More reading please, we're Ontarian
As mentioned in an earlier post, my employer, the Ontario Arts Council, recently commissioned a study on arts engagement in this extremely artistically-active province. The full report on the study can be found on the OAC website at this link, and I will be pulling out bits and pieces of the data as they catch my eye, to discuss them here.
I've already noted how well reading in general fared in the survey both in overall participation and frequency. It also does extremely well in terms of salience, which is the survey analyst's term for the relative importance placed on the activity by those participating in it. In fact, page 31 of the report notes:
"Reading in general exhibits the highest frequency and salience index scores overall."In Ontario at least, it would appear that people gravitate to reading as their most-favoured form of arts engagement. It warms the heart of an old Literature Officer, it does.
Somewhat less engaging for Ontarians, it seems, is the artistic practice of writing. In fact, reading and writing present almost inverse numbers on the various engagement measures. So, while only 6% of respondents indicated they never read generally in newspaper or magazines, fully 95% say they never take writing lessons. While only 12% indicate they never read paperback or hardcover books for enjoyment, 83% say they never write fiction, short stories or poetry. By comparison, practices like music and visual arts show greater engagement in the actual doing of the art.
Hello? Remixers? Anybody out there?
Something else that jumps out at me across the disciplines is the engagement with art through technology, specifically online. Despite all the industry buzz around e-books, the OAC study shows only 26% of respondents indicating any frequency in enjoying their reading electronically. Compare that to the 56% of respondents who indicate frequency in listening to music online and the 54% who like to download and organize their music into playlists. And even with music showing higher digital engagement than books (which is to be expected, I think), it still surprises me to see only roughly half the respondents accessing music online. It seems new technology's grasp on cultural enjoyment is not as all-pervasive as we might be tempted to believe.
Which leads me to the result that really has me shaking my head. Page 36 of the report shows a brief analysis of the frequency of other online activities. Here are the results:
46% of respondents indicated they use the Internet to view art online, such as paintings, sculpture or photography;I think I've been involved in the copyright reform discussion for too long, because that last statistic is a shocker to me. So much of the reform debate revolves around a commonly-held belief that technology has changed everything about how we appreciate and make art, and that a sharing, mashing-up and remixing culture is the new normal. Canada's new Copyright Modernization Bill (C-11), currently going before committee in Parliament, even contains a controversial User Generated Content amendment that promises to protect the public's right to take things we find online (like songs, text, film or images) and remix them into our own artistic creations.
16% of respondents indicated they share something online that they created themselves such as music, artwork, or stories, and;
only 12% of respondents indicated they take things they find online, like songs, text or images, and remix them into their own artistic creation.
Opponents of the UGC exception point out that it represents a dramatic appropriation of intellectual property rights from original creators, and they wonder why it's necessary when common practice has always permitted generous "remixing" of content without a special exception. With only 12% of the population indicating any frequency at all in this practice (half of that being only once a year), do we really need a whole new exception. Is digital remix culture more flash than reality?*
* I have edited this last paragraph after discussion with one of my commenters. If digital remixing is the child of traditional reference, commentary and homage (and I believe it is) then our common practice of permitting these "uses" despite copyright protection should be enough, and dramatic new exceptions with potentially undesirable consequences for rightsholders are unnecessary.