10. Participation of individuals in the creative chain

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Skip to text

Text begins

Individual Canadians participate in culture at all stages of the creative chain: as creators, as supporters, and as audiences. Participation in creation and production may be as professional artists, as paid employees, or as amateurs or volunteers. Individuals may provide support to culture through donations, investment, or volunteerism. Traditionally, the supply-side of a culture framework measures individuals who are creators, while the demand-side measures the involvement of individuals as audiences and purchasers.

At every stage of the creative chain, the participation of individuals has economic and social effects. There is a great deal of interest in understanding the impact at the stage of use through the measurement of the monetary and social value of culture to the consumer. Understanding the link between production and use, in turn, supports policy-making and program design. For policy and planning purposes, it is important to measure the impact from both an economic and social perspective. Figure 8 demonstrates graphically the various ways that individuals interact with the creative chain.

Figure 8 Participation  of individuals at all stages of the creative chainFigure 8 Participation of individuals at all stages of the creative chain

For each domain, there are different types of activity, including involvement in the activity itself (creative expression), the support provided by others, and the audience. The usual distinction in data collection and analysis is between attending (audience), expression (doing), and purchase (spending).

Table 2 Creator and consumer activities by domainTable 2 Creator and consumer activities by domain

Table 2 demonstrates how, beyond their professional activities as creators and workers, there are many ways that individuals interact with the creative chain. In summary, they are:

  1. 'Purchasing' with or without payment (buying products, free downloads)
  2. Consuming/using content (listening, reading, watching)
  3. Attending (performances, festivals, museums)
  4. Sharing (file-sharing, copying, loans (library), on-line (photo websites)
  5. Amateur participation/performance (acting, set design, teaching)
  6. Interactivity (generating content, playing interactive games)
  7. Learning (education, training, self-taught)
  8. Creating (creation for personal use, such as pottery, photography, on-line social networks)
  9. Using mediating products (television, CD player, computer, radio, MP3 player)

Usually, the characteristics of the audience are measured by their habits (e.g. viewing performances, listening to recordings), while the creative activity of individuals is measured through activities such as taking a course, producing a painting, etc. Expenditures on goods and services (e.g. purchases of CDs and DVDs, movie or theatre tickets, museum entrance fees) reflect the role of the purchaser. Other information can be collected about individual support for culture, such as volunteering and giving.

The impact of volunteering, both on culture production and on the volunteers themselves, is a subject of interest. For example, volunteers may help at a live music performance by providing a variety of support by acting as technicians, ticket sellers, ushers, stagehands, prop makers, etc., thus reducing expenses related to production. Volunteer participation may allow individuals to develop knowledge and skills, which in turn can result in the future sale of labour, as the individuals may then be adequately trained and have an interest in selling their labour or products to other players in the creative chain.

10.1 Individuals as creators

Traditionally, individuals participated in the creation stage of the creative chain either as professional artists whose work was performed or reproduced and delivered to an audience, or as amateur artists whose work was for personal or family consumption and which rarely reached a public audience.

New technology has played a singular role in expanding opportunities to individuals to create culture content and deliver it to audiences. Moreover, the lines between creation and use have been growing closer as the work of producing and disseminating content diminishes. There has been a dramatic transformation in the way that individuals use culture products, so that it can be said that, "participation is the new consumption" (Trendwatching.com 2007). Most notably, tools created as labour saving devices, such as computers, have changed from being tools for consumption into tools for expression and participation. Trend-watchers suggest that there are two main drivers fuelling this trend: the creative urges that each individual undeniably possesses, and the availability of ever cheaper, ever more-powerful, content-creating tools, so that, "Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to get them to create, to produce, and to participate" (Trendwatching.com 2004).

The Internet brings together the creator, the consumer and the producer. The creation of culture products by individuals takes place in every culture domain in the framework. Social media is a tool that lets an individual share information and network with others over the Internet. Currently, individuals load personal photos, videos, and commentary on social networking sites, create games and other interactive content for other on-line users, and amass private collections of products for sharing with others. In Canada in 2009, 31% of home users reported downloading or watching TV or movies, while 27% reported contributing content by writing blogs, posting photographs or joining discussion groups (Statistics Canada 2010b). Since then, there has been an upward trend toward increased uploading and sharing of multi-media content on the Internet, with a shift from individuals as consumers to an expanded role as creators. The Internet is becoming more and more central to the personal creation and consumption of culture content.

An exploding area of activity is citizen journalism or DIY journalism, where individuals provide analysis, news reports, and images to other consumers on their own blogs and websites without the usual editorial filters. Access to Web 2.01 technology has ensured, in the words of the CBC that "the tools of journalism are no longer the exclusive preserve of journalists" (Basen 2009). Even news media sources welcome input from Canadians, encouraging them to send photos, videos, and stories to their news desks.2 Content is now partly created by those individuals who also function as audience. The result has blurred the role of the consumer versus the creator and thus our ability to measure those stages in the creative chain that were previously distinct.

10.2 Individuals as consumers

The CFSC is interested in more than just consumption as an economic measure of demand. The framework is also intended to encourage the measurement of the characteristics of consumers. Different types of people consume different types of culture products. The consumer may require some education or knowledge, which is also measureable, that is required to fully appreciate or use culture products. In addition, the use of culture gives rise to some social and economic effects, some of which have an impact directly on the individual while others accrue to the broader community. All of these characteristics and effects, related to use, are part of the measurement goals of the Canadian Framework for Culture Statistics (CFCS).

From the perspective of culture creators, the purpose of creation may not be consumer demand or market forces. While use may have an impact on creation, many acts of creation are inspired for reasons other than consumer feedback or demand. Even so, the importance of art for its own sake does not deny the possibility of direct and indirect benefits from culture, even if the artistic work was not produced originally with social and economic benefits in mind.

Researchers tend to consider the audience or consumer from either a commercial or a social perspective. An economic approach analyzes varieties and level of demand, placing an emphasis on numbers and values of purchases, advertising revenues that are tied to commercial ratings, and how audience trends affect the marketing and production of culture goods. A social approach may focus instead on access to and consumption of culture by various groups. Research questions can be about who consumes what kinds of culture content, if there are barriers to access for different communities, or if seeing a film or reading a book change a person's life. Focusing only on an economic or social approach leaves little room for a consolidated understanding of individuals and their complex relationship to culture. Far preferable would be an approach that provides a more comprehensive look at the many factors that influence the use of culture products in a rapidly changing Canada.

The framework applies the same domains to the use of culture products as those employed to describe their supply. As noted earlier, there is added complexity when the domains are applied for the measurement of use, due to changes in how individuals consume culture, and the limited tools available for measurement purposes. New techniques or survey instruments are required to measure the culture products developed and disseminated by individuals, using Web 2.0 and other technologies.

Although consumers represent the final stage in the chain, they have a central role in the development and growth of culture products. While the act of creation is often not itself determined by market demand, the production and dissemination of culture products is very much influenced by the interests of consumers.

Consumption patterns can be explored not only by profiling consumers of culture, but also by ascertaining the motivation for consumption or non-consumption. The availability of a product does not preclude an individual making the choice not to consume. It has been suggested that while creators, producers, and distributors are integral to the process of change in the culture and information sectors, audiences and consumers, who traditionally hold an 'outside' role in this decision-making process, will "largely determine the shape of cultural participation to come" (Foote 2002, p. 209-210).

Consumers and would-be consumers alike exert the same power, whether they choose to spend (or not to spend) time or money on the efforts or exhibitions of creative artists…. Thus, through their demonstrations of changing tastes and preferences, audiences and consumers provide feedback on the several uses and gratifications to be found in viewing, listening, and/or buying various cultural productions. (Foote 2002, p. 210)

In an ever-changing environment, it is difficult to monitor changes to consumption patterns and the effect of these changes on Canadian creators and consumers. This difficulty is intensified by the fact that there are serious gaps in the existing data available regarding the behaviour of Canadian consumers. Despite years of surveys and analysis, there is still little information available about the relationship between consumers and culture products. There is still much to learn about how consumers obtain culture products, how they are used, why they choose some products or activities over others, and the impact of these choices.

The framework will support a broad-based analysis of culture consumption through its coverage of all culture products as well as the activities, institutions and occupations that support them. It is clear that the same factors that affect the patterns of consumption have an impact on the creators, as well as the establishments that foster them.

10.3 Distinction between the purchaser and consumer

The social effects that accrue to either individuals or societies do not always relate to the economic agent that purchases the good or service; there is a distinction between the use of a culture product and its demand. For example, a corporation may purchase a painting that is viewed (used) by individuals such as employees and clients. There may be some social effects arising from the use of this painting but these are a result of individuals viewing the work of art. While the corporation may receive some positive effects, the legal entity that purchased the product will not change its behaviour due to the purchase but this purchase will have an economic impact.

To understand the economic effects, the culture sector can be examined from a perspective that is aligned more closely to the notion of final demand from the System of National Accounts. In this context, demand is divided amongst the economic agents that purchase the good or service:

  • Personal expenditure: includes purchases made by individuals.
  • Business investment: includes the investment in culture products by businesses, such as the purchase of culture products for use by employees or clients (e.g. art in the cafeteria).
  • Government spending: includes the final demand for culture products by government, such as works commissioned by the government.
  • Foreign demand: includes the demand for culture content by persons, businesses, and governments outside of Canada. To determine the economic impact of culture, we are interested in exports net of (minus) the imports.

While there may be different economic agents who purchase culture products, in the end it is an individual who consumes them. A corporation, for instance, cannot appreciate a culture product by itself, only individuals, who are in a position to interact with the work, can appreciate it. An example is a company that purchases a statue for its office building that is viewed by its workers or by the public. In this respect, the framework considers use, not in terms of the company, but from the standpoint of the viewer of the work. Similarly, in the case of a city-funded presentation of a play, the final 'use' is not the city paying for the production (final purchaser), but the audience watching it.

10.4 Measures of culture demand: Users and uses

Most research on Canadian culture has focused on the activities of culture establishments and the supply of culture content to the Canadian marketplace. Information on the use of culture content has been limited to intermittent measures of time use, activity, spending or attendance. There has been limited detailed information about the availability of culture content, how consumers discover culture products, how they gain access to and use these products, or the impact of these culture products on their lives. More recently, due in part to the growth in new technologies, a greater focus has been placed on these issues.

Understanding culture requires a number of demand indicators based on knowledge of the goods and services consumed, the characteristics of the consumer, and the extent to which individuals consume these goods and services (quantity, value, frequency, and time). Analysis benefits from the use of a variety of measures.

10.4.1 Characteristics of users

Individuals who consume culture products have their own characteristics. Demographic measures such as age, gender, birthplace, language, ethnic origin, race, religion, geography, income (particularly disposable income), educational attainment, training, occupation and employment status, home ownership, living arrangements, community size, mobility patterns, disabilities, etc, help to uncover the characteristics of audiences, participants, and consumers. An individual's demographic background can influence spending and participation; correlating demographic characteristics with rates of participation can increase our knowledge about the culture practices of subgroups of Canadian society. This information can also be used to produce profiles of consumers of specific products, or to create analyses of groups of typical consumers.3

10.4.2 Costs of use: time and money

Statistical programs that focus on expenditures by consumers and participants at paid culture activities can capture the economic and social dimensions of culture. Surveys of culture consumption typically follow three basic approaches: expenditure, activity or time-use surveys, although administrative data may also be used.

Expenditure-based surveys collect data on spending behaviour. Activity-based surveys consist of a questionnaire or telephone interview to gather data on participation in various activities over a specified timeframe. These two types of surveys are the most common. A third approach, time-use surveys, asks respondents to report their activity, by specified time slots, into a diary. This allows for documentation of the type and frequency of culture activity. One benefit is that time-use surveys allow for the measurement of simultaneous activities, such as listening to the radio while cooking a meal. Non-market activity data, which can be used to develop a profile of the culture consumer, has been called "a more accurate reflection of the importance of culture in people's lives," (Ogrodnik 2000, p. 7) because not all culture activities require a monetary expenditure, but all activities, whether monetized or not, require time.

10.4.3 Measures of use

Measures of use include rates of participation, frequency, intensity, duration, behaviour, and possibly quality, of an individual's use of culture goods and services.4 Data on rates of participation, duration, frequency, and intensity are available from Statistics Canada surveys while other measures, such as behaviour, motivation and quality, are not commonly available from standard surveys.

The framework includes all elements of participation in culture activity or practices, whether they are through paid employment or attendance at formal (i.e. performance in a theatre or subject to fees) or informal culture events (community events) not subject to monetary transactions, or through culture activities at home.

Other characteristics may be analyzed to increase our understanding of the use of culture products. These characteristics, suggested by the ways that other organizations or countries analyze culture participation, might include the following measures of analysis:

  • Formal and organized or informal and unstructured free time
  • Regular or irregular activity
  • Takes place inside the home or outside the home
  • Unpaid or paid activity
  • Internet-based or 'live' activity
  • A single activity or multi-tasking
  • Passive or active activity
  • Contracted time or committed time or necessary time
  • Attending or receiving activity
  • Professional or amateur production

Some of these categories are collected in standard surveys, while others can be determined through analytical techniques. Even so, it is impossible to create a complete picture of all of the measures of use from one statistical tool, or provide a full and coordinated analysis from such a variety of sources designed with different goals. Time-use surveys can collect most of these characteristics, but a comprehensive survey of culture practices, that measure type of activity, spending, participation and motivation, has typically been beyond the capacity of most nations due to its complexity. Instead, data are gathered, usually through separate surveys on attendance, spending, and creation. Without linkages between the datasets, or consistent design of samples or surveys, it is difficult to produce a comprehensive analysis.

10.4.4 Access

Information about access to culture products, and the infrastructure that supports them, enables a better understanding of the link between the supply and use of culture products. It is clear that the lack of products, facilities, or services in any given area affects the level of potential consumption; if no live theatre exists in a community, it is unlikely there will be much attendance at live performances. Conversely, the "definition of 'real or relevant choice' can differ quite significantly from what a pure number count of available cultural content might suggest" (Foote 2002, p. 217). For example, the availability of a museum in a community does not guarantee attendance. Similarly, lack of a museum does not necessarily mean lack of interest in attending; it just reflects an unmet need.

10.4.5   Motivation and barriers to activity

The lack of opportunity, access, proximity to culture events and facilities, time, technology, and support, as well as economic restrictions can all result in non-participation. It is important, however, to know whether the non-participation is the result of barriers to access, or a lack of interest. Many factors can affect what and how Canadians use or reject culture products. An understanding of individuals' motivations for the consumption of culture will help to determine the extent to which any particular group of people will be interested in any specific type of product, or whether they will participate in culture at all. As such, motivation and barriers to use are importantmeasures to understand the use of culture products.


  1. Web 2.0 is a social and interactive web that facilitates collaboration between people. It differs from Web 1.0, the early web, which was a one-way presentation of information where people read websites but had limited interaction with them.
  2. CBC News, Your Voice, http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourvoice/.
  3. Ontario has used this approach to analyze travel markets and create profiles of types of tourists (Government of Ontario).
  4. In general, the Statistics Canada General Social Survey (GSS) explores the culture choices of an individual through its time-use cycle, while the expenditure data from the Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending (SHS) reports on a group of individuals living together in one household.
Date modified: