My Console Collection by Flickr user Sarah

My Console Collection by Flickr user Sarah

It’s widely reported that able-bodied young men, without college degrees are underemployed and unemployed in record numbers. Despite this hardship, one recent study has found that these young men are actually happier than their equivalents were 10 years ago. The source of their pleasure? Much of it may come from playing video games instead of working. The “real-world” jobs available to them do not provide the sense of achievement or community that can be found through gaming, so many of these young men are choosing to live at home, in a virtual reality (nearly three quarters of the drop in work hours for this group is accounted for by increased time spent playing video games). It seems like bad news, but perhaps the implications of this retreat from the workforce are not as dire as they seem: inventive researchers are working with gamers to find cures for disease.

Can the Quality of Art be Quantified? Arts Council England is betting on it. The government agency recently announced a plan to have all of its National Portfolio Organizations (NPO) that receive over £250k per year must adopt and adhere to the Quality Metrics program, a standardized measurement approach designed to consistently and meaningfully measure artistic quality. These grantees are required to participate in a number of annual evaluations and engage in regular peer review, regardless of art form and organizational structure. Despite significant concerns raised in a post-pilot evaluation of the platform, the program is moving forward – for now. The news has sparked quite a row from UK artists on Twitter, and even incoming ACE Chair Nicholas Serota has expressed skepticism. In other quantification news, a new algorithm predicts the likelihood that a book will become a bestseller and, thanks to Apple’s iBeacon, many of the world’s major museums are using big data in their attempts to improve their visitors’ experiences.

High Culture and Pop Culture Converge. BBC2 is dropping an unorthodox bomb in this autumn’s rating wars: high culture. The British television station will shelve its usual schedule of repeats, to air poetry, dance, and documentaries on Saturday evenings. This new focus on culture will feature contemporary programming rooted in traditional forms and narrative (for example, a twist on WH Auden and a production by a performance artist who merges hip-hop, poetry and theatre). Through the creation of a “cultural destination” for its viewers, BBC2 may well provide the UK’s artists and arts organizations with invaluable opportunities and exposure.

The Connected Future of Fine Art? We suppose it was only a matter of time before “hacking” would come for classical art forms.  In August, the Dutch National Ballet premiered Night Fall, a new ballet choreographed by Peter Leung – not for the stage, but for virtual reality (VR).  Viewers need only a VR-compatible device to experience the “goose bump-worthy” performance, the first of its kind, as technology enables the performers to embark on an instant global tour. Meanwhile, the Tate Britain launched the IK Prize-winning online initiative Recognition. The program employs artificial intelligence to match the Tate Britain’s iconic collection with photojournalism from the contemporary 24-hour news cycle. It is designed to provoke new questions about art and life.

Culture vs. Terrorism. In September, France’s President François Hollande stood in the Egyptian Galleries at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and announced the formation of a $100 million fund to combat terrorist attacks on cultural sites in the Middle East. (He did not say how much his own government would be contributing to this “public-private partnership,” but did express hope that the Met’s donors would pitch in.) Hollande also referenced an upcoming (December 2016) conference hosted by the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which will focus on culture and terrorism. Although the preservation of cultural artifacts is integral to global human culture, it is interesting that France’s president advocated for the asylum of art works while its Prime Minister expressed reluctance to grant asylum to people.