The Twelve Dimensions

Pier Luigi Sacco is well known for his theories on culture economics. He has given us an historic perspective on the relationship between money and arts. The history of the European art finance starts with the classical patrons and continues with the period of the industrial revolution – a development from Culture 1.0 to Culture 2.0. The state of today is Culture 3.0.

On a general level the transformation could be described as a shift to a postindustrial economy, a kind of society that is to a lower extent occupied with manufacturing than innovation, information, education and culture. This not a new observation. For more than 40 years, the arrival of a new kind of society (sometimes called post industrialist) has been announced. Almost that long, it has been observed that culture in a broad sense plays an increasingly more important role in highly developed economies.

“One of the most evident effects has to do with the cornerstone of the Culture 3.0 phase: Active cultural participation. By active cultural participation, we mean a situation in which individuals do not limit themselves to absorb passively the cultural stimuli, but are motivated to put their skills at work: Thus, not simply hearing music, but playing; not simply reading texts, but writing, and so on. By doing so, individuals challenge themselves to expand their capacity of expression, to re-negotiate their expectations and beliefs, to reshape their own social identity.”

A brief scheme of the phases/relations:

Culture 1.0 – preindustrial society – patrons, subsidies
Culture 2.0 – industrial society – cultural & creative industries
Culture 3.0 – postindustrial society – culture as system-wide force, keyword: active cultural participation

In the complex postindustrial economies of today, it is not only the immediate contributions to the economy that are most important – but the indirect. Culture can contribute on a number of areas, like innovation, welfare and sustainability. A presumption is that a lot of citizens actively participates in the cultural life in an interaction between consumption and production.

“Today, one can easily have access to production technology that allow professional treatment of text, still and moving images, sound, and multimedia with impressively quick learning curves and at very cheap prices – something that, before the explosion of the personal computing revolution, and thus no longer than a couple of decades ago, would have simply been unthinkable. Thus, if the Culture 2.0 revolution has been characterized by an explosion of the size of cultural markets, the Culture 3.0 revolution is characterized by the explosion of the pool of producers, so that it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between cultural producers and users”

The classification is of course an historic epoch description. But at the same time it’s a description of three logic relations between culture and money. And all these three relations are in highest degree still alive today, and they will probably keep on coexisting.

Sacco identifies a connection between innovation and cultural activity – every society with a high degree of innovation is also characterized by a high degree of active cultural participation.

“The interesting aspect of active participation is that individuals are not simply exposed to cultural experiences, but take a dive into the rules that generate them, they have to learn to play with the ‘source code’ that is behind the generation of cultural meaning.”

Yes, something has definitely happened to culture. The function of the arts is no longer to decorate and legitimate the political power and in return gain protection. Nor is culture a meaningful leisure activity in exchange for governmental subsidies.

According to Sacco, the economic significance of culture is not isolated to the creative and cultural industries, an opinion that has been climbing on the political agendas during the last decades. Sacco claims that culture is much more system-wide than to be considered as a growing sector in the economy. In fact, culture completely permeates the social and economic life of cities and regions.

It’s an optimistic message. Economic and social regression can be broken. And it’s no longer necessary to look on the global concurrence with fear. The local society can succeed if politics, businesses and civil society cooperates – and realizes the strategic significance of culture for the economic development and the social coherence.

Sacco is inspired by several renowned theoreticians – Richard FloridaMichael Porter and Amartya Sen – when he identifies twelve dimensions of central relevance for the system-wide capacity of culture:

1. Quality of Cultural Supply
2. Quality of Local Governance
3. Quality of the Production of Knowledge
4. Development of Local Entrepreneurship
5. Development of Local Talent
6. Attraction of External Firms and Investments
7. Attraction of External Talent
8. Management of Social Criticalities
9. Capability Building and Education of the Local Community
10. Local community involvement
11. Internal Networking
12. External Networking

According to me, an analysis of these dimensions is a good starting point for every local society. What do we have? What do we need? Do we have the right conditions for success in the short term or the long term?


Last week I visited Lessebo hand paper mill for a meeting within an art project that I’m a bit involved in during this year. It’s called Residence-in-Nature, and the overall theme is regeneration (by artists) in an area marked by post industrialism. Besides the ten artists several other professionals are engaged in the project – administrators, producers, educators.

Bildresultat för lessebo pappersbruk

Lisa Rosendahl works with a publication and a conference/seminar. One of the questions she asked us at Lessebo hand paper mill was about the role of the museum in the postindustrial society. During the shift from the agricultural/rural economy to the industrial/urban economy, quite a lot of museums got their structure and their missions (in Sweden e.g. Nordiska museetSkansenBiologiska museet). But what will happen to the museums in the shift from the industrial to the postindustrial society?

I’m sure we’re heading an overturn. Some time ago I read a text by Amelie Thamwhere she discusses audiences and institutions in the field of the arts. She refers to the works of Mark O´Neill, former director for Glasgow Arts and Museums, who in connection with a major restructuring of the museums in Glasgow has made a problematisation on how museums operates. O´Neill speaks about the elite model, the welfare model and the social justice model.

The elite model is about museums strongly anchored in the tradition: collecting of items, cataloging and production of exhibitions. They are run in a hierarchical way. The audience is never discussed and the role of the visitor is to be a receiver.

In the welfare model the elite tendencies are still alive, but at the same time you will find a higher degree of responsiveness to the audience. To some extent, a museum of this kind can run some local, interactive projects, but the core is inside the institution.

The third model focuses on social justice. It demands that the museum notices its role and its responsibility in the society. It investigates the links between the museum and the power structures of the society. The goal is to develop methods that crosses the border and tears down the barrier between the visitor and the museum.

The last model is, according to me, the next step for an updated culture institution of the postindustrial society. The masculine, non-dialogic and self-righteous methods, still used by so many artistic directors, are soon left behind. God bless.


In The Twelve Dimensions I gave an introduction to Pier Luigi Sacco’s theories on the position of culture in the postindustrial society. In this essay I will continue the exploration. One of the signs is culture as a system-wide force, another is active culture participation.

Sacco builds his reasoning around several theoreticians – for example Amartya SenMichael Porter and Richard FloridaZygmunt Bauman could also be mentioned; his theories on the floating modernity are connected to Sacco’s theories on culture based participation and the symbolic production’s importance to identity. Other important theorists like Manuel CastellsSaskia SassenRobert Putnam and James Coleman could be mentioned in connection to Sacco as well.

Sacco divides the system-wide cultural district in five parts in an analytical tool: Quality, Development, Attraction, Sociality and Networking. Every part can in turn be divided in several aspects, which we, a bit simplified, can term material resources (natural and physical capital) and immaterial resources (social, human and symbolic capital).

Sacco’s perspective is quite generic and I will put the reasoning in a Swedish context.


The quality dimension is connected to Michael Porter, professor of Economics at Harvard Business School, who has built models on competitiveness and clusters. From a hard-core art perspective, Porter could be perceived as too influenced by economy, but I still think there are some points to be found here.

One of the quality dimensions has to do with the quality of the cultural supply. Since ’quality’ is a comprehensive (and surprisingly conflictual) subject, my advice is to stay pragmatic. The basic question for this dimension is: Is there a cultural environment that is stimulating and attractive? Institutions and organizations play a major part. But a major institution doesn’t have to be more important than a minor, since small, edgy activities could be really attractive.

The next quality dimension deals with the quality of the local, public governess. This dimension answers questions about coordination, understanding and engagement of the local administration. Without administrative and political support, the cultural environment will get drained. In Sweden, Regions and Municipalities play a major part for the impact of culture in the local societies.

The third quality dimension is about education and the production of knowledge. What are the quality of the institutions of education and research in the district? The universities are definitely the most important players. Art Academies and several other degrees – humanities, media, communication, pedagogics, IT – are all keys in the production of knowledge in the system-wide cultural district. Adult education and upper secondary schools with aesthetic profiles could also be of certain interest.


Development, which is emphasized by both Amartya Sen and Michael Porter, deals with refinement of the existing resources of the district.

The first development dimension is about reorientation and formation of institutions, associations, entrepreneurs, producers. How do innovations get support? How conservative are the existing infrastructures? What opportunities are there for curious projects? In which way are the new trends caught up? How do we meet the new forces?

The second development dimension deals with individuals. What support do individuals (‘talents’) aiming for a higher level get? How do we encourage artists? How permissive is the existing scene? What opportunities do new talents have to get established? In what way do we coach them and promote them?


Attraction should be associated with the American professor Richard Florida, well known for his identification of the creative class. The creative class produces a tolerant, open environment, which in turn attracts more creative individuals (talents), businesses and capital. It’s not difficult to challenge Florida; the model has been criticized for being elitist and out of empiric support.

The first dimension of attraction is about mobility, not at least within private businesses, but also within the public sphere. How does the district attract external investments in the fields of knowledge production, culture and communication? In what way do we attract education institutions, companies, regional/national cultural institutions etc. to get established in the district?

The second dimension of attraction works on the individual level – how do we attract external individuals to settle down and work in the district? Think of professional artists, musicians, designers, producers and culture carriers – well-oriented and specialized people from the cultural and creative industries. What opportunities do external writers or dancers have, if they want to develop their careers and relations in the district?


Under the headline sociality sorts the social dimensions of culture and the social scope of the cultural life. Sacco relies partly on Amartya Sen’s theories. Sen’s interest in low developed economies is relevant also for higher developed economies; the poverty doesn’t have to be economic or material, but instead connected to, for instance, the lack of life experience or lack of will to broaden horizons.

The first dimension of sociality deals with everybody’s chance to participate and to build capacity in the local society – does everyone have the possibility to live an expressive life, a life characterized by the capacity of artistic expression? The American Bill Ivey, former head of the National Endowment of the Arts, has written the book Arts, Inc., where we highlights the expressive life.

It’s, according to Ivey, every human being’s right to live an expressive life, which of course doesn’t mean that everybody should become an artist, writer or musician. Nor does everyone have to get engaged in all genres, techniques or art forms. Instead, everyone should have the chance to experiment with different artistic methods.

All citizens should have the knowledge and the access to the basic cultural tools, play an instrument, draw, dance, compose or design. But it could also be an attitude to life based on creativity.

Artistic expression isn’t just about art, but also about self-esteem and to find tools to interpret ´different contexts. The expressive life isin some way autonomous, independent and raised above f.x. money, power, success and the everyday world.

The second dimension of sociality has to do with cultural and knowledge based activities and methods as basic tools for solving social criticalities. How do we use artistic practices to improve intercultural communication? Does culture help us to burst filter bubbles or to get isolated tribes together?

The third dimension of sociality emphasizes the engagement in the local society. What role does culture play in urban development, city planning and city regeneration? In what way is civil dialogue used for the development of cultural presence in the local society? In what way do the culture institutions view their audiences – as a genuine resource for the content or as less informed passive spectators?


Network is closely connected to both Amartya Sen and Michael Porter. Porters clusters for example –i.e. the transformation of old industrial areas to hubs for culture and creativity – requires networking. The sociologist Manuel Castells has also, in several packed volumes, noticed the network from different perspectives, usually on a macro level.

In the network society, collaborations between activities that used to consider each other as competitors appear. A requirement for success is open collaboration, which cross-fertilizes the companies and creates innovations. Networking means great expectations, and the digitalization has made the potentials more or less infinite. In close connection with the term network society is specialization; it’s common that projects requires certain specialist competence for defined tasks.

The network society is built up by weaker and stronger nodes, and in the outskirts it’s almost impossible to make benefits of synergies. In many fields networking is essential for success. But at the same time, the network society is structured by a capitalism that slices up labor and employment in insecure, short missions without continuity.

What does the internal and external networks look like? Are they strong or weak? Institutional or individual? Short term or long term? Time consuming or effective? Compulsory or voluntary? Additional or tautological? Top-down or equal? New thinking or anacronistic?