10 buzzwords that dominated the arts in 2017

Our language tells us a lot about who we are: our confidence, our embrace of trends, our professionalism and our priorities. So what did 2017 say?
10 buzzwords that dominated the arts in 2017

This week the Australian National Dictionary Centre announced the 2017 word of the year was Kwaussie.

Director of the ANDC, Amanda Laugesen told the ABC that the word was a portmanteau of Kiwi and Aussie, and had came to newfound prominence during the dual citizenship crisis that has so far prevented six senators, one deputy prime minister, a senate president, and one MP from holding office.


Politics also led the trend with works in America and Japan. Fake news has undoubtedly dominated the US lexicon in the Trump era, while in Japan, also this week, sontaku has been named as the most popular buzz word.

Its meaning is the proactive anticipation of a person’s wish before an explicit order is given, and it emerged following the “Moritomo Gakuen cronyism scandal”, in which bureaucrats in charge of approving a new school were suspected of acting in line with the intentions of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe without being ordered to do so.

Sontaku shared the top honors with Insuta-bae, referring to scenes or products that look picture-perfect for the photo-sharing platform Instagram, aka “That’s so Insuta-bae”.

Like the world at large, the art world too is driven by trends and fashion when it comes to words.

2016 it was all about urgency, innovation, sustainability and being authentic – words that welled out of successive funding cuts and a need for organisations to recalibrate and future proof themselves (yes just a few buzzwords more there).

There are others that were regularly used in 2017 – words that were hangovers from 2016 such as disruptor, agency, leverage, scalability, amplify, sticky, silos and sector. We also became more comfortable with the tag “arts ecology” in 2017, which replaced the antiquated “art world” in 2016.

While that mood was all about change, the buzzwords across the arts sector have had a different tone for 2017. They are less geared along technical innovation or hard-core management strategies and rather have allowed a more humanitarian tone to enter our language.

These are the words that we at ArtsHub felt had the greatest traction and use this past year.

Buzzwords in the arts for 2017

1. Wellbeing or wellness

While this term was well on its way to gaining greater use and application in 2016, it has been during 2017 that it has really embedded itself in our organisations, our programming and our very thinking. Self care in an industry that is typically overworked and underpaid has finally been dusted off and given serious validity in the workplace.

Read: 50 ways to take care of yourself in the arts

2. Harassment

2017 will be remembered as they year when the lid was lifted on sexual harassment in the workplace – a long overdue topic that started in Hollywood with allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein, which progressed to the art magnates of America, and then travelled to our own shores with reveals in theatre and television leading to revised standards of behaviour. Clearly, and appropriately, harassment was the word on everyone’s lips.

Read: Sexual harassment and abuse targeted through new Code of Behaviour

Read: Why are you winking at me?


On 1 July 2017 the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was formally rolled out. It has had time to work its way into our professional vocabulary – former Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced it into Parliament in November 2012 – but it is only this year that it has really become a hot topic that entered our programming, our budgets and our audience forecast.

Read: Make art a priority in your NDIS plan

4. Slow art

Swapping fast paced auction sales, market alert programming and hype for creative sustainability, recycled materials and community relationships, is a movement that has been “slowly” emerging in recent year. In 2017, that trend continued to the point where we witnessed an escalation in the authentic experience of viewing and making and a striping back to basics. Slow art has truly joined the slow food, slow fashion and the slow living movements.

5. Gamification

Across every industry, all organisations are trying to get their audience involved and interacting with their brand in a public way. “Gamification” is the process of turning social interactions into a game, so that the audience feels more rewarded. It applies game design techniques and mechanics by harnessing people’s natural desire to compete, achieve, and win, and often includes giving prizes, discounts or merchandise to the most active followers.

With the majority of Australians owning smartphones, smart arts organisations are using interactive games as a way to attract and engage audiences. We are going to see a lot more use of this word in 2018, and beyond.

Read: Gamification is the future of arts marketing

6. Streaming

We have all heard of this term for a long while, but for many it still confuses. “Streaming” is listening to music or watching video in ‘real time’, instead of downloading a file to your computer and watching it later. And with the rise of digital streaming entertainment services and the NBN becoming more widely available, streaming has become very much a part of our vocabulary – both professionally and personally.

Streaming theatre, opera and dance productions live into cinemas has succeeded overseas, so the question is what's holding local companies back and will we see more of this in 2018?

Read: Why haven’t more companies explored live streaming?

7. Webisode

A webisode is an original episode of a series that is distributed as web television or online viewing. It is available either for download or streaming, as opposed to first airing on broadcast television. What defines it is its online distribution on the web, or through video-sharing web sites such as Vimeo or YouTube. This has become a new area within arts programming that has rocketed in 2017, and promises to be a firm fixture for the future.

8. Capacity building

Capacity building (or capacity development) is the process by which individuals and organisations obtain, improve, and retain the skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs competently.

The term "community capacity building" emerged in the lexicon of international development during the 1990s and was more about aiding developing societies so they could become more sustainable. This term re-emerged in 2017 as arts companies recalibrated in the wake of funding cuts and rethought revenue diversity. It has been a kind of “take stock” year after that initial belly punch has eased and a more “take charge” attitude to build capacity and survive.

9. Datafication

Datafication refers to the collective tools, technologies, and processes used to transform an organisation into a data-driven enterprise. It is the new future, and in 2017 it became part of the new vocabulary for many arts organisations. The reality is that arts organisations today need to know their data. They can track, monitor and optimise it, or store it away for later – they can also aggregate data from elsewhere that will assist in bolstering their case. Put simply, data is power today, and in 2017 we started to feel less daunted by the need to embrace it.

10. Value Exchange

This is by no means a new term, and for many is the cornerstone of most business relationship. However, in the light of funding cuts across the arts sector, organisations have had to become more savvy with auditing and understanding their worth.

The question in any partnership is always “What’s in it for me?” So from marketing opportunities, to sponsorship, philanthropy, and professional partnerships with business or other arts companies, the question in 2017 is less what’s in and more “What’s the value exchange?”

And in case you missed these:

Read: 10 words not to use this year

Read: 10 words to fake it as a Cultural Entrepreneur

Read: 10 words to fake it in the art world

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Gina Fairley

Tuesday 5 December, 2017

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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