Cultural statistics in the digital age

The transition to digital methods of creating, producing and disseminating cultural works has radically changed the conditions surrounding their statistical measurement, calling into question the relevance of current statistics on culture.

In this context, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Observatoire de la culture et des communications of the Institut de la statistique du Québec partnered to organize the International Symposium on the Measurement of Digital Cultural Products that took place at HEC-Montréal from 9-11 May 2016.

Measuring culture: An increasingly difficult task

The symposium brought together statistical experts and researchers in other fields, such as electronic commerce or copyright, from around the world, to examine the issues, methods, practices and innovations related to the production of statistics on digital cultural products.

The digital revolution has dramatically altered business models in the music and audiovisual industries. Movies can now be watched on mobile devices. Music and television are delivered as streaming services.

Many statistics are based on a count of physical goods, such as the number of records or books sold. However, these statistics hardly reflect digital consumption.

How can we enhance cultural indicators, which are based on information collected at the national level from institutions and individuals, using big data on the online flow of digital cultural goods and services?

This aspect of statistical production is key to updating cultural policies and compensating creators and other rights holders. Public institutions, including official statistical agencies, are being challenged to innovate.

Challenges linked to the diversity of cultural expressions on the Internet

In terms of diversity of cultural expressions, the share of national cultural products, both on the domestic and the global market, has long been a cause for concern. In the absence of complete and reliable data on their production and consumption, how can we assess the situation of national cultural products in their own markets and at the international level?

Re|Shaping Cultural Policies

As part of the international symposium, and in collaboration with the government of Québec and several partners, we launched UNESCO’s first Global Report to monitor the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, entitled RE|Shaping Cultural Policies: A Decade Promoting the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for Development.

For the occasion, Ms. Danielle Cliche, Secretary of the 2005 UNESCO Convention and Chief of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions Section, presented the highlights of the report.

The report underscores the importance of taking into account the digital environment when implementing the Convention. A chapter of the report focuses on the challenges of the digital age for creators and users of cultural products. The UIS contributed a chapter analysing international trade data from various sources.