The Pew Internet Project Reports on Digital Technologies and the Arts in America

Screenshot from New Paradise Laboratories’ Center-funded online project, FRAME, which uses guest curators to generate fresh content for the site daily.

In December 2012, the Center welcomed Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, who introduced the findings of a new report, “Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies.” The report gathered survey responses from nearly 1,250 visual arts, music, dance, theater, literature, photography, and media arts organizations. Each answered questions about a variety of issues, including what social media platforms the organization uses, how often, and to what effect; the challenges that come with new technology and how they are overcome; and new opportunities for engagement and dissemination of work that have arisen due to the prevalence of these platforms.

Out of the organizations surveyed, 99 percent have a website and 97 percent utilize social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or another platform to bolster their Web presence. While the use of these social media platforms provides new outlets for disseminating programming and encourages greater participation, the rising trend has its complications, as many organizations now face the challenge of adapting to these new formats, in both organizational and financial capacities. Some organizations entrenched in tradition have difficulty embracing new platforms, with 20 percent reporting they do not welcome these tools at all.

However, for those that do embrace social media and other technologies, the usage is reported to be beneficial for an organization’s work and mission. The report cites a number of innovative ways in which organizations utilize these platforms. One organization defined itself as “100% virtual,” with all employees telecommuting from home, while another used an online, password-protected platform for board members to exchange documents and messages. Others use social media to increase the participatory nature of their output, inviting guest bloggers or social media curators, or providing audiences with free Google Hangouts for training and lectures. In addition, 52% of the organizations surveyed have used social media as a crowd-sourcing tool.

The cultural institutions that have embraced new technologies have done so with the overall goals of increased transparency and greater feedback from audiences in regards to programming and art-making processes. The majority of the arts organizations in the survey agreed that social media platforms have not only made art more accessible, but also more participatory, and audiences more diverse. While this is an early study and the learning and adoption curves are beginning to flatten out, innovation on the Web and social media is bound to increase as more organizations embrace these tools and discover new ways to utilize them.

To read the full report, visit the Pew Internet & American Life Project website.

Download the Summary of Findings (PDF) >

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