Understanding Well-being Data

Preface Preface


This book is the result of my experiences of coming to understand wellbeing, data and the research disciplines and professional practices concerned with them. It is therefore informed by many, many conversations and collaborations—both formal and informal. I am so grateful to everyone who has listened to, read and watched the papers, ideas and reflections that underpin this book. Many discussions over the years have proved essential in developing its positions, arguments and insights. I include those who asked difficult questions when I presented earlier versions of my research (including all the research that does not appear here) and all the students and research participants that pushed me even further on pathways of discovery to further interrogate some of the whys, whats, wheres, hows and whos of well-being and data that form much of the book. Valuable provocations also came from brilliant people across policy and social and cultural sectors, and different forums from Twitter to meetings to workshops and events. I want to thank everyone who has contributed in this way. You are too many to name individually, but you know who you are.

I also want to thank all my research participants who made the empirical research that informed my understanding and made the case studies in this book so rich. This includes those behind the scenes who helped organise this: the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) for agreeing to access to their free text data set and my interviewees in the ONS, and those who provided contextual detail for the broader PhD research project. With the Arts Council England (ACE) and the hundreds of people who donated their time across the individual arts organisations, I want to thank their generosity and openness to discovering how things might be improved. I also want to thank those who participated in my PhD focus groups and the third-sector organisations and gatekeepers who allowed this to happen.

This book evolved from almost ten years’ research and the formal support that helped make these investigations and explorations possible include:

The PhD research project All Being Well? Cultures of Participation and the Cult of Measurement (2017) was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC’s) Connected Communities Large Project funding for Understanding Everyday Participation: Articulating Cultural Values, 2012–2017 [AH/J005401/1]. The research project, initially titled Social Mobility: The Case of the Arts, was supported by two AHRC funded Creative Economy and Engagement Fellowships on the awards: Data, Diversity and Inequality in the Creative Industries, 2018 [AH/R013322/1]; and What Constitutes ‘Good Data’ in the Creative Economy? Case studies in media and cultural industries, 2019 [AH/S012109/1]. The project Living With Data: knowledge, experiences and perceptions of data practices is supported by the Nuffield Foundation, 2019–2022 [OSP/43959]. The literature and evidence review for this book were partly facilitated by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award, for Cultural Engagement for Wellbeing, 2015 [201587/Z/16/Z]. In addition to this formal support, I would like to thank my PhD supervisors Andrew Miles, Jackie Stacey and Par Kumaraswami alongside my fellowship mentors Mark Taylor, Kate Oakley, Dave Beer and Helen Kennedy and my MA supervisor, Dave O’Brien. I would also like to thank my brilliant colleagues on the UEP project, these CEEF projects and the Living With Data project for support, camaraderie and inspiration and Nick Ewbank for his encouragement on Cultural Engagement for Wellbeing. This book is open access as a result of Wellcome’s further support of this research.

I want to thank Mark Taylor, who collaborated with me on further, unfunded research that features in this book and patiently read my redrafting of this. I am especially indebted to all colleagues, old and new, who I can call friends who read drafts and listened to thoughts and rambles as they became a book: Alex Albert, Caitlin Bentley, Andrew Cox, Sarah Feinstein, Kate Fitzgerald, Nigel Ford, Abi Gilmore, Louise Reardon, Sophie Rutter, Will Shankley, Lauren White and Ros Williams. The biggest thank you is to Charlotte Branchu, my rock in stage one of assembling this book, but also to Leon Tellez Contreras, Itzelle Medina-Perea and Lulu Pinney for helping with figures, referencing and indexing.

Alongside these wonderful people, I want to acknowledge the informal networks that helped me look after my well-being: Lauren White’s writing group; my comrades, the cultural policy coven; and more formal networks such as the Cultural Data and Research Network (CDRN).

I would also like to acknowledge all of the relevant research that I was not able to include. The irony of desperately trying to finish a book with a new job in a pandemic is that you have barely any time to read many other books, so new research has emerged that is undoubtedly relevant to the concerns and which are overlooked.

Lastly, special thanks to Dylan James and Frankie Grey for their endless curiosity and advice on project PBW.