The Social and Civic Impact of the Arts: State-of-the-art Literature Review on Arts and Social and Civic Impact

Kirsti Reitan Andersen, Víctor Renza, Christian Fieseler, Fiona McDermott, Róisín McGannon, Aris Papadopoulos

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportRapportForskning


The arts have always been part of civil discourse and have always been socially engaged, not least in response to radical transformations of social, political, and economic life. In this report we explore the engagement of artists with the effects of the digital transformation, with a particular focus on the extent to which and the ways in which artists are addressing the social repercussions of this transformation. Our report reviews the literature and discussions surrounding the role of socially engaged artists in sense-making in civil society. This state-of-the-art review constitutes one of the research deliverables of the Artsformation project funded through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The review is part of three parallel reviews on the role of the arts and digital transformation, and can be read alongside the two other reviews on the role of the arts in the digital transformation, (Alacovska, Booth and Fieseler, 2020), and the role of the arts in enterprise (O’Dea, Alacovska and Fieseler, 2020). In this report we primarily explore the social turn in the arts, whereby the focus is on the impact of artworks on society rather than the traditional focus on the aesthetic values of art. Specifically, we focus on the so-called socially engaged arts and their potential to empower those in society who are not reaping the proclaimed benefits of the digital revolution or indeed are negatively affected by this ongoing transformation.
The aim of this report is twofold. First, it examines and discusses the methods employed by socially engaged artists to bring about social change. This is necessary to develop an understanding of the potential effects and obstacles of socially engaged art practices, specifically focusing on the ways in which artists are influenced by and seek to influence new and emerging digital technologies. This report reveals three overarching types of relationship between artists and the digital transformation: i) artists use new digital technologies as part of their artwork, i.e. technology is part of their artistic toolbox; ii) artists and cultural institutions are influenced by the digital transformation in sometimes challenging ways that demand shifts in organisational approaches; and iii) artists have begun to produce artworks that highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with the digital transformation. The report makes it evident that artists are reflecting on and responding to the digital transformation in more complex and sophisticated ways. This evolution starts from what we might see as an initial fascination with new technological tools to a more critical stance towards the effects of this transformation. Second, this report examines the organisational approaches adopted by socially engaged artists, revealing a trajectory in such approaches that suggests it is possible to imagine artists addressing the social issues of the digital transformation in three ways: i) the artist as a commentator; ii) the artist as one who gives voice to a community; and iii) the artist as a social entrepreneur. These three roles, it should be noted, are of course not mutually exclusive.
Our report proposes that there is much of value to be found in the methods and organisational approaches of socially engaged artists and that socially engaged art has the potential to play a key role in the transformation towards a sustainable and inclusive digital future. This report also reveals an urgent need for more in-depth knowledge about the ways in which socially engaged artists operate in order to be able to reap the benefits of such approaches as mediators of change. Finally, we propose there is also an urgent need to identify viable ways to lead the public towards and understanding of the potential value of the arts beyond an immediate source of ‘entertainment’.
Antal sider48
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2020
NavnArtsformation Report Series