#ASCmap Data Project Blog Series Post #2: How do you categorize community-engaged ASC work in a data project?

How do you categorize community-engaged ASC work in a data project?

Our #ASCmap project looks at community-engaged participatory art in BC, collecting and visualizing data to foster support for and awareness of the work being done in this sector. To this end, we want to provide insights into particular questions. Some of these questions, as noted in our previous post, are:

Where is community-engaged participatory ASC taking place in BC?
By who? For who?
What arts disciplines are they using?
What are the kinds of programming offered?
What are the areas of social change?
Who are their funders? What are they funding?

In order to answer these questions and gain meaningful insights from the data, it was necessary to create categories. These categories needed to be easily definable, in line with what was expressed in the relevant organizations’ websites, and applicable across the ASC sector.

We organized our data under broad themes, higher-level categories, of Main Communities Served, Art Disciplines used, and Social Change Focus. Each of these themes had their own related sub-categorizations described in our “data dictionary” listed below.

Main Communities Served

We arrived upon the categories and sub categories for Main communities served by investigating the specific ASC organizational landscape in the BC context. The process was iterative. We tried out a particular categorization, saw how it matched up with our organizations data and, if it was unrepresentative, we went back to the drawing board. In this process, the expertise of the SFU KEY data team is invaluable, as they helped us explore different ways of representing this information. Seeing the data visualization in action allowed us to change and adapt our categorization approach.

After a lot of collective brainstorming, we arrived at the following. There are 8 general categories of main communities served, 3 of which contain multiple sub-categories. These include tags: for example, Indigenous, People with Mixed Abilities/Disabilities, and Gender.

Arts Disciplines

We have listed 7 separate arts disciplines commonly used by BC’s ASC sector. This list was assembled based on common definitions of these disciplines, as well as what we observed in the data gathered. While many organizations focus mainly on one art form (Theatre, Music, Dance, etc.), it is common to find several different arts disciplines listed for one organization. For those organizations that implement all the arts disciplines, we have labelled them as Multidisciplinary. When we use the designation Multidisciplinary in this category, we specifically do not list any other arts discipline.

Social Change Focuses

Naturally, as these are ASC-related works, they have specific social-change orientation. After digging through 100s of ASC sector websites, we determined Social Change Focuses through the mandates and programming of the organizations. We pinpointed 9 broad categories to represent this wide array of social change-focussed work: such as, Social Justice, Environment, Health, and Conflict Resolution, etc.

Many of the ASC organizations or practitioners we surveyed, may not have a specific social change focus outside of offering educational programs dedicated to the fostering of particular skills (often through art-making), and community-building. We debated how to appropriately label this work; for example, we first had a category of Education and then later changed it to Skills Development.

However, we found that these categories were too broad and not accurate to describe the important work done in this area. Through further review and consideration of how ASC practitioners and organizations describe this work, we arrived at the solution to create two new categories to replace the overly general Skills Development. These are:

Life Skills is ASC work that fosters adaptive and positive behaviours that enable people to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life for the health and wellbeing of themselves as well as their communities.

Knowledge Sharing focuses on exchanging knowledge to increase understanding, raise awareness, and foster empathy and identity.

Although our project originally intended to document and record data on community-engaged ASC organizations, we also want to acknowledge the contributions to this sector by independent ASC artist practitioners who are not officially affiliated with a particular organization. We are in the process of seeing how to recognise their contributions to the field and integrate them into the data project.

Stay posted for Blog Post #3 in this series for more developments!
Once we are far enough in this data project, we will share the visualized version with you... but we are not quite there yet!