Sustainabilty

Sourcing and entering data entry is a fundamental operation for AusStage. Sustainability in data entry is crucial for AusStage's future. This document outlines some principles, mechanisms and strategies to sustain prospective data entry for AusStage in partnership with industry and government.

1 Principles

1.1 Scope

AusStage has attempted to create a comprehensive listing of live events with a dramatic content from January 2001, covering all of Australia (excluding music in the form of concerts, rock bands, etc., but including music theatre). However, there are gaps in this data. In particular, not all regions have been covered, while other regions, including some capital cities, have not yet been brought fully up to date.

1.2 Status

Status describes the socioeconomic circumstance for the production of an event. Describing the status of an event is mandatory when creating a record in AusStage. A controlled list of status terms reflects distinctions between contributors' expertise (amateur, professional, etc.) and financial structure (paid, voluntary, etc.). The status terms used in AusStage are:

Status is a useful concept in devising strategies for data entry and allocating resources.

1.3 Significance

The Collections Council of Australia advocates a process of significance assessment for objects and collections. Significance 'defines the meanings and values of an object' through a process of research, analysis and assessment against standard criteria.

There are four primary criteria for assessing significance: historic; aesthetic; scientific, research or technical; and social or spiritual. There are five comparative criteria for evaluating the degree of significance: provenance, representativeness, rarity, condition and interpretive potential.

These criteria were developed to assess the significance of objects and collections but we may adapt them to assess the significance of performance events. In particular, the following criteria may apply to assessing an organisation's production of events:

Significance may be a useful concept in devising strategies for data entry and allocating resources. (Adapted from Heritage Collections of Australia (2001). Significance: A Guide to Assessing the Significance of Cultural Heritage Objects and Collections, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.)

2 Mechanisms

2.1 Consultation

AusStage has developed through partnership with industry and government. Our partners in phase 4 include the Australia Council for the Arts, Windmill Performing Arts, Adelaide Festival Centre and the Performing Arts Special Interest Group of Museums Australia.

Consultation with key informants in industry and government informs the development of strategies for sustainable data entry. Involving industry-based personnel in data entry work will enhance the image and capacity of AusStage to serve as a repository of industry knowledge.

2.2 Partnerships

AusStage trains and supports organisations to enter data into AusStage. Partnerships are successfully sustained with a number of performing arts collections including:

These organisations use AusStage to record information on performing arts events and items in their collections. Data is both retrospective (past events) and prospective (recent and forthcoming events). AusStage supports discovery and access to items in collections by:

A trial involving partnerships with a government agency and producing organisations was undertaken in South Australia in 2006. ArtsSA now enters data for South Australian events produced by organisations which receive ArtsSA funding. However, the trial found that training staff in producing organisations was not always an effective strategy for sustaining data entry given organisational workloads, priorities and staff turnover. In 2008, a new strategy for sourcing data on government-funded events was developed and implemented (see 3.1.1 below).

2.3 Contribution

AusStage welcomes contributions from  users - from artists, spectators, producers, agents, students, teachers, researchers, librarians, archivists and the public. Users can contribute information to AusStage by:

These mechanisms for user contributions are promoted on the AusStage website, via government funding agencies and directly to organisations, venues and contributors. Contributions are reviewed for accuracy and relevance before they are added to AusStage. Contributors are informed when changes are made and records are ready to view.

2.4 Communications

AusStage draws on information sourced by subscribing to electronic mailing lists with venues, organisations and any other relevant performing arts body which advertises and provides information on its events.

3 Strategies

Strategies for sustaining data entry are articulated in relation to the status and significance of events. Events of different status and significance are targeted with different strategies. Differentiated strategies assist AusStage in allocating limited resources.

For example, events of status Professional / Professional cooperative / Pro-Am include organisation-funded, project-funded, commercially produced events and festival events. Four strategies are proposed for sustainable data entry on events of these status:

Professional Training Schools/Colleges - events of these status are targeted by tracking graduate networks and campaigns to encourage feedback from artists on their own records.

Amateur/Community/Youth Theatre - events of these status are targeted through outreach, promoting AusStage to organisations and training volunteers to undertake data entry.

3.1 Professional (including professional cooperative and professional-amateur)

3.1.1 Government funded organisations

Each year, AusStage works with industry-based consultants to sustain data entry on recent and forthcoming events produced by government-funded organisations in each state and territory. Analysing and reporting on government-funded performing arts is an important function for AusStage. Arts funding is a key indicator of government cultural policy and peer-based industry esteem.

This strategy targets organisations in each state and territory that receive government funding for the production of live performance with a dramatic component. An annual process for targeting organisations in each state and territory will draw on an audit of government funding and advice from independent industry-based consultants in each state and territory. This process will determine an annual allocation of resources for entering data on events produced by government-funded organisations. It will not affect AusStage's policy on data scope. AusStage will continue to support any event-producing organisation interested in entering data.

Step One: Obtain previous financial year's funding figures from Australia Council and relevant state body (e.g. ArtsSA in South Australia, Arts Victoria in Victoria) and other government agencies providing arts funding, including Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Step Two: Identify organisations in each state and territory receiving funding for the production of live performance with a dramatic component. Record the companies and the amounts received from each funding agency.

Step Three: Prepare print-outs of the existing datasets on each organisation. Print-outs include the Organisation Identifier, Organisation Name, Address, State, Country, Other names, Website, Notes, Functions and the list of Associated Events with Event Name, Venue, Suburb, State, First Date and Event ID embedded in event URL.

Step Four: Update records as far as possible using web resources. For any outstanding gaps not able to be filled via this method an artist-researcher, well-known in the industry, is employed in each state and territory to visit the organisations and, working on-site, to enter new data and review existing data. These researchers:

Step Five: Once the data entry is complete, follow-up emails are sent to organisations, including links to organisation pages and instructions on submitting information to AusStage online. Organisations are encouraged  to use the AusStage Exchange service on their website. Researchers also maintain prospective flows of information by joining organisation mailing lists.

3.1.2 Reviews in daily newspapers via Factiva and online publications

A newspaper review is an indicator of an event's significance to a community of readers, spectators and artists. Newspaper reviews can also indicate the extent of an event's entry into public discourse. Entering data on reviews in daily newspapers, sourced via the subscription service Factiva will target:

This strategy will also enhance the data on events produced by government-funded organisations.

With access rights (provided by most tertiary institutions), a targeted search through FACTIVA can provide all the published reviews of performing arts events published in the recent past.  The search code: rst=AUSTR and ns=NRVW and ns=GTHEAT provides results for Australian theatre and dance reviews in over 500 publications, and a weekly search will typically give rise to about 10 substantive resources.  These can then catalyse the entry of both an event and an associated bibliographic record for the resource/article.

Australian Stage Online (http://www.australianstage.com.au) is an online publication, which has published feature articles and reviews of Australian theatre productions since November 2006. Its inclusion in this strategy reflects a shift in outlets from critical discourse on live performance from paper-based to online publications.

Data entry from newspaper reviews (accessed via Factiva) and from Australian Stage Online is undertaken monthly.

3.1.3 Reviews in RealTime

RealTime (http://realtimearts.net) focuses on innovation in performance (live art, experimental theatre, dance, music, sound), as well as photomedia, video, interactive media and hybrid arts. Reviews of live performance in RealTime are an indicator of an event's aesthetic significance within an artistically well-informed community. Entering data on reviews in RealTime will target:

RealTime is published six times a year. Data is entered every two-months on publication.

3.1.4 Australian theatre blogs

AusStage holds records on 43 Australian theatre blogs, accessible via a Resource Search of type 'Blog'.  'Blogs are providing significant new sites for artists, critics, audiences and researchers to discuss contemporary arts and current productions as they occur. Their operational structures, response mechanisms along with their method of recording ideas, commentary, and institutionally relevant information make them critically useful tools for discussing the production and reception of performing arts in Australia. New performance-related blogs are appearing with ever greater frequency in Australia with most authors posting at least bi-weekly. [...] Theatre blog writing in Australia takes many different forms and is authored by a range of writers from professional, old-media critics to disgruntled practitioners unhappy with their most recent bad review.  The quality, tone and content of the posts and comments varies enormously, but every post and every comment contributes to the reception and production of performing arts practice in Australia. [...] AusStage is continuing to refine a methodology to engage with Australian blogging practices and more work needs to be undertaken in identifying how we might begin recording, archiving, searching and storing blog-related writing and discussion.' (Bollen, Harvey, Holledge & McGillivray, 'AusStage: eResearch in the Performing Arts', Australasian Drama Studies, Apr 2009).

3.2 Professional training schools/colleges

Professional training schools and colleges are targeted by tracking graduate networks and campaigns to encourage feedback from artists on their own records. Each year one professional training school or college will be targeted. Promotional methods will be adapted to suit communication avenues already employed by the institution, drawing on pilot research undertaken at Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Flinders University in 2007/2008. Alumni will be encouraged to check their own records and submit additional or corrected information for inclusion in the AusStage database using online forms.

3.3 Amateur/Community/Youth

Amateur/Community/Youth Theatre is targeted through outreach, promoting AusStage to organisations and training volunteers to undertake data entry. The state associations of amateur and community theatre will be approached annually to publish an article about AusStage in their print or online publications. Identified associations are Darwin Community Arts, Independent Theatre Association of WA, Network of Amateur Theatre Association (ACT), The Association of Community Theatre Inc. (National), Theatre Arts Network Queensland, Theatre Association of  South Australia and the Victorian Drama League.

3.4 Regional

Mapping regional clusters of live performance activity was a focus for research during Phase 3. AusStage partners Paul Makeham, Geoffrey Milne, David Watt, Gillian Arrighi and Tim Maddock developed AusStage's capacity to digitally map the regional distribution of live performance activity across the nation, and interrogate this data in relation to demographic statistics on social development and community well-being. A key achievement was the enhancement of venue data with postcode, longitude and latitude to support geographic mapping.

Makeham focused on the Northern Australian Regional Performing Arts Centres Association and compared live performance events for the period 2003-2007 in selected regional venues in Queensland and the Northern Territory: Cairns, Darwin, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, and Townsville. Milne focused on data entry of regional performance in Victoria, working in conjunction with the Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres. In New South Wales, Watt & Arrighi focused on data entry from the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region, Maddock on data entry from the Illawarra region.