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It’s January - a new year, a time when we dare to be optimistic about the state of things, maybe even wish for change, writes Lauren James.

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Greg Smuk

When asked to think about cultural policy change I’d like to see from our government in 2024, I struggle. Calling for change feels like a fool’s errand right now and - I have to admit - my calls for policy change are somewhat selfishly focused on safeguarding trans rights rather than arts funding.

I try to think practically though - staying positive as much as I can. So I’m going to talk about the policies I’d like to see the UK’s arts, culture and heritage organisations think about putting into practice for 2024. Direct action is the way forward.

Cautious policies on AI

I’ve already written about my thoughts on AI – and they’re not the most excited in the industry. I think companies around the world – especially organisations that rely on the work of creatives – need to put policies in place that set out their commitment to supporting human workers in the face of AI automation.

What does that look like exactly? I’d like to see policies that commit to not using AI-generated creative work for commercial purposes, and to not replacing creative roles in light of developments in AI.

If organisations are determined to use AI, I’d like to see policies that carefully set out how AI can and can’t be used, with what tools, and identifying the associated risks and how to mitigate them.

My biggest worry isn’t AI itself as much as AI usage going unchecked. Once it’s down on paper, it’s easier to manage.

Serious policies on privacy and cookies

My more technical marketing colleagues are currently abuzz about Google’s forthcoming rule changes on third party cookies - the perfect reminder that a lot of venues still don’t take privacy and cookies as seriously as they should.

Many arts organisations still use an implied consent model for cookies, dropping cookies with a singular ‘I agree’ button - that effectively does nothing more than hide the banner - rather than using an affirmative 'Yes/No' interaction before they drop. 

Some cookie policies also leave a lot to be desired. Telling audiences you use cookies isn’t enough – you need to tell them which ones you’re using. There are a lot of cookie management platforms out there to help you implement things properly on your website and generate the detailed cookie policy listing for you. Take a look at what’s available

And take privacy policies seriously. Lots of clients ask me what they should say, and I have to tell them I’m not qualified to give them what amounts to legal advice on the matter. As much as I’d love to help, I can’t put myself or my employer in a position where we could be held responsible for another organisation’s data protection and handling. You need to talk to your legal advisors if you’re in any doubt. Make it airtight.

Inclusive policies on trans existence

Without politicising too much, I’m genuinely worried that trans rights will become a battlefield in the forthcoming general election campaign. Before things get better for trans people in the UK, I think they are going to get worse.

The arts must be queer and trans-friendly spaces. We are a vital part of the industry and we need protection. 

Many venues have trans-inclusive casting statements, which is fantastic. But I want to see HR policies that protect trans people at work – and trans visitors to venues – that go beyond the Equality Act. 

My fear is that a future government – whichever party it may be – might issue guidance for public spaces that harms trans people. So I would like arts organisation to put in place policies that set out their commitment for trans people to be able to identify and present themselves as they want, using the facilities they’re most comfortable with. These policies should be accessible, even actively visible, so that it is clear there is zero tolerance for transphobia. 

Signing off with a happy new year to you all. I hope it’s one where we can all come together and do better.

Lauren James is Head of Content and Web Projects at Splitpixel.

This article is part of a series contributed by Splitpixel to share expertise on how to best apply accessibility and inclusivity principles in digital spaces. 

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