In their Frascati Manual (2002) the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggest research is “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.”
I would argue that the prominent culture of research output exclusively taking the form of journal articles, essays and books doesn’t create favourable conditions for this to take place. There are lessons to be learned from the wider cultural landscape in terms of engagement, visibility, aesthetic quality and the presentation of findings, concepts and ideas to a diverse, contemporary audience.
To address this as an issue of ‘accessibility’, both Noble (2000) and Murray (1997) tussle with this word because there is a school of thought that believes this to mean ‘dumbing-down’ the work or limiting the freedom of its creator in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and therefore the biggest potential audience.
“He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating a fictitious demand for lower standards, which he will then satisfy.” Lord Reith
Our compass once again swings in the direction of the manufacturing economy who in their desire and desperation for profits are constantly trying to second guess what the the public want. In tern, and to their credit, they’ve seen it necessary to populate our peripheral vision with ‘advertisements’ of many forms and persuasions. The knowledge economy should look to appropriate some of these tools, as well as those of the museum and art gallery, but look to use them with more taste, dignity and imagination.
In an academic, art or curatorial context it’s more helpful to think of ‘accessibility’ as providing a re-framing, entry point or window to the original work so that the viewer stands a chance of understanding it in a short space of time. Like a language translation on an exhibit in the Musée du Louvre, an anecdotal video of Prof. Michael Pennie talking about his work or Sir Mark Elder’s brief, rich and insightful spoken introductions to The Halle performances, we are not losing the culture, its weight or depth, we are providing spectacles with which to see it clearly.
Birley, O. (1934) Sir John Reith [Oil on canvas]
Brave New World (2016) Performed by The Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder [Colston Hall. 15 Oct 2016]
Duke Mitchell (2016) Michael Pennie | Drawings. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4uWZlhiSDI
Lawson, M. (2008) A Life in Broadcasting: The BBC. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2008/dec/20/bbc-life-in-broadcasting (Accessed: 7 Oct 2017)
Murray, N. (1997) ‘Culture and Accessibility’ in Wallinger, M. & Warnock, M. (ed.) Art for All? Their Policies and Our Culture. London: Peer, p58-62
Noble, R. (2000) ‘Accessibility for All, Freedom for the Few’ in Wallinger, M. & Warnock, M. (ed.) Art for All? Their Policies and Our Culture. London: Peer, p76-77
OECD (2002) Frascati Manual. Paris: OECD Publishing