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What Matters?

Talking Value in Australian Culture

Julian Meyrick, Robert Phiddian and Tully Barnett

$24.95

Too often, cultural leaders and policy makers want to chase the perfect metric for activities whose real worth lies in our own personal experience. The major problem facing Australian culture today is demonstrating its value – to governments, the business sector, and the public in general.

When did culture become a number? When did the books, paintings, poems, plays, songs, films, games, art installations, clothes, and the objects that fill our daily lives become a matter of statistical measurement? When did experience become data?

This book intervenes in an important debate about the public value of culture that has become stranded between the hard heads (where the arts are just another industry) and the soft hearts (for whom they are too precious to bear dispassionate analysis).

It argues that our concept of value has been distorted and dismembered by political forces and methodological confusions, and this has a dire effect on the way we assess culture.  Proceeding via concrete examples, it explores the major tensions in contemporary evaluation strategies, and puts forward practical solutions to the current metric madness. 

The time is ripe to find a better way to value our culture – by finding a better way to talk about it.

About the Authors

Julian Meyrick is a theatre director, historian and cultural policy analyst.  He was Associate Director and Literary Adviser at Melbourne Theatre Company, 2002-07, where he established the new play development program, Hard Lines.  Currently, he is Strategic Professor of Creative Arts at Flinders University, Artistic Counsel of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, and a member of both Currency House editorial committee and Council of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Board. He has directed more than forty award-winning theatre productions, and has written for the Conversation, Daily Review, InDaily, the Monthly and the Sydney Review of Books.  His latest book Australian Theatre after the New Wave was published by Brill last year.  

Dr Tully Barnett is a Lecturer in English at Flinders University, and Research Fellow with the ARC Linkage project Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture. She has ‘stuck with the trouble’ on digital humanities since multi-path novels on CD were a cool thing and publishes across cultural policy, digital humanities, and reading as a practice. She is the co-author of “Counting culture to death: an Australian perspective on culture counts and quality metrics” (2017) . She serves on the boards of the Australasian Association of Digital Humanities and the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Robert Phiddian is a professor of English at Flinders University. His particular interest is political satire, from Jonathan Swift to John Clarke, and his words appear in media from academic journals and university presses to Australian Book Review, the Conversation and radio. He was the founding director of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres, and has been involved with the Adelaide Festival of Ideas since the event’s inception in 1999, thrice chair of the programming committee.