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Accounting for Culture

Caroline Andrew
Monica Gattinger
M. Sharon Jeannotte
et al.

Part I. The Evolution and Broadening of Cultural Policy Rationales

3. Cultural Participation

A Fuzzy Cultural Policy Paradigm

Catherine Murray

Texte intégral

  • 1 For a fuller review of cultural research methods, see Kim Schroder, Kirsten Drotner, Stephen Kline (...)
  • 2 Dr. Mark Schuster argued in favour of a narrower definition at the unesco International Statistics (...)

1Google the term “cultural participation” and a researcher is likely to find 5.4 million hits. Something that generates this amount of activity on the Web is likely to generate heat, but not light. Is cultural participation a basic building block of cultural citizenship, or a way to measure it?1 This chapter will argue that it should be a basic building block, suggesting that the term is better thought of as a means but not an end of citizenship. Unfortunately, as several analysts have argued, studies of cultural participation are often treated as baseline data but do not play a strategic role in policy-relevant research or cultural planning.2 Thinking about cultural participation systematically seems most directly to imply a model of participatory democracy in cultural experience, if not policymaking. The problem has been an under-theorization of the cultural in participatory democracy. Cultural participation studies without clear cultural policy frameworks aim to defeat, manage, and corral rather than liberate creative cultural practice. It is time to claim the ground.

  • 3 How do we define culture? In Canada, we exclude sport and nature activities from the definition of (...)

2What is cultural participation? Defined as an umbrella term to denote activities of individuals and groups in the making and using of cultural products and processes, cultural participation has progressively widened in definition of the activities it includes, as a result of social and cultural change.3

3Why is cultural participation important? Many states design their cultural policies to promote the value of enhancing cultural participation for their citizens to conform to international practice. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out a right to participate in the cultural life of the community as a basic human right. In Canada, there is no similar right entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet historically, Canada had some experience with a participatory cultural policy paradigm during the Gérard Pelletier era primarily in the late 1960s and earlyl970s. Gilles Provonost argues that this ideology has been implicit in cultural policy at federal and provincial levels ever since.

  • 4,2003-04.

4With the inception of the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1993, widening of participation has been an important goal for federal Canadian cultural policy, regularly cited in strategic plans,4 considered one of the central pillars of policy, and indeed, increasingly used as a measure of program evaluation—such as the Museum Assistance Program. Such a heightened federal policy concern with mapping and modelling of cultural participation emerged in the 1990s as a result of three convergent trends:

  1. Growing dissatisfaction with the reliability and utility of audience research methods in the traditional cultural industries as competition for leisure time increases and new media absorb more time;
  2. An ideological tilt to “demand” side rather than “supply” side measures in stimulating cultural policy and a push from arts donors to measure results of philanthropic spending; and
  3. An emerging critical and theoretical concern with “popular culture” as an antidote to the perception of increasingly remote and elitist cultural policy in the 1990s.
  • 5 Gilles Provonost, “Statistics in the Wake of Challenges Posed by Cultural Diversity in a Global Co (...)
  • 6 Colin Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship: Took for Cultural Policy and Development (Stockholm: G (...)

5So, how do policymakers go about “accounting” for cultural participation? The first problem in mapping cultural participation is how to measure access to cultural activities. In most basic terms, this is defined as access to performances, public museums or venues, or other types of cultural services. Yet, as Gilles Provonost points out, “there is as yet little consensus on the international level as to the choice of categories of cultural activities.”5 We may chart disciplines, institutions, or genres. As Colin Mercer suggests, we need a better identification of the unit of analysis of access to a strategic cultural resource: is it the “artifact, idea, image, activity, place or institution?”6 With the advent of federal culture-on-line initiatives, new questions are raised. Does access imply physical or virtual access? Can the latter meaningfully supplant responsibility to supply the former? Access of course may not imply use: and use (or attendance) may not imply deeper engagement.

  • 7 Michael Moore, Rethinking Participation: A Framework for Change (New York: Wallace Foundation, 200 (...)

6The second problem is deciding which activities to include in the measurement of behaviours, time use, or patterns of frequency among cultural activities as well as their impacts. Analysis of cultural participation in Pelletier’s time involved mapping characteristics of amateur, community, and creative activities in a narrow range of modes (playing a musical instrument, or dancing, or singing), eventually slightly widening to include more popular modes (photography, crafts, and so on). Such activities are highly decentralized, local, and regional. Not surprisingly, cultural participation rates have apparently trended upward in most industrial states as the eligibility of the number of activities composing “cultural participation” has loosened. At the same time the definition has also moved away from a passive set of indicators to more active or interactive ones. Some analysis7 suggest it is more useful to think in terms of segmentation of the stakeholders in cultural participation, suggesting that there are three types of participants, creators, audiences, and stewards, which are basic to all strategic frameworks for arts participation. While most countries account for the number of artists, consumers, and volunteers for comparative participation rates, these are not yet systematically compiled into any aggregate national index. Here it is also important to focus on non-or infrequent participants, to understand potential audiences.

  • 8 Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship, 7.
  • 9 Amareswar Galla, “Culture in Development: Subaltern Perspectives” (paper presented to the Stockhol (...)

7The third problem in mapping cultural participation is to place it in the context of everyday life, to avoid a culture-centric world view. Culture in this view is not a product but a process, intersecting with daily work, play and sport, in social and natural environments. Colin Mercer suggests a research agenda for cultural mapping must include statistical and qualitative data on the diversity of cultural forms consumed, modes of consumption and usage, expenditure on cultural products, geo-territorial predisposition to “consumption sheds” or “walled cultural gardens,” and information on the existence of democratic strategies to address consumption and usage issues.8 The fallacy that Mercer argues against is to conceive of cultural participation as “for its own sake,” a kind of disconnected, dead-end activity in consumption terms—that is, as ticket buying or attendance—as it was even in the Pelletier era despite best intentions. In reaction to this fallacy, an emerging theoretical component of participation studies involves the idea of “creative consumption” where identity and meaning is forged through consumption, and consumption transitions to expression. In this view, cultural participation also involves the productive side: it may be creative, but it may be collective, with the goal of “engaging the whole community in valuing and participating in cultural expression and appreciation,” calling citizens to “enter into” cultural and creative industries on their own terms, according to Galla.9 Cultural participation studies must be attentive to the complex uses and negotiations of cultural resources, in Mercer’s view, and are a necessary, but not sufficient condition for translation into meaningful cultural planning.

8Mercer’s helpful framework for mapping the cultural value chain demonstrates that theoretically, the analysis of cultural participation is related to emerging concerns about cultural rights, progressive social policy in the transition to the so-called knowledge society, the role of culture in maintenance (or destabilization) of social cohesion, and the intersection and complementarity of cultural and social capital, democratic and cultural interaction, and cultural diversity. Yet the millions of sources obtained on Google rarely rigorously question the logical and theoretical frameworks of cultural policy that must underpin the analysis of cultural participation in its myriad forms.

9The object of the balance of this chapter is to set out the contending frameworks, and explore several examples of interesting “beta tests” for cultural participation studies in Canada. The goal here is not to be exhaustive, but rather to highlight important analytic cultural policy problems and see how studies of cultural participation seek to address them. To what end should participation be directed? Is all participation equal? What are the generational tendencies? What is current thinking suggesting about the capacities, the places, and the changing modes of participation? Finally, what connection is there between participation, designing indicators, and cultural policy? This chapter will conclude that we need a Canadian consortium to advance both the theory and method for Canadian cultural participation studies.

Participation for What End?

10Currently there seem to be three different paradigms at war in Canadian cultural policy networks struggling for dominance. Where the early 1990s saw fascination with social cohesion in the Policy Research Initiative (with the creation of an interdepartmental social cohesion network), now the term has been supplanted by a social capital approach to policy. There is now also a cultural diversity approach—lent all the more credence, internationally at least, with the signing of a convention at unesco. The final approach struggling to emerge but by no means with anything other than a minority foothold is a cultural citizenship or rights-based one, which may overlap but not coincide with any of the others. Different policy frameworks, of course, call for different approaches to measuring participation.

11In defining the grounds for these frameworks, I am referring to the overarching ideologies, values, or discourses involved primarily at the federal level. Equally important is a critical movement in thinking about appropriate cultural policy space—switching from the federal to the local or municipal level—and in thinking about appropriate policy action. Colin Mercer and Greg Baeker’s work in setting out the new trends in cultural planning in Europe is extremely useful and best considered as a holistic overlay to the policy process (and an important heuristic for policy-makers) to the paradigmatic tendencies.

Social Capital

  • 10 Henry Milner, Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work (Hanover, NE: Tufts, 2002) (...)
  • 11 Simon Szreter, “A New Political Economy: The Importance of Social Capital,” in Anthony Giddens, ed (...)

12Since de Toqueville, social scientists have accepted the idea that it is primarily through interaction in voluntary organizations that citizens learn the skills of democratic participation and the civic virtues of trust and reciprocity.10 Participation then, breeds social capital. Social capital turns on the trust and norms of reciprocity required in a society to cultivate social networks.11 Social capital may lead to social bonding (within group identity), or bridging (between group identities), or linking (hierarchical status). Primarily a North American concept developed by Robert Putnam and now extended, the idea of social capital speaks to the way associational links function in society. Social capital is a finite “public resource” from which all members may draw. It must be refilled, or the common stock will diminish. To test this insight, Putnam measured community organizational density, newspaper readership, and voter turnout. More “civic” communities—defined by higher levels of social capital—corresponded with more effective governance than those with more economic capital.

  • 12 Sharon Jeannotte, “Just Showing Up: Social and Cultural Capital in Everyday Life,” chap. 9 in this (...)

13Sharon Jeannotte’s Just Showing Up: Social and Cultural Capital in Everyday Life12 outlines Bryant and Norris’s typology to assess social capital holdings that is of direct relevance to this discussion. Borrowing from Jenson’s paper on cultural citizenship, these Statistics Canada analysts set up several main dimensions in the predisposition to cultural, social, or political participation (but in no particular order):

  • Sense of belonging, civic engagement, political action, or other voluntary social movement surrogate;
  • Efficacy, or confidence, life satisfaction, perception of degrees of political opportunity;
  • Resources, or social networks, supports and depth of other cultural relationships; or capacity to participate, that is, the acquisition of basic cultural codes or ritualistic markers that enable participation or basic cultural literacy, the amount spent on cultural activities; and
  • Perception of shared values, trust and confidence in institutions and perceptions.
  • 13 Jane Badets, Jennifer Chard and Andrea Levett, “Ethnic Diversity Survey: Portrait of a Multicultur (...)

14It is very telling that of these measures, Statistics Canada’s own study of multiculturalism in Canada operationalizes only the first dimension, that is, whether immigrants feel a sense of belonging13

  • 14 Milner, Civic Literacy.
  • 15 There is a certain tautology to Putnam’s theory, however, as Milner argues. If the main attributes (...)

15If we adopt a social capital approach to cultural policy, then it is important to design socio-metric studies (which focus on the individual’s web of social relationships) to map the flow of cultural participation: from consumption, to creation, to action. A social capital approach to cultural policy is heuristically rich14 and has the benefit of easy conversion into a policy instrument and benchmark.15 For example, federal governments can impose a requirement to use intercommunity partnerships to be eligible for funding, and chart if the transactions between these partners improve or increase in frequency over time.

  • 16 Russell J. Dalton, Citizen Politics (New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2002), 45.

16Yet there are a number of weaknesses in the social capital conception. It seems tautological, since associational memberships are correlated with the rise and fall of the stock of social capital, but not sufficient to cause it in multiple study comparisons drawn from the World Values Survey, for example. It is not clear what the relationship between cultural and civic capital may be. And it appears blind to differential class access to associations, or, for that matter, emerging forms of non-traditional associational activity.16

17What do we know about the impact of social capital on civic capital? As Jeannotte states:

  • 17 Francois Matarasso, Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts (London: Comed (...)

The researcher, Francois Matarasso… documented several instances where participation in the arts increased the confidence of individuals, enriched their social lives, and helped them build the skills needed to find better jobs. Matarasso also recorded in some detail how participatory arts projects reinforce social cohesion by promoting partnerships, co-operation and intercultural understanding. Such involvement, he maintains, strengthens communities by encouraging people to become more active citizens and to get involved in their neighbourhoods.17

  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 Dick Stanley, “The Three Faces of Culture: Why Culture is a Strategic Good Requiring Government Po (...)

18Jeannotte’s own analysis of the General Social Survey in Canada finds that those who attend cultural performances, visit galleries, or participate in a cultural activity such as singing in a choir are much more likely to volunteer for social as well as cultural activities in the community than those who did not and it is from these networks of social relations that we find predictors of future action.18 Participation in creative cultural activities then, has positive effects on health, community development, social cohesion, and individual well-being.19

  • 20 Environics, Social Cohesion Survey (2001),
  • 21 A single cross-sectional survey of 2756 adults published in 1999, the Everyday Cultures Project is (...)
  • 22 Tony Bennett, Michael Emmison, and John Frow, Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures (...)
  • 23 Alaka Wali et al., “Informal Arts: Finding Cohesion, Capacity, and Other Cultural Benefits” (study (...)

19Perhaps one of the most vexing findings in social capital analyses is that it is not cultural aspiration that explains cultural participation. A survey by Environics of the motivation for cultural consumption in 2000 (like the 1992 Canadian Arts Consumer’s Project) suggests that aesthetic value as a motive for cultural participation plays second fiddle to instrumental social bonding.20 Conclusions were similar in a more rigorous academic study conducted in Australia. A study by Tony Bennett, Michael Emmison and John Frow called Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures21 intended to contribute to the international policy debate over the development of “cultural life chance” indicators that can assist in evaluating the equity objectives of national cultural policy. In their study the researchers confirm that it is social capital—not cultural capital—that Australians want from their children’s arts education. In general, they hypothesize, it is economic capital and social capital that play the major role in transmitting an advantage to the next generation and reproduce class inequality in Australia, not cultural capital.22 Such findings are also confirmed in the U.S. The study Informal Arts: Finding Cohesion, Capacity, and Other Cultural Benefits found that “otherwise normative patterns of hierarchy (class, race, status, gender roles, age, or seniority) did not operate as much in the (cultural) communities of action they studied.”23

20Can we move beyond social citizenship to the political? Jeannotte cites a 1998 study by Stole and Rochon which explores the relationship between participation in cultural associations and generalized social trust and self-sense of political efficacy, finding a positive correlation. In their study of informal arts participation in the Chicago area, the team of ethnographers who produced Informal Artsts regularly found a cross-over in local community political and arts involvement among about a third of their participants (suggesting, in other words, higher incidences of social activism than is found among other constituents), one that is harder to demonstrate at national levels of study.

  • 24 Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady, Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in A (...)

21However, few arts studies look for general predisposition to political action, whether through formal political institutions or non formal social movements (the latter of which are not a proxy for associations as Stole and Rochon seem to suggest). From Reggae to Rachmaninoff, an interesting U.S. study of cultural participation, bases its framework on the model of civic voluntarism created by Sidney Verba, the noted American political scientist.24 But the problem has been that even such models probe associational membership as a black box in which all associations are equal (when evidence from Milner and others suggests they are not) with little understanding of the exercise of cultural leadership or franchise.

22What all these “social capital” studies share is what Diana Crane has called a sociological view of culture as micro and macro tool kits in the development of individual identity, civic literacy, and collective community. Is culture just a means?

  • 25 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, (...)
  • 26 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 10.

23The conceptual danger in a social capital approach is that it buries the cultural: treating it either as a by-product or enabler of bonding, bridging, or linking functions. But cultural capital is not a synonym for social capital. Cultural capital is not yet central to the lexicon of cultural policy, but it originates with the theories of Pierre Bourdieu.25 In Bourdieu’s work on cultural practice in France, cultural capital refers to cultivated competence, knowledge of classificatory schemes, codes and conventions, and the ability to display such knowledge to social advantage. There is both a literacy component and a performative component (or, as Dick Stanley suggests both a tool box and a heritage lens to culture). What is at stake, for Bourdieu, is not simply differences in taste, but the ability of the dominant class to impose some differences as “legitimate” and others not.26 Cultural capital is reproduced across generations by family and schooling, but is not solely structurally determined. The Everyday Cultures Project in Australia led by Tony Bennett defines cultural capital more simply as skill in making cultural distinctions, later expanding their definition to include skill in making social distinctions:

  • 27 Ibid., 8.

Cultural choice positions us: it tells us and others who we are. And it defines for us and for others who we are not. It sorts us into “kinds” of people… that sorting is done by us as we shape and elaborate a social place that is partly given and partly chosen in the open-ended formation of our lives. The choices are always constrained.27

24Indeed, the theoretical challenge is to prove when and under what circumstances, cultural capital can improve social capital (or the converse). This is an important point. If there is something to be gained from academic surveys of the kind Tony Bennett and colleagues are contributing, it is to the understanding that cultural capital may improve life chances… that social capital, by contrast, is more tied to reinforcing economic, vocational, and educational class than cultural capital: that cultural capital works on the social.

25The Australian team found that cultural participation in venues of more public culture—featuring arts events or experiences outside the home such as art galleries, botanical gardens or libraries or public broadcasting supported by a mostly public tax base—can indeed contribute to social mobility and more democratic distribution of cultural resources. Cultural capital they argue may provide a means of social mobility within and across generations: how, and under what conditions is the main analytic challenge. Is this not the goal of culture: betterment of lite?

26If analysts continue to use social capital as a framework for cultural policy, then cultural capital has to provide a new—epistemologically different—category to bonding, bridging, or linking (“bbl”) which has become au courant in social capital studies. More to the point, analysts must develop an alternative conceptual framework building on the analogy to “bbl,” by arguing that cultural capital contributes to societal networks because it directs the social connectedness: its function is diversifying, contextualizing, imbuing with meaning. Dick Stanley has argued the difference of cultural capital from social capital is found in the way we think about the world around us, the way we bond, in the cognitive, evaluative, ideological dimension.

  • 28
  • 29 Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship.
  • 30 The problem is the following: is the debate over cultural capital replaying the debate over educat (...)

27Cultural capital now, unlike its analysis during Bourdieu’s era, offers many more venues for its accumulation today than forty years ago. Increasingly cultural capital may be acquired through non-formal means, outside of school, in self-formed cultural communities as Diana Crane has identified or as the Chicago analysts have identified (in myriad sectoral specific studies of the popular cultural phenomenon of the reading club).28 Where there are richly promising applications of cultural capital approaches in cultural planning,29 it is interesting that participation is synonomous with consumption and treated as one of four indicators, linked to diversity, to lifestyle, to identity, and to ethical governance. Yet cultural capital is only one element of participatory democracy, or a citizen model for cultural policy, and it is ideologically constructed. Clearly, much more theoretical and empirical inquiry into the intersection of social and cultural capital in mediating participation is needed.30

Cultural Diversity

28The second emerging cultural policy paradigm is around cultural diversity. Bennett identifies four overlaying principles as key to the development of this new vocabulary:

  • 31 Tony Bennett, “Transversal Study of the Theme of Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity” (paper pr (...)

The first consists in the entitlement to equal opportunity to participate in the full range of activities that constitute the field of culture in the society in question. The second consists in the entitlement of all members of society to be provided with the cultural means of functioning effectively within that society without being required to change their cultural allegiances, affiliations or identities. The third consists in the obligation of governments and other authorities to nurture the sources of diversity through imaginative mechanisms, arrived at through consultation, for sustaining and developing the different cultures that are active within the populations for which they are responsible. The fourth concerns the obligation for the promotion of diversity to aim at establishing ongoing interactions between differentiated cultures, rather than their development as separated enclaves, as the best means of transforming the ground on which cultural identities are formed in ways that will favor a continuing dynamic for diversity.31

  • 32 Badets, Chard and Levett, “Ethnic Diversity Survey,” 589-93.

29In this view, the analytic focus of cultural participation switches from activity to mode of its address: awareness of cultural differences, tolerance of cultural differences, and experience with cultural difference in cultural practice, even diversity of cultural tastes. The ability to function effectively, balanced by measures of social dysfunction (feeling out of place and so on) become central in understanding the predisposition to cultural participation and its practice.32

30Several representative studies, such as the social cohesion study conducted by Environics, or others with Decima, and which have accounted for a significant federal investment in recent years, have made a great effort to identify attitudinal factors friendly or hostile to cultural diversity. Fully eighty-six percent of Canadians state that they are interested in arts in other cultures according to the Environics study, while fifty-three percent seek to eliminate barriers and involve citizens and individuals in all walks of everyday life. Cultural diversity implies a high value on heterogeneity and pluralism of cultural participation, and it is these measures which become the chief framework for analysis. Explicit models such as Bennett, Frow, and Emmison develop an index around the variety of activities participated in as an important focus of analysis—finding “omnivores” and so on. Other models (in the Chicago group) prefer to think along a continuum between informal (or personally performative) and formal (to the more classic audience model). But neither model, as yet, embeds in it the social category of race or ethno-cultural identity explicitly.

31Thinking through such normative models of diversity, it would be important to probe linguistic competence, experience living in other cultures, travel, attendance at festivals, and a range of other measures of participation in “most similar” and “most different” cultural venues or experiences (awareness and reading of the new canonical non-white Canadian authors, for example). These ideas probe the functional prerequisites to local attachment, global citizenry, tolerance, and national adjustment. The federal government’s formation in 2003 of the Interdepartmental Committee on Public Education and Diversity which is geared to interdepartmental partnerships promoting shared citizenship, cross cultural understanding, and the elimination of racism and discrimination, will pioneer benchmark measures to see how their interventions change cultural participation.

  • 33 Greg Baeker, Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity in Canada (prepared for the Council of Europe (...)

32Whatever the intensity of the policy commitment to embrace cultural diversity as a policy paradigm—and the rhetoric is running high at home and internationally—it is difficult to see how analysts of cultural participation can develop meaningful insights into diversity as lived (or as given) and the impact of policy interventions defined to affirm it over time. If diversity affirms difference, then participation gives it meaning. How? The job of cultural participation analysts is to unmask such “pluralist” assumptions to determine progress overcoming systemic and racist barriers to such participation.33 Often implicit in early discussions of cultural diversity is either fear of old assimilationism, or a high value placed on liberal cultural cosmopolitanism: tolerance and experimentation with a wide array of cultural activities. In this view, diversity becomes a proxy for “cosmopolitanism” or mutual adaptation in complex, multicultural societies, but so too might be acquisition of multiple language skills, travel to other countries, or interest in the cultural “other.”

  • 34 Nan Weiner, Making Diversity Work (Toronto: Carswell, 1997), 35.
  • 35 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (USA: Basic Books, 2002).
  • 36 Such a “global” class fraction is not new: it stems from early studies by Armand Mattelart, Manuel (...)
  • 37 Smart Cunningham et al., “From ‘Culture’ to ‘Knowledge’: An Innovation Systems Approach to the Con (...)

33It is important to recognize that the idea of diversity can play to this “social justice” or “critical multicultural agenda” just as much as it can to a neo-liberal one, which argues that diversity generates economic vitality.34 Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class35 continues work in the latter tradition with an almost Schumpeterian notion of cultural diversity, looking for the mobility of new global classes (young urban, highly educated professionals) dubbed the “new creative” who import their cultural tastes and push for change in American cultural landscapes.36 Florida maps density of associational links like Putnam, but adds a bohemian index (evocative of Bourdieu’s preoccupation with the artistic vanguard), a gay index (as a proxy for liberal social values) and foreign-born or ethnic diversity and several other key measures to predict city vibrancy and the power to attract “new creative” in social and economic development. Is the Florida model guilty of being a branding exercise for urban gentrification? It is based on a rejection of the utility of mere cultural tolerance and calls for a neo-liberal view that “differences” can add value in social capital or economic productivity. New efforts by others, such as Stuart Cunningham on Australian Creative Clusters, broaden the creative class definition away from an industry focus to a new labour definition to include a wider array of performing artists, cultural industry workers, and design professionals (including architecture, software, advertising, and so on).37 To do so, they implicitly draw on Michael Porter’s theory of endogenous economic growth of geographic clusters. These initiatives, while working loosely in the cultural diversity paradigm, are hampered by state statistical agencies which are struggling to catch up with new contours of the cultural services.

34Moving quite beyond Florida is the perspective of Benjamin Barber, who writes about how to make society civil and democracy strong. Barber sets out a platform for the renewal of participatory democracy which includes a commitment to cultivating the arts, in which he advocates treating artists as citizens and citizens as artists, thereby focusing on arts education. In Barber’s liberal-humanist view, participatory democracy requires us all to be a creative class.

35Clearly, despite over five years of intensive domestic and international discourse on these issues, it is just as difficult today to set a normative or operational definition of diversity measures in cultural participation today as it was then. Why? Much of the policy discourse just treats cultural diversity as a reified “thing”—it is there or it is not, leaving it difficult to see it as anything other than an inert resource. Or frequendy the arguments are really determined by the interests of the traditional cultural industries from a supply-side perspective who are motivated to find compelling public discourses to resist free trade in cultural services. What is really needed is a more complex model of cultural participation, which roots individual cultural rights in some way with the community and in the collective democratic deliberations of that community.

Cultural Rights and Citizenship

  • 38 David Held, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Stan (...)

36A central theoretical hurdle is to accept the axiom that cultural participation is directed to some end. Tracing its political provenance to Montesquieu and others, the concept of participatory democracy holds the ideal of active cultural citizenship in high esteem—valorizing dedication to the cultural and a sense of cultural responsibility.38 In this view, cultural participation then is a proxy for citizenship in the nation state—or, increasingly global agency. It is a way of “measuring” the realization of cultural citizenship. As a consequence, it is important to chart participation over time to look for increases or changes in direction and intensity. The twentieth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms led to creative reflection about the kind of society we are building, and focused a lot of attention on the theory of citizenship. The Charter is not explicit about full cultural rights, but there are a range of sections of explicit language (equality rights, notwithstanding clause, right to freedom of expression) which construct a space for cultural citizenship. International covenants may be pushing Canada farther along. If analysts adopt a cultural rights/citizenship model, different dimensions to cultural participation matter in their measurement. There is no a priori assertion of pluralist equality as there would seem to be in cultural diversity models. Instead, the conditions of equity become central to the exploration of participation. The right to participate in this view has a range of meanings:

  • Expressive: implying that people have a basic right to tell stories in their own language or to practice everyday life in different ways, to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice;39
  • Normative: referring to the civil values of treatment with respect, tolerance, or establishing the security of being, that is the right to live in freedom from fear of arbitrary cultural genocide;40
  • Instrumental: compelling the State to provide the informational tools, education, or capacity to function as cultural citizens in a manner that fully respects their cultural identity. Conversely, the State may guarantee access to cultural resources to all regardless of income or geographic location;
  • Procedural: including grounds for protection of minorities asan ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity. It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples; and
  • Deliberative: that is, setting out the principles of recognition of cultural status, representation in cultural decision-making, or control over cultural self-determination.41

37Of the five meanings explored above, the normative and the procedural are probed to some degree in a range of federal studies, such as Reinventing Government, the Ethnic Diversity Survey, and the Metropolis Project, but there has been little exploration of deliberative, expressive, and instrumental meanings. It is important not to underestimate the discomfort policy planners may feel with a return to the moral agenda of equity and social justice concerns, which is evocative of the old unesco battles over cultural development.

38While there are many problems in hammering out the conceptual uniqueness of a cultural rights approach at least this paradigm asks: to what end? What democratic benefit? And what balance between cultural right and responsibility? A concern with theoretical and substantive, rather than methodological elements of participation is bound to be more theoretically productive.

  • 42 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality.
  • 43 Dalton, 33.

39Inherent in such a normative approach is also a basic political conception of deliberative cultural action. We may think of any approach to participation as predicated on an implicit model or hierarchy of democratic political participation or engagement. Sidney Verba and others, in a study of civic voluntarism, have found that the decision to participate is based on the interplay among personal resources, motivations, and paths of recruitment.42 If we were to translate his political framework for action into a cultural one, citizens may attend the opera, they may donate to the arts, they may belong to organizations, they may sign petitions, they may volunteer their time, and they may aspire to creative contribution for their own pleasure or those of others. Or they may protest or participate in cultural management or governance, they may support arts in the schools, or they may express other political views on the role of culture around them, and on the relative trade offs they are prepared to make in their conceptual view of culture as a “universal health care” policy for the collective soul and betterment of quality of life. Each mode of cultural participation, then, may be seen to differ according to whether it can be read to convey the individual’s cultural preference, or applies pressure for cultural compliance, if it is directed toward a broad cultural outcome, if it involves conflict, relative effort, and co-operation.43 Recognizing the differential investments of energy, efficacy, and opportunity that involvement in both formal and informal cultural organizations presupposes, is what Colin Mercer talks about in his review of the Urban Institute of Washington, DC’s Arts and Cultural Indicators Project. Putnam’s own work into the differential contribution of strong ties and weak ties in social relationships (where the latter serve a more pro-social function) hints at this, and it is precisely in these kinds of questions where we have weaknesses in comparative cultural interpretation.

Is All Participation Equal?

  • 44 Jane Jenson, Mapping Social Cohesion: The State of Canadian Research (prepared for the Policy Rese (...)

40Jane Jenson argues in her seminal 1998 work, Mapping Social Cohesion, that while some social scientists have said that social inclusion is strongly correlated with participation, others refute this and suggest any participation (regardless of income, class, or race), is sufficient for belongingness. Her proposed research agenda sets out a challenge (still not addressed in any coherent fashion) which asks us if programs that seek to engage individuals in any form of community are as effective as those which also include meaningful and recognized redistribution of economic resources to enable participation.44

  • 45 The Final oecd Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey (2000), xiv.

41As Kymlicka and Norman have identified, faith in the automatically educative function of participation may be overrated. They ask if civil society theorists have demanded too much of voluntary associations by expecting them to be the main school for democratic citizenship. In this, they are partly upheld by the Final oecd Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey, which finds associations between literacy skills and participation in voluntary activities, while minimally statistically significant “seem quite small… compared to the strength of the relationship between literacy skills and initial educational attainment and the labor market.”45 The anomaly is that in regression analysis of the literacy trends, participation in voluntary activities is found to be one of the top four explanatory factors in Canada and Poland among the participating nations—but still a weaker predictor in most other countries around the world.

  • 46 Karl Rosengren, ed., Media Effects and Beyond: Culture, Socialization and Lifestyles (London: Rout (...)
  • 47 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 265.
  • 48 Ibid., 233.

42From the days of Bourdieu, cultural capital has been conceived as primarily transmitted over generations by class and education. Policy analysts subscribing to theories of participatory democracy may value cultural mobility: that is, social movement across the cultural field and the acquisition of new cultural “habitus” or resources, to paraphrase Bourdieu. A central challenge for the Australian researchers was to decide how to look for intergenerational class assimilation—without the luxury of a longitudinal, or rolling periodic, study like the Media Panel Project directed by Karl Rosengren and colleagues in Sweden.46 Like Bourdieu, the Everyday Cultures Project researchers relied heavily on the respondent’s account of his or her parent’s occupation and education to look at upward or downward social mobility. They also relied on questions about where children are sent to school (private or public systems) and how much emphasis their children’s school places on art and musical training as passports to distinction.47 The effects of more formal education, they find, are more pronounced for private patterns of cultural consumption than any other. Second ranked in exclusivity is public culture—museums, libraries, or galleries—and third is subsidized culture. By contrast, public broadcasting proves the most open and accessible of all—even though only thirty-one percent of those with primary education cite ABC as their regular channel.48

  • 49 Ibid., 268.
  • 50 Ibid., 187.

43A common assumption in many participation studies is that ritual differentiations between elite and mass status groups are hypothesized to decline. Tony Bennett and his team’s Accounting for Taste (aft) speculates that we are entering a period of cultural declassification with the advent of a widespread commodification of culture. The chief conceptual difference in cultural capital revolves around scale and diversity: number of activities, and diversity among them, AFT finds that the working classes and especially manual workers have a clear cultural disadvantage, but it stems less from their exclusion from “high” culture than from the relatively more restricted ambit of their cultural practice overall.49 The authors argue that taste cultures of contemporary society have shifted to an urban landscape more adequately contrasted as omnivore and univore.50 An omnivore has the ability to adapt and appropriate meaning from a wide range of cultural pursuits.

44The authors conclude the data suggest there is a “publicness” to public culture, if we use egalitarian tests of participation. Because education serves as a gateway to virtually all forms of cultural participation, the authors conclude that public investment in education of a kind and level capable of offsetting the effects of different social backgrounds is crucial to any government concerned with enhancing the cultural life chances of its citizens. The World Bank’s studies on governance around the world also underline the importance of investment in primary education, for civic development around the world.

  • 51 Henry Milner, Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work (Hanover: Tufts University (...)

45Yet, ironically and perhaps because of the jurisdictional divide between cultural and educational policy in Canada’s constitution, there are few studies of the efficacy of certain “cultural curricula” in and outside of the schools in mediating cultural participation. A new Canadian coalition of arts educators is collaborating with unesco in Canada on the assessment of various educative initiatives. Important new work in political participation is exploring the interaction of political knowledge (defined as both factual information and cognitive capacity) and tendency to vote, or participate in other civic associations51 and finding sharp differences in levels of political knowledge among young and older citizens.

  • 52 Marie McAndrew, “Changes in Canadian Educational Policy and Integration of Young Immigrants,” Hori (...)

46The venue for surveys of cultural participation must shift to the young and to those in school, to understand how cultural capacity is built, and how cultural citizenship formed over time. We urgently need a longitudinal study of children and their acquisition of cultural skills, cultural participation, and citizenship. In a very interesting article, Marie McAndrew explores educational policy in the context of the Metropolis’ project on immigration, integration, and urban dynamics.52 She acknowledges that most provinces are trying to promote a set of broad, common values known today as citizenship education in mandatory curriculum not only as a specific subject, but horizontally as a skill that must be acquired throughout the educational process. Such efforts aim at balancing rights and responsibilities and favour developing civic skills rather than simply acquiring knowledge. In British Columbia, such programs also seek to increase youth volunteerism, which other studies have shown to be perilously low in Canada. The impact such educational policies and programs will have on patterns of cultural participation is open to conjecture. States McAndrew, “it is still difficult to evaluate the type of citizenship education ‘cocktail’ found in various schools.” She identifies a vital need for comparative analyses of educational options and the impact of this trend on diversity in education (still not met, as far as I could find).

  • 53 Environics, “Social Cohesion Survey,”
  • 54 (site now discontinued).

47The final blind spot in the study of equity of access/equality in patterns of cultural participation is the study of immigrants, people of colour, or new minorities. Just one in ten are found to belong to a cultural association, apparently lower than white populations.53 Is race a predictor of lower or higher rates of cultural participation overall? Of more “omnivorous” patterns of consumption or not? There are some hypotheses that there are different modes of participation in different cultural and familial structures, but how do these translate into cultural capital and cultural citizenship and how do they change with length of time in Canada? Statistics Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage have joined forces to try to study these and other questions with their path-breaking Ethnic Diversity Survey. Participation in Canadian society increases with time lived in Canada. But what is the impact on cultural activity? The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants may further deepen these understandings. A study of cultural tourists within Canada finds them, for example, more likely to be new Canadians,54 but these citizens are less likely to travel far distances.

Participation: What Generation?

48While youth or senior studies are still relatively rare across a number of nations, they share a concern about the creeping commercialization of youth media realms (video games, Internet, new specialty youth channels) and their implications for cultivating cultural practices, cultural tastes, and building cultural citizenship.

  • 55 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 217.
  • 56 Kirsten Drotner, “Global Media Through Youthful Eyes,” in Sonia Livingstone and Moira Boivill, eds (...)
  • 57 Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde, and Claude Martin, Starwars: Canadian TV Fiction in The Eurof (...)

49In measuring capacity for cultural identification, the Everyday Cultures Project’s researchers used open-ended questions to identify respondents’ favorite films, television programs, or books. In three major areas of consumption—television, music, and literature—Accounting for Taste finds that younger Australians prefer American programs, musicians, and authors. No other demographic factor accounts for as much overall variation in tastes as age.55 Television showed the highest convergence of tastes to a top thirty list. About half of the television schedules available show imports, and fifty-three percent of the top thirty cited by Australians surveyed are Australian in origin. The rest are mostly from the U.S. or U.K. When age is introduced into the analysis, however, the incidence of preference for American television grows to seventy-seven percent among those eighteen to twenty-five. Because of the gendered pattern of program consumption—sports and factual programs preferred by men are more often indigenous in orientation—it is women who are more likely to select genres and series from the U.S. This is quite different from trends in Europe56 but similar to Canada.57 The authors’ definition of “youth,” however, revolves around the young adult in the making, not the “tween.” Other studies of Internet usage suggest six-to seven-year-old boys are the most international in orientation.

  • 58 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 221.

50The data suggest not only that young Australians inhabit cultural worlds saturated by American materials, but that they are more likely to prefer this material.58 Do such findings play up old cultural industry rhetorical concern about cultural imperialism and cultural assimilation? But it is important that even such “hybridized” global tastes may NOT lead to crude assimilation. Exciting studies of world music as a genre note how rock uses traditional modal structures, but adapts these to different cultural contexts successfully. Such theoretical work is probably better aided by ethnographic studies to probe meaning derived from such patterns of cultural consumption.

51Without longitudinal data the researchers cannot speculate if “global” tastes among youth are a fife cycle phenomenon—conditioned by age or family status—or one in which we may see a trajectory of cultural taste, entailing movement from the active, spectacular, physical, and entertainment-oriented cultural pursuits to the more contemplative, informative, or cerebral. But equally theoretically important, if not touched due to political incorrectness, is the question of cultural decay, that is, decline in cultural standards and taste, and the understanding of the dynamics that may come into play to correct this. Only discourses about renewal and reconciliation in aboriginal cultures make issues of decay, or decomposition of cultural values explicit, and the federal government has leaped into the breach with a number of remedial, if ad hoc programs (such as dedicated aboriginal envelopes in cultural industry spending on television production, for example).

Capacity, Competence, Taste, and Participation

52There is a certain irony in the preponderance of studies of cultural participation which ignore the issue of capacity to participate. What is the nature of cultural competence required to function in our culture today? How is it acquired?

53Provonost has identified a central problem with state-led surveys of cultural participation:

  • 59 Provonost, “Statistics,” citing Olivier Donnat, Les amateurs, enquête sur les activités artistique (...)

There is often an explicit cultural bias in the choice of activities selected in surveys, a bias very often based on community standards (one chooses activities that imply a reference to what is “active” rather than “passive” even if this distinction is, in fact, virtually impossible to make), or on social class choices (why museums and not the contemplation of nature?). Take the example of “amateur practices” again. A recent French survey… refers to a dozen activities linked to the so-called "noble" domain (playing a musical instrument, writing, plastic arts) while the 1997 American survey refers to pottery, embroidery and photography. These choices were not strictly made by chance, but rather in terms of different cultural universes.59

54It is almost tautological, and indeed, predictable, to state cultural participation is related to education across most of these studies. But education as a reported category of analysis is weakly conceived, tested, or understood as a measure compared to cultural literacy in certain conditions, according to Bourdieu or his legion of followers fascinated with the emergence of the avant-garde or what Richard Florida has called the new “bohemians.”

55If this hypothesis is right, the fact that there is a resistance to finding a way to empirically explore the idea of cultural literacy in Canada is lamentable. A central determinant of cultural participation is acquired cultural knowledge, predisposition, and judgment of taste. While mediated by education and class, there is an element of life chance here, which should become central to the analysis. Inspired by Bourdieu’s seminal approach, the Everyday Cultures Project includes a section on cultural judgment across a number of arts and media (how subjects for a photograph may be classified, as clichéd or interesting, and so on), and on cultural knowledge (whether a list of musical works is known, and if the composer of a given work can be named). Like Bourdieu’s survey, the questions probe aesthetic preferences, tastes in music and reading, and political views against their social and class backdrops; indeed, the dynamics of subculture and style.

  • 60 “Canon” here is not intended to retreat to a universalizing, Eurocentric vision of a singular “hig (...)

56How did the authors select the “canon” on which they based their analysis?60 There are two ways to do this. One approach used by historians, relies on a peer jury to identify the certain historical events or political or cultural “facts” a citizen is deemed to “need to know” and benchmark “progress” against that. Canons may be defined as “essential” to citizen literacy, or pleasure derived from the practice for its own sake, as the Eurobarometer survey is careful to identify in its study of reading patterns. Or conversely, researchers can build a factorial quantitative model across a very large array of practices in which to probe awareness, liking, and aversion, or conduct qualitative studies of cultural discourses to explain cultural preferences.

  • 61 As has Olivier Donnat, cited in Provonost, “Statistics,” 70.

57Perhaps the French are furthest along in thinking through these lines, producing a typology of seven canonical universes (of cultural exclusion, destitution, of juveniles, of the average, of the classic cultured, of the modern, of the “in” post-modern) and so forth.61

  • 62 See, e.g., the About Canada series.

58As Canadians continue to attain higher levels of education (climbing to over forty percent of the population aged fifteen and over who have graduated from post secondary institutions), the slow conversion of the “educated” into active cultural citizens is increasingly a problem. There must be an intervening variable of social practice and acquisition of cultural taste. By contrast, monitoring the reach of cultural practices among the one quarter of Canadians who are functionally illiterate is critical to democratic cultural policy. In various arms of the federal government, there are basic civic instructional tools developed62 which may or may not have been peer reviewed as a kind of civics course in culture, but which may provide a framework for testing citizen knowledge—or at least a prod to provinces to develop some kind of harmonized standard about citizen education together with the federal government.

59The final area where there has been descriptive, but not analytic, inquiry into cultural capital is the field of language. Statistics Canada has produced a report describing different cultural orientations in participation among language groups, but has not explored linguistic facility as a door opening wider vistas of culture. Such studies of the role of language as a cultural passport to participation are urgently needed (and while largely positive in French-language literature, lead to negative conclusions in English-language studies).

  • 63 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality, 16.

60The Reggae to Rachmaninoff study in the U.S. identifies a useful set of what they call “participation skills” which exert a very powerful influence over frequency and type of cultural participation. They include awareness of opportunities to participate; knowledge of music, drama, dance, and visual art; understanding of cultural standards, practices, histories, and ideas; interest in and knowledge of other times, cultures, and communities; and knowledge of the range of possible responses to artistic and cultural experiences.63

  • 64 “Every Day Cultures Project,” 3.

61Such focus on competence, literacy, and capacity to manipulate symbolic codes should not overlook the voluntary, acquired, or providentially learned aspect of taste. The Everyday Cultures Project researchers define cultural capital simply as skill in making cultural distinctions,64 or policing the boundaries of taste. To explore some of the dimensions of distaste the researchers develop batteries of more indirect questions such as “Which type of music do you most dislike?” or “Could you indicate in few words what good and bad taste entail?” Patterns of distaste are rarely explored in studies of Canadian cultural participation, yet provide important contextual meaning to the construction of identity, by age, gender, or race. Definitions of cultural competence in the Canadian case urgently need peer review.

Participation and Place

62Bennett, Emmison, and Frow argue that choice between domestic and international media output implies explicit symbolic negotiations between known and unknown narrative repertoires and formal signs, social conventions, and world view.

63Certainly, the Accounting for Tastes study did not conclude that widespread preferences for American popular productions indicate that young Australians are turning into Americans. When asked “which country was the most important in making you the person you are today,” an overwhelming majority of youth between eighteen and twenty-five say “Australia.” Most also agree that a distinctively Australian culture exists, with young people citing a “multicultural heritage” as a more important defining Australian cultural characteristic than their older cohorts, even if they cannot then go on to make the connection to cultural products and their personal consumption.

  • 65 Carol J. Greenhouse and Roshanak Kheshi, eds., Democracy and Ethnography (Albany: State University (...)

64Methodologically, the researchers are vulnerable because the other side of “global village” identification is not posed. How can we theoretically reconcile such seemingly contradictory but concurrent taste and belief systems among young people? Is the thesis of cultural imperialism borne out by the youth data in this study? Or is this “multiculturality” which bridges to the more complex process of intermixing of identities and hybridity today? Accounting for Tastes, despite asking about trends in immigration, personal, and collective identification with ethnic groups, and so on, does not foreground this kind of analysis. Arguably, such work may be better developed in ethnographic venues65 before it can translate into the more standardized forms of questioning and comparison with more “informational or educative” genres and entertainment sources of practical reasoning. Understanding these processes is key to public debates about the changing nature of national and civic identities, and future global cultural institutions.

Changing Modes of Participation

65If analysts have abolished simple dichotomies of “high” or “low,” “elite” and “popular” frameworks for analyzing cultural activities, it is not clear if new models are emerging. A number of American studies have identified that there is a tendency to single-ticket, spontaneous purchase among audiences, and that:

  • 66

Audience research suggests that cultural consumers aren’t very interested in boundaries… but freely graze as cultural omnivores among a range of choices from country music to opera, beadwork to Cezanne, experimental film to the latest dids.66

  • 67 Bennett, Emmison and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 242.

66Bennett, et al., would have us replace this univore/omnivore conception with a new aesthetic category: “documentary” or active and spectacular, versus the contemplative and aesthetic (a kind of McLuhanesque body and mind dichotomy, or conversely, a spectacular and contemplative one). The researchers argue that the more democratic of subsidized cultural forms tend to revolve around documentary cultural forms (museums, festivals, and so on) and attract the widest participation, rather than aesthetic culture (art galleries and operas). Documentary cultural practices offer a greater degree of bodily involvement: walking and seeing and direct experience rather than sitting and listening and spectatorship.67

  • 68 See the “Echo” Project, Ron Wakkary, Marek Hatala, Kenneth Newby, Dale Evernden, Milena Droumeva, (...)

67Teachers are far more involved in these participatory/documentary realms of public culture—generating benefits whose public effects are multiplied as they are relayed, via the classroom, more widely through the public education system. The institutions of such “documentary” public culture then present a stronger case for government support than do those of subsidized culture, where the authors conclude openness may mask social closure. Conversely, Bennett, Emmison, and Frow find the idea of public versus private consumption an important organizing feature. The Chicago Group’s work on formal and informal modes of cultural participation provides another rich continuum, and what is unique about this study is that the informal modes are clearly more important in understanding cultural action and that the “body” or performative, documentary levels of involvement here are equally intertwined. In this area of participatory research, the international museum movement is definitely in the vanguard. A recent pilot project at a museum of natural science used ubiquitous computing instruments to map museum goers in their interaction with an exhibit, and to customize the “navigational” content provided for each user.68 The potential richness of such observational data in the design of exhibitions and the understanding of cultural engagement is mind-boggling, and it is fair to say Canadian policy-makers are on the brink of a quantum leap in the amount of information about cultural participation available—but perhaps advancing in a rear-ward formation when it comes to understanding why it is important or what it means.

  • 69 Lucie Ogrodnik, Patterns in Cultural Consumption and Participation (Cultural Statistics Program of (...)

68Clearly, studies of participation are looking for changes in orientation to cultural activities, and increases and decreases or substitution across types of activities. Principal here is the idea of the emergence of mediated consumption of culture—on line, or by other means. Here Canadian arts researchers have a fairly robust set of data banks. Technology has had a marked impact on use of free time, but still more than half of leisure time is spent on cultural pursuits. But the big news is the drop in participation rates for over half of thirty listed activities.69 Reading, borrowing, music, or festival participation—even museum or art gallery attendance—went down between 1992 and 1998, but zoos, gardens, and nature parks rose, as did visits to historical sites and public art galleries.

  • 70 Ibid.
  • 71 Decima Research and Les Consultants Cultur’inc Inc., Canadian Arts Consumer Profile 1990-91: Findi (...)

69There are sharp regional variations in patterns of participation, and it is only in Quebec where there is a marked preference for the performing arts.70 Spending on cultural goods and services over the period slightly outpaced growth in other household spending (four percent over three percent). Yet not since 1992’s Canadian Arts Consumer Profile has consumption of mediated cultural activities been analyzed for its relationship to supplanting or supporting cultural participation: and here, the relationship may not be negative.71 In other words, depending on the access to the kinds of television available, such pursuits can increase consumption of cultural goods, as we can see from the Quebec precedent. The veracity of this finding sorely needs to be tested, in view of the massive investments in culture-on-line projects, which surely deserve evaluation of their impacts on participation rates.

70Perhaps one of the most interesting ideas to emerge in looking at the changing modes of participation arises out of the Reggae to Rachmaninoff study, and a few other American ones, which note a “local” preference in modes of consumption: a retraction geographically in where one wants to experience a live performance. In this view, the opportunity to experience local social networks is a good predictor of participation, suggesting even major metropolitan organizations should develop touring in their suburbs.

Connecting Policy and Participation

  • 72

71Cultural participation as a policy tool may be said to have arrived when a researcher can find it as one of the key societal indicators used by Canada’s Treasury Board as an indicator of the strength of a community. Treasury Board is unabashed in the liberal-humanist goal that participation should broaden experience, introduce new ideas, and encourage understanding.72 The four main measures they use to “track progress” on community strength are: attendance at heritage institutions, attendance at performing arts, use of reading, and access to technology such as the Internet. The inadequacy of these indicators is obvious. One is also tempted to ask: what happens if there is no change in participation rates? A further retraction of cultural spending? Or conversely, a reward of those whose participation rates are the highest? Such sweeping policy implementations of cultural participation as a benchmark in the study raise Foucauldian nightmares of what may happen in a new Martin/Liberal Party regime.

  • 73 See, for example, the 1992 Arts Consumer Project.

72There are a range of policy initiatives which have undertaken participatory strategies, and it is instructive that the most well-developed and practical seem to stem either from the local level, or from the level of the arts organization. Over the decade since the early studies of cultural participation73 there has been an explosion of practical marketing primers on how to gather intelligence on audiences, build them, and design participation strategies at the micro level, but no breakthrough at the macro level.

73Grassroots initiatives like the Oregon Art Commission’s effort to build community cultural coalitions leading to a successful cultural trust being established by the State Legislature begin by asking: what do citizens want the cultural life in the community to be? They then ask how best to realize this vision, and how to remove barriers to cultural expression. If explicit goals are set to increase participation (for example, among at risk youth) then the policy planners must conceptualize how various quantitative indicators (spending on programs for youth at risk) and qualitative indicators (youth perception of quality of cultural life, satisfaction with programs) may be employed to benchmark progress.

74From a planning perspective at the organizational level, cultural decision-makers have identified that they are faced with three main ways they want participation to change. They may want to broaden participation, to deepen it (by serving fewer but in a more frequent or intense manner), or to diversify participation—that is, draw in new audiences (for example, as in the case of the Harlem Nutcracker cited by Moore). It is instructive that this sort of Harvard Business School case analysis is of course American. Unasked is how should cultural participation improve? Why would Harlem have to meet the Nutcracker, anyway? What are the ethical and democratic objectives?

75Cynics may question why policy-driven studies of participation (Accounting for Taste, the Canadian Arts Consumer Profile) often legitimate a broad ambit of popular participation in the arts and heritage and in the services of the cultural industries, but may also rationalize a contraction in state cultural spending in neo-liberal times. Why? In the Australian case only professionals or those who have completed a tertiary level of education favour public subsidy for “the arts.” Manual workers and those with primary education are less likely to support state funding (and less likely to use state-funded cultural activity). Nonetheless, fractions of Australians with less formal education do indeed participate in forms of public culture, and the possibility of converting these “light users” of public culture to supporters of public arts policy is rarely explored in participation studies.

  • 74 Bennett, Matarasso, Jeannotte, and others.

76Despite the empirical proof that cultural activity, or participation in cultural associations may not lead to “affirmative cultural citizenship.” there are sufficient grounds74 to conclude that cultural participation is a basic building block for cultural citizenship but not a synonym for it. The critical need is to understand the tools citizens need to have before we can say they have the capacity to participate, to recognize that not all participation is equal, and that participation and place is increasingly important in its construction.

77However helpful early efforts may be in thinking through patterns of cultural mobilization analogous to democratic or political participation, the defect is of course that there is not the same summit: what would be the cultural equivalent of the exercise of the democratic franchise in our current representative system during elections, equal, free, and informed? Or how may citizens’ assemblies or alternative direct democracies provide the ground for cultural “votes?” Or can we conceptualize of such a value summit, such a democratic rendezvous over cultural governance?

  • 75 cfm, April 2004.

78Perhaps it is because I am writing from British Columbia, where the first national experiment with a citizen’s assembly is underway, that this idea of creating a model to understand and evaluate cultural citizenship has become quite important. In fact, many of the local grassroots coalition approaches to building cultural participation, presuppose the creation of such citizens coalitions or assemblies (for example in Oregon) but do not reason through either the representative function, the deliberative one, or the accountability one. Yet we know that there are important issues for citizens’ juries to evaluate. They routinely rule on matters of community standards of taste, or offensive content in certain of the cultural industries, or oppose censorship of certain books on school boards or conversely, serve on municipal councils as advisory arts committees, or other sorts of “deliberative” bodies making planning decisions which effect cultural outputs. They may even be asked to advise on intractable issues such as hate and intercultural conflict in the implementation of the dark side of the new national security policy.75

79Yet we know little about this process of cultural judgment making, or conversely, what contributes to the predisposition to cultural action, and direct participation in “votes” with collective consequences. In some Utopian views, cultural citizens even, some day, may participate in the International Criminal Court where crimes such as cultural genocide may routinely be tried—with fundamental social consequence for all nations. Or conversely, social justice agendas may bridge from social to natural worlds, enjoining the problems of cultural sustainability to environmental sustainability. Certainly there is something in the Nordic model of cultural participation which routinely functions as democratic and political reinforcement of everyday life, but it is notably poignant that few scholars or practitioners yet can identify it. Yet researchers must address these and other gaps in order to understand how cultural governance contributes to creative and sustainable communities in all their complexity.


80As this chapter has argued, there may be more heat than light in policy talk about the concept of cultural participation. There most certainly remains a disconnection between cultural participation research and cultural policy. We are as yet not clear on what policy interventions most profitably increase the quantity and quality of cultural participation. Part of the problem is the lack of consensus over a cultural capital, cultural diversity, or cultural rights based approach to cultural policy frameworks (or perhaps an even better alternative?) which imply very different goals in cultural participation measurement.

  • 76 It is premature to argue that “best practices” have been reached.

81For practitioners, there are signs of faint hope. There have been a number of exciting cases of “better practice”76 studies in measuring cultural participation, from the international Everyday Cultures Project, to the Work sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, to Canada’s very own Ethnic Diversity Survey underway. Yet many of the studies are cross-sectional, ad hoc efforts to “map” cultural participation, without modelling it. Where models are developed (for example, in From Reggae to Rachmaninoff) they seem crudely borrowed from behaviorist American political science. The studies are not conducted over time, they do not conceive of cultural capital, and they rarely address issues defining cultural competence, cultural mobility, or its collective benefits. They are certainly not grounded in a theory of cultural citizenship. A new consortium of practitioners, theorists, and policy-makers is needed to design research and develop the concept of cultural participation as a basic building block of cultural citizenship, an indicator in policy evaluation, and to better connect policy to participation. This chapter argues that a research agenda on cultural participation must include the following:

  1. A deepening of Gilles Provonost’s “meta analysis” of cultural participation studies in Quebec and across Canada which reviews principal contributions using a wide array of methods, and in particular, addresses the critical exploration of what Provonost calls the “cause and effect link” between intervention by public authorities and popular participation.
  2. The design of a longitudinal cultural participation study which identifies the capacity to participate, the predictors of participation, and the evaluations of the personal, social, and future cultural participation based on the Everyday Cultures Project model conceived of by Tony Bennett, John Frow, and Michael Emmison conducted in Australia.
  3. A focus on educational and cultural policy intersections: what citizenship/curricula best advance cultural awareness, knowledge, capacity, and participation?
  4. A generation agenda: why do successive studies show different patterns of cultural participation and openness to multiculturalism by age? What implications does this have for citizenship, cultural participation, and social change?
  5. A more critical political agenda: what forms of cultural association/participation lead to “pro social” political attitudes, mobilization on cultural issues and exercise of the democratic cultural franchise for collective cultural governance?
  • 77 Provonost, “Statistics.”

82Perhaps the biggest challenge facing such a consortium is simply to prove that research in cultural participation matters and can be effectively linked to cultural policy studies. However important the theoretical interventions of the Everyday Cultures Project and a myriad of others on cultural participation, they raise more questions than they answer. Gilles Provonost is not alone when he states that the “cause and effect link” between intervention by public authorities and popular participation is not established.77

  • 78 Other helpful sources include Benjamin Barber, “How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong,” i (...)

83Does that mean policy makers can afford to ignore cultural participation in their bid to “get on with it?” Not likely. But it does place a high priority on co-ordinating efforts to design, develop, and evaluate cultural participation studies in this country and around the globe. The worst thing in the world is to have the audience all in their seats, but cultural policy-makers without a clue why they are there, or what the performance should be about.78


1 For a fuller review of cultural research methods, see Kim Schroder, Kirsten Drotner, Stephen Kline, and Catherine Murray, Researching Audience (London: Arnold, 2002).

2 Dr. Mark Schuster argued in favour of a narrower definition at the unesco International Statistics Conference held in Montreal in October 2002, but acknowledged the populist thrust to broaden definitions as a popular force will not abate.

3 How do we define culture? In Canada, we exclude sport and nature activities from the definition of participation. This has gender effects, but it also flattens understanding of the interaction of participation and its flow through these parts of everyday meaning. The Eurobarometer study (a face-to-face survey of 16,000 Europeans conducted in 2001) includes sports and natural recreation activities in their definitions of cultural activities to yield a participation rate. Among Canadian policymakers, the holy trinity of heritage, arts, and cultural industries still raises hot infighting about appropriate definitions, languages, and values (with heritage often the poor sister).


5 Gilles Provonost, “Statistics in the Wake of Challenges Posed by Cultural Diversity in a Global Context: a Review of Surveys on Cultural Participation” (2002), 3.

6 Colin Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship: Took for Cultural Policy and Development (Stockholm: Gidlunds Forag, 2002), 5.

7 Michael Moore, Rethinking Participation: A Framework for Change (New York: Wallace Foundation, 2003).

8 Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship, 7.

9 Amareswar Galla, “Culture in Development: Subaltern Perspectives” (paper presented to the Stockholm + 5 Conference, Swedish National Commission for unesco, Stockholm, May, 4, 2003), 4, cited in Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship, 9-11.

10 Henry Milner, Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work (Hanover, NE: Tufts, 2002), 16.

11 Simon Szreter, “A New Political Economy: The Importance of Social Capital,” in Anthony Giddens, ed., The Global Third Way Debate (London: Polity Press, 2001), 290-99.

12 Sharon Jeannotte, “Just Showing Up: Social and Cultural Capital in Everyday Life,” chap. 9 in this volume.

13 Jane Badets, Jennifer Chard and Andrea Levett, “Ethnic Diversity Survey: Portrait of a Multicultural Society” (study prepared for Statistics Canada, 2002, catalogue number 89-593-XIE), available at

14 Milner, Civic Literacy.

15 There is a certain tautology to Putnam’s theory, however, as Milner argues. If the main attributes of social capital (associational density and interpersonal trust) also explain how social capital comes to be built up and depleted, then attribution of causality is difficult. Rather than the abstract term social capital, Milner argues the better term is civic engagement. Milner, Civic Literacy, 18.

16 Russell J. Dalton, Citizen Politics (New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2002), 45.

17 Francois Matarasso, Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts (London: Comedia, 1997), cited in Jeannotte, “Just Showing Up.”

18 Ibid.

19 Dick Stanley, “The Three Faces of Culture: Why Culture is a Strategic Good Requiring Government Policy Attention,” chap. 2 in this volume.

20 Environics, Social Cohesion Survey (2001),

21 A single cross-sectional survey of 2756 adults published in 1999, the Everyday Cultures Project is now underway in Britain, and is being considered in a number of other countries. Innovative for its blending of statistical agency and academic interests, the project is a useful exemplar for Canadian policy-makers.

22 Tony Bennett, Michael Emmison, and John Frow, Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 268.

23 Alaka Wali et al., “Informal Arts: Finding Cohesion, Capacity, and Other Cultural Benefits” (study conducted for the Chicago Center for Arts, June 2002),

24 Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady, Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), fn. 9.

25 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).

26 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 10.

27 Ibid., 8.


29 Mercer, Towards Cultural Citizenship.

30 The problem is the following: is the debate over cultural capital replaying the debate over education of the 1950s? Mass education is intended to contribute to middle class mobility, and ratchet up the gifted from the poorer classes, but has, in many regimes, failed miserably given the contraction of state spending.

31 Tony Bennett, “Transversal Study of the Theme of Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity” (paper prepared for the Council of Europe’s Study on Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity, February 2000), 62-63.

32 Badets, Chard and Levett, “Ethnic Diversity Survey,” 589-93.

33 Greg Baeker, Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity in Canada (prepared for the Council of Europe Study on Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity, 2000), citing Tator and Henry on democratic racism.

34 Nan Weiner, Making Diversity Work (Toronto: Carswell, 1997), 35.

35 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (USA: Basic Books, 2002).

36 Such a “global” class fraction is not new: it stems from early studies by Armand Mattelart, Manuel Castells, and Saskia Sassen.

37 Smart Cunningham et al., “From ‘Culture’ to ‘Knowledge’: An Innovation Systems Approach to the Content Industries,” chap. 8 in this volume.

38 David Held, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996).

39 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, Article 1.

40 Ibid., Preamble.

41 Catherine Murray, “The Third Sector: Cultural Diversity and Civil Society,” in Nancy Duxbury, ed., “Making Connections: Culture and Social Cohesion in the New Millenium,” Canadian Journal of Communication 27, no. 2 (special issue) (2002): 331-50, citing unesco.

42 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality.

43 Dalton, 33.

44 Jane Jenson, Mapping Social Cohesion: The State of Canadian Research (prepared for the Policy Research Network, Ottawa, 1998), 30.

45 The Final oecd Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey (2000), xiv.

46 Karl Rosengren, ed., Media Effects and Beyond: Culture, Socialization and Lifestyles (London: Routledge, 1994).

47 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 265.

48 Ibid., 233.

49 Ibid., 268.

50 Ibid., 187.

51 Henry Milner, Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work (Hanover: Tufts University Press, 2002).

52 Marie McAndrew, “Changes in Canadian Educational Policy and Integration of Young Immigrants,” Horizons 5, no. 2 (2002): 6-9.

53 Environics, “Social Cohesion Survey,”

54 (site now discontinued).

55 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 217.

56 Kirsten Drotner, “Global Media Through Youthful Eyes,” in Sonia Livingstone and Moira Boivill, eds., Children and their Changing Media Environment (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001), 289.

57 Catherine Murray, Roger de la Garde, and Claude Martin, Starwars: Canadian TV Fiction in The Eurofiction 2000 Report (Florence: Council of Europe, 2001).

58 Bennett, Emmison, and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 221.

59 Provonost, “Statistics,” citing Olivier Donnat, Les amateurs, enquête sur les activités artistiques des Français (Paris: ministère de la Culture, 1996).

60 “Canon” here is not intended to retreat to a universalizing, Eurocentric vision of a singular “high art” place of appreciation. Canon may be much more complex. But it refers to a “body of knowledge” or “cultural facility in interpretation” which is crucial to the study of cultural participation.

61 As has Olivier Donnat, cited in Provonost, “Statistics,” 70.

62 See, e.g., the About Canada series.

63 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality, 16.

64 “Every Day Cultures Project,” 3.

65 Carol J. Greenhouse and Roshanak Kheshi, eds., Democracy and Ethnography (Albany: State University of New York, 1998).


67 Bennett, Emmison and Frow, Accounting for Taste, 242.

68 See the “Echo” Project, Ron Wakkary, Marek Hatala, Kenneth Newby, Dale Evernden, Milena Droumeva, Interactive Audio Content: An Approach to Audio Content for a Dynamic Museum Experience Through Augmented Audio Reality and Adaptive Information Retrieval (paper prepared for Museums and the Web 2004),

69 Lucie Ogrodnik, Patterns in Cultural Consumption and Participation (Cultural Statistics Program of Statistics Canada, December, 2000).

70 Ibid.

71 Decima Research and Les Consultants Cultur’inc Inc., Canadian Arts Consumer Profile 1990-91: Findings (May 1992).


73 See, for example, the 1992 Arts Consumer Project.

74 Bennett, Matarasso, Jeannotte, and others.

75 cfm, April 2004.

76 It is premature to argue that “best practices” have been reached.

77 Provonost, “Statistics.”

78 Other helpful sources include Benjamin Barber, “How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong,” in The Global Third Way Debate, Anthony Giddcns, ed., (London: Polity Press, 2001); Bill Bulick et al., Cultural Development in Creative Cities (prepared for Americans for the Arts, available at, October 13, 2004); Diana Crane, “Cultural Globalization from the Perspective of the Sociology of Culture” (prepared for the UNESCO International Statistics Conference, Montreal, October 2002); Mark A. Hager and Mary Kopczynski, “The Value of the Performing Arts in Five Communities: A Comparison of 2002 Household Survey Data for the Greater Metropolitan Areas of Austin, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sarasota, and Washington, DC” (prepared January 31, 2004), available at; Jane Jenson, “Place Sensitive Citizenship: The Canadian Citizenship Regime until 1945,” in Dirk Hoerder et al., The Historical Practice of Diversity (New York: Berghahn Books, 2003), 221-39; Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman, “Return of the Citizen: A Survey of Recent Work on Citizenship Theory,” in Ronald Beiner, ed., Theorizing Citizenship (NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), 283-315; Catherine Murray, The BC Arts Consumer Profile (prepared for the British Columbia Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Cultural Services Branch, 1994); Simon Szreter, “A New Political Economy: the Importance of Social Capital,” in Anthony Giddens, ed., The Global Third Way Debate (London: Polity Press, 2001), 290-99; Statistics Canada, “Profile of Languages in Canada: English, French and Many Others” (2001 Census), available at 01/Products/Analytic/companion/lang/contents.cfm. The following Web sites may be helpful:;;’culturaldev.pdf;;;


Associate professor of communication at Simon Fraser University. She is currently a member of the National Action Research Roundtable on Managing Communications and Public Involvement, the Board of Governors for sfu and on the Board of bc Film. She edited the inaugural conference proceedings of the ccrn and co-authored Researching Audiences (2003). She is a frequent public commentator on media and cultural issues

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