Memo July 2016

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in July 2016

To be read in the shade.

Statistics reloaded

July saw the release of the third edition of the Eurostat pocket book on culture statistics, after 2007 and 2011. The volume contains a number of new features, broadening the scope of “culture statistics” ever more.

Among the boundary conditions one can ponder about the measure of life satisfaction – and even more about their spread in the respective countries. The figure on page 18 shows the huge distances in happiness between the rich and poor in the eastern countries, as opposed to the more homogenous western societies. 

Interesting are data on five most visited museums in each country, collected by Egmus; benchmarks par excellence, especially as they figured in the previous edition, too. This is how we know that top five museums have attracted almost twice as many visitors as five years earlier in two countries: in Denmark (where Aarhus is the key), and in Estonia (due mostly to the Seaplane Harbour).

The section on industries in the booklet covers new areas, including the sensitive issue of survival rate of cultural enterprises.   

I mean, but not exactly

Jean-Luc Godard would answer when people asked what exactly he meant by a film. BO treats statistics the same way. A great fan, yet never believing statistics “exactly” (especially suspicious about too many digits).

But the chapter of Culture Statistics 2016 on cultural participation raised embarrassment and doubts. In this regard, a dedicated Eurobarometer survey from 2013 has been held the latest source on cultural participation. After welcoming EBS399, BO memo revisited it about cinemas, and matched it to data from the south of the Mediterranean. The actual Eurostat collection nevertheless reaches back to earlier statistics, the Adult Education Survey (AES) from 2011.

Differences are great. The diagram demonstrates this on one item, choosing a few telling cases. (Dashed lines are for EBS399).

The Adult Education Survey found that the share of Italians who had read at least one book a year rose from 47% to 54% between 2007 and 2011; yet EBS399 claimed a fall from 63% to 56% from 2007 to 2013. The blue lines for Greece show reverted trends, too – improving at AES, deteriorating at EBS399.

In other cases the trends coincide but absolute distances prevail. The dark blue lines demonstrate the greatest discrepancy with the Romanian data: in the same 2007 a gap of 19% between the two polls, although the methodology appears to be practically the same.

The observer is further embarrassed by the absence of reference in either survey about the other – done by the same EU institution. We stop here.

Nevertheless the statistical exercises clearly mean that Lithuanians read considerably more books than what the Portuguese do.

Heritage list

One of the innovations in the Culture Statistics pocket book is presenting the millions of global page views of the Wikipedia articles on members of the World Heritage List (pages 33-34) – Paris, banks of the Seine is the absolute winner.  On the other hand, the list itself does not really fit into this publication, having in the meanwhile grown to include 1052 items.

The picture shows a stećak, a tombstone from the medieval Bosnian Kingdom. There are sixty, maybe seventy thousand more. Twenty-eight sites of stećaks in Bosnia and its neighbours constitute the only new item from east-central Europe among the twenty-one new members of the World Heritage List. They were selected in Istanbul, before the failed coup interrupted the meeting of the World Heritage Committee, to be resolved later in the autumn.

End of an era?

Not only a committee session was put an end to in Istanbul, probably a shining period of Turkish culture, too:

  • There were eighteen Turkish visual artists on one of the most important global rank lists in 2011, and even today, after a veritable Chinese invasion there are more Turks on the list than e.g. Poles or Romanians;
  • In 2014, the European Museum of the Year Award went to the Museum of Innocence in  Istanbul and the Baksi Museum was honoured with the Council of Europe Museum Prize;
  • Turkey was a close second in world design ranking when this information first amazed BO, and has kept this position up to now;
  • The global higher education rank list that BO examined in 2014 displayed more Turkish universities among the top 400 than from all post-communist east-central European countries;
  • Teda has fully integrated into the family of European literary translation agencies.

Between 2007 and 2011 Turkish cultural organisations were involved into EU-funded cooperation projects 37 times. In the first three years of the Creative Europe programme twelve Turkish operations participated in transnational projects. Whether cultural operations in Turkey will be keen and free to keep the momentum in the future?