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What Matters?

CHAPTER TWO

Parable of Value 1: Patrick White and the Problem of Numbers

In the sketch comedy program That Mitchell and Webb Look, two contestants on a spoof TV quiz show call out random numbers in response to other numbers displayed on a coloured board. Periodically, and for no apparent reason, they are told by the show host, ‘that’s numberwang!’, and everyone reacts as if the right answer had been given.24 It’s funny because today numbers really do seem to have a life of their own, appearing as evidence for any and all arguments, illustrating no-see-ums, like fluctuations in the global economy or rises in the average body mass index. Economic statistics, sporting statistics, health statistics, education statistics, and, of course, cultural statistics: using numbers as a guide to public perceptions and policy making is of comparatively recent origin, yet it is an approach that has taken deep root. The reason for it is not hard to fathom. As social life becomes more complex, relying on methods of resource allocation and means of communication distant from the coalface of lived experience, the problem of ‘imperative coordination’, as the sociologist Max Weber called it, has grown forbiddingly dense.25 Yet even as computers generate floods of data, the human brain remains much as evolution made it 50,000 years ago. Data has to be cognitively processed and interpreted in ways that are valid not only statistically, but which ensure the context and underlying assumptions are properly represented. As Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s celebrated research on decision-making shows, this is harder than we imagine.26 Most of what we do is ‘thinking fast’, using instinct and shortcuts to leap to conclusions that let us move on to the next thing. We look out the window, see blue sky, and leave home without our raincoat. Careful analysis of the Bureau of Meteorology website might lead to the same conclusion, but might also make us late for work. ‘Thinking slow’ is arduous and our brains do their best to avoid it. Kahneman comments:

I propose a simple account of how we generate intuitive opinions on complex matters. If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System 1 [i.e. thinking fast] will find a related question that is easier and will answer it. I call the operation of answering one question in place of another substitution.27

Numbers can be a tool for hard thinking. But they can also provide a reductive proxy to avoid difficult decisions. Is a theatre company in regional Australia, with a distinct context and purpose, good enough to retain public funding? With numbers, it is important to acknowledge, there is always a context and always a set of assumptions. But neither context nor assumptions are typically visible in a set of numbers. They have to be made to speak, and this is the job of the accompanying words which we are inclined to believe are less ‘objective’ in their demonstrative prowess. The message may be explicit, but often it is a whispered subtext sitting below collective consciousness, investing seemingly standalone figures with sense. In certain areas, the alignment between words and numbers is tight and that investment uncontentious. A classic example is births, deaths and marriages statistics. In other domains the alignment is looser, especially where the numbers are generated from surveys or samples rather than item-by-item counting. Nearly every opinion poll got the results of the 2016 US Presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum wrong, for reasons that involve a revealing combination of human and methodological error. In a world awash with quantitative data, it is easy to drift from talking about a phenomenon that can be enumerated unequivocally (the birth of an individual) to a phenomenon that can’t (the ‘birth’ of a political movement). Unless the relationship between numbers and things is calibrated, the danger of misleading quantification is high (William Reichman dubbed this ‘statistic-u-lation’).28 We get the look of proof rather than its reality, the laundering of assumptions as facts. Numbers are not to blame. The problem lies in our desire to use them as a shortcut for the time-consuming task of acquiring expertise – to substitute numerals for knowledge. In the end, words and numbers are complements. Stories without statistics run the danger of being unrepresentative. Statistics without stories run the danger of being meaningless and decontextualised: of being numberwang.

A Thought Experiment

Imagine a simplified cultural universe in which only three things exist: one book, one reader, and one coin. The reader pays the coin for the book – ignore the problem of who to just for the moment – and reads it. In so doing, the reader engages in an act of exchange. This can be stated thus:

1 coin ⇒ 1 book ⇒ 1 reader

where ‘⇒’ stands for ‘gets entangled with’ (or similar phrase).

Three numbers now stand in a complex interrelationship. Books, coins and people are different things. They have different properties and uses. The words in the formula tell us that. The numbers do not. But the numbers provide an equivalential logic that validates the exchange by subsuming book, coin and reader in an all-encompassing order of value. Value is a relation, permitting things to be conjoined that would otherwise be radically distinct. The value relation is a triangle whose corners are an object, a subject, and a measure of equivalence. Remove one of these and the relation collapses. An object without a subject is inert. An object without a measure of equivalence has no means of exchange. And a subject without an object has nothing to value. 1 ⇒ 1 ⇒ 1 is thus the configuration of any value relation. Value isn’t a gumball that comes out of a mental dispenser when you twist a numerical lever. It is an action of conferral, dynamic and human. We might say that value doesn’t exist, only evaluation exists, the act by which we come into a value relation with the world around us, and engage in it via a means of exchange, be that banknotes, bottle-tops or bitcoins.

How does a reader derive value from their book? How do value relations work? Interesting question! Imagine the following:

1.The reader gets immediate conscious enjoyment, information, or improvement from reading the book – they like it.

2.The reader gets immediate unconscious enjoyment, information, or improvement from reading the book – it helps them understand something about the world.

3.The reader gets delayed conscious enjoyment, information, or improvement from reading the book – later in life it helps them reflect on their own personal development.

4.The reader gets delayed unconscious enjoyment, information, or improvement from reading the book – the book becomes part of their mental furniture.

5.The reader derives an incidental benefit from the book not related to the experience of reading it – a stranger spots them reading it and strikes up a conversation that leads to a friendship.

This list can be extended as we imagine different relations between subject and object. What about books we dislike but which leave an impression on us, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s page-turner memoir Total Recall, which the Guardian newspaper called ‘the most unpleasant celebrity memoir ever’?29 Or books that challenge conventional taste and expectations, like Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho or Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip? Or books that we read only in part, like the Bible or James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake? Not everything we choose to read is easily enjoyable, and some books remain arduous to the end. These present the challenge of saying what other route value takes.

Another set of problems relate to time. Value is a function of time because evaluation is an act that occurs in time, and when it occurs alters the degree and sometimes the nature of the value relation. Books we like when were young we may not like when we are older, and vice versa. Or we can have variable views about a book, liking it one year, indifferent to it the next, then liking it again. Behavioural economists call this ‘dynamic inconsistency’ or ‘time inconsistency’. Our nutritional needs are stable (2,200–2,700 calories a day), as are our sleep requirements (7–9 hours per night). In contrast, our cultural needs are so changeable that even to speak of ‘needs’ seems a misnomer, until we remember there has been no society in human history without a culture, so it is clearly a constant of some kind.30

What about books that become part of the structure of a reader’s mind? People often confuse ‘subjective’ with ‘subjectively processed’. The difference is key. There are things that exist only as part of our inner reality. Love, for example, or friendship; suffering; understanding; self-knowledge. These are internally realised, if externally manifested. That doesn’t make them arbitrary. Though personal experience is a realm disclosed to each individually, individuals spend a good deal of their lives communicating what it is like, and bringing their perceptions into alignment with those around them. These perceptions aren’t relative except in the trivial sense of the word. They are relational, which means that, as John Donne famously observed, no-one ‘is an island, entire of itself ’.31 People are joined by myriad inter-subjective bridges that build a sense of community and belonging. Some books contribute significantly to this architecture of connection. Robert Darnton shows how the writing of Rousseau furnished a vocabulary of sense and feeling for Assembly representatives in post-revolutionary France.32 Isaiah Berlin describes how Russian novels in the nineteenth century operated as a political outlet for the country’s oppressed intelligentsia.33 After World War II, writers like V.S. Naipaul and Chinua Achebe did as much as politicians to shape the thinking of postcolonial nations. Meanwhile, the rise of feminism in the West saw artists and activists working in tandem – often, as with Simone De Beauvoir and Toni Morrison, in the same body – to drive social transformation. In each of these cases, books played a constitutive role in public consciousness and it is impossible to ask what their value is without looking at the values they embody, an examination that makes the first question meaningful. Evaluation is a whole act, involving our moral, political and aesthetic judgment simultaneously.

This value is easily recognised, but how do you measure it? If culture’s changeable nature and impact defies easy description, how can it be subjected to a semantically parsimonious ‘rule of the count’?

Time, Value and the Drama of Patrick White

Look at three sets of numbers, laid out below in table form:

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

What do these figures mean? Without contextual knowledge, you can have no idea. For a start, you would need to know the categories to which they belong. This is another thing to observe about numbers, that in contrast to verbal terms they offer no immediate associations. They ‘anchor’ on just themselves, large or small only by comparison to other numbers. What their differences signify, or whether they signify anything at all, can only be established by an act of interpretation. This fills otherwise empty figures with significance and illuminates the purpose of generating quantitative data in the first place. Unlike numberwang, numbers in the real world must have a reason for being. This may seem a straightforward observation, but it is not. As the philosopher Eran Tal comments,

A measurement scale is a mapping – a homomorphism – from an empirical to a numerical relational structure, and measurement is the construction of scales. Each type of scale is associated with a set of assumptions or ‘axioms’ about the qualitative relations obtaining among empirical objects … A measurement outcome is thus a region in parameter space where the relevant theory locates the actual state of the object on the basis of the indications of an instrument. Such a region is considered an adequate representation of the object only when the theory provides a apparatus reflect possible states of the object.34 coherent story of the ways in which possible indications of the

Narrative is the only structure capable of meaningfully linking quantitative mark with qualitative relation. This linking is easy to fudge, fumble or manipulate, because numbers look so precise, pristine, and real world phenomena so clearly are not. For numbers to be of use, then, they need proper anchors in the real world so that mathematical representation is valid, readable and ethical. We don’t count the hairs on the back of our heads because there would be no point. We don’t measure the love we have for our children because a metric would be questionable. Our sense of value precedes the act of measurement. Things aren’t of value because we count them. We count them because we believe they are of value.

Narrative need not be a whole story, but can be a fragment of a story, or even a single word. A prior sense of value brings with it metaphors that categorise activities in an understandable way. ‘Arts and crafts’, ‘the cultural industries’, ‘the creative industries’, ‘heritage’, ‘the creative economy’: all these are stories subsuming different activities under a common name. Typically, we are unaware of the consequences of this when we stare at a list of numbers. Yet calling something ‘an industry’ or ‘a profession’ or ‘a leisure pursuit’ is a nominative act of great rhetorical force. It does more than describe something. It hails it into being. This is hardly a great insight, and yet it is almost always forgotten in the policy-making fray because questioning narratives is an arduous process whereas taking in quantitative data is the work of a moment. The task of evaluation, therefore, involves numbers but not in a summative way. To be effective, they need to be fit for purpose (in the current phrase) and validly interpreted. This activity is not a pseudo-scientific demonstration but a careful attention to the way numbers are used and the categories that order them: in short, their narrative potential. To see this in action, let’s take a concrete example: the drama of Patrick White.

David Marr tells the story of White and the critic Geoffrey Dutton meeting in Sydney on 24 August 1960:

Dutton has been commissioned to write a little booklet about White for the Lansdowne Press. But he had come over to Sydney with another more urgent mission. Adelaide’s answer to the Edinburgh Festival was after a new Australian play. The inaugural festival had seen Alan Seymour’s The One Day of the Year rejected by the governors for casting a slur on the fine men who had gone abroad to fight in the war. Now a rather desperate hunt was being conducted by the festival’s drama committee to find a fresh Australian play for the second festival in 1962. Dutton’s real mission in Sydney was to winkle out of White a copy of a play he had mentioned a couple of years before.35

By 1960 White was a famous novelist with an international reputation. He had also written a play, The Ham Funeral, in 1947, which Dutton persuaded him to submit to the drama committee of the Adelaide Festival. The committee unanimously recommended it for production the following year. Thus began for White a journey of calumny and persecution through Australian theatre, a via dolorosa many writers have tramped, but perhaps not one so supremely out of joint with the times and audience tastes. Between 1961 and 1965, White wrote three more plays, Season at Sarsaparilla, A Cheery Soul and Night on Bald Mountain, all of which now hold high places in the canon of Australian drama and are regularly lauded. In the 1960s they were very controversial, and White’s techniques as a dramatist – surreal and fragmented characterisation, multiple plot lines, heavily symbolic dialogue – were greeted with a mixture of bewilderment, repugnance and condescension.

In 1961, The Ham Funeral was forced out of the Adelaide Festival program by its conservative governors, who manipulated the programming committee to get their way. A young medical student, Harry Medlin, the progressively-minded producer of the Adelaide University Theatre Guild (AUTG), staged it, and sched-uled Sarsaparilla for the following year. These were both semi-amateur productions, however, and the issue of their professional presentation remained unresolved. In the first few months of 1962, John Sumner, the Artistic Director of the Union Theatre Repertory Company (UTRC, now the Melbourne Theatre Company) began a correspondence with White that led to the professional production of Sarsaparilla in Melbourne a few months after the AUTG. Table 1 shows the box office receipts from the UTRC season,36 and even from this slender historical fragment it is possible to see that far from the figures ‘speaking for themselves’ they frame a complex web of expectations, dispositions, and ingrained behaviour that demands careful interpretation.

Oddly to our eye, there are three sets of digits in each field. That’s because these numbers denote Australian currency pre-decimalisation, that is, pounds, shillings and pence. The UTRC ran Sarsaparilla for four weeks, a recent change for a company that since its establishment in 1952 had usually offered two or three-week seasons. The figures indicate greater ambition, greater security, or both. The top row shows single ticket purchases, the bottom subscription purchases. Subscription tickets are sold ahead of time: quarterly, biannually or annually. As a theatre production doesn’t physically exist at this juncture, what the subscriber actually buys is reputation and promised return: in other words, risk. For single-ticket buyers, by contrast, a show not only exists but has proxies of value that can be readily consulted: critical reviews, media interviews, word of mouth, etc. Risk still exists, but is considerably less. Thus, although the top and bottom row of figures appear to indicate only different points of sale, they actually represent two different evaluative strategies.

Sarsaparilla went quite well at the UTRC, as suggested by the fact that single tickets are five times higher than subscription purchases. This was considered important enough information to be communicated to White’s agent, Curtis Brown. The way in which numbers are broken into smaller numbers, the way they are subdivided, totalled and transformed, tells us a great deal about Tal’s ‘coherent story’ that quantitative data is mobilised for. In this case, there are three potential narratives to give the figures meaning. There is the story of a small, semi-commercial theatre struggling to stay profitable – a task perhaps not so arduous as it had been 10 years earlier, but still difficult. There is the story of a city developing a theatre subscription audience – though judging by the comparative smallness of the numbers, this a slow process. And there is the story of a modernist playwright parading his confronting wares in a professional theatre for the first time. The result is numerically positive. The author’s royalty was 10 per cent of total box office receipts: £479-17-6.37

It was the most White’s drama was destined to earn him that decade. The following year, the UTRC staged A Cheery Soul, and royalties were just £174-11-2. The box office statement is not on file, but we can infer, with total income at £1,745-11-8 and assuming the same number of subscription purchases as Sarsaparilla, that the ratio of single ticket buyers slipped from 5 to 1 to 3 to 1. Knowing what we know about the subscription vs single ticket narrative, we can further guess that press coverage and word of mouth was poor. The figure of £479-17-6 was a good number for White, £174-11-2 a bad one.

But what does this say about the value of Sarsaparilla and A Cheery Soul? Going from a measure of frequency to a judgment of quality is one of the enticing leaps numbers invite you to make. The more people pay to see something, the more valuable it is, you are inclined to believe. But be wary. Quantitative data tells nothing qualitative unless narrative assumptions are plugged into them. The chosen proxy – in this case, ticket sales – may not be a good indicator of value. Even if it is, its interval or scale may be misleading about degrees of value. A theatre show priced at £1 a seat is not half as good as one priced at £2, and it is nonsense to suggest it. Numbers may work well on one level of explanation but not on another. Low figures for one White drama can be the occasion for one kind of qualitative hypothesis – perhaps the play or the production was not very good. Low figures for White’s body of work is the occasion for another – perhaps Australia has trouble understanding its own playwrights. Numbers aggregate, narratives elucidate. Because numbers occupy a thin descriptive air – are a mark without further associations – the transformations they can be subjected to are limitless. This is not true of the things to which they refer. Adding together the box office income of all productions of White plays doesn’t tell much about their overall value. If it isn’t meaningless, it is of very limited explanatory power because the context in which each play was produced varied so radically.

Table 2, which looks a bit like an old-fashioned computer punch card, shows the number of professional productions of White’s plays from 1960 to 1985.38 There are more zeros in the table than any other kind of number. Absence is a type of presence, as Arab mathematicians discerned; the number zero itself is the result of a qualitative insight. From 1961 to 1964, White’s plays attracted 10 productions. Thereafter – despite the prominence of White as a Nobel Prize winner in 1973 – productions were few and far between until 1976, when he received two in one year. From 1976 to 1985, there are no less than 13 productions of White plays. What was going on?

Again, numbers do not tell the story; the story gives sense to the numbers. In 1976, a close relationship between White and the director Jim Sharman led to a revival of Sarsaparilla by the Old Tote Theatre (the predecessor of the Sydney Theatre Company). Designed by Brian Thomson and showing all the panache of the Australian ‘New Wave’ theatrical imagination, its unprecedented critical and popular success indicates a cultural transformation. In 1963, the critic Frank Harris dismissed Sarsaparilla as

a parade of puppets. The yapping of the dogs … sounded like a bad … joke; the chorus of derision against the false gentility and cliché-ridden lives of the neighbouring Pogson and Knott families became tiresome; even the two little girls who learn the facts of life by watching the dog pack… are … a weak stage device.39

But in 1976 the critic Geraldine Pascal greeted it as

something rich and strange and exciting … that … may point to a growing maturity in Australian theatre and, if accepted, a critical self-confidence in our audience. In the razzle-dazzle of time and motion since the play was written in 1961 … it gained an odd, if not controversial reputation for being difficult, abstrusely expressionist, and as a cold, clinical vivisection of Australian life. Well, expressionist may be the right label … but Sarsaparilla is a rich, sympathetic, complex play… We may have grown up enough in the past fourteen years to accept White’s vision.40

One day top rooster, next day feather duster. Or in White’s case, the other way round. Theatre is fertile ground for such volte-faces, 180-degree switches in social estimations of value. There is no doubt that in the 1960s Patrick White was regarded by all but a small coterie of admirers as a failed dramatist. Sarsaparilla, Ham Funeral, A Cheery Soul and Night on Bald Mountain were discussed, in large part, as technically flawed and morally distasteful. If the theatre-going public in Australia in the 1960s could be said to have a collective skin, White’s plays made that skin crawl. In the 1970s, the situation was entirely different. Not only did the reputation of his original four dramas undergo rehabilitation, but he started writing new plays – in 1978 Big Toys, in 1982 Signal Driver, in 1983 Netherwood, in 1987 Shepherd on the Rocks. Signal Driver was staged for the Adelaide Festival. Twenty-five years after having been forced out of its program, he was welcomed back as a lead attraction.

The zeros in Table 2 are an eloquent absence if, and only if, the right questions are asked. Once more a number of narrative pathways are available. One story is that of a would-be playwright struggling with rejection and neglect, then rediscovery and endorsement. Another is that of a theatre audience bewildered by modernist drama who learn to understand it. A third is the story of a new level of skill among Australian theatre artists, a profession now with the talent and experience to stage winning productions of White’s difficult plays.

When we overlay Table 1 with Table 2 these narratives emerge in full. Qualitative meaning and quantitative mark come together in a structural relation that historian Alun Munslowe calls ‘narrative supervenience’.41 The basic unit is the individual production of the individual play. Without these, there is no concept of White’s ‘body of work’ to refer to. Yet while the numbers get bigger, their interpretation demands that we keep different narrative perspectives separate. You have to look down on numbers from a higher point of understanding, and ‘run’ them towards this point to see what they indicate. To reduce a theatre season to a set of audience numbers is like reducing a football season to its final ladder.

Table 3 provides the big picture.42 The time period is the same as Table 2, 1960 to 1983. The top row shows professional productions of overseas plays in Australia, the bottom row professional productions of Australian ones. The latter climb dramatically from 1976 to 1985 before dropping back to 1960s levels in 1984 and 1985. White’s story is part of the story of Australian drama, and this narrative in turn relies on what happened to White to give it meaning and shape. We can generalise the White narrative, use it as a case study. But we can’t aggregate it without doing damage to a causal analysis. Was the 1976 production of Sarsaparilla a turning point for Australian theatre, a moment of national self-confidence? Or was it a consequence of it? What’s the story? Is it one of modernism finally arriving in Australian theatre? Or Australian plays, including modernist ones, finally arriving in Australian theatre programs? Or is it the appearance of the so-called ‘new audience’? Did a renovated public provide a new reception for this drama because White’s values – sharp, literary, both loving and hating Australian life and mores – no longer blocked perception of their value?

Here are the tables with their categories attached, available for narrative interpretation because there is now the contextual knowledge to handle it. Note however, that this is hard work and doesn’t generate a simple conclusion:

Table 1: ‘The Season at Sarsaparilla’ UTRC 1962. Box office summary

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Table 2: Professional production of plays by Patrick White, by year, 1960–1985

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Only when you know the story of numbers can you judge the linking of quantitative indicator to qualitative relation. Value is not well behaved. Assessors slide from proxy to narrative without being aware of it, the meaning of numbers in the whispered subtext they carry around in their heads. The further removed evaluation gets from lived cultural experience, the less likely quantified data is to represent it well. Costs, prices, attendances, sales, ‘footfalls’, ‘eyeballs on screens’, etc. – these countable marks only reflect increments of value to the degree there is attentiveness to the real experiences they append. Perhaps this is why large-scale projects, such as the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 or the Anzac celebrations of the Gallipoli landings in 2015, go right rather than wrong, satisfying expectations and entailing lively conversations about their value. Public attention is on them, so they can celebrate the nation and criticise the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the same narrative frame.


Table 3: Totals and percentage of professional productions of overseas and Australian plays in Australia, 1960–1985

image

Evaluations of cultural activities thus happen in multiple ways, rather than massing up, as David Throsby has convincingly argued when talking about the workings of the theatre market.43 This means assessment processes have to encompass several simultaneous ‘value states’, somewhat like a quantum computer. The reception of White’s plays in the 1960s was not ‘wrong’. Perhaps the high position we now give them will be seen as ‘wrong’ in 50 years’ time. One set of value relations does not supplant another. They co-exist. Evaluation strategies have to contend with this irreducible social fact and, to some extent, explain it. Numbers are a good tool for furnishing such explanations. They never provide an explanation in themselves.

Box 3 Farnarkulator

It’s the Farnarkulator, so named in memory of sports fan and comic genius John Clarke. It’s a sophisticated algorithm for assessing quality across the realm of sport. It mines big data in rich and complex ways so that valid comparisons and rankings can be made within and between different sports. No longer will pubs be held hostage to endless disputes about whether Stoke City is better at soccer than the Silver Ferns are at netball. If you pump in the data, you can find out definitively whether any modern sportsperson/horse exceeds Don Bradman or Phar Lap in excellence. Governments and advertisers will be grateful for a quick and easy way of deciding which team to back with a new stadium, sponsorship, or elite training program.

If you smell a rat, that’s because the idea of the Farnarkulator is self-evidently silly, and Laboratory Adelaide has discovered no attempt to do anything like it. Everyone we’ve talked to is adamant that any index that purports to compare across sports is nonsense. Sport is replete with real numbers that can be aggregated in myriad ways. But they can only shed angled light, at best, on the experience of players and spectators.

There are fewer real numbers in arts and culture than in sport, and they tell us even less about the quality of the experience. The number of notes played in a symphony does not help us distinguish a good one from a bad. Bendigo Art Gallery got sell-out crowds in 2016 for a Marilyn Monroe exhibition, but didn’t get similar numbers to ‘House of Mirrors’ in Rosalind Park the following year. But what does this mean? Audience numbers can inform a judgment of relative success, but they cannot determine it, or future decisions on programming. If regional art galleries put on nothing but fashion blockbusters, something crucial in the art ecology would be broken.

People in the arts are often sitting ducks for big data carpetbaggers, who peddle the promise that, with enough time and effort, a way of avoiding hard, personal, risky choices about comparative value is available.

Used where context is understood, and subject to robust interrogation, numbers can be worth the trouble. However, they can also be a distraction from more important but less measurable purposes, and:

1. They provide little security from external blows, because funding decisions are always political and not really based on the sorts of evidence they claim to want.

2. They quickly generate internal targets that work to the metrics and not to reality, so they distort internal practice.

3. If they escape into the public realm, they become targets and rankings in next to no time.

4. And the targets have to be exceeded every year because growth is the constant expectation.

Algorithm is just a fancy word for conceptual gadget. And the gadget for measuring cultural value, an artistic Farnarkulator, is not on the horizon.


24David Mitchell and Robert Webb, That Mitchell and Webb Look: thatmitchellandwebb.wikia.com/wiki/Numberwang.

25Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation. Translated and edited by Talcott Parsons (London: Free Press of Glencoe, 1947).

26These ideas are most accessible in Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (London: Allen Lane, 2011).

27Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 97.

28 W. Reichmann, Use and abuse of statistics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962).

29‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography’. Guardian, 4 October, 2012.

30For a path into this huge territory, see Denis Dutton, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009); and Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009).

31John Donne, Devotions on Emergent Occasions (1624), Devotion 17: ebooks. adelaide.edu.au/d/donne/john/devotions/chapter17.html.

34Eran Tal, ‘Old and New Problems in Philosophy of Measurement’, Philosophy Compass, 8/12 (2013), 1159–1173, emphasis added.

35David Marr, ‘“So Much of Our Life in It”. Arrogant Adelaide and the Theatre of Patrick White’, Australian Book Review, May 2012, 12–17.

36In author Julian Meyrick’s personal possession.

37This sum can be usefully compared to the minimum male annual wage at the time of £950; see Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Year Book Australia 1962, 404: www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/75BA8D21EF7BFA92CA2573AE00045CC6.

38These figures are taken from the AusStage database. Great care is taken to ensure that the information entered into AusStage is correct. However, while its dataset is extensive, it is not yet comprehensive. Though the figures in the section have been checked a number of times, small errors are still possible, and this should be borne in mind in respect of their interpretation.

39Frank Harris, ‘Cut the Cackle, Mr. Tasker’, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1963.

40Geraldine Pascall, ‘A Welcome Season’, The Australian, 8 November 1978.

41Alun Munslow, Narrative and History (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, 83).

42These figures are also taken from the AusStage database.

43David Throsby, ‘Perception of Quality in Demand for Theatre’ (1982). Reprinted in Journal of Cultural Economics (1990): 14/1.

What Matters?

   by Julian Meyrick, Robert Phiddian and Tully Barnett