Hypothesis formulation in cultural economics (English)

After keynote lectures on economics of media and cultural heritage sites by distinguished economists Gillian Doyle and Bruno S. Frey respectively, the 250 conference delegates convened for a sandwich lunch.

The delegates from 37 nationalities quickly split into geographic and age clusters at lunchtime. At one table were the older economists whose seminal papers on copyright, cultural values, and other important contributions to cultural economics made them household names in this relatively young field which some would say borders on the edge of economics (not unlike environmental economics as one Belgian professor claimed at the city hall reception the previous evening). At other tables the younger economists gravitated towards doctoral researchers who had already met each other the previous day. I found myself squeezed between the latter.

There were other clusters, such as the three Norwegians at the end of my lunch table and the group of Japanese at another. An hour later, we all dispersed into several parallel sessions for the first set of 185 papers being presented at the start of the ACEI 2010 conference (http://www.acei2010.com).

Conferences like this are a market place for practitioners with problems in search of researchers with solutions, and hopefully vice versa. I complained to Professor Tyler Cowen yesterday that I wished some of the findings of cultural economics would reach practitioners sooner. In truth, I had to dig quite hard to find, read, and understand the implications of published research in this field. As a practioner, it was not always obvious how the research conclusions translated into immediate, practical use. Cowen observed that there were plenty of cultural economists and practitioners but perhaps not people who were a blend of both he saw as required to bridge the gap (in communication).

The gap was very evident. The first parallel session I attended was one on music and movie piracy, largely econometric studies that steered the discussions on methodology and data. The second session I chose was quite the opposite — museum management, funding, visitor experience, and digitalisation/documentation. The discussions were based on practical experience, with the highlight being Tate Modern as a successful example of private funding.

While previewing the various papers available for download from the conference website (http://www.acei2010.com), I found myself formulating a new hypothesis about attendance at these parallel sessions.

  • Papers that are not available (i.e. not linked from the website, not submitted, or not available for preview) command some degree of curiosity. More people may attend those sessions due to lack of information unless the abstracts sway them otherwise. 
  •  Papers that are well-written may not necessarily draw the size of audience as expected because of the risk of too much information, too complete information (which may cause the delegate to decide not to attend), or the wrong information (to lead the delegate to a wrong decision not to attend).

Although my primary interest is music, I soon realised that I may have to atttend sessions NOT on music to learn from analogous examples. There are many parallels between producing a concert and launching an exhibition, for instance.

Another way to choose which session to attend is by the fame of the speaker, in which case I should look for Arjo Klamer, Ruth Towse, Hans Abbing, and David Throsby.


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