European inventory of
societal values of culture

INVENT Team - Culture, politics, and the taxpayer’s money

Yodovich, N., Marquart, M., Sirkka, O., Dinić, V., Karels, A., Page Pereira, L., Gelabert, A. S., Walo, S., Zdravković, Ž. & Žunić, I. (2023) Culture, politics, and the taxpayer’s money. Insights from nine case studies on online cultural debates in Europe. INVENT REPORT D5.4

For this report, each country conducted a case study on a specific cultural issue, thereby aiming to identify the predominant online discourses in relation to each case, to identify the social values related to the INVENT megatrends, and to propose policy recommendations. Cases were selected based on three criteria: their relation to cultural policy, their relation to INVENT's megatrends, and their topicality. In total, nine country-specific case studies were conducted. The following topics were covered: discussing tourism on Reddit (Croatia), the implementation of MitID and a digitalised society for (almost) everyone (Denmark), the case of the new flagship library Oodi and reflections on the role of the library in the Nordic welfare state (Finland), the removal of Christian statues from the public space and the battle of collective memories (France), reality programmes and social conflict (Serbia), Bono Cultural Joven (Spain), cultural appropriation on Twitter (Switzerland), and the case of the "Festival of Brexit" AKA "Unboxed" (UK).

Web scraping techniques were combined with quantitative data analyses and qualitative approaches to gain a better understanding of the issues dominating different discourses. Thus, posts and comments from Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit and incorporated insights from various news media websites were scraped. These textual data were then analysed using structural topic modelling and thematic analysis. Several common themes connecting the online debates in the nine INVENT countries were identified. Firstly, a debate on the value and meaning of culture emerges, in which the notion of "culture" itself becomes an object of public dispute. This debate highlights disagreements about what constitutes "real" or "appropriate" culture in the eyes of the online public. Another common theme is criticism of the spending of taxpayers' money on culture - culture and the taxpayer. In this regard, debates arise about what constitutes "good" culture and whether it should be subsidised accordingly. Finally, the politicisation of culture and the intermingling of political and cultural issues are identified in different countries. The cases analysed have transcended the cultural sphere and had political consequences by influencing political conflict or sparking debates that opened a forum for the far-right. Discussions also arise around INVENT megatrends such as globalisation, digitalisation, diversity, and inequality. These debates highlight the lack of inclusion of many Europeans in certain cultural offerings or requirements, either because they do not qualify, lack the necessary skills, do not have the financial means, are discriminated against, or simply because voices in the public discourse want them to be excluded.

Based on the results of this report, various policy recommendations can be made. Thus, clear communication between governments and their citizens is crucial when making cultural decisions. Further, diversity, inclusion, equality, and national pride are not values that can be "forced" on citizens through cultural activities and initiatives. Therefore, collaboration with other administrations and policymakers in sectors such as education, tourism, transport, and health is necessary to reconcile tensions in Europe. Finally, it is essential to communicate the importance of cultural practices and to present data and information on the positive outcomes of cultural participation, both at the individual and community levels.

INVENT Team “Culture, politics, and the taxpayer’s money. Insights from nine case studies on online cultural debates in Europe”