Canada

“Canada’s only Gray Area: Lack of Mobile and Wireless usage Among Masses”

What e-content means in Canada:

A: Content is the substance of the communication, be it between people through ICTs or between a computer and a person. There is much said for infrastructure and the importance of which cannot be underestimated, but this can only be judged by how it is used and for what. That’s where the importance of content comes in.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

Canada is clearly a leader in content innovation and production in the world. And for good reason: we are dependant on ICTs and strive to make them more meaningful both from a practical and cultural standpoint. We have several hotbeds of technology research centres as well as more artistic and entertainment focussed ones. Several educational and training institutions, like Habitat at the Canadian Film Centre or George Brown and Emily Carr help renew the talent and idea exchange in this country. More institutions than I can mention are involved in the mentoring and enabling of important works in various different but critical ways: funding (e.g. Telefilm, Canada Council for the Arts), collaboration or network enabling (e.g. DXNet, ATRC, and InterAccess) and mentorship (e.g. IRAP, IPL). I work in the Interactive Project Lab (IPL), a collaboration between Banff New Media Institute, Habitat at the CFC, and INIS in Quebec, that is dedicated to mentoring and funding innovative projects in Canada. It was a transnational experiment, working in both official languages (French and English) in a networked capacity. It is one example of the support offered in Canada (with public and private aid), for a population wanting to play, break, extend and explore technology to good and meaningful ends.

Several of the governmental bodies, both provincial (e.g. Interactive Digital Media Fund) and national (e.g. DEFAIT), recognize Canada’s unique stance on the international scene and are dedicated to continued ICT development.

It is also not surprising that we have a large investment in our culture and arts production. Sharing a border with the United States has also contributed to the need for direct and indirect governmental support to retain Canadian talent and invest in our own unique cultural and entertainment production (e.g. CFC) and distribution (e.g. CBC). Two central awards are the Pioneering Content and Telefilm Funds for interesting new media developments. (More information can be accessed at www.omdc.on.ca)

So be it by desire, need, or fear; we have several motivated reasons to develop and invest in e-content.

For more information on the state and use of ICTs in Canada, see this comprehensive resource: www.strategis.gc.ca. This is an important resource for Canadians working across sectors to understand development, trends and application across sectors both nationally and locally.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

E-content is developed across all areas. Although Canada is known for its natural resources, it is becoming a world leader in ICT developments. Innovation in content and creativity is woven into this, which is why Canada is a main funder and supporter of WSIS. Setting the tone for innovation, Prime Minister Jean Chretien declared: “In the 21st century, our economic and social goals must be pursued hand-in-hand. Let the world see in Canada a society marked by innovation and inclusion, by excellence and justice.” Canada’s innovation strategy can be found at www.innovationstrategy.gc.ca; ICT sector responses to this can be found at Industry Canada’s site: www.strategis.gc.ca. Here, you will find information across each sector and the regions that focus on one or several of these sectors. What is interesting is that industry clusters are not limited to major city centres, but are robust in cities across Canada that have built deep business expertise and research organizations in specific sectors.

Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?

All sectors are involved in the development of e-content. As singled out above, the government is of central importance in the creation of cultural and entertainment sectors but is also instrumental across health, business, and science sectors. Related to the information above on sectors, one can also refer to a KPMG study that identified Canada as one of the top leading competitive markets for ICTs. Canada’s development on ICTs runs across civil, government and private sectors. Also of note is the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance or the CATA Alliance (www.cata.ca) which supports technical entrepreneurial activity and is committed to this global competitive aim. Of note are the CATA Alliance awards for Innovation and Leadership in the Private and Public Sectors. The site also lists the nominations.

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

Perhaps Canada is a place where a certain sensibility is couched within just the right environment to grow. Persistently, we can see the sentiment that Canada’s leadership in innovation is and must be based on the creation of socially relevant works. Michael Century has remarked that in the “emerging digitally networked society, the creative arts and cultural institutions in general are mutating by forming a constellation of productive relationships with science and technology research systems, industry, humanistic and social science scholarship.”

This comment is made about Canada’s historical and current affinity with artistic and scientific experimentation in technology. In his paper, Pathways to Innovation (http://www.music.mcgill.ca/~mcentury/ PI/PI.html), Century looks at the role of the studio lab where art, technology and science come together, as a site of innovation in Canada.

In Canada, both artistic and scientific communities have grasped onto new technologies as they have evolved (and ones that are now very old) to investigate, break and extend them. Arguably, the artists are the most prolific with regards to the arena of e-content (as opposed to application or service), as they are fundamentally interested in the production of meaning within the tools for the circulation and processing of communication (where both groups meet).

As the cultural industry is so critical here, it is worth pointing out that a broad surge of popular interest in this domain began in the mid-90s, as was true in the United States, Europe and many countries resulting from the popularization of the tools of production of digital content (Web-based or CD-ROM). As is also more widely true, the boom of the tech industry affected popular imagination as many people looked to the field to create new business models and create highly profitable content. This provoked a change in initiative types and aesthetics. Now, we are seeing this expectation level out in good proportion – the types of content being produced and the new technologies being developed are not as singularly focussed on commercial successes, but are also coming back to the question of the meaningfulness of the content itself more fully.

Be that as it might, the current economic climate continues to threaten risk-taking innovation in Canada both in the type of business initiatives and in funding allocations and sponsorship. In the culture production sector, many funding bodies are increasingly demanding proof of business as a requirement for fund procurement. In itself, this seems like a straightforward request. However, in this climate of innovation in the Arts and Entertainment categories, we are used to the arts being supported despite of or precisely because of a lack in business rationale.

A counter phenomenon is also occurring where TV/film institutions and production houses are also losing funds and have begun to look towards interactive digital content and asset creation as a means of recouping production costs through new profit channels and funds.

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

In addition to the funding circumstances mentioned above (which affect all sectors), I would also say that regulations and policies surrounding new technologies need to be more clear. Canada heavily regulates it sculpture industries and content distribution (with the hope of ensuring access to Canadian content) and we are still in the process of developing new media specific regulations.
www.omdc.on.ca and the cmdc sites for information on entertainment industries in Canada

In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.

There have been developments in several strata (or from several directions): infrastructure continues to develop, government continues to fund initiatives and itself provides excellent and much needed resources, business sectors continue to grow, educational institutions are increasingly focusing on new technologies and individuals and collectives continue to create socially important works.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.

In addition to the previous descriptions of infrastructure, penetration and motivation in ICT developments, see the Canadian Government Strategis site (www.strategis.gc.ca) for more information. This resource is further described below as a best practice.

How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?

There are still so many opportunities for e-content development across and within sectors. The spirit of innovation is strong in Canada with many trail-blazing initiatives are being carried out. Networking institutions and networked project development and collaboration are areas of growth and interest. This trend is expected to continue, cross nationally and multi-lingually. Canada will continue to seek collaborations internationally as well.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

Relevant: The most important criteria for best practice would have to be relevance. Works must properly address the underlying needs of the issues and situations that they are aimed at. Relevance implies that a work is well thought out in terms of importance.
Meaningful: Not only must a work be relevant to the situation but it must also speak to the audience in understandable language, from an empathic viewpoint, and in the appropriate amount of depth. It is a question of audience.

Considered: A work can be considered if it leverages medium specific properties, and is well thought out in terms of use.

Accessible: Related to the pillar of ‘considered’ is the question of accessibility. It is singled out here because of its central importance. The issue of accessibility may call for disseminations of the content in other forms like offline public forums or print or may demand that the underlying technology (hardware or networks) be extended.

Reliable: For any e-content to be effective it must be trustworthy, providing users with confidence in its veracity or authorship and it also must be available at the moment of need.

Please explain which is the most preferred medium for e-content development: Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?

Canada is known for its innovative contributions in content and there is a good amount of experimentation and execution on display or installed in Canada. These include cross-platform and multiplatform projects using web, face-to-face or group encounters, TV, Radio and print. Two areas of relative weakness in Canada are mobile or cell phone applications for general public use and ITV. Although Canada innovates in content development and in wireless R&D, it has not yet adopted these technologies in the same spirit. Web products take precedence over both ITV and mobile phone platforms and mobile phones capabilities are probably being more mined than ITV for extraordinary e-content development. A large (but not singular) factor determining this is the issue of penetration and acceptance. Few Canadians have access to ITV.

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