Canada/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.11 New technologies and digitalisation in the arts and culture

While Canada has always been at the vanguard of developing and accessing new technologies such as cable and satellite, their rapid succession and use in creating, transmitting and receiving cultural content is both destabilising and invigorating at the same time. New technologies allow new players to enter the cultural marketplace, increase competition among traditional players and expose vast amounts of digital content to interested consumers. In order to remain competitive, cultural industries face the challenge of using new technologies to develop new products and accessible platforms to maintain overall corporate market shares in both traditional and new media modes. The introduction of new communication technologies in Canada has often complemented rather than displace existing media and cultural formats. In light of the growing impact and growth of new technologies on the cultural industries, an internal DCH task force on new technologies was set up in 2005 with a two-year timetable. The CRTC completed its report on new technologies in 2006 (see  chapter 4.2.3) and is currently engaged in a New Media Project Initiative on the implications of new media for content and access, the two central policy and regulatory concerns in broadcasting. The key questions from the perspective of the CRTC are, "Is it necessary to regulate commercial broadcasting delivered over the Internet and mobile devices?  If so, is it possible and how should it be done?"

Examples of policy related issues identified and addressed by the government include:

  • the effect of growing levels of time-use and consumption of Internet content on the traditional patterns of time-use and consumption of cultural content;
  • questions of privacy and pornography;
  • limitations on regulatory application to the Internet including broadcast streaming;
  • copyright protection in the digital environment;
  • bridging the digital divide between rich and poor and well- and poorly-educated citizens; and
  • supporting sustainable on-line business models for the cultural industries.

The Internet exemplifies the impact of new technologies with its rapid creation of new opportunities for the dissemination of cultural and other forms of content. Creators, producers and distributors of Canadian content are pressed to secure prominent places on the Internet in the face of rapid, massive and global information flows (Internet participation trends are discussed in  chapter 8.2.1).

Cultural policies have been influenced by constant technological innovation providing the opportunity of expanding content diversity and consumer access. Some current initiatives, pursuant to recommendations of the influential Task Force on Digitisation in the late 1990s, include:

  • the connectedness agenda whereby the federal government works with the provincial governments to ensure that every school across Canada will be linked to the Internet during this decade;
  • Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN), which operates an on-line "virtual" museum with information on museum holdings (see  chapter 4.2.2);
  • Canadian Cultural Observatory, which was launched in November 2003 and linked to a Cultural Portal and Government-On-Line (see  chapter 4.2.6); and
  • Canadian Digital Content Initiative, which includes the Canadian Memory Fund, the Partnerships Fund and various other DCH programmes, supports the availability of Canadian cultural content on the Internet (see  chapter 4.2.3). In addition to CHIN and the Virtual Museum, heritage institutions (archives, libraries, museums) are at forefront of making heritage content available online (see  chapter 4.2.2).

The Canada Council for the Arts supports artists making creative use of interactive information and communications technologies and / or audio production technologies. Priority is given to proposals from artists whose work demonstrates the development of an individual style or expressive approach, as well as a commitment to questioning and expanding the art form. Recent examples of artists' work in new media include, but are not limited to:

  • artworks created with information and communications technologies;
  • installations and performances integrating information and communications technologies;
  • artworks created through a creative application of communications networks;
  • web art;
  • artists' applications of robotics, software design leading to the production of an original artwork;
  • creation of a prototype for use in / as an original artwork;
  • artworks created using artificial intelligence or artificial life software; and
  • visual music performances and / or installations (audio coupled with video or digital visuals).

While the Department of Canadian Heritage does not have many mechanisms to directly support film and video artists in the media arts tradition (media arts includes film, video, audio and new media), it does provide support to Canada Council's Media Arts Section's programme. The Department's Arts Presentation Canada Programme and Cultural Spaces Canada Programme contribute to access by Canadians to media artists and works through the funding of Media Arts Festivals and by contributing to the improvement of creation / production, and dissemination and presentation spaces. Canadian Culture Online's Canada New Media and New Media Research Networks Funds and New Media R&D Initiative provide support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) active in the cultural new media sector and not-for-profit arts and cultural organisations.


Chapter published: 19-01-2011


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