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Creative Placemaking Lab looking into ways to harness data in arts and culture

As digital platforms capture more and more data  about our behaviour, there is a lack of information available on the trends in cultural activity and how people actually engage with arts and culture in real-time. The Creative Placemaking Lab is looking to find ways to harness this information and support decision-making by cultural leaders and service providers that leads to greater engagement with arts and culture.

Across Toronto and globally, there is a lack of coordinated data about arts and cultural infrastructure and events.

The information that does exist often succeeds in identifying traditional institutions or large-scale activities (i.e. museums, art galleries and public art), but fails to capture the full breadth, depth and dynamism of the arts and culture activities that increasingly are taking place outside of these spaces. Furthermore, as Toronto becomes increasingly dense beyond the downtown core and more diverse, it is critical that citizens can access arts and culture in their own neighbourhoods and that the format and content reflect local community interests and needs.

As a first step, The Creative Placemaking Lab is looking for funding and expertise to help develop a tool that uses data from publicly available sources and social media to map Toronto’s cultural landscape.

This tool would provide a visual, dynamic map of the cultural infrastructure and events and provide insight into how and where people access cultural activities.

We’re looking to investigate critical questions, such as:

  • Where do ‘small c’ cultural events happen throughout the city (i.e. the ones not captured through conventional institutions)?
  • How do these events differ in type, size and demographic from neighbourhood to neighbourhood?
  • Who attends cultural events, and where are they coming from?
  • How do centres of cultural activity migrate throughout the city over time, and what causes these migrations (e.g. policy, development, transit, etc.)?
  • What relationship does cultural activity have with public or local sentiment toward a particular neighbourhood?
  • How does the level of cultural activity correlate with other important dimensions of community life such as crime & safety, transit, affordability, civic participation, public investment, demographics, etc.?

We believe that access to this type of information would enable policymakers, arts organizations and artists themselves to make better, more targeted, data-based decisions about policy, programming, facilities and audience outreach. As we work towards a prototype for mapping Toronto, we certainly foresee opportunities for it to be adapted for use elsewhere.

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