Nordicity @ The Creative City Network of Canada (CCNC) 2015 Summit (Nordicity Snapshot)
Posted by Carly Frey in Vancouver on Nov 04, 2015

Given the theme of this year’s Creative City Network of Canada (CCNC) Summit, Cultivating Culture, I felt like a farmhand gazing proudly at our national crop when the final session wrapped up last week in Kelowna, BC. With 170 delegates in attendance from across the country, we toiled, tilled and sowed the seeds of Canada’s municipal and city-led cultural ecosystems.

The Canadian Council for the Arts’ (CCA) CEO, Simon Brault, set a positive tone in his keynote address, reminding us all of not only Prime Minister Trudeau’s anticipated commitment to the arts and the creative economy, but a renewed investment in the CCA itself. An even bigger take away from Mr. Brault’s message, however, may have been his almost counterintuitive decree for us to ‘take back’ power and culture in the digital age. He went on to emphasize that we cannot overlook the fact that even the most virtual or digitally produced works are usually created in a social, collaborative context. That, in an ever shrinking world, physical communities are more important than ever. Physical communities remain our [grass]roots.

The notion that we have to acknowledge how digital technology does or does not empower or benefit artists and creative practitioners became a thread I followed throughout the Summit. Delegates explored how the digital age has created new spaces for sharing and co-creating, blurred the lines between the personal and professional, and allowed young people to access and engage with the arts in unprecedented ways. We heard from those tasked with audience development that there is a growing expectation to build platforms of engagement between artists and audiences and, consequently, a new world of opportunities and challenges. From an increased reliance on crowdsourcing, to the barrage of opinions strewn across social media regarding any given cultural product, to the myopia of personally curated online galleries and playlists, consumers and creators alike are being forced to interact in new and complex ways.

What has resulted from this phenomenon so far...?

  • Are easily consumable ideas and homogeneity winning out over the artistically authentic, the obscure, and the hard to swallow?
  • Are corporates re-appropriating culture through slick data analytics and algorithms targeting specific consumer bases, rather than simply sticking to sponsoring artists at best, and branding them at worst?
  • And, with the music and publishing industries’ heads being chopped off, which sector is next up at the guillotine?

These questions were particularly apt to consider in the face of Nordicity’s ongoing research and analysis of creative digital content production and distribution systems across the creative industries. We know creative content is increasingly reaching consumers in a variety of ways, from libraries of aggregated digital content by multiple suppliers (e.g. YouTube), to instant-download digital transactions (iTunes), to online purchases of physical, creative products (e.g. e-books). Undoubtedly, the cultural industries live in a transitional state, and the value chain for its products need to be better understood, along with the emerging opportunities and challenges for creators and funders.

In the face of this digital insurgence, however, the CCNC Summit certainly drilled home the unremitting importance of tangible, human and community based linkages. The unveiling of a new CCA program, Engage and Sustain – where beneficiaries will be selected based on their strong connections to a local community – encourages us to embrace the evidence that hubs, although increasingly virtual, still have irreplaceable value in the physical form. Indeed, despite all of our new techniques by which to plow and fertilize the land, sometimes laying fallow and getting to know your fellow farmhands yields the greatest harvest of all.

Thank-you to the CCNC for Cultivating Culture. 

Carly FreyCarly Frey is a Manager in Nordicity’s Vancouver office. As a Peer 2 Peer Presenter at this year’s CCNC Summit, Carly presented ‘Making a Case for Culture: The Power of Data’ as part of the Summit’s Cultural Tourism and Economic Development Sub-Theme. She can be reached at cfrey@nordicity.com.