Culture and Metrics explored the puzzle of translating cultural values into a vocabulary of indexes and figures for communication among policymakers, economists, politicians, and‚ crucially, the public. Commercial businesses have a ready way of measuring their impact and success, and policymakers can count on clear metrics to quantify the impact of such sectors of the economy on the local or national baseline. However, when it comes to cultural institutions and initiatives, the traditional yardsticks don’t account for a whole host of intangible personal and social benefits. The contribution of culture and intellectual labor to society cannot be readily quantified, and the absence of direct metrics makes culture vulnerable to ad hoc cuts and obfuscates its urgency.
Watch the videos from the salon and explore some of these questions: How can museums appeal to individuals and organizations that—to paraphrase the scientist William Thomson, Baron Kelvin—believe that if a value can’t be measured, it can’t be a factor? Is there a way for cultural values to be translated into compelling data? Can collaboration between museums and relevant academic institutions studying this subject be formulated to move the needle in our favor—and to help the public better understand how cultural institutions are important to their lives?
The salon took place on February 4th, 2013.
Robert Crease is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, New York, and former chairman of the department. Robert is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Physics in Perspective, and he writes “Critical Point,” a monthly column on the philosophy and history of science, for Physics World magazine.
Jer Thorp is cofounder of the Office for Creative Outreach, and adjunct professor at New York University’s ITP program. Between 2010 and 2012, Jer was the Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times R&D Group. More recently, he collaborated with NASA and visualized 138 years of Popular Science. Jer also sits on the World Economic Forum’s Council on Design Innovation.
Kate Levin is Principal at Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic consulting firm that collaborates with cities worldwide to improve the quality of urban life. From 2002 to 2013, Kate was the New York Cultural Affairs Commissioner, and oversaw the commissioning of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates in Central Park, among many other ambitious public art projects.
Andrew Ross is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. Much of his writing focuses on labor, the urban environment, and the organization of work, from the Western world of business and high technology to conditions of offshore labor in the Global South. Author of Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal, The Exorcist and the Machines, and Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City.