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Redefining ‘value’: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life Dr Eleonora Belfiore* & Dr Anna Upchurch** * Centre for Cultural Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "Redefining ‘value’: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life Dr Eleonora Belfiore* & Dr Anna Upchurch** * Centre for Cultural Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Redefining ‘value’: the arts, humanities and the challenges of contemporary life Dr Eleonora Belfiore* & Dr Anna Upchurch** * Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of & #culturalvalue **School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, Showing the arts and Humanities matter UCL,18 th September

2 The project  Antefact: Development of a humanities-based approach to the exploration of the ‘social impact of the arts’ debate  The establishment of an intellectual connection with Duke University, US A research collaboration resulting in the forthcoming Humanities in the 21 st Century: Beyond Utility and Markets (Palgrave) 2

3 The ‘impact agenda’: The arts/humanities parallel /1  The double rhetoric: doom and gloom vs. great expectations  Notions of ‘impact’ and public ‘utility’ of the Humanities as proxy for discussions of their value  The encroachment of market values: The language of public funding as ‘investment’ (with the attendant expectation of quantifiable returns on tax payers’ investment) 3

4 The ‘impact agenda’: The arts/humanities parallel /2  The question of how to ‘articulate’/‘capture’/measure impact/public utility/value as a means to justify demands on the public purse  A false and unhelpful dichotomy between ‘instrumental’ and ‘intrinsic’ value of both arts and humanities  Difficult questions which remain open: how to deal with the unmeasurable? And what about the ‘futility’ of the arts/humanities?  A parallel between US & UK debates 4

5 TomNightingale on the BBC Newsnight comment web page: “There are strong cases for publicly funding street lighting, hospitals, schools and many other goods and services. What is the value of arts beyond private enjoyment. I, and many others, enjoy fish and chips. Should chippies be subsidised? A bag of fish and chips beats the pants off anything either Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst ever produced”. The Arts/Humanities parallel 5

6 Crisis 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?”) 6

7 Fighting the crisis: the impact agenda in the UK  A linguistic and ideological shift from ‘funding’ to ‘investment’ in Humanities research  Referring to impact seems a way to bypass the question of articulating the value of the humanities and to sidestep value-laden and therefore difficult debates  Socio-economic impact = An external form of validation and legitimacy.  A market society version of the idea of the public university? Or…  A way to re-legitimise old privileges of the ivory tower? 7

8 Our approach  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 today How should humanists approach the value question? By striving to demonstrate more convincingly what impact they might have or – rather – by challenging the dominant market discourse 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. 8

9 A&H thinking and contemporary issues – 3 examples  3 authors take ethical and philosophical approaches to thinking about contemporary challenges and solving problems that confront society and the planet  Authors present alternatives to instrumental, market-oriented thinking  Intellectual Property and ‘implicit contracts’  Nature-society or animal-human relationships  Organisational behaviour that refreshes an individual’s ethical values 9

10 A&H thinking and contemporary issues  Intellectual Property and ‘implicit contracts’ Rick McGeer, HP scientist in Palo Alto, CA argues that digitization has broken the ‘implicit contract’ between content producers and consumers  Before digitization: producers provided creative works to consumers, who could read, loan, resell, copy excerpts, without paying royalties to content owner – this was the implicit contract  Digitization has exposed different understandings of that ‘contract’ between producers and consumers who offer interpretations favorable to their interests 10

11 A&H thinking and contemporary issues  Now tensions between producers and consumers and even criminalization of copyright infringement in the USA  Technology that has enhanced human communications also has the capacity to censor, ie, Amazon’s removal of content from Kindles  Rick concludes that the debate is too important to be left to the self-interested motivated by financial gain; he appeals to humanists to get involved  Humanists as interpreters of enduring values 11

12 A&H thinking and contemporary issues  The human-animal relationship Connie Johnston, US geographer, Clark University  Writes that humanistic thinking characterized by approach, a ‘slowing down’ to consider life, that is connected to ‘idea of process and the search for meaning(s).’  Ideas about ‘the human’ and ‘agency’ under scrutiny by nature-society geographers  This perspective essential to geography which often asks the ‘why of where’ questions 12

13 A&H thinking and contemporary issues Connie Johnston, US geographer, Clark University  Focuses attention on time and space, interconnectedness of nature and society – fundamentally humanistic concerns, she argues  Many animal geographers, like Johnston, take a humanistic, interpretive approach to analysis of human-animal boundaries and how humans know the non-human world  Questions around animal food production and its impact on the planet 13

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17 A&H thinking and contemporary issues  Organisational behaviour that refreshes an individual’s ethical values  Anna Upchurch and Jean McLaughlin, director of the Penland School of Crafts in the US  Penland is a national, non-profit, craft education resource in North Carolina mountains operating since 1929  Its roots are in arts and crafts revival and in anti- poverty programmes by Protestant churches and US government in the 1930s in Appalachia 17

18 A&H thinking and contemporary issues  Organisational behaviour that refreshes an individual’s ethical values  Research question: How can an organisation that is fundamentally anti-modern survive and thrive?  Humanist thinking drives organisational behaviour  10 ‘core values’ reinforce mutual respect, tolerance, reciprocity, creativity, and care for the historic campus and the environment  Reinforces universal human values of ‘benevolence’ and ‘universalism’ needed to combat global issues like overpopulation, climate change 18

19 Concluding thoughts  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 narrow and limiting  Hijacking the impact agenda: impact needs to be reformulated in terms of what should be expected from a public institution such as the university  Universities need to provide much more than mere ‘impact’!  The A&Hs are already ‘delivering’ on this ‘key target’ – they have been for about 2,500 years! 19


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