Emma Blomkamp

University of Auckland and University of Melbourne

Emma BlomkampEmma Blomkamp is researching local cultural governance as part of her joint PhD with the University of Auckland’s Department of Political Studies and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships. Her PhD explores how local governments in Australia and New Zealand develop, implement and evaluate arts and cultural policies and programmes, particularly in relation to broad socio-cultural outcomes such as community wellbeing. Emma is currently employed as a Research Fellow on the project ‘Arts and Governance’ at the University of Melbourne. She holds a Master of Arts (Hons) in Film Policy and also studied Media and Cultural Management at Sciences-Po Paris.

Governing by Numbers? Obstacles and opportunities for cultural indicators in policy

If governance is as much an art as a science, then what role should numerical indicators play in policy making?

“What’s measured matters” is a common assumption in the practice and theory of governance.  Following the hegemony of economic measures of progress and the short-lived social indicators movement, numerous frameworks of cultural and community indicators are now emerging. Variously touted as tools for identifying problems, capturing values, monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes, these indicators have a range of potential policy applications. Representing and responding to complex socio-cultural outcomes in numerical form is full of challenges, though.

Just as painting by numbers is hardly considered a form of “high art”, the use of indicators to guide policy-makers may fall short of “good governance”. This presentation explores the potential for cultural indicators to inform and improve evidence-based policy and democratic accountability, while also considering the pitfalls of “governing by numbers”. By giving a broad critical overview of the origins and applications of cultural indicators, the presenter will thus problematise these devices, before considering concrete examples where they have been, or might be, put to good use by policy-makers.



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