT development report - along with other recommendations like more vision and
resourced policy initiatives and a sense of urgency.
mechanisms will require big thinking and a business orientation.
As the Australian Research Council’s Professor Lawrence Cram speaking
at the ALIA Conference 2002 observes: ‘Commercial
solutions are often the best solutions. Better solutions are often commercial
approach for marshalling synergies while maintaining diversity of interests
can be found in the recently restructured Regional Arts NSW, based on in
increased decentralisation. [xxvii]
The role of
professional associations in these new industry formations is unclear.
Bruce McCabe recently poured
a bucket on the ineffectiveness by ICT associations, the Australian
Information Industries Association, Australian Computer Society, Internet
Industry Association, Australian Engineering and Electrical Association and
the Australian Telecommunications Users Group.
He says many small voices don’t make a big impact.
membership in the Australian Library and Information Association and changes
in funding to Museums Australia underline ongoing change in those sectors.
Mergers of any type of group
are difficult unless interests are compatible (see
Managing to Merge: the Future of an Industry Association [xxix]).
Barriers to growth and expansion usually include ego as well as
financial and logistical considerations (Foster [xxx]).
The reasons for failure include goal
ambiguity, poor information to guide investment, a short-term focus, inadequate skills, rivalry and low
levels of trust, inadequacy of supporting infrastructure, cultural differences
and weak feedback [xxxi].
Weak feedback may be a sign
of widespread insecurity wrought by the corporate churn of the 1990s and new
workforce dynamics. John Ralston
Saul warns of an ongoing institutional danger: ‘One of the greatest barriers
between thought and effective action is the contemporary employment
contract…[which] subjugates [thought and action] to the idea of loyalty’. [xxxii]
That some library groups are calling for emotional support over straight talking may be cause for concern.
The new industry truss is the
network – in the form of clusters, communities of practice, GRID computing
initiatives, centres of excellence and consortia.
Their variety is expressed in organisations like the new National ICT Centre of Excellence, [xxxiii]
creative industries precinct (an echo of the
Dublin Digital District, promoted by Jennifer Condon in the first Ozeculture conference).
Projects like the National Library of Australia’s
MusicAustralia, Arts and Humanities Data Service, SCRAN and the Coalition of
Networked Information contain the seeds of a new structure for unifying
library, archive, museum, ICT, association, government and business interests
on a national scale and at a local level.
big messages from the recent ALIA and Ozeculture conferences were:
Australia is behind some other countries in the
way it manages information resources, including cultural information
resources; it’s propensity to work in silos militates against effective
management; better collaborative mechanisms need to be developed to turn
around these weaknesses.
mechanisms for the cultural sector – and for other industries too, no doubt
– will require thinking big, thinking business, thinking technology,
thinking connections, talking straight and not forgetting why we get up in the
Bentley is Director of Paul Bentley & Associates email@example.com
and the Wolanski Foundation www.twf.org.au.
Ozeculture conference website is at http://cultureandrecreation.gov.au/conference
[ii] Cutler, Terry. A Write
Australia policy: can Australian culture remain distinctive in a digital
world? The Australian Society of Authors’ Colin Simpson Lecture, 23
March 2002 Available at
Australian Society of Authors site http://www.asauthors.org
[vi] Broghino, Jose. The
arts economy overview: a companion to Hans Guldberg’s The Arts Economy
1968-98. Sydney: Australia Council, 2000. Gulberg, Hans. The Arts
economy 1968-98: three decades of growth in Australia. Sydney:
Australia Council, 2000..
[vii] Brown, Penny. The next
stage. The Weekend Australian 18-19 May 2002 Review Section:14-15
[viii] Australia Council. Planning
for the Future: Issues, Trends and Opportunities for the Arts in Australia.
Discussion paper. Sydney: Australia Council, 2001
[ix] Gallasch, Keith. The
Arts: what’s next? [interview with Roger Wilkins, NSW
Director-General of Arts. Realtime 48 (May 2002). http://www,realtimearts.net
[x] Media International
Australia no 102 February 2002. Culture: development, industry,
[xi] Wilmot, Ben .Getting
clustered: Management Today June 2002:14-18
[xii] Martin, Lauren. Follow
the Princess Di thin-air economics guru: [report on Charles Leadbeater
and the Social Sciences and Humanities Summit]. Sydney Morning Herald 26
[xiii] Baumol, William J and
Bowan, William G. Performing arts, the economic dilemma: a study of
problems common to theatre, opera, music, and dance. New York:
Twentieth Century Fund, 1966.
[xv] Throsby, David. Economics
and culture. Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Review and interview by David Marr: Doing a number on culture’s value.
Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 2001.
[xvi] NSW Ministry for the
Arts. Arts bulletin no 59 June 2002. Sydney, the Ministry
[xvii] Meyrick, Julian. See
how it runs: Nimrod and the New Wave. Sydney: Currency Press, 2002.
[xviii] Deakin University.
Faculty of Arts. Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific. A
Study into the Key Needs of Collecting Institutions in the Heritage
Sector. Final report 1 May 2002. Available at Australian Museums
[xx] Cant, Sue. Confusion
reigns as NOIE role shifts, Sydney Morning Herald 25 July 2002 Next
[xxi] Houghton, John. ICT
Development in Australia: A strategic policy review. Sydney:
Australian Computer Society, 2002.
[xxii] Crisp, Rosalind. A
European Future, Part 1: Rosalind Crisp speaks to Erin Brannigan.
Realtime 48 (May 2002) www.realtimearts.net
[xxiii] Australia. Department
of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Small to Medium Performing Arts Sector report. http://www.dcita.gov.au/cmc/stand
[xxiv] Stewart, Fiona. Success
and the thinking man’s economy. Dramatic Online 2 August 2001.
[xxvi] Cram. Professor
Lawrence. The Roadmap for eResearch. Australian Library and
Information Association Conference 2002 . http://www.alia.org.au/conferences
[xxvii] Keighery, Victoria. Regional
Arts NSW: sustaining the gain. Dramatic Online 21 June 2002. http://www.dramaticonline.com.
[xxviii] McCabe, Bruce. You’re
the voice. Managing Information Strategies, June 2002
[xxix] Morris, Fran. Managing
to merge: the future of an industry association. Management Today,
[xxx] Foster, Wendy. When
size matters: the case for amalgamations. Association Management Vol 3
no 1 Feb 2002: 23-24
[xxxi] Bentley, Paul. Arts
and industry talk spaces. The Wolanski Foundation, 2001.
[xxxii] Knox, Malcolm.
A man of uncommon sense [interview with John Ralston Saul].SMH
Spectrum 25-26 May 2002:9.
[xxxiii] National ICT
Australia. ICT Centre Page. http://www.noie.gov.au/ictcentre