Sustainable Cultural Futures

Seminar 2 Report:’Cultural engagement in the UK and Japan: key findings from the SCF surveys’

The second public seminar for the UKRI-JSPS Sustainable Cultural Futures project was held online on 24th February 2023. The seminar further discussed key findings on cultural value and engagement from two public opinion surveys in England and Japan in the summer of 2022. This seminar focused on examining cultural value and related issues. It provided an opportunity to understand cultural policy, cultural values and the personal factors influencing cultural engagement from cross-national perspectives. The seminar opened with remarks from Professor Nobuko Kawashima (Doshisha University, Japan) and continued with the first presentation by Dr Sana Kim (King’s College London, UK).

Dr Sana Kim’s presentation, ‘The values of culture and the purposes of cultural policy’, explored three topics. First, she spoke about multiple values of culture and the arts, pointing out that across individual, social and community lives, the English public believes that culture and the arts have a wide range of, somewhat equally important values.

Second, she explored the levels of awareness of and attitude on public subsidies for culture and the arts. Here, she explained that the public’s level of awareness of cultural subsidy appears rather low and that a larger share of the public (39%) supports the idea of public subsidy benefiting artists directly, than those who oppose it (24%). Notably, a relatively large share of the public (37%) is unsure whether providing support directly to artists is a good idea, indicating some uncertainty on this subject. She also pointed out that the public seems to prefer an independent public body (such as the Arts Council England) as the main decision maker on public spending on culture and the arts.

Finally, she investigated goals and values for cultural policy and local cultural organisations. Here, we saw that the public does not prioritise a single goal (or a set of few goals) for government cultural policy. Instead, a clear majority of the public views each of the goals tested in the survey as important. Dr Kim reported similar dynamic with respect to social values for both government cultural policy and local cultural organisations. In fact, we saw that instead of assigning different values for government cultural policy and for local arts and cultural organisations/venues, the public displays agreement in assigning most values.

Where Dr Sana Kim’s presentation provided several different indices and means of thinking about the value of culture, the second presentation by Professor Tadashi Yagi ‘Cultural value survey in Japan: an analysis of value judgement’, focused on understanding cultural value and its relation to daily life. Professor Yagi’s presentation began with explaining the methodology of factor analysis and multiple regression analysis used on the survey results. This methodology attributes such as income, age, are not core factors but instead the focus remains on the public relationship with personal values, such as the sense of social responsibility. So, the presentation discussed the meaning of arts and culture to the publics daily life through determinants of happiness, donation, positive thinking and anxiety among other values.

A question from the audience focused on the factors that impact donation. ‘The graph is a U shape which means that young people are also interested in donating; how should we interpret this? As a result of covid, many cultural organisations were not allowed to take donations. Can organisations appeal to young people for donations now?’ In response, Professor Yagi denoted the social difficulty of the Covid pandemic, inferring that young people’s pro-social sense was stimulated strongly. ‘One thing we have learnt from this survey is that people with pro-social thinking also have positive attitudes – so this and the sense of society gained from the covid pandemic aligns with a greater desire to improve things’ and for young may mean donating to the arts.

The seminar commenced with comments from Professor David Throsby. Throsby began by acknowledging several well discussed pre-exciting debates on cultural value, particularly inherent vs intrinsic value, and expressing cultural value with economic and monetary terms, before denoting that these ‘two papers draw together all these concepts and ideas in a much broader way, with the basic proposition of why do arts and culture matter? And if they do, what conclusions do we draw and how does this affect cultural policy?’. Throsby continues by drawing parallels from the two papers and highlighting that the results provide indicators across three levels: the individual, the local and societal. Throsby concluded by noting that there were no clear measures detectable from the survey responses and whilst this is somewhat disappointing, because everything is useful, there is evident opportunity for more investigation into quality and quantity so that future investigations can derive more conclusions. For instance, Professor Yagi’s analysis provides provisions and methodology in cultural policy that is a step towards better exploring variables and causal connections but that this approach needs to be fleshed out more to make the distinctions between fundamental rights, contribution to society and personal values.

The Questions and Answer session began with two Questions for Dr Kim, firstly on the survey composition and secondly on the high correlation between the levels of social element and interest in the arts in the UK. Dr Kim first responded by outlining that the data was based on a 20-minute online survey of 2123 UK adults and considered factors such as age, gender, social grade and ethnicity. Secondly, Dr Kim highlighted that there is a clear correction between engagement levels across all social activities levels of interest in the arts, highlighting that only 24% of respondents were part of labour unions. These responses were followed by a comment from the audience on the female labour participation rate. The audience member posited that based on the observations discussed, more opportunities to participate in culture may positively impact women working with large companies with labour unions. Dr Kim followed up this comment by noting that men are more involved with all social organisations than women. This includes labour unions, with only 20% of women being involved with unions compared to 28% of men. Notably, the levels of interest in the arts do not vary significantly with gender.

A further question that emerged from this discussion noted that the Japanese teams’ conclusions do not reflect the ideas of the economic purpose of cultural policy but instead presents cultural value in relation to personal values. From this understanding the results are not supposing the wealthier you are more you spend on cultural activities and so do factors of households  income and personal circumstance, have on donations? Professor Yagi responded by noting that a good example of the differences that personal circumstances can make comes in the comparison of career women and women who have a lot of household income but do not work.  Women who work spend a lot on culture and arts compared to women who do not work but have financial assets. The difference between having financial assets and having personal income and the impact of these differences are significant. Professor Yagi posits that this is because within society, you work and earn income, and this improves your pro-sociality. Whereas a wealthy household (a female who does not work in a wealth house) may not spend as much – the impact stink if these differences between females is significant

The seminar concluded with two observations from Dr Lee. Firstly, that the theme of the seminar is a huge topic with many questions to ask. Particularly how cultural values are understood by those that are not interested in culture and the arts? What about their cultural life? The second observation is about the roles of education. The Japanese findings show that personal values and attributes are more important than education, but we can consider the ‘indirect’ roles of education in helping people (young people) to develop a strong sense of social responsibility and their pro-social attitudes. The seminar concluded with an overview of this year’s agenda for the project and information on upcoming work exploring cultural labour and working conditions.