The “problem” of participation in cultural policy
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Stevenson, D. (2019) The “problem” of participation in cultural policy. In: Eriksson, B., Stage, C. & Valtysson, B. (eds.) Cultures of Participation: Arts, Digital Media & Cultural Institutions (Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies). London: Routledge, (In Press).
The need to increase recorded rates of cultural participation has become a recurring trope within cultural policy discourse. Internationally governments have commissioned research to measure who takes part in different cultural activities and developed policy initiatives to address perceived failings (see UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012 on international approaches). Commonly this assumes that the cultural offer is beyond reproach, but it is the participant who must change in order to be able to take up the opportunities that are on offer. In other words certain patterns of cultural participation are represented as a problem caused by a deficit amongst individuals and state intervention is needed to build the capacity of individuals to take part in what is represented as mainstream culture (Miles and Gibson, 2017). In Denmark for instance, despite government surveys demonstrating high and stable rates of participation in civic activities, declining rates in specific art forms such as theatre and classical music are still seen as a problem for cultural policy to solve (Jancovich and Hansen, 2018).