When we aim to study “cultural data” we refer to data on all artistic and meaning making practices by not only the general population, but also by a variety of more specific sub-communities, including culture and arts professionals. This means working both with the born digital data as well as heritage content that is digitised currently.
The current activities in Europe regarding digitisation of analogue cultural heritage and making this heritage available for different kinds of users and audience groups is expected to enlighten citizens on cultural histories and diversities. The improved access to cultural resources is expected to invigorate Europe’s creative and digital industries, enabling them to develop new services, forms of content and business models. In this process of digitisation especially the public cultural institutions and private ICT industries are gradually learning to work together more effectively and share and reuse data in ways beneficial to both. Yet, new challenges lie ahead when it comes to sharing data, especially usage data in responsible, non-harming ways. These challenges derive not only from the evolving technological environment such as the semantic web, digital rights management (DRM) technologies or cloud storage platforms, but also from the evolving legal environment such as new EU data regulations that both create new opportunities as well as make all agents develop new codes of conduct and data management practices. These challenges call for cooperation between academic researchers, private industries and public policy makers to work towards benchmarking solutions and appropriate regulations on the ethical management of cultural data – so that creation of both public and private value is facilitated.
Next to the digitisation and gradual reuse (analytic and creative) of heritage content the scraping of data on contemporary digital practices has emerged as a widespread practice and an increasingly prevalent economic sector. Relevant methods of data analysis have evolved rapidly – within the private sector as well as in academia. There has been too little dialogue between these domains of research, especially regarding data on cultural practices. Yet, both could learn from one another – academia has developed new approaches and techniques within the digital humanities, digital ethnography and critical data studies domains; the industry has expertise in dynamic “live” analysis of usage data. Both have had access to different sets of data. Cooperation and collaboration is needed to ask new questions and to carry out research for the benefit of the broader society and culture.
Linking both suggested study areas and corpora – the digitisation and further analytic and creative use of heritage content and the scraping of data on contemporary digital cultural practices – would bring about new possibilities to analyse the relationships between cultural dynamics of different eras, between cultural memory and present practices. But it would also mean bringing together the different institutions working on these different corpora – universities, memory institutions and other public cultural enterprises, online service providers and other ICT industries. This could mean building on the “innovation systems” concept and its further appropriation to interpret the dynamics in creative and cultural industries. This concept and related analytic approaches focus on the coordination of interactions and exchanges between public and private enterprises whereas the aim of the system is to facilitate the emergence of new knowledge and innovations.
The ERA Chair that our project creates aims thus at exploring appropriate ways to coordinate research, development of new methods and applying the research results for developing new services and regulations between academia, creative and cultural industries, the public sector and civil society. The longer term aim is to facilitate the emergence of a cultural data management innovation system that creates and increases public value as well as private value in the region – to help the sectoral enterprises as well as the citizens and consumers to learn to recognise and use a wide array of cultural choices and services in their everyday lives.