The Canadian Art Database


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Digital culture is created and experienced through the use of digital technology. The many branches of digital culture range from electronic art to smart fabrics, from content development and digitization to scientific research and cultural production. New media is an umbrella term used to describe evolving forms of computer-based media. Because these forms change frequently, they may also be characterized as unstable media.

Circuit4 was established by Nina Czegledy, Mark Beam and Nichola Feldman-Kiss with support from the Virtual Museum of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. The project was suspended in 2005 and in 2007 was transferred to the CCCA.

Circuit4: Introduction to digital culture

Introduction to Digital Culture
Timeline of Digital Culture
International Links
  Digital Culture Resources
  Art and Technology Section
(The Canadian Art Database )

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Introduction to digital culture

"Digital artists create new forms of digital culture by blending computing science and other technological tools with artistic methods. They present their art works as public performance events, interactive experiences and exhibitions in both actual physical spaces and virtually on the Internet. Artists often develop tools to create and express their art, thereby contributing directly to technological innovation. This form of research and development is new and neither well recognized nor generally understood." Summary of Recommendations, Canada Council New Media Roundtable July 2003

Art, Research & Innovation
Artists have been at the forefront in experimenting with new technology and cultural production and have made substantial contributions to innovation. Historically, engines of innovation appear in waves. As Michael Century notes in Pathways to Innovation in Digital Culture, July 1999, the founding of studio labs often coincides with the rising crests of these waves.

Today's dynamic digital arts & culture landscape in Canada drew its impetus from many different fields. One such example is the collaboration that began in the 1960s between the National Film Board and the National Research Council (NRC) to experiment with computer animation in film. Michael Century suggests "that different cultural constructions of the computer as a creative medium help to shape different development paths. Canada's ‘success story' in computer animation shows how niche strengths in high-tech industry can grow in diverse settings, and that the way user knowledge is expressed and cultivated with and through technical communities can play a key role in seeding and nurturing that growth." The NRC's commitment to innovation in the arts has continued since the 1960s, as demonstrated by its contribution to many artist-led projects. The Artist in Residence for Research program in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts is but one example of this commitment.

The digital culture ecosystem includes various types of individuals and organizations, including artists, academics and governments. The constituent parts are the same around the world, but in each country the balance of influence and the interrelationships are unique. Similarly, regional efforts to coordinate the various components of the ecosystem vary.

There are direct linear relationships between the components of the Canadian ecosystem. These relationships are by-products of traditional funding programs, such as those for the visuals arts, film production and science research. New media artists face the challenge of fitting the fluid research and development cycles that are characteristic of new media art into this linear ecosystem.

Higher Profile
As noted in the reports below, there is a great deal of room to improve the domestic public profile for new media art practices and digital culture including media coverage.

"Some respondents indicated that more media literacy work needs to be done in schools, universities and museums to educate younger generations."
Media Arts Study & Profile, Phase 1- Final Report, Hill Strategies May 2003

"Specifically, some respondents indicated that a number of Canadian media artists have strong international reputations but are relatively unknown at home, because of a lack of appropriate exhibition opportunities for their work."
Media Arts Study & Profile, Phase 1- Final Report, Hill Strategies May 2003

"Over the long term, the members of this roundtable argued for the need to evangelize the intangible values of this kind of art and art research as a public service - that is to improve society's ability to comprehend and critically evaluate the technological environment within which it is immersed, so that it can meaningfully participate in choices for its future development."
New Media Roundtable Summary of Recommendations, July 2003

"Many respondents expressed a desire for more discourse about media works. There are few critics who have the knowledge and expertise to critique works. This is a perceived gap in both print and electronic media."
Media Arts Study & Profile, Phase 1- Final Report, Hill Strategies May 2003

The resources included in the Website are a first step in creating greater public visibility by creating tools for visualizing and quantifying the extent and impact the field already has in the country. Additional research efforts in this vein and greater support for presentation and exhibition (discussed in the following sections) should be targeted next steps.

Strengthening the Field
Reliable access to broadband network connectivity has been identified as a significant tool for creating collaborative relationships within the digital art community. Some arts organizations, including university research centres and independent artist centres, are connected to CA*net 4, while others are moving in this direction.

Artist access to the CA*net 4 will provide the community with infrastructure to:

  • Strengthen vulnerable project-based remote collaborations that are distributed across the country
  • Promote the transfer of knowledge and technology between the disciplines and across the country
  • Promote the sharing and distribution of knowledge and technological resources including tools and human infrastructure
  • Provide the new media research community across disciplines with increased opportunities and support for interdisciplinary research collaboratio
  • Provide opportunities to bring innovative Canadian and international cross-disciplinary new media research to the Canadian public
[Nichola Feldman-Kiss, Canada Art Grid, June 2002]

Canadian artists have found great success exhibiting abroad, however continue to face challenges in presenting their works at home. Much of the Canadian presentation network, which includes public galleries, museums and university galleries, lacks the funds and resources necessary to launch widespread exhibitions of new media art. The required resources are varied, ranging from access to broadband to availability of technically skilled staff.

Documentation and archiving of new work is a crucial activity for the field. In Canada, the Daniel Langlois Foundation leads this field through its Centre for Research and Documentation (CR+D), however several independent artist-run labs and galleries are also active.

The last decade witnessed an increase in the exhibition of interactive (and non-interactive) digital installations, robotic works, films, videos, CD-ROMs, and Web sites at museums, festivals and numerous major art events. Canadian artists are winning prestigious awards at home and especially abroad. Showcasing new media works in Canadian museums and galleries is a crucial factor to creating better public awareness of digital culture.