Archive for the ‘survey research’ Category

Creating spaces for artists

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Recently, some urban planners and politicians have touted nurturing artistic, creative professionals as the means for revitalizing or gentrifying urban areas. However, poorer and less politically powerful locals may eventually be displaced as rents and property values rise. In addition, funding for the arts is still relatively scarce, and art galleries and museums tend to favor star artists with international reputations. Artists thus face several challenges in producing their art – getting resources to do the art, developing relations with supportive colleagues and institutions, and finding places to share their art.

While alternative art venues like Burning Man can help with such issues, community-based collectives are also important to supporting local artistic activities, as argued by Yasmin Ramirez of Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY). Last night, I attended a talk by Ramirez, who discussed the importance of local networks in supporting the arts. She also presented the results of a survey of artists of color who had applied for an arts grant from the Urban Artist Initiative. Her report is available here.

Who is the “average” Burning Man attendee?

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Thanks to Prof. Caroline Lee, a sociologist whose expertise includes the professionalization of participatory practices, I recently gave an invited lecture at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. Among other questions, students asked what kinds of people attend the Burning Man event. In particular, they were curious about participants’ finances.

Answering these kinds of questions is only possible because of survey research.* One of the first surveys administered at Burning Man was run by a theme camp called the Ministry of Statistics. Passers-by to the theme camp, which was located in the Central Camp area, were invited to complete the survey, and the Ministry of Statistics posted statistics on the collected data  during the event. The media reproduced several of these statistics, including one about drug consumption, in print, much to the dismay of Burning Man organizers who were concerned about the event’s legitimacy.

Since then, the Burning Man organization has gathered demographic information via a convenience survey administered during the event.  The collected information is available in the AfterBurn report on the Burning Man website.  For example, information on salary, home ownership, etc. of surveyed 2007 Burning Man respondents is available here.

Here’s of a photo of 2008 participants diligently completing the survey in the Center Camp Cafe:

2008 Burning Man participants complete survey at the Center Camp Cafe

In other years, the Burning Man organization has also gathered self-reported data on how much participants spent on local businesses; such information was intended to show that the event benefited local Nevada communities.

*Also, the idea that one can quantify the “average” person is a relatively recent phenomena.  See historian Sarah E. Igo’s The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public.