Grasping “Data Discourse Power” in the Cultural Industries

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Originally published in People’s Daily on 8 January 2013, republished in Qiushi magazine as part of a five-article feature on cultural industry development of 5 August 2013.

Hu Huilin

Central argument

Forcefully developing the cultural industry cultural industries an important content in constructing a strong Socialist country and strengthening comprehensive cultural strength and competitiveness. It requires that we establish cultural industry target systems as soon as possible, stimulate the scientific nature of industrial development, raise upscaling, intensification and specialization levels, and provide important supports to rationally formulate macro-level policies and safeguarding national cultural security.

Without measurements, industrial development will lose its scientific nature.

Marx said that animals only know how to produce according to the measurement of the species to which they belong, and people are able to produce according to the measurements of any species, this is the most fundamental difference between humans and animals. Establishing, grasping and operationalizing measurements are an important standard differentiating people from animals. For the same reason, measurements are also standards measuring the extent of social and civilizational development. Establishing measurements means establishing standards, establishing measurements means establishing norms, to promote the sustainable development of human societies. Measurements are not invariable, but without measurements, social development is disorderly.

Cultural industry development is like this as well. We are currently undergoing a period of profound civilizational transformation and great cultural change. The pursuit of the economic effect of cultural industries and the objective of wealth are not our main objectives. Our objective is to establish a strong Socialist cultural country. We rely on the superiority of cultural resources and thirst for a change of resource superiority into cultural industry superiority. Transforming a development method that depletes resources and is environmentally polluting through cultural industry development, is not wrong. But cultural industry development is also an issue of development methods and growth methods. Cultural industry development cannot come at the price of depleting cultural resources and creating cultural pollution, but should have cultural resource accumulation and the oxygen content of the cultural air as value orientation. This requires the establishment of standards, and the establishment of a cultural industry development indicator structure, as well as the establishment of cultural industry development indicators on the basis of this structure. These should be Chinese indicators for an “ecological civilization” in cultural industry development. Without “ecological civilization indicators” for cultural industry development, it will be impossible to realize the objective of being a strong cultural country in the “Five Integrations”. International society has established many such development indicators, and promoted “good governance” in national administration through instituting and developing indicators, this is becoming a large trend in the present development of international society. Working out indicators for the development of China’s cultural industries, realizing the “good governance” of Chinese cultural industry development and “good governance” of the development of Chinese culture not only permits the provision of policymaking bases for the country to formulate of cultural industry development plans and cultural development strategies, it also permits that our country further participates in international strategic cultural competition, races to control the commanding heights of cultural strategies and establishes a firm basis for discourse power.

The background of indicators is standards. Whoever controls standards, grasps the strategic initiative. Working out and establishing development indicators for China’s cultural industries, to aid the guidance of strategic objectives, methods and policy choices for our country’s cultural industry development, and raising planning levels for cultural industry development, have become the most important strategic requirements for the development of China’s cultural industries.

Data and standards are a sort of “discourse power”

Data and standards are currently becoming battlefields and tools in the strategic chess game between different countries and groups of countries. In the present world, the absolute majority of data and standards are controlled by large European and American countries and their groups of countries, because of this, all sorts of statistical data and ranking indicators that are published, have become the most important means in the space in which countries vie for development and for global strategic resources. Indicators for exchange rates, carbon emission standards, credit rating indicators, etc., even agricultural products’ yield per unit area, are no longer common tools with a statistical meaning, but even, to some extent, influence and decide the survival or perishing of development in certain sectors.

This is the case in the economy, and it is the case in culture as well. Because our country has, so far, not established a set of scientific and complete cultural industry statistical indicator structures, data structures, indicator evaluation structures as well as publication structures, our country’s cultural industry development overall, is still in a deficient period of “data discourse power”. The lack of “data discourse power” is not only reflected in the blindness of our country’s cultural industry development, but has also caused that our country’s cultural industries, in terms of structural adjustment and the choice of development strategy orientation, are in an insecure situation where they are easily misled by people. The lack of statistical data, the lack of uniformity in statistics requirements, the incompleteness of statistical systems as well as the one-sided career assessment indicators have not only gravely distorted our country’s cultural industry data statistics, but because this sort of gravely distorted data have become bases for policymaking for cultural industry development strategy, it has become one of the important factors making up our country’s cultural industry security problems, and the largest difficulty faced in planning, research, policy making, formulation and work concerning the strategy to construct a strong cultural country. Can a place that does not have statistical cultural industry data, or a place where statistical cultural industry data are incomplete, have cultural competitiveness? We often mind our own ranking position in the order of national cultural industry development, and mind even more our position in the global rankings of cultural competitiveness. So, why should we not give high regard to timely making statistics of our own cultural industry development data and promulgating them?

Development indicators are an important component of cultural governance

We are currently entering an era of national cultural governance. The putting forward of the magnificent objective of constructing a strong cultural country is the symbol of the beginning of a magnificent era. Developing the cultural industries has been put forward at a time where China’s social development entered an era of great change, comprehensive change and transformation, and was put forward in the midst of a process of overcoming and resolving the structural contradictions and structural objectives faced during the process of strategic adjustment and transformation of economic structures. This is to say as well that the national strategic policy decision to develop the cultural industries has bee n put forward to serve the needs of a series of national strategies, it has been put forward to overcome and resolve national crises, and establishing development indicators for China’s cultural industries naturally has gained its proper significance in relation to the issue of China’s national cultural governance.

Since the Eighties of the 20th century, China has undergone a process of progressive policy evolution from not discussing cultural industries until affirming cultural industries, and again to forcefully developing and accelerating cultural industry development. This not only is a general evolution of the country’s attitude towards, understanding of and policymaking concerning cultural industries, but also a profound change of the country’s view on governance and the country’s view on cultural governance.

It is not the cultural industries that is focused on the demands of and will for national cultural security, putting forward cultural industry development is a strategic demand with regard to national cultural security, but the nature of the problem has already changed in this process: on the one hand, the environment for and form of national cultural security has seen deep changes, economic globalization has caused the integration of global markets, which not only changed the ecological structure of global material commodity protection and circulation, but it has also changed the ecological structure of global cultural commodity protection and circulation. Especially the modernization of cultural production means and dissemination methods brought about by modern science and technology has caused that the original closed model of cultural commodity production, circulation and consumption is no longer possible, cultural production and dissemination means have changed, which became a revolution that must be completed by safeguarding national cultural security. The cultural industries that are rapidly becoming international cultural strategy and national cultural security strategy worldwide, are also becoming profound cultural governance revolutions in this sense. On the other hand, the rapid development of economic globalization has brought huge increases in welfare for human societies, but also brought about continually worsening global resource and environmental crises. The appearance of the topic of sustainable development has a universal meaning, and given prominence to the universal concern of human societies. Transforming economic development methods and economic growth methods, exploring new civilizational development methods and life methods for human societies, have become commonly pursued objectives of human societies. Cultural industries are believed to be the real methods that can best reflect this value pursuit. Consequently, cultural industries have become governance tools and governance methods to overcome and resolve problems in economic and social development, at the level of social development and at the level of globalized governance, the UK has put forward the development and implementation of a “creative industries strategy”, Singapore put forward a “Renaissance Singapore strategy”, the EU published the “EU Cultural Strategy”, etc., Cultural industry development indicators should become an important component part of this cultural governance and cultural industry development strategy.

Constructing a strong cultural country requires “data” support

Indicators for the development of China’s cultural industries are an important area and research scope for academic research on China’s cultural industries. Even so, research on matters including data collection, indicator establishment, choice of analytical framework, etc., is extremely difficult. “The establishment and publication of indicators for China’s cultural industry development is only the beginning of deeply exploring the present conditions of our country’s cultural industry development, in terms of theory supporting indicators, constructing indicators structures as well as workflows and indicator structure assessment methods, there are many empty spaces that remain to be improved and further reflected on”. Especially research on principles concerning this concept and scope of “development indicators for China’s cultural industries”, in the strict sense, has only completed the putting forward of topics, in order to completely realize this objective, there still is much deep research work that needs to be completed jointly with China’s cultural industry academic circles.

The world is entering the era of “big data”. Establishing a strong cultural country requires “big data” support. “Big data” influences the forms of discourse of future strategic development. Whoever grasps (big data) will become the rule maker and rule changers of future development. It is hoped that China’s cultural industry academic circles and China’s cultural industry statistic departments together struggle to jointly establish “data discourse power” for China’s cultural industries.

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