6. březen 2017 / Tým IDE

Interview with professor Sacco: Culture Heals

Journalist of the Czech daily "Česká pozice" interviewed our Board Member Prof. Pier Luigi Sacco.

Cultural life prolongs the hope of long life and makes existence of much higher quality, says Italian economics professor Pier Luigi Sacco.

It's not true that culture only consume money. If we live a cultural life, it is beneficial not only for us but as well for the whole society. For example, we are healthier, we heal faster, we sort waste. Italian economy professor Pier Luigi Sacco advices us in our interview: Listen to the music, preferably classical, go to the theaters and galleries. Just be careful with poetry and jazz. 

LN You claim that culture plays crucial role in the economy. However, many economists and even more politicians disagree. 
If you come up with something new in science, you must always count with resistance at the outset. Looking at our results, f.e. in health domain, I think that it will only take couple of years and those who are skeptical now will change their minds. It is as well a generation problem. Young people that visit my lectures around the world completely understand my thought. And it is not true that all senior researchers oppose my opinions. In many domains such as neuroscience the influence of culture has been studied. Possible mistrust of my theses is based on the fact that the impact of culture very often goes against our initiative expectations. You wouldn't possibly expect that active cultural life has influence on the level of insulin resistance, would you? But this is what we discovered. Culture is perceived as something connected with fund and free time. You don't expect it to influence anything outside this domain. But culture influences all aspects of our lives. 

LN So you send word to our politicians to support much more museums and galleries?
Museum, theatre and galleries are similar to the basic research. Politicians ask us why we should pay people who do crazy things that don't bring any use in short term. The answer is simple: because they explore areas that would otherwise stay unnoticed. It is naive to think that museums will be profitable. They are not enterprises created with the goal to gain profit. But you can look at them as for example centers of cultural and social innovation. They can become suitable places for education of kids to become good people, citizens, professionals in their domain. But then of course museums cannot be places with only one purpose to conserve and present relics. 

LN Can you give concrete examples of how culture makes our life better and makes us healthier?
You can see that at the elder generation. It is hard to keep aged people active and connected to the society. Than the outburst of mental illnesses such as Alzheimers' goes faster and easier in their case. For those ill people it is a painful experience. They are cut off the society, after all hospitals looks sometimes as prisons and society pays a lot for it. We found out that active cultural life not only prolongs the hope for living longer, but it makes our existence of higher quality. People are much less hospitalized, they take less pills. At the same time we found out that the time you spend on healing is connected to the intensity of your cultural life. Imagine what making use of our knowledge could mean for Europe, who's population grows fast. 

LN Is the impact of active cultural participation on our health different if we only passively absorb culture or if we create actively something, f.e. singing or writing? 
The difference is striking. Solely passive absorption of culture can be of course useful. For example listening to music, especially classical, has positive impact on our physical and mental health. But active cultural participation is even more effective. We have to try to convince politicians that they should pay attention to this phenomenon and include  it to their political plans. However, it is hard, because their mind is occupied with other, current problems, and they don't want to deal with something that has a long term impact.

LN Is it true that active cultural life influences the willingness of people to sort waste?
Yes. It turned out in cases when garbage bins for sorted waste were far form people's houses, so that they had to walk quite a way. The willingness to sort waste under these circumstances was higher when those people lived an active cultural life. Education or income level didn't matter in this case. 

LN Debt and financial crises in Europe must have had a destructive impact on culture in many states especially from the Europe's south, hadn't it? 
You're right. Europe started to invest seriously and strategically into the cultural and creative industries only before couple of years. Currently, with so much trouble to solve, this domain is left out. It is as well because it is considerably harder to measure return of investments to creative industries, where there are loads of smaller companies unlike in automotive where there are few large leaders. South Europe falls behind, but the nordic countries are much further. There you don't need to explain why support cultural industries. 

LN Which other European countries apart from the nordic understand crucial role of cultural and creative economy?
It was especially Great Britain who took lead this area. It was the first country to come up with its own strategy to support and use cultural economy. They wanted to lead this area. Now with Brexit things got complicated. Far ahead are already mentioned nordic countries such as Denmark, Sweden or Norway, and then of course Nederland. One of few areas in cultural and creative industries that is not lead by the U.S. is design where nordic countries take lead. And they profit properly.  

LN I read that however our health benefits from culture, there is one examption: poetry reading. Do poetry readers really suffer more with depression? 
That was one of our interesting researches. The problem was that there was only a small number of respondents who read poetry, so the result might have been caused by a too small statistical sample. But we are about to launch a new project where we would like to explore how poetry influences the life quality of our students of social sciences. There is one similar case: jazz. If you listen to it sometimes or regularly, it has a positive influence on your mental health. But if you listen to it often but not regularly, it has quite negative impact. 

LN What could be improved in cultural and crative industries in the Czech Republic? 
What I say doesn't only count for you, but for other countries as well. I think you find yourselves in a very interesting moment. In manufacturing industries you managed to approach the quality and production to the Western countries standards. But you should be more innovative in design. To take example in nordic countries demands strategy, coordination and political will. As an Italian I must say I see a lot of analogies between current Czech Republic and Italy in the 90s years of the 20th century. 

LN What has Italy done then?
Italy created something like the model of industrial areas. They included many companies, some of  them really small, that shared common interest in certain field. Together these enterprises created a specific culture and competences that was not easy to copy. Mutual interaction is crucial here. Therefore those who constantly communicate are much more innovative. Even thinking of students can change this way. Today it is common especially in the U.S. that my students immediately think of using an idea in business. Here it is almost impossible, because the social conditions are different. If you really want to create your own design culture you have to create local development models where design is an outcome of a common effort. 

LN What is the meaning of Culture 3.0?
There are there connection stages between cultural production and economy. First it is the patron culture, where a rich individual secures with his or her money cultural activities that however doesn't create any added value. In the second stage the patron role stops to be solely in the hands of an individual but it becomes a public function. However, culture stays an economically productive activity that absorbs resources made by other industrial domains. Then Culture 3.0 develops, where culture is a community platform. We have technologies that enable to wipe off the border between creator and receiver of culture. Today you spend some hundreds Euro for laptop and couple of softwares and you have a professional multimedia instrument. If you are talented enough nothing stops you form beginning and creating something and entering free market. And others can easily share your content in the social network. In other words, you don't need to just listen to a story, you can easily become part of one. 

LN That brings troubles with copyright. 
Of course. It used to be easer in the past, because there was a clear line between the author and the audience. That doesn't count anymore. But it doesn't mean that creators cannot live from what they produce. Le't s be honest, even in times where there were no troubles with copyright, most musicians suffered from hunger. There was a deep chasm between real superstars and others. Now, thanks to advanced technologies you as an artist can easily create a community of your supporters who visit your concerts and pay for your songs. You don't need copyright to make living. Sure, you need it to become insanely rich. But you better not want it, most of those people ends on drugs. 

LN What role can play universities in cultural and creative industries? 
Enormous. Crucial is that they don't teach just theory but enable the students to create something in practice. When I was teaching in Venice we had a class in fashion design. There were many classes in Italy in this domain, but we tried to teach students how to make their own dress - we did it as a workshop. The class produced several fashion designers. 

LN There is many politicians and businesmen, but as well academics, who claim thta humaniteies don't contribute to our economy and society whatsoever. Doyon agree with them? 
Ne. However the problem lies on side of humanities who create too specialized experts. Humanities are all about relations, interconnections, unusual perspectives. They make possible to see things from wider perspective. For example do research in how fairy tales influence social cooperation. To explain, fairy tales say that good is always rewarder whether evil is punished. You will tell to yourself that it's not true. But, be aware, even in fairy tales even is not punished immediately, but it strikes back the wrongdoer. We try to follow the influence on kids once they forget them. If we succeed to understand how stories influence peoples' motivation, we can use it in large companies where people feel terrible, because they have to work in a completely dehumanize environment. And that all will be possible thanks to humanities. 

LN Not only in the Czech Republic we can hear lamentation that education falls. 
Problem lies in the motivation of teachers, in their social status. We all should teach from Finland. Teachers have enormous social prestige, large space for experimenting. Obligatory education is replaced by cultivation and support of children's needs. The result is that kids enjoy education and have great results at the same time. It is not easy to copy this model but it is important to pay attention to it. You don't need to be afraid that your teachers have low status and salaries in your country. In Silicon Valley where people have dreamy salaries, teachers have miserable wages, so they drive Uber in their free time to pay rent. In a place with the highest concentration of innovative minds, education is missed out. 

Kulturní a kreativní průmysly