Whereas the value of cultural services increasingly lies in curation generated by predictive data analyze, data culture is not part of businesses and consumers’ customs yet. This paradox is a matter of concern for the actors of the cultural and creative industries.
Big data, a challenge for the creative industry, and a cultural one
Will the data revolution be the third step in the digital revolution after informatics and then the Internet, as predicted not by a curation algorithm but by Henri Verdier, chief of the French government mission Etalab?
According to the ARCEP (the French authority of regulation of electronic communications and posts), the volume of mobile data increased by nearly 90% since 2013. “Big data” is a mine of data we must cultivate, in the original sense of the word. The refinement consists in selecting and crossing relevant data for the mobile web users, thanks to the right equipment in human resources and technical marketing tools. At a fine scale, big data is as many drops of individual experiences etched through channels (web, Internet of things, platforms).
For the cultural and creative industries, personal cultural data is gold. The use of those resources enables to optimize the time spent on a website or a real one, to anticipate the behaviors or to know better the expectations. For the press, the cinema or the video games sectors, it is a way to enrich their offer while minimizing their costs.
Personal data are thus turned into services. In the US, Netflix is devoting 9% of its annual budget to data; whereby 75% of the views are generated by an algorithm.
For the media groups, data is the new mantra. ABC News, for example, bets on a reconfigured proposition of its mobile platform in function of the time of the day: only text in the morning, text and videos during the afternoon, and more videos at night. The next step will be to personalize the display of information on mobile devices, thanks to the geolocalisation data. This strategy enables to reduce the costs and to compensate for the shortfall of online advertising.
Big data at the service of culture?
A study carried out by Kurt Salmon for the Forum d’Avignon in December 2014 highlights that more than 80% of the respondents consider that the instantaneous access to overabundant cultural propositions as highly stressful. Individuals increasingly identify the value of a cultural service in the acuteness of the curation.
According to another study carried out by Kurt Salmon in 2014, 60% of the web users are, for example, willing to dispose of exclusive and personalized applications in their own language to enrich their visit at the museum.
When people by a ticket on billereduc.com to see an exhibition of Ingres at the Louvre about which everybody in Paris is talking, they are satisfied of being suggested two days before on chapitre.com some books on Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Géricault. And they are right: knowing the masters of Ingres incites to watch L’Odalisque à l’esclave with an enlightened perspective.
The algorithm enables to shape the critical eye of the web user. If the algorithm recommends it to me personally, I would be glad to watch a movie traditionally labelled as “art-house”, and which was not in the range of my a priori.
A sign of the times: an increasing number of people now relies more on algorithms of curation than professionals to be advised on their choices of reading, music or games. Video games, of which France is the third worldwide editor, for example, is a sector in which recommendation coming from the social networks tends to be superior to the recommendations of the professionals (Bain & Company 2013 study).
In our minds, the cultural experience is not limited to the exact moment of the visit or the purchase of a piece of music. It is more about a journey, an undefined extent in time and space. Data, this old dream of Leibniz of a world driven by algorithms, irreproachable and optimal, is slowly entering in the range of our customs.
Yet, simultaneously, data culture has not developed. In the OECD countries, 80% of the respondents say that they are reluctant to deliver their personal data to third organisms (Source: BVA, 2013).
People are worry about being deprived of what belong to them. The legal right to monitor our data, imposed on by the CNIL, and the right to unsubscribe from a customer file are too thin guaranties. But, if the mobile web user is not ensured to be the master of his own data, he will not cooperate to the economy of big data. The cultural and creative industries will have to content themselves with “dirty” data, badly updated and little concise.
The data governance thus involves businesses, institutions as well as the users. Recently, the CNIL made available online instructions on the way to re-appropriate our personal data, and recommendations about cookies management. For its part, the IAB (Interactive Advertisement Bureau) implemented a platform dedicated to identify the spywares. It is a way to popularize big data for a population still insufficiently educated on the technological and ethical stakes of meta data.
The second worry is that profiling, pushed to its extreme, would confine the individual in a kind of cultural determinism, where there is no place for free and disinterested discovering anymore. Though culture results from astonishment. An opera is, above all, the surprise of a voice. A sound that universally appeals to people without previous prediction. That is why we need that the “consumer” of cultural contents can regulate by himself his relationship with a cultural brand, for a chosen rather than endured curation. We could imagine a kind of label with several grades, where the “consumer” would place the cursor where he wants to.
As an effect of mirror of the society, businesses themselves have difficulties for developing a data culture. According to the consulting management firm Ernst and Young (EY), the Big data revolution has not happened yet.
An EY study carried out in France among 500 businesses and published on December 2014 estimated that 56% of businesses are “immature” regarding data. The “data maturity” index, created for the needs of the study, measures the way a business manages to “convert data into knowledge, innovation and value”, Bruno Perrin, responsible for the TMT sector at Ernst &Young explains.
The EY study reveals that, all along the value chain, the big data exploitation is slowed by psychological, strategic, organizational or technological obstacles. That is why only 72% of the businesses implemented a strategy to exploit the non-structured data, and only 10% of them make predictive analyze.
Yet, data can serves culture only if a data culture exists. Without sharing data, there is no free access to new, fluid and personalized cultural contents. And without mastering data, there is no innovation: if the creators of tomorrow have been determined by algorithms, there is a chance that cultural productions fail by lack of innovation.
Big data and Brain data
Culture of data needs to reach maturity whereas the technological progress is always going faster than the progress of the human mind. So far, the mobile web user was still aware and responsible of his personal data, which he could have knowledge of if he asked for it. But, with the apparition of new digital interfaces using electric data of our brain to manage services, it may not be possible anymore.
With the use of the human body as a source of data, big data is extending to the signals released by our brains. And this time, the question of the property of intimate cultural data arises with acuity: to whom does the immediate data of the mind belong to?