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Culture 3.0: Impact of Emerging Digital Technologies on the Cultural Sector in Canada

Executive Summary

November 15, 201215 November 2012

Digital technologies and the cultural sector

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Based on a literature review and consultation with 250 arts practitioners and cultural workers, this report examines the impact of digital technologies on human resources in the cultural sector. While the Executive Summary does not define “emerging digital technologies”, it does outline the goals of the study: to “assess the impact of emerging digital technologies on the eight cultural sub-sectors” (broadcasting, film and television, digital media, visual arts and crafts, heritage, live performing arts, music and sound recording, and writing and publishing) as well as to “recommend priority solutions to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities arising from these digital technologies.”

Regarding technological adoption in the cultural sector, the report provides examples of cultural organizations and businesses that have integrated digital technologies into their performances or expanded their brand across digital platforms. The report also notes that organizations in many cultural sectors use digital technologies to distribute their products and interact with their clientele. The relationship of some artists to digital technologies is particularly strong: “many visual artists not only use but create the digital tools of their medium”.

Broader opportunities related to digital technologies include the potential to increase exports and the overall economic impact of the cultural sector. The report argues that integration with other industrial sectors will increase, including “new approaches to production, distribution and/or marketing” in economic sectors from medicine to engineering. The report also argues that, “as the Canadian economy continues to move toward a knowledge-based economy, the creativity exhibited by the cultural sector will only increase in importance”.

Among the substantial challenges related to digital technologies, the report argues that “digital impacts pose threats to individual artists and to the business models underpinning entire sub-sectors. As well, the spread of digital technologies creates a challenge for important elements of the public support system for the cultural sector, for example the threat posed by broadband internet to the traditional structure of the broadcasting system.”

In the interviews for the report, cultural workers expressed a need for stronger digital business skills, such as “marketing, finance, strategy, business affairs, project management, intellectual property and IP rights management”. In order to adapt to new digital technologies, cultural workers “need training through formal education, in-career skills updating and mentorships and internships”. Knowledge resources such as effective practice guides and instructional materials would allow cultural workers “to leverage the advantages of digital technologies”.

The report includes five recommendations that are relevant for the cultural sector as a whole, related to:

  • Business skills learning modules: “Develop accessible and relevant learning modules to upgrade skills in business and marketing for entrepreneurs and managers in a convergent world.”
  • Digital business and marketing skills: “Academic training curricula for new entrants to the workforce in the cultural sector should increasingly emphasize entrepreneurship, management, business, and marketing skills in the digital economy.”
  • Continuous learning workspaces and leadership: “Build continuous learning opportunities into the workplace, including the means to develop leadership skills needed in addressing new challenges relating to the advent of emerging digital technologies.”
  • Mentorship programs:”Introduce and/or expand mentorship initiatives on a regional and national basis through building on current and new initiatives, such as communities of practice, in order to integrate the use of emerging digital technologies throughout the workforce.”
  • Collaboration tools: “Develop the new ‘learn ware’ that recognizes growing convergence and strengthen the mechanisms for sharing and pooling new tools, common resources and business processes.”

The report also provides 28 sector-specific recommendations related to broadcasting, film and television, digital media, visual arts and crafts, heritage, live performing arts, music and sound recording, and writing and publishing.

The report concludes that “a multi-faceted approach of training mechanisms” will be required to ensure that cultural workers have the necessary skills. This multi-faceted approach includes “closer collaboration between industry and academic institutions to ensure new entrants to the workforce have the most relevant skills”, in-career skills training, and mentorships.

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