TACPS Cultural Petition to the 2024 Presidential Election

TACPS Cultural Petition to the 2024 Presidential Election: The Sustainability of Culture and Democratic Governance in Taiwan

After series of civil-driven cultural policy reforms in the 2000s and 2010s, a civil-activated model of participatory cultural governance, and cultural democracy has been the distinctive markers of Taiwan in Asia. In September 2023, the Taiwan Association of Cultural Policy Studies (TACPS) in collaboration with the Foundation for Future Generation in Taiwan convened four expert forums on Taiwan’s cultural policy and governance. In the forums, we have converged opinions from practitioners, academics and professionals in the areas of arts, culture, public policy, societal studies, economy, enterprises, heritage studies, architecture, design, urban planning, communication, technology, community regerations, and labor conditions. On this basis, we announce the “TACPS Cultural Petition to the 2024 Presidential Election: The Sustainability of Culture and Democratic Governance in Taiwan”, and advocate the five substantive cultural policy strategies to the future Nation leaders in Taiwan. We believe that “cultural sustainability” and “participatory cultural democracy” will be the directions for the next generation cultural policy. Culture is a “public good” in Taiwan, its public value and impact should not be underestimated. The five policy strategies include:

Cultural Sustainability and Democratic Governance

Culture, economy, society, and the environment are critical and interconnected components of sustainable development. We must look beyond the economic perspective and take a cultural approach to national development. Cultural policies are increasingly being incorporated into development strategies, which include re-democratization of culture in all policy actions. Local community members should have the right to actively participate in cultural activities and give their voices in determining development goals and means. The bottom-up approach, with the ideal of people as the subject, will promote the cultural public sphere and the implementation of cultural democracy practices in Taiwan. We propose the following strategic recommendations for cultural public governance:

  1. Enforce evaluation mechanism for central and local government cultural policy implementation (including cultural impact assessment as well as the reconstructed cultural statistics and indicators) and enhance the participatory mechanism for policy formulation.
  2. Adopt evidence-based allocation of cultural policy resources and the arm’s length principle. Construct a cultural resource integration platform for intermediary organizations (administrative corporations, government-endowed foundations, etc.), cultural parks, and other intermediary organizations between the central and local governments with the SDGs as the common goal.
  3. Take the cultural life circle and regional cultural ecology as the center of governance; balance accessibility of local cultural facilities, venues, and activities; implement a professional arts manager system; and promote social inclusion, cultural equality, and participation.
  4. Continue to restruct cultural organizations and evaluate job posts at the central and local governments, promote cultural professional staffing and talent exchanges between the public and private sectors, and develop a cultural professional personnel system for cultural institutions.
  5. Establish a National Cultural Policy Research Center to amass policy research capacity. Establish a dedicated international cultural exchange corporation (or administrative corporation or enhance the functions of an existing foundation) to strengthen connections with international think tanks and cultural institutions abroad.

Sustainability of Cultural Economy and Value Cycle

Culture facilitates sustainable development. To take it a step further, culture is synonymous with sustainable development. And taking culture as the foundation of sustainable development is also a prerequisite to pursuing social changes. Cultural sustainability policies should be pursued based on UNESCO’s four key global theme indicators for 2030, namely, environment and resilience, prosperity and livelihoods, knowledge and skills, inclusion, and participation. The MONDIACULT 2022-UNESCO conference declared “Culture a Global Public Good”, and the concept has since become a clear international trend. We propose the five policy strategies below to align Taiwan’s cultural sustainability policy with global cultural sustainable development goals and tailor them to local conditions.

  1. Treat culture as Taiwan’s public good: Assure the State’s interface role in the cultural economy network ecosystem and in regulating cultural financial markets and investment. Adopt development strategies, such as introducing private investment, enriching the quality of mass popular culture content, incubating the cultural industries, and regulating the market.
  2. Formulate a development strategy for medium, small, and micro cultural industries: Use the cultural governance strategic framework, understand the cultural development status in various industries and practically assist the development of medium, small, and micro cultural industries.
  3. Introduce corporate ESG for culture strategies and establish a cultural impact evaluation system for company sustainability reporting: Support (sponsor or invest) the development of cultural content industries, community regeneration, and regionally distinctive cultural industries.
  4. Cultivate cultural and creative talents: Facilitate talent development in the cultural and creative industries (cultural contents) that can promote domestic and international supplies and demands, and help develop and expand international markets.
  5. Support community civil organizations in the development of social enterprises and cooperative economies: Inspire community organizations to collaborate on citizen science and technology (or grassroot cultural technology) to demonstrate the nation’s progress in digital democracy.

Cultural Assets and Spatial Redevelopment for Sustainability

Since the Ministry of Culture introduced the “Regeneration of Historical Sites” policy to harmonize cultural and spatial governance, counties and cities have grappled with a range of challenges involving restoration, repurposing, operational management, and interdepartmental coordination. While these issues aren’t new, the substantial investment in the “Regeneration of Historical Sites” policy has shed light on the ongoing struggles in cultural asset management.

Today, cultural heritage is no longer solely a cultural concept; it has evolved into a medium and a realm for reflecting and reconstructing urban and rural environments. Whether we refer to it as “cultural heritage” or “cultural inheritance,” the emphasis remains on preserving cultural value. Consequently, alongside the growth of developmentalism, the spirit and techniques of preservation, maintenance, and reuse have become pivotal benchmarks for reshaping urban and rural environments. In essence, it is essential to concurrently support the redevelopment of urban and rural spaces and the preservation of cultural assets. First and foremost, a high-quality, comfortable, and dignified living environment forms the bedrock of social justice. The preservation and regeneration of culture must be integrated with environmental enhancement to augment its social significance.

Second, it is essential to integrate contemporary values into the field of cultural preservation, enabling individuals to grasp and experience the significance of cultural inheritance, maintenance, and reuse in their daily lives.

Third, the expansion of communication channels and public participation should be rooted in collaborative cultural governance rather than mere administrative control. The objective is to seamlessly incorporate historical heritage into the lives of ordinary citizens through value interpretation, encompassing activities like historical site restoration, historic house preservation, and cultural education.

Lastly, hardware alone cannot accomplish these goals. To address deficiencies in infrastructure, software content enhancements are imperative for the restoration and reuse of cultural assets, along with the efficient operation of cultural governance systems. We propose the following policy recommendations for the redevelopment of cultural assets and spatial construction:

  1. Land planning in both urban and rural settings must prioritize cultural asset preservation: Preserving the historical appearance of urban and rural environments cannot rely solely on the competent authorities responsible for statutory cultural assets. It necessitates additional land and resource inventory, as well as comprehensive planning. Regrettably, current land planning implementation falls short in terms of offering sufficient regulation and support from an urban preservation perspective.
  2. Publicly owned cultural assets should formulate a comprehensive national asset utilization plan in alignment with societal demands: The public asset spaces within the purview of the Bureau (Department) of Cultural Affairs should offer a diverse array of cultural functions. We need to go beyond the constraints set by the Bureau (Department) of Cultural Affairs and devise revitalization and repurposing strategies that align with the broader national asset utilization goals, making cultural assets more accessible to the general populace and addressing social needs such as youth housing and long-term elderly care.
  3. Establish administrative corporations with the core objective of cultural asset management and the establishment of a sustainable development strategy encompassing both policy frameworks and physical infrastructure: In accordance with the shift from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the growing emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) in business, we should facilitate private sector participation in the cultural assets sector and generate additional job opportunities related to cultural assets. Administrative corporations could be established to oversee sustainable cultural asset development, coordinate, and align resources from various stakeholders.
  4. Enhancing the accessibility and ease of cultural asset donations: Currently, citizens have limited avenues for supporting cultural assets through donations: While Article 101 of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act offers a 100% tax deduction for cultural asset donations, such contributions must be directed to the competent authority, the National Culture and Arts Foundation, or municipal or county (city) cultural foundations, which can be inconvenient for the public. It’s a pressing issue to streamline and simplify the process of donations, thereby bolstering public willingness to support cultural institutions.
  5. Sustain preservation and rejuvenation initiatives for privately owned historic structures, and enhance regulatory limitations on the refurbishment and reconstruction of these aged buildings: The existing construction management system makes it challenging for pre-1971 buildings to secure legal building permits, hindering their potential for gaining legal status through revitalization and repurposing. It’s imperative to reevaluate and update outdated policies and execution plans related to the preservation and rejuvenation of privately owned historic buildings.
  6. Institute guidelines for cultural asset restoration and ethical maintenance procedures: In recent times, there have been several conflicts arising from differences in ideas and practices concerning the restoration of architectural cultural heritage. Much of this discord can be attributed to the absence of international restoration standards integrated into Taiwan’s cultural heritage system. Given the irreversibility of cultural assets, it is crucial to develop principles and guidelines for restoration and maintenance.
  7. Broaden the scope of cultural asset education and promote its integration from the grassroots level: It’s essential to nurture a collective inclination to engage with cultural sites through cultural education experiences, thereby fostering a sense of familiarity and closeness between the public and historical sites. This integration aims to make cultural resources an integral part of people’s lives.
  8. Sustain the growth of fundamental research on cultural assets and foster additional avenues for cultural content interpretation: Effective cultural asset interpretation relies on an array of cultural contents and materials. Yet, research findings, work reports, historical studies, and academic results stemming from oral interviews about cultural assets are often archived and forgotten once a case concludes. To remedy this, a portion of the standard budget allocated to the cultural sector should be consistently allocated to advance the research and practical application of cultural asset knowledge.
  9. Foster cultural asset professionals and guarantee their job security: The notion of cultural heritage preservation loses its significance if cultural assets, technological expertise, knowledge systems, and traditional skills cannot sustain a livelihood. The key challenge lies in safeguarding the right to employment in the field of cultural asset restoration and related professional roles.

Cultural technology and cultural communication sustainability: What is the next step for the “Cultural Technology Agenda”?

The rapid advancement of digital technology has brought immense convenience to human society, transcending geographical boundaries that were once imposed by national and geographical divisions. Information, communication, cultural content, as well as film, television, and audio products can now circulate across vast distances, expanding the reach and influence of transnational culture. Nations that are actively developing cultural technology and communication systems are faced with multifaceted concerns, including issues related to information security, the preservation of national identity and voice, the cultural rights of their citizens, democratic participation, collective memory, artistic creation, labor security, as well as economic and industrial considerations. Cultural diplomacy and the cultivation of soft power are two prominent examples of the political, social, and cultural dimensions that have become crucial within the realm of cultural policy.

In 2019, the Ministry of Culture drafted the “Culture Technology Policy Agenda” as the primary guideline for shaping Taiwan’s policies at the intersection of culture, science, and technology. This agenda is driven by two major visions: firstly, leveraging digital technology to effectively enhance cultural engagement, safeguard diversity and equality, and foster a digital cultural civil society; and secondly, reinforcing the production of indigenous culture in the digital age, upholding cultural dissemination rights, and enhancing the nation’s cultural soft power.

As four years have passed since the inception of the “Culture Technology Policy Agenda,” the question arises: to what extent has this agenda been progressively implemented? What specific policy instruments and approaches are required to support and respond to these objectives? Furthermore, what governance structures and policy recommendations should be put forward for the next phase in Taiwan’s cultural and technological development?

Before moving on to the next phase, let’s first set the current context. To begin with, Taiwan has faced challenges in establishing digital and cultural technology infrastructure from 2019 to 2023. Regardless of how digital platforms are managed, the free flow of information, data construction, and the collection of Big Data are constrained by transnational digital technologies, making it challenging to create local and reliable digital environments and facilities. Additionally, the division of responsibilities among government agencies has been a source of complexity. The Ministry of Digital Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the National Communications Commission have been tasked with managing the country’s digital initiatives. However, these agencies still need to develop the expertise and innovative capacities required for cultural technology and cultural communication.

Moreover, Taiwan grapples with a significant shortage of talent in the cultural, scientific, and technological fields. Those in the science and technology sector often lack an understanding of culture and art, while cultural artists frequently lack a grasp of science and technology. There is an urgent need for a platform or system that can mediate, bridge, and connect these two industries. Taiwan’s technology industry boasts high incomes and substantial room for expansion, mainly due to the considerable structural disparity between the cultural and technology sectors. The cultural industry, on the other hand, experiences lower profits and challenging labor conditions, leading most potential cultural talents to migrate to the technology industry. These factors have hindered the development of Taiwan’s cultural technology and cultural communication. Specific policy recommendations are outlined as follows:

  1. Cultural technology and communication rely on a stable and robust public infrastructure as their foundational cornerstone: It’s only through dependable infrastructure, including the expansion of public broadcasting organizations, the establishment of Taiwan’s digital platform, the convergence of independent communication, the advancement of consumer experience research and cultural perception, the accumulation and effective management of Big Data, and the nurturing of the industrial ecosystem, that Taiwan can genuinely foster the growth and success of its cultural technology and cultural communication endeavors.
  2. Institutionalizing Cultural Technology and Digital Governance: Cultural technology governance is intricately intertwined with digital and technology governance. However, many aspects of digital governance remain subjects of ongoing debate, and societal consensus on issues like digital streaming, personal information privacy, data collection, data usage, copyright, information security, the dominance of transnational tech giants, and the formulation of digital legislation is yet to be fully established. Given this context, it is not realistic for cultural technology governance to flourish independently. Moreover, it is an even more formidable task to establish Taiwan’s cultural identity. Presently, even before the formal approval of the “Cultural Technology Policy Agenda” draft, there is a need for an evolved version— “Cultural Technology Policy Agenda 2.0″—focused on promoting the creation and dissemination of cultural technology, rooted in the core values of fostering and safeguarding Taiwan’s cultural sovereignty and the implementation of diverse cultural rights. We recommend that the Executive Yuan establishes an inter-ministerial cultural technology platform, emphasizing cross-ministerial collaboration, with the cultural discipline/field as its principal domain, complemented by technology. The Organizational Act of the Ministry of Culture should also undergo adjustments. The information, communication, and related departments within the Ministry of Culture could be rebranded as the “Foresight Division.”
  3. Building an Intermediary Bridge Between Cultural Art and Cultural Technology: Develop an experimental platform that serves as a nexus for technology and art, helping to bridge the communication gap between technological experts and cultural specialists. Establish an integrated approach to foster collaboration in research and development between knowledge management and artistic teams. Enhance the comprehension and proficiency in digital concepts and tools among cultural technology experts and artists. The objective is to facilitate collaborative efforts between these two groups and uncover innovative forms of artistic expression.
  4. Cultivating and Developing Interdisciplinary Cultural and Scientific Talents: This initiative aims to achieve several goals, including enhancing the cultural and technological competencies of public servants, facilitating technology experts’ understanding of consumer experiences and artistic creation, reinforcing cultural technology training and fostering imaginative skills in high schools and universities, establishing interdisciplinary cultural technology departments alongside existing departments, and preventing any deterioration in cultural and arts programs.
  5. Harness Cultural Technology for Advancing Public Services and Citizen Engagement: Cultural technology has the potential to enhance public services and streamline citizen participation, fostering a culture of ongoing deliberation and bolstering democracy through transparency, the integration of powers and responsibilities, and efficient distribution technology. It’s imperative to avoid relying on outdated systems to manage the creativity of cultural technology, as this could hinder societal and cultural diversity.

Improving Conditions of Artistic Labor and Local Economic Sustainability

The essence of cultural policy lies in nurturing and stimulating social creativity, which involves both the preservation of classics and the kindling of future possibilities. The durability of policy development hinges on the transmission of memory and skills. Rather than being a political display, citizens occupy a central role in artistic performance, whether as creators or audience members. Does the support for creators aim to ensure the vitality and competitiveness of society, to enhance cultural production, or does its impact merely extend to safeguarding welfare measures?

Our critiques of the current policies and recommendations are as follows:

  1. Outsourcing and the “festivalization” of cultural policies may indeed boost intensive artistic and cultural production. However, they often neglect the well-being of creators and the fundamental aspects of social creativity. When art production becomes contract-oriented, it tends to result in homogeneity, repetition, and mass-produced works akin to factory output. This not only shortens creators’ career development opportunities but also jeopardizes the sustainable growth of art, particularly in genres that require long-term incubation.
  2. In order to sustain their creative work, artists often experience inconsistent employment statuses. Given the unique nature of artists’ work, policies should aim to find a balance between providing artists with suitable working conditions and preserving their genuine creativity. It’s important to recognize that in the realm of arts and cultural policies, the focus should be on the creative community rather than employers, and the objective is not to enforce policymakers’ preferences or political agendas.
  3. Art festivals that promote long-distance travel for audiences are often less impactful than facilitating collaborations between artists and local cultural organizers. It is through these connections that creativity, local insights, cultural and historical heritage, and production capabilities can be effectively harnessed to drive the growth of the local economy. This may include knowledge-oriented leisure consumption or in-depth tourism experiences.
  4. In the current phase of cultural policies, it’s essential to conduct a comprehensive assessment of resources on a broader scale. It is pressing to network cultural heritages, commercially viable assets, and endeavors related to environmental issues, involving both governmental bodies and citizen organizations. Such a network facilitates the creation of a sustainable collaboration platform, fostering alliances and the development of local arts, culture, and the regional economy.
  5. With such a network in place, art centers located in various regions can be strongly encouraged to transform their operational models. Their mission should extend beyond being mere venues for occasional performances and encompass roles that drive regional artistic, cultural, and economic vitality. Forward-thinking cultural policies must be more progressive than the current state of affairs, advocating for flexible and inclusive governance structures. These structures should be able to counteract the increasing inclination to prioritize administrative logic over creativity and sustainability within government agencies.
  6. Furthermore, the trend of corporationalizing sovereign cultural entities has contributed to sustaining professionalism in the cultural domain. This includes fields like curatorial work, art administration and management, event marketing, as well as preservation professions. However, the mere existence of sovereign cultural corporations does not guarantee the continuous development of these professions. Addressing the pressing issues of proposing a progressive career path for cultural talents to meet future demands and effectively recruiting and retaining professionals, especially those involved in functions that demand long-term investment in acquiring profound knowledge and developing personal attributes, has become imperative. However, even before any promotion for cultural talents is planned by current cultural policies, new challenges have emerged. In addition to the disproportionate growth in construction costs and workforce investments in various local museums, these institutions often grapple with concerns about political misinterpretation of their cultural missions. Public representatives may mistakenly view public cultural missions as operating subsidies for cultural organizations with profit-oriented objectives and, as a result, may advocate for an increasing reliance on self-financing.
  7. The administrative aspect of public cultural policy should maintain its stance rather than fixating on statistics such as implementation rates or responding to political pressures or immediate benefits. To ensure the accountability of cultural policies, there should be a limitation on the mission to promote populist, consumerist activities and the privatization of cultural endeavors as a means of balancing income.

Considering that the vitality of artistic talents can serve as a source of inspiration and create value for society at large, which is far more valuable than the mere calculation of the self-financing ratio or popularity scale, cultural policies must strongly advocate for the public benefits of culture. These benefits should not be superficially measured by numbers.

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