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  • Writer's picturePaul Tero

Global Megatrends and Industry Division R

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Alicia Steel on Unsplash

The arts and recreation services industry is about so much more than art galleries, public nature parks and high profile sporting contests. It includes museums, those places where objects of cultural, historical and scientific significance are preserved and exhibited. It includes botanical gardens and zoos. It includes the performing arts. The opera companies and theatre troupes, the comedians and cartoonists, and the concert halls and the music bowls. It includes the sports professionals and the venues the compete at, but also the suburban gym and bowling alley. And this division includes wagering activities. The casinos, the lotteries, and online services.

While the essence of this industry has not changed, its methods have. For there have been art galleries, parks and sporting contests for many, many decades. But the technology, the equipment, rules, and the facilities associated with activities right across this industry have changed. There is better environmental conditioning in art galleries, better toilets and signage in parks, and there are better ticketing systems and viewing options for sporting contests. And it is this type of change is what this article is about. It is about what could happen in the time ahead terms of careers and business. It is a futurist’s take on how things might pan out over the next 10 years or so.

Specifically, though, the future of this industry is viewed through the lens of climate change and computerisation. For these are the two global megatrends that are shaping much of the world as we know it. There are other global megatrends, in areas such as inequality and economic multipolarity (there are positive relative shifts in the Gini coefficient over the last few decades, and an increasing share of global GDP is coming from developing regions) but their influence on the arts and recreation services industry is not as significant.

About the global megatrend of climate change

The rising atmospheric concentration of green-house gases (ie. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and a range of industrial gases) has had an impact, and will continue to have an impact, upon our world. These impacts are being observed in the ecosystems of human habitation and of the marine environment. In places where we live we experience longer summers, a rising number of extreme wet-bulb days, and more extreme weather events. And in the marine environment, that massive ecosystem that encompasses the world’s five oceans and the dozens of seas, the impact is similarly felt.

These waters are warming, are acidifying, and experiencing deoxygenation.

The rate at which the heat content of the ocean is rising has doubled over the decades (there is more than a two-fold increase in the warming trend when comparing the periods between 1969 and 1993 to 1993 and 2017). The pH balance of almost all of the open ocean surface water has been trending acidic since at least the 1980s. And oxygen levels, to a depth of 1000m, have been decreasing for many decades.

There are many flow-on effects from these shifts in the characteristics of the ocean’s waters. One is that the location of marine fishing areas, and the abundance of fish stocks is being challenged. Another is the increased stress upon wetlands, seagrass meadows, reefs and coastlines. A third effect is upon nutrient levels, where the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and iron, all important for microbial growth and health, are changing. And a fourth can be found in ocean currents. Where changes in salinity at different ocean depths alter their relative density, and the resultant flows. Besides these four, there are many others

About the global megatrend of computerisation

The thread that has run through the technology of computing right form the start of the industry is that its power and speed inexorably rises. This history of the classical computer is one were the ability to process digital bits, the ones and zeros, expands over time. The early home computers could only process 4 bits at a time, and at a rate measured in millionths of a second. Compare this to today’s home computers that can process 64 bits at a time at a rate of billionths of a second.

But these classical computers are starting to be supplanted by quantum computers. Global IT companies and major universities have already spent several years developing this new computing technology. A technology whose terms include qubits, quantum entanglement, superposition and the uncertainty principle.

The promise of quantum computing is based on the characteristics of the qubit. In the classical computer, the bit is the smallest increment of data. It can be either a one or a zero at any one time. In the case of the qubit, the smallest increment of data in a quantum computer, it can be a one or a zero at the same time. Because of this difference in their basic unit of information, the quantum computer can vastly outperform the classical computer.

For example, while a classical computer can model an approximation of a complex molecule for the purposes of medicine or materials science, a quantum computer can perform the same calculations using the actual number and characteristics of all the atoms in that complex molecule. Leading to far more superior outcomes.

Other areas of promise for quantum computing include the optimisation of traffic and logistics, and improvements in communications security, weather forecasting, climate change science, and even artificial intelligence

The impact of these two influences

Turning first to the global megatrend of climate change and its impact upon the arts and recreation services industry.

One obvious area of impact is upon the fauna and flora in public parks. As the timing of local seasons and the range of weather conditions shift, the presence and balance of species will similarly shift. Affected in like manner are outdoor recreational areas that are used on a seasonal basis – ski slopes in winter, and rivers and coastal areas in the summer.

In the years ahead, what would have been considered normal weather in years past for these places, will be replaced with a new normal.

It implies that regulations and planning that support these activities, and events that are associated with these locations will need to be updated. Waste management, visitor numbers, sustainability practices, even insurance are more than likely to be affected.

The impact upon museums and galleries is likely to represent its community’s views on climate change. Apart from improving the efficiency of the facility’s energy and water usage, what these organisations exhibit and serve their customers is likely to change. What is curated for patrons may well shift to themes of restoration, sustainability, or to the challenges of the future. The food and beverages offered will align to these themes.

When it comes to professional sports, there are several factors that will be affected. Sea level rise may force the removal coastal venues and stadiums from playing schedules, more extreme heat days will impact how summer sports are played, and more bouts of heavy rain will make pitches, ovals and fields unplayable. There may well be a push to reduce air travel and other carbon intensive travel by players.

Just like the travel itineraries of players will be affected, so too will travel by the patrons of the arts and recreation services industry. The choices of the mode of transport to events, whether mandated or voluntary, of carbon- neutral, or even carbon positive, will feature more prominently in the time ahead.

Changing insurance requirements, together with its availability and the affordability of premiums, is likely to be a factor across each of these aspects of the industry. Whether its to cover event cancellation, sporting professionals and teams, artwork and cultural objects, or any other aspect of this industry, insurance policies and premiums are set to change

The other driver of change to cover is the rising influence of increased computerisation.

Improvements in virtual and mixed (augmented) reality have meant that cultural institutions can explore this particular digital space. This technology offers patrons a more immersive experience. It offers sensory enhancements to existing stories, and three dimensional interaction with exhibits and installations.

As these institution digitise their entire collections, a greater proportion of them can be simultaneously made available for viewing. At once overcoming the limitations of their physical facilities and creating opportunity to develop different themes of curation.

As is the case with other areas of human endeavour and subsequent value exchange, the maturity of creative expression using digital means and its supporting market (eg. NFTs) will mature over time.

In the case of sport, particularly at the professional level, the influence of digital technology is well under way. From online delivery of contests, together with on-screen analytics, to individual athlete avatars to show their unique biomechanics for the purposes of training and recovery. And from an increasing ability to provide exotic betting on games, to the rising popularity of eSports. Computing is enhancing and shaping sport.

Increasing digitisation means that more data will be available to players, coaches and administrators. Thus improving the athletes performance, the tactics used on game day, and knowledge about supporters and the market. Increasing digitalisation will improve processes and create new forms of value. Thus opening the door to new forms of ownership and financial engagement with the team, as well as content distribution.

One flow-on from professional sport is the expansion of the sport wearables market for the amateur sports participant and otherwise health-conscious citizens. For example smart footwear, augmented reality glasses, and medical monitoring devices. All to improve training, performance and recovery.

With respect to the performing arts, increased computerisation has already been felt. From ticketing, to set design, and to lighting. From the replacement of paper sheet music with music displayed on tablet screens, to its use in the creation of music.

Based on the experience this particular community had through the COVID pandemic, virtual performances will continue. These performances may well be enhanced through the use of augmented and virtual reality.

Increasingly artificial intelligence will be used to create unique forms of music and movies, as well as extending the performance life of artists.

In summary, as with other industry divisions, we can see that the global megatrends of climate change and computerisation the continue to have impact upon the arts and recreation services industry for the foreseeable future. Climate change will primarily be felt in terms of outdoor events, whereas computerisation will mainly have an impact upon the creation of new forms of values. Although there is no causal link between this and other industry divisions, some of the changes in other industry divisions will flow into the arts and recreation services sector.

What are your prospects

From the preceding, and from a career perspective, there are several observations that can be made:

  • If you are more the “get it done” type: you’ll be using more computing technology to either assist with what you do, or where it replaces what you do

  • If you are more the “thinking” type: there’ll be more data to analyse and increasingly powerful software to support your analytic efforts

  • If you are more the “creative” type: you’ll be using digital technology to develop new forms of expression for patrons and engagement with supporters

  • If you are more the “helper” type: you’ll be needed to guide event and venue management as they seek to respond to climatic changes and technology demands

  • If you are more the “leader” type: you’ll need to be maintain a continual awareness of, and be ready to respond to, the environmental changes that are affecting your industry

  • If you are more the “structure” type: you’ll be faced with not only changing regulations, changing market dynamics and changing requirements of professionals

Overall, from a career perspective, in the years ahead you’ll need to comfortable with an industry that in many ways will be continually challenged by these two global megatrends. Where the challenge comes from industry participants as they respond to what is happening around them.

Finally, from a business perspective. Like with other industries, when it comes to responding to climate change it is all about mitigation (ie. shifting focus to reduce risk) and resilience (ie. fortification to handle risk). And, when it comes to computerisation, its all about automation and using data. So, for those operating within the arts and recreation services industry, likely business prospects are along the following lines:

  • Mitigation: diversify outdoor venue usage, attract environmentally conscious patrons

  • Resilience: improved policy guidance, physical and mental preparation for extreme conditions

  • Automation: creative expression, market expansion of digital exhibitions

  • Data analysis: wearable technology, supporter dynamics

Overall, and quite obviously, for businesses there are both risks to be aware of and opportunities to exploit in the change that is happening.

The arts and recreation services industry, like all other sectors of any economy, is being affected by the global megatrends of climate change and computerisation. While these forces will continue to have an impact upon the industry, a level of change will flow both ways between this and other industries. Of the two, climate change is likely to have a more significant impact in short term bursts.


For available resources and services to assist you with conversations and actions related to this article, please navigate to the "strategic foresight resources" page.


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