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Comparing the value of different types of culture: a study focusing on the perceptions of the Derbyshire public and managers within the Derbyshire cultural sector

Simmons, Martin (2015) Comparing the value of different types of culture: a study focusing on the perceptions of the Derbyshire public and managers within the Derbyshire cultural sector. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Background: The PhD was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award and involved working with Derbyshire County Council to investigate the perceived value of culture in Derbyshire, and to explore the wider debate on the value of culture in the literature. Although often mentioned, the use of the term ‘intrinsic value’ in the literature on the value of culture is inconsistent, and further research could help clarify its most suitable meaning for culture. One current meaning proposed that is worth exploring further is that it relates to the emotions involved with culture. Instrumental value is usually considered to mean social and/or economic forms of value; these are often considered ancillary to culture, although this is itself contentious. 'Instrumentalism' refers to a focus on instrumental forms of value but also to the evaluation of culture and accountability for funding. There is much criticism of perceived excessive instrumentalism in the literature, but there is a lack of research that collects people’s views on the issues. Although still not part of mainstream thinking on the value of culture, several studies have reported results indicating that the ‘non-use value’ of culture might presently be being undervalued when assessing the total value of culture. There are several studies looking at how people perceive the value of culture, but there are no such studies that compare perceptions across several types of culture within the same study and across the same themes – an approach that would allow similarities and differences between types to be observed. There is also a scarcity of culture research that involves both a public and a manager sample. And there are no such studies that involve a manager sample taken from a diverse range of types of culture. Aim: To increase understanding of how people in Derbyshire perceive the value of culture and how these perceptions compare across different types of culture. In order to do this, the PhD focused on three main value concepts: intrinsic value, instrumental value and non-use value. Methods: A mixed methods approach was adopted, considered the most suitable to answer the research questions primarily because the complementarity of methods could give a fuller picture than one alone, the weaknesses of each method could be offset by each other, and the qualitative results could be used for illustration of the quantitative results and for instrument development (Bryman, 2012). This was coupled with a paradigm of pragmatism. The design of the research was a “partially mixed sequential dominant status design” (Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2007, p. 270), with the qualitative side being the dominant. There were three stages of data collection: the first stage was with managers from the Derbyshire cultural sector and involved three focus groups (n=26) and a qualitative questionnaire; the second stage involved five focus groups with the Derbyshire public (n=34); the third stage involved a quantitative online questionnaire with the Derbyshire public (n=181). Because of very large differences between them, and because of sampling bias towards users, user and non-user results for the public online questionnaire were separated at the analysis stage, with the emphasis thereafter being on users. The data collection focused on five types of culture that are of significance for Derbyshire: public libraries, museums, arts festivals, stately homes and Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Results: Because of ambiguity and inconsistent use, ‘intrinsic value’ is not a suitable term to be used in relation to culture and should ideally be replaced by ‘emotional value’, with emotions considered broadly personal or collective emotions. Certain emotions were rated prominently and consistently in the public online questionnaire for participants’ emotional associations with each type of culture – enjoyment in particular, but also relaxation and inspiration; other emotions were more variable, such as excitement and pride. For the public’s perceived contribution of the types of culture towards social-instrumental value, education/learning was the most consistently highly rated. Community pride and community identity were also prominent across the five types of culture. Physical health was rated low across all types. There were some interesting differences between the public’s perceived social-instrumental value of the five types, usually highlighted by prominence in both the public online questionnaire and public focus group results: libraries rated very highly for social inclusion, for instance; libraries and arts festivals for bringing people together; stately homes for Derbyshire prestige; and libraries and museums for education/learning. Stately homes were perceived to have the highest economic value and role, libraries the lowest. There was more manager acceptance of instrumentalism than expected based on the literature review. But there were still many manager criticisms of the extent and nature of evaluation. All forms of non-use value were considered applicable for each type of culture by almost all participants, both public and manager, but there was some manager criticism of the lack of financial contribution that non-use value makes towards maintaining the existence of culture. There were more differences than similarities between the manager and public focus group results. As would be expected because it is part of their jobs, evaluation of culture was the most obvious difference, the most mentioned theme for managers but not mentioned at all for the public. Other differences were unexpected with no apparent explanation, such as the public mentioning the value of libraries and museums for education/learning far more than managers did, and mentioning far more the value of stately homes for the economy. Nonetheless, managers consider their type of culture to have non-use value, and the public online questionnaire results showed that almost all of the public agree. Conclusions: The comparative methodology proved successful in showing relative results between types of culture, as well as having the potential for each type’s results to be analysed in isolation. Important to note is that taken in isolation, each type was overall rated very positively. Several similarities across the types of culture for perceived emotional value, instrumental value and non-use value, indicate that some perceptions of value could be common to several types of culture beyond the five covered here; a similar methodology could be used to investigate this. Lack of perceived value is not always a criticism because not all types of culture will be intending to create that value; and the public did not see every value as part of the role of every type, for example libraries and the economy. Collaboration with Derbyshire County Council enhanced the research process and arguably the quality of the findings. There were several benefits for the Council, such as showing how public perceptions of the value of culture compare to the Council’s and other stakeholders’ intended impact on the public, and indicating why the public might use/visit one type of culture rather than another. The results are a starting point for further research in several areas, such as on the link between culture, emotions and wellbeing, and on Derbyshire arts festivals and social capital.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Information School (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.686479
Depositing User: Dr Martin Simmons
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 08:34
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 13:12
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12596

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