Australia’s Last Poet Laureate Was A Convict?

Big news out of Australia where the first national arts policy since 2013 was announced.  In addition to commitments of funding to specific entities and organizations, arguably the most significant element of the policy is a commitment  “….to protect First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions, with a particular brief on cracking down on fake art that plagues the $250m-a-year Australian Indigenous art market.”

Other elements of the plan include the establishment of a poet laureate position which last existed during the country’s convict era,  a state of the arts report to be issued every three years, and the establishment of  “a quota for expenditure on Australian content by multinational streaming platforms such as Netflix and Stan..” The amount of this quota is rumored to be about 20% and The Guardian article quotes people who are concerned streaming platforms may pull out of the country if they are required to produce Australia based content.

It happens that I saw a piece on Vice last night before I saw The Guardian article. Vice asked Australian artists what they thought about the plan.  Many felt the money was going to the usual suspects and advocated for a universal basic income plan for artists.

Others felt that the arts were unfunded in proportion to their footprint:

“The arts sector will get $286M over four years, or $72M a year. The fossil fuel industry gets $11.6B a year in government subsidies. Australia’s arts sector employs about six times as many people as the fossil fuel sector.

The requirement for locally generated content was cause for hope for some:

“I started to lose hope in local content knowing that reality TV filled up much of our “Australian” quota on broadcast networks. The possibility of streaming services now being made to spend 20% of their budget on original, local content honestly makes me feel hopeful and excited to pursue my career on my home turf.”

Less Attendees=Increased Satisfaction

Last week when I was writing about the ticketing trends being forecast for the coming year, I accidentally omitted an additional point from the article I found pretty interesting.  Apparently, during the pandemic, many attractions like  zoos, aquariums, museums and theme parks found that customer satisfaction increased when capacity restrictions were in place.

“Guests readily adapted to new procedures, which does not surprise us because it is consistent with what we have seen in our practice for many years,” Digonex’s Loewen says. “[Operators] also realized some of the business benefits. For example, when you limit the number of folks that can get into the attraction at a certain point of time, they saw all their guest satisfaction scores go up, and many of them saw all of their other per-cap revenues grow significantly. When it is less crowded, when people are having a better time, when they are feeling better about their visit, they tend to spend more on food and beverage and at the gift shop and on ride tickets.”

There have already been signs of these trends. Disney has apparently indicated they won’t go back to pre-pandemic attendance numbers. Similarly, the Louvre Museum is reducing admissions from 45,000/day to 30,000/day ““in order to facilitate a comfortable visit and ensure optimal working conditions for museum staff…”

Some US National Parks are requiring timed entry reservations from April 1-October 31.

So there is a good possibility other entities may start to use restricted admission as a customer satisfaction strategy in coming years. For some there may be a benefit to positioning their organization as an alternative activity for those who can’t gain admission to such places.

Best Creativity Is Messy Creativity

In the past I have written critically about the use of creative practice as a prescriptive tool to boost the development and achievement level of children (i.e. attaching headphones to your belly to expose a baby to Mozart in utero).  Back in November, The Guardian had a long form piece on the related topic of giving kids educational toys with the same end in mind. Research basically shows it doesn’t work:

But, despite the best efforts of millions of striver parents, it doesn’t seem to be the case that you can turn three-year-olds into geniuses by giving them plastic ukuleles for their birthdays, or even drilling them on their violin scales. (You may well be able to foster in those children a paralysing perfectionism and deep sense of inadequacy.) Equally, you don’t have to grow up with hundreds of toys, or speaking three languages, in order to be extraordinarily bright. (In fact, you can still learn several languages with a high degree of fluency in later childhood and beyond.)

Not all of that nuance has broken through to parents. Already in the mid 1980s, Brian Sutton-Smith, probably the most prolific play scholar in history, could write: “We have little compelling evidence of a connection between toys, all by themselves, and achievement…”

The oft repeated story about kids being more interested in playing with the box the toy came in points to the exact type of play that does contribute to skill development. The less concrete and realistic the intended use of the object is, the better.

It seems that basically that from birth through adulthood, the best pursuit of creativity is messy, unstructured creativity.

After watching kids play with more than 100 different types of toy, the researchers concluded that simple, open-ended, non-realistic toys with multiple parts, like a random assortment of Lego, inspired the highest-quality play. While engaged with such toys, children were “more likely to be creative, engage in problem solving, interact with their peers, and use language,” the researchers wrote. Electronic toys, however, tended to limit kids’ play: “A simple wooden cash register in our study inspired children to engage in lots of conversations related to buying and selling – but a plastic cash register that produced sounds when buttons were pushed mostly inspired children to just push the buttons repeatedly.”

As a result of such research, it is increasingly acknowledged that the best new toys are the best old ones – sticks and blocks and dolls and sand that follow no pre-programmed routines, that elicit no predetermined behaviours.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…Reach Out

For about a year now, I have seen Dan Pink post on social media about his survey of people’s regrets and how it can be healthy to embrace them. Finally, I decided to read about what he had to say when I saw some interview links toward the end of the December.

The interview with him on the Behavioral Scientist webpage was pretty interesting just in terms of how quickly people responded and how eager to talk about their regrets people were. They initially received 15,000 responses from 100 countries and are now close to 23,000 from 109 countries. Of those initial responses, 32% provided their email addresses and opted in to be contacted for further conversation.

Something he mentions is that younger respondents pretty much equally regretted things they had done and things they hadn’t done, but as people got older they were more likely to regret things they hadn’t done.

While it is mentioned in the Behavioral Scientist article, a separate piece on the Inc website focused on Pink’s #1 lesson to reduce regret – “Always reach out.”  Essentially, if you are wonder if you should reconnect with a friend you lost touch with or a family member with whom you may be estranged, Pink says the answer is yes.

A team led by University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business marketing professor Peggy Liu conducted a series of 13 experiments with nearly 6,000 participants all designed to gauge why people don’t reach out to friends or acquaintances and what happens when they do.

The study design may have been complicated but the results were straightforward, according to a writeup of the findings in the New York Times: “Across all 13 experiments, those who initiated contact significantly underestimated how much it would be appreciated. The more surprising check-ins (from those who hadn’t been in contact recently) tended to be especially powerful.”

As I read this, it struck me that arts organizations can use people’s willingness to discuss their regrets as the basis to create experiences for their communities. Maybe it is a storytelling topic. Perhaps it is a pop-up exhibit of artifacts from your regrets similar to the one Nina Simon discusses hosting for failed relationships in a TED Talk. Or perhaps it is the driver of a dialogue between generations similar to many of the recordings made for the Story Corps project.