Welcome to the hypothetical world of “Medici’s Lever”, an online suite consisting of two educational games and one simulation laboratory probing the subject of regional cultural policy. Within “Medici’s Lever”, you are in command of up to eight policy levers that can be deployed in infinite variety over a 40-year span. The objective is to advance the cultural life of a regional metropolitan area to new heights in which people, acting with deep cultural knowledge, engage in an active cultural life that involves both personal creativity and engagement with professionally produced cultural goods and services. If all goes well, your region will enjoy a sort of renaissance in which cultural suppliers and consumers are in balance, and the public’s cultural well-being is maximized.

You are the director of this drama, but the ecology of culture is complex, and your characters have many agendas. While your intentions may be good and your reasoning sound, events may unwind in unpredictable ways contrary to your most brilliant plans. Try to learn from these setbacks and then try again. And do not hesitate to blog me with any frustrations or revelations.

Cultural Policy has been a backwater in the U.S., and for its small circle of practitioners, it often has been focused on the narrow issue of governmental funding for the arts. As one broadly trained in public policy, I like to believe that the starting point for a robust cultural policy should be the matter of advancing the public’s cultural interests. At several points over the past 30 years, I have written on this subject, commissioned others to write about it, and developed computer simulations of cultural policy. Until recently, the simulations have been confined to the format of CDs, but in just the past few years, simulation technology has become available over the Internet. Using this new technology, Steve Peterson, a master systems modeler, and I have assembled “Medici’s Lever”, a simulation that models the processes by which people acquire cultural knowledge, engage in cultural practices, and consume professionally produced cultural goods and services.

The ambition of “Medici’s Lever” is to stimulate a broader dialog about cultural policy. We make no pretense that simulations can be predictive or free of the biases of their authors. This blog provides an opportunity for the initial roll-out of “Medici’s Lever”, and for gathering feedback that can be used to refine it.

You can access “Medici’s Lever” by clicking this link. Take some time to read the introduction and logic model, and then choose one or more of the three modules. Two of the modules are games designed for cultural policy novices (SJ Renaissance and Viamare Culture), and one is a simulation laboratory (Freestyle) designed for more advanced policy specialists. Through the medium of this blog you are welcome to ask questions, offer criticisms, or suggest alternatives.

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2 Responses to Welcome…

  1. Hi Mr. Kreidler:

    As a professional architect, I have long subscribed to the view that well-conceived buildings can be instrumental in shaping the ambiance and economies of cities. With this perspective in mind, I was attracted to the character of Laura Marie Phelan, a fictional city planner, in the “SJ Renaissance” game within “Medici’s Lever”. With this character’s access to capital investments in major cultural facilities and artists’ facilities, I expected to achieve some long-term improvements in the regional economy, and perhaps a cascade of other benefits. Instead my results were flat-line graphs. Should I conclude that, within the logic model of “Medici’s Lever”, capital investments in cultural facilities are not effective tools for urban renewal?

    Richard Wright

  2. Hello Mr. Wright:

    Within the logic model of “Medici’s Lever”, policy choices need to be progressively activated so as to build upon prior investments. In general within the model, demand for professional cultural goods and services, such as dance concerts and museum exhibits within major cultural facilities, needs to be established before the supply of these goods and services will be sustainable within the regional cultural ecology. In the case of major cultural facilities, you can construct buildings, but if the demand is not sufficient, substantial audiences will not materialize. If demand is present, “build and they will come”. Incidentally, there are numerous cases of major cultural facilities constructed in the 20th century that failed to generate the customer demand and economic benefits that their advocates expected.

    In the initial phases of “Medici’s Lever”, you will note that the regional cultural environment is fairly weak. Public knowledge and participation in the arts and culture are low. The next time you try “Medici’s Lever”, choose a character whose approach to cultural development aims to rectify the low base of knowledge and participation. Once this foundation is laid, the investment in facilities should yield better results.

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