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Helping cultural creators take control of their data

Logo for Data Echo Culture Project

This past year has shown us that artists and creators have an opportunity to expand their reach in entirely new ways, but also that there are challenges in finding the right audiences.

The global pandemic has changed the way we experience art and culture, and has pushed the cultural sector to rethink many aspects of how it thrives. And OCAD University is helping to chart this course with the launch of a new initiative this April.

Data Echo Culture is an ongoing research project that will spur Canadian and international cultural makers to use data analytics to better understand and build audiences.

The project will convene an impressive coalition of artists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and arts and cultural organizations online from April 27 to 29 to share their creative experiences, discover innovative strategies, learn international best practices, and find ways to close the data gap in the cultural sector.

Data Echo Culture was co-created by OCAD U and Montreal’s Synapse C with Yulism, Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles, and the UK’s The Audience Agency.

“Data are collected constantly but are only valuable if analyzed, interpreted and applied. Rather than be fearful of data, the cultural sector can use data for transformative and equitable purposes,” says OCAD's President Emerita and project lead, Dr. Sara Diamond. “Now, more than ever, we appreciate the importance of understanding audiences, finding audiences, and supporting audiences with our cultural output, and Data Echo Culture is a step forward.”

Global social media and entertainment brands have embraced data and algorithms as tools to become experts in discoverability with mass market content, but also with micro-targeting, allowing them to serve niche audiences with specific content.

This same model can be used by everyone from individual artists to large cultural institutions and non-profits, and in a time where audiences are global and shared, there’s a huge opportunity to reach new audiences.

OCAD U, for example, is committed to building the capacity of BIPOC creators to reach the right audiences, and knowledge and learning around data is one key way to do that.

When asked about the opportunity lost if Canadian culture makers don’t embrace data collection and analysis, Dr. Diamond said: “If we do not engage with data, we will not move our content in a world where data driven tools are behind the access to content.”

Data is an emerging aspect of the arts, and though there has been progress made in Quebec, and some projects helping cultural organizations harness their data, Data Echo Culture is the first project of its kind that will gather this wide a coalition together to learn, collaborate, and set our cultural sector on a stronger path to success.  

April 27-29: Gathering around data in the cultural sector

Data Echo Culture is a free, bilingual event, and will feature conversation, debates, presentations, and activities designed for experts in the data world, and for cultural players who are relatively new to the idea of data collection and analysis. There’s a strong focus on equity in data, and many of the participants will be approaching their contributions through that lens, including leaders from the OCAD U community.

Registration for Data Echo Culture is open now