Memo December 2014



A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2014

The main feature of this message is at the bottom of the page.

The virtual and the physical

A recent Eurobarometer survey is entitled “European citizens' digital health literacy”, asking people about their habits to consult the Internet on health issues; little to do with culture.

Apart from being the latest report about the frequency of Internet usage in Europe. When we matched data with people’s reporting on their sports and exercising habits we were a bit anxious to discover superhuman nations that excel in both fields but there are none. Except maybe Latvians and the Irish, who do the two practices almost daily in great numbers.[1]


Diversity business

Czechs were the 113th, now there are 133 parties to the famous Unesco convention on diversity (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions) which is ten years old in 2015. An entire industry exists around it with a headquarters in Paris. Main pillars of governance are the plenary conferences (the fifth is coming in June) and the intergovernmental committee. This latter last met in December, producing decisions on 27 pages, the majority of which is an embedded document, the revised template for the reports that countries must produce every four years about their obedience to the convention. Former reports are available and provoke sympathy for public administrations that are obliged to make such periodic sacrifice. Intergovernmental civil servants also invest huge workload in them. And yet, have you come across citing these reports except in self-referential academic context?

(If it was up to BO the report would go like this, annually: Confess! Which were your gravest breaches of the convention and what did you neglect the most? One page.)

Diversity money

Other than texts the machinery engenders grants as well; studying the list in first class visualisation helps best grasp the meaning of the convention. (Better than from this orgy of design.) Almost half of the money goes to Africa, almost all into cultural industry projects. Nothing goes to the developed rich countries. A tiny bit serves our region, ex-Yugoslav countries without exception, the latest of them decided on at the December meeting.     

Diversity coalitions

When the convention was still a combat issue on the international arena action was coordinated from Quebec. After the fight was consummated in 2005 the network has lived on in the form of national “coalitions for cultural diversity”. Although little visible on the bottom of a Unesco page, the lively international federation expects, among others, your application for anniversary greetings before 30 January. From our region – apart from an obscure individual – Slovakia is the only country genuinely represented: a national coalition indeed, with live links to its collective members.

Development indicators

And that is not all. In conjunction, protracted work goes on about creating indicators for culture’s place in development. A former site conducts around the earlier phases of the enterprise.

This exercise is mainly geared towards identifying successes in underdeveloped poor countries. Yet – for a different purpose – BO asks you to name cities or regions in east-central Europe where culture is used strategically for development in an exemplary way.

Status of the artist

The above mentioned Slovak coalition produced a working document on the status of the artist, an early contribution to the process of reviewing the relevant Unesco recommendation from 1980. You may also have your say in the matter before 15 January. This survey is kind of checking countries while the Slovak paper focuses more on concepts. In both cases the profession is in the centre. In our diffuse world (Culture 3.0) the product defines the artist rather than official qualifications; this of course does not deny the importance of existential guarantees. Here is more on the status of the artist from the Compendium, which includes the study for the European Parliament.

BO barometer

Our subscribers’ cooperation made the Cultural Policy Barometer a common product. Not only did the 147 responses draw a diagnostic picture about the environment of culture in Europe and beyond, the contributions helped develop the instrument: several of the statements are borrowed in part or in full from BO correspondents’ comments. The report tells more.

By nature, surveys of this kind require large numbers of responses: thousands on a European scale which supposes systematic administration and other resources. We are looking forward to a chance for this instrument.

The specimen below shows the position of three statements about political interference on the rank lists of choices made by respondents from four geographical areas in Europe:

  • Excessive political influence in cultural matters
  • Favouritism and biases in the distribution of public grants
  • Vanity projects absorbing too much money

The order follows the appearance on the diagram showing the 31 responses sent from the four Visegrad countries (CZ, HU, PL, SK) while they occupy different positions elsewhere. E.g. in the central countries “vanity projects” was mentioned the most frequently. For more, go to the report in the attachment.




[1]”On average, within the last 12 months, how often have you used the Internet for private purposes?” Every day and almost every day. And: “How often do you exercise or play sports? By ‘exercise’, I mean any form of physical activity which you do in a sports context or sports-related setting, such as swimming, training in a fitness centre or a sports club, running in the park etc.” Five times a week or more.