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Audience and reception research in the arts

Audience and reception research in the arts


Dr. P.G.F. Eversmann

Members of the research group

dr. F. Chiaravalloti MSc
dr. C. Dieleman
dr. P.G.F. Eversmann
dr. S.E. Fotiadi
prof.dr. F.J.M. Huysmans
dr. E. Kleijnen
prof.dr. K.H. van Dalen - Oskam
dr. M.L. Wilders

Description of the research programme of the research group

This research group is aimed at empirical audience and reception research in the arts. The focus on recipients/spectators of art works is a logical consequence of the paradigm that considers art to be a form of communication: not only (intentions of) works and makers have to be studied but actual (effects on) recipients as well. The Netherlands has a well-known tradition of research into the social behaviour of its population, including cultural participation. In such a sociological approach groups of art consumers are studied in terms of background variables, such as milieu, age, gender, education level, profession etc. Cultural sociologists study which groups visit what kind of performances, prefer what sort of paintings, read what kind of books etc. Because of its relatively simple methodology and the supposed empirical exactness of its results the sociological approach is on the one hand widely used for marketing and cultural policy purposes, and on a more academic level affirmative of theories of cultural reproduction. However, It does not target the (aesthetic) experience of individual art consumers, nor the relation with specific art works, performances, concerts etc. The proposed research group aims at collecting data on these experiences through empirical research, using quantitative as well as qualitative research methods (questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, etc.). The explicit intention thereby is to bridge the gap between the more traditional (hermeneutic) analysis of art works and the actual perception of and effects on recipients of these works. As such the group is concerned with testing theories of spectatorship in practice. Furthermore, the goal is to create a database in which newly obtained data as well as data from former audience and reception research can be archived. On the one hand these data will give insight in the experience of art that can function as an extension to historical and current psychological as well as philosophical theories of aesthetics, spectatorship and the function of art works. On the other hand, because of the specificity of the data, not only the similarities but also the differences between individual experiences may be highlighted, for instance those between aesthetic experiences in different art forms (theatre, music, visual arts, literature), those between art experiences of children and adults, between experts and laymen, etc..

Envisaged results

The proposed program will result in:
Monograph: manual on methods of audience and reception research (Eversmann)
Articles: several articles for (peer reviewed) academic journals, as well as specialist non-academic journals (Eversmann, Dieleman, Wilders)
Database of current as well as former audience and reception research (questionnaires, interviews etc.) in art studies. We will investigate if and how this database can be connected to existing databases for social research.

Work plan and time schedule

(Indicate the planning of the programme as a whole and of its projects. You may do this in a summary fashion, while referring to the description of the individual projects for details.)
- The group will meet at least 4 to 5 times a year in order to discuss the progress of its members.
- A completed manuscript of the monograph is planned after two years
- A conference is planned after three years
- The database should be operational after three years
- Evaluation of the program and further plans (continuation of database) will be held after three years

Societal relevance

The programme has cultural relevance, because it gives insight into actual experiences of art visitors, and into how people may benefit from these kinds of experiences. Furthermore, the programme has relevance for society, because its findings may be used to integrate these beneficial effects of cultural / aesthetic experience in political and socio-economical programmes aimed at social welfare and wellbeing, as well as in curriculums for primary, secondary and higher education. At the same time the data may be relevant for cultural organizations to better understand their (potential) visitors, and to improve and enhance the effectiveness of their marketing tools.
Target groups are therefore governmental, educational, cultural and other non-profit organizations in the art domain . Apart from the anticipated publications, we will make the results available to their members by means of one or more disseminating events (conference, workshops etc.) at the end of the three year period of the research group. Successful dissemination is important for the endurability of the project’s results.

This research group is active in the following constellations: