redefining ‘value’: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life

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Dr Anna Upchurch, University of Leeds, and Dr Eleonora Belfiore, University of Warwick: "Redefining value: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life" - presented at Showing the Arts and Humanities Matte A one day symposium at UCL, September 2012.

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  • 1. Showing the arts and Humanities matter 1UCL,18th September 2012 Redefining value: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life Dr Eleonora Belfiore* & Dr Anna Upchurch** * Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick, e.belfiore@warwick.ac.uk, @elebelfiore & #culturalvalue **School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, a.upchurch@leeds.ac.uk
  • 2. The project 2 Antefact: Development of a humanities-based approach to the exploration of the social impact of the arts debateThe establishment of an intellectual connection with Duke University, US A research collaboration resulting in theforthcoming Humanities in the 21st Century: Beyond Utility and Markets (Palgrave)
  • 3. The impact agenda: 3The arts/humanities parallel /1 The double rhetoric: doom and gloom vs.great expectations Notions of impact and public utility ofthe Humanities as proxy for discussions oftheir value The encroachment of market values: Thelanguage of public funding as investment(with the attendant expectation ofquantifiable returns on tax payersinvestment)
  • 4. The impact agenda: 4 The arts/humanities parallel /2The question of how toarticulate/capture/measure impact/publicutility/value as a means to justify demands on thepublic purse A false and unhelpful dichotomy betweeninstrumental and intrinsic value of both arts andhumanities Difficult questions which remain open: how todeal with the unmeasurable? And what about thefutility of the arts/humanities? A parallel between US & UK debates
  • 5. The Arts/Humanities parallel 5TomNightingale on the BBC Newsnightcomment web page:There are strong cases for publicly funding streetlighting, hospitals, schools and many other goodsand services. What is the value of arts beyondprivate enjoyment. I, and many others, enjoy fishand chips. Should chippies be subsidised? A bag offish and chips beats the pants off anything eitherTracey Emin or Damien Hirst ever produced.
  • 6. 6Crisis in the Humanities? A checklist The image problem and perceived lack of relevance and credibility Charges of uselessness Knowledge economy policy increasingly tends to evaluate the worth of knowledge along economic lines rather than as a social good. [] Traditional arts and Humanities faculties fare poorly according to this new rubric. (Bullen at al. 2004, 3-4 and 8). The confidence issue (a self-inflicted indignity?)
  • 7. Fighting the crisis: the impact 7agenda in the UK A linguistic and ideological shift from funding toinvestment in Humanities research Referring to impact seems a way to bypass thequestion of articulating the value of the humanitiesand to sidestep value-laden and therefore difficultdebates Socio-economic impact = An external form ofvalidation and legitimacy. A market society version of the idea of the publicuniversity? Or A way to re-legitimise old privileges of the ivorytower?
  • 8. Our approach 8 Beyond critique: A more constructive attempt to show how A&H research is already involved in making a contribution to dealing with the problems of todayHow should humanists approach the value question? Bystriving to demonstrate more convincingly what impact theymight have or rather by challenging the dominant marketdiscourse and its focus on narrow notions of utility? The means: asking non-Humanities scholars to reflect on how values, approaches, ideas from the A&H have shaped their own research, field or professional practice.
  • 9. A&H thinking and contemporary 9issues 3 examples 3 authors take ethical and philosophicalapproaches to thinking about contemporarychallenges and solving problems that confrontsociety and the planetAuthors present alternatives toinstrumental, market-oriented thinkingIntellectual Property and implicit contractsNature-society or animal-human relationshipsOrganisational behaviour that refreshes anindividuals ethical values
  • 10. A&H thinking and contemporary 10issuesIntellectual Property and implicit contractsRick McGeer, HP scientist in Palo Alto, CA arguesthat digitization has broken the implicit contractbetween content producers and consumersBefore digitization: producers provided creativeworks to consumers, who couldread, loan, resell, copy excerpts, without payingroyalties to content owner this was the implicitcontractDigitization has exposed different understandingsof that contract between producers andconsumers who offer interpretations favorable totheir interests
  • 11. A&H thinking and contemporary 11issuesNow tensions between producers and consumersand even criminalization of copyright infringementin the USA Technology that has enhanced humancommunications also has the capacity tocensor, ie, Amazons removal of content fromKindlesRick concludes that the debate is too important tobe left to the self-interested motivated by financialgain; he appeals to humanists to get involvedHumanists as interpreters of enduring values
  • 12. A&H thinking and contemporary 12issues The human-animal relationshipConnie Johnston, US geographer, Clark University Writes that humanistic thinking characterized byapproach, a slowing down to consider life, that isconnected to idea of process and the search formeaning(s).Ideas about the human and agency underscrutiny by nature-society geographers This perspective essential to geography whichoften asks the why of where questions
  • 13. A&H thinking and contemporary 13issuesConnie Johnston, US geographer, Clark University Focuses attention on time andspace, interconnectedness of nature and society fundamentally humanistic concerns, she arguesMany animal geographers, like Johnston, take ahumanistic, interpretive approach to analysis ofhuman-animal boundaries and how humans knowthe non-human worldQuestions around animal food production and itsimpact on the planet
  • 14. A&H thinking and contemporary 17issues Organisational behaviour that refreshes anindividuals ethical valuesAnna Upchurch and Jean McLaughlin, director ofthe Penland School of Crafts in the USPenland is a national, non-profit, craft educationresource in North Carolina mountains operatingsince 1929Its roots are in arts and crafts revival and in anti-poverty programmes by Protestant churches and USgovernment in the 1930s in Appalachia
  • 15. A&H thinking and contemporary 18issues Organisational behaviour that refreshes anindividuals ethical valuesResearch question: How can an organisation thatis fundamentally anti-modern survive and thrive?Humanist thinking drives organisational behaviour10 core values reinforce mutual respect,tolerance, reciprocity, creativity, and care for thehistoric campus and the environmentReinforces universal human values ofbenevolence and universalism needed to combatglobal issues like overpopulation, climate change
  • 16. Concluding thoughts 19 The impact discourse is problematic not because it demands too much of A&H, but because it demands too little!! The impact discourse is predicated on a view of impact and an economics-based notion of utility as a proxy for value: this is