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Canada 3.0 Blog

Monday, May 11, 2009

Creatively Digital/Digitally Creative

You know the digital revolution has taken firm root when it slips from the hands of the engineers, programmers and business people and into the creative realm. Digital media is far more than a technological innovation; the new technologies have already transformed the creative enterprise with the prospect of even more radical changes in the offing.

From the first video games - remember Pong? - to the latest computer assisted graphics in blockbuster movies, digital technologies have had pronounced effects on the creative world. Many of these have emerged as formidable artistic and commercial forces. Video games challenge the movie industry as a money spinners. Computer controlled lighting and sound systems embellish even the most basic community theatrical production. In Asia, in particular, art created specific for mobile Internet devices has found a ready audience. Even in book publishing, where the Kindle and Sony e-book present both threats and opportunities, digital text is rising to challenge traditional print. Japanese e-books, written specifically for cell phones, routinely make the best seller lists. Digital arts, entertainment and creativity are already a wide-spread reality.

The story, of course, is not all one of creative opportunity. From Napster to BitTorrent, digital technologies have permitted the ready theft of creative property, particularly music, movies, television programs and prose. The losses to creators and publishers runs into the billions of dollars - and the new technologies have manufactured a culture of theft and fraud that must certainly be having a prolonged impact on societal values. Digital rights management - the process of ensuring that creators and their agents get paid for the work that they produce - is perhaps the most fundamental battle line in the new economy. The fact that some countries, most notably China, do not make a concerted effort to protect intellectual property rights is a serious impediment to the commercialization of digital creative products.

Part of the creative impulse - appropriately - is a critique of the very technologies that underpin the digital revolution. Just as some videographers use youtube to share their creations with wide audiences, so do others capitalize on social networking sites, websites and other digital systems to document, decry and challenge the growing role of digital media in the contemporary world.

Creators - artistic, commercial and otherwise - have only begun to explore the potential of digital media. Innovations in such diverse areas as animation and motion capture, biofeedback and holographic imagining, virtual reality and outdoor projection,wearable computers and mobile Internet, web design and telematic theatre among many others promise to stand creative expression on its head. We will see many more public art forms, mass international transmission of art, collaborative acts of creation, interactive artistic events and critical re-interpretations of existing art (think sophisticated photoshopping).

The Internet and digital media promise, as well, to revolution the distribution and sale of art. Creative personnel who struggled to find audiences and consumers can use the new technologies to reach out globally. While most will not prosper - such is the lot of the lonely artist - many more will discover that easily shareable art forms can find an international audience.

Perhaps most significantly, the digital revolution needs content. The fiber optic cables, hard drives, processing memory, video cards and other countless hardware devices and pieces of software are only useful if there is something to move over and through the system. As the power of the Internet shifts from the tool makers to the tool users, creators and content producers will play an increasingly dominant role. The material that capitalizes on the technology, more than the technology itself, will drive the expansion of the digital economy.

As the technologists and creators converge - a process that is well underway - a vital feedback loop is emerging. Creators using technology pressure the engineers and programmers to innovate. The technological innovations, in turn, generate more and different forms of creative expression. The interaction between two sectors that are often separate, if not antagonistic, is central to the unfolding of a competitive and transformative digital economy.

Ken Coates
Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Innovate or perish, Canada warned

The Science, Technology and Innovation Council released its State of the Nation report and notes that "We have the knowledge, but aren't converting it to wealth."

Full report available at:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Will Canada miss the next wireless revolution?

Canada 3.0 Mobility and Media stream co-chair and OCAD President, Sara Diamond on Canada and the next wireless revolution:

Why Canada 3.0?

We've been asked why we called this forum 'Canada 3.0', particularly when most of the country is still in 1.0 and trying to figure out what all the hooplah is about this thing they call 2.0. To put it simply: to spark discussion about Canada’s digital media future.

Canada is currently a world leader in digital media. Canadian talent is pursued by some of the world’s largest technology and entertainment companies. Home-grown firms like RIM, Open Text, and Christie Digital (to name just a few) prove that we – as a nation – are digital media artists, innovators and entrepreneurs. As digital content and capability become globally ubiquitous, the opportunity for market penetration of existing and novel products, services, art and processes is massive. (Global, to be exact.) And Canada is in an excellent position to capitalize on the potential of 3.0. If we’re ready.

The Canada 3.0 Forum is designed to bring together everyone – corporations, government, researchers and associations - with a vested interest in Canada’s “world domination” of digital media to begin imagining Canada 3.0 and planning how we will get there. So, can Canada say that we’re ready for 3.0? Not yet, but few competitors are and the opportunity to grasp mindshare and marketshare begins now, before 3.0.

The Canada 3.0 Forum is for you if you believe that Canada can be the global leader in digital media and you’re interested in answering these questions:

  • We have wonderful pockets of activity across this grand country of ours, but how do we communicate that Canada is a leader in digital media?
  • We have incredible technological and business success in digital media, but do we have the infrastructure to support growth?
  • We have the systems in place to help build momentum, but are they the right systems to foster the growth of “natural resources” (inventors and entrepreneurs)?
  • We have talent, but to leverage our strength in digital media in 3.0 do we have enough? How do we develop more? How do we keep talent here in Canada?

Got an opinion on this? Want to be part of the discussion?

Be at Canada

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Take Advantage of Special Pricing - 10% off until May 8th

Register today at and take advantage of 10% off! But only until May 9th, so act now.

Be a part of the digital future. Join industry leaders, academics and government in determining where Canada is going in digital media. Don't miss this's the discussion for you!

Re-enforcing the Creative Triangle

The rapid development of the digital media sector has startled observers for the last few decades. Time and time again, a new twist emerges which transforms the commercial potential of the digital economy. It was only in the mid-1990s that the Internet emerged as a viable electronic platform. The emergence of e-commerce sparked the boom (and subsequent bust), just as the expansion of mobile telecommunication sent the digital industry off in new directions.

The transformations continue, with social networking, file-sharing, mass digitization, and eventually ubiquitous computing spreading the impact and enhancing the possibilities of the digital sector. This makes it, of course, extremely difficult to anticipate future directions in the digital economy, although one main trends seems quite clear. For the past twenty years, tool makers have held the upper hand, particularly in North America. The fascination with technological fundamentals has focused attention on the development of Internet backbones and new devices. The result has been impressive, with faster speeds, new devices, and improved delivery systems.

Perhaps, however, the greatest change has been the emergence of content -- the creative element -- as the fast-growing sector of the digital universe. At the level of the delivery systems, the Internet and devices--desktops, mobile devices, and the like, there remains an enormous amount of under-utilized capacity. While technological innovation must and will continue, the fastest changes will likely occur on the content/creative side. At present, companies like Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn have emerged as dominant players (although one hopes that there proves to be a limit to digital narcissism).

The future, it seems, will be strongly influenced by increased development on the content side. Content-rich sites like have the potential to transform the television sector. Clearly, news and information sites have undercut the viability of traditional newspapers. With governments, universities, special interest groups, google books, digital publishers, and others rushing to place content on line, content has become king.

In general, the digital torch is being past from the tool makers to tool users Telematic theatre - using the Internet to enhance the theatrical experience -- has real potential. User generated content, like YouTube, continues to grow, albeit without viable business models. The development of professional content, combined with micro-charging systems, will likely emerge as a centre-piece of the 21st digital economy.

To date, few companies, regions or countries have capitalized on the potential of the "creative triangle," the intersection of technology, international business and the creative sector. The unique cultures of these three areas -- each with different concepts of innovation,
radically different approaches to the cultivation of talents, and very different business models -- it is not surprising that natural unions have not emerged.

There is, however, a virtuous connection possible in the digital content sector. The technology firms need content to capitalize on the investment in infrastructure, creative organizations and people need markets and income from their work (particularly as traditional audiences continue experience pressure), and businesses need new products and services to capitalize on global opportunities. Bringing these sectors together and search for the sweet spot that draws on the
unique contributions from each is one of the core challenges of the new economy.

Ken Coates
Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Digital Stickiness

Countries around the world have made substantial investments in the digital media sectors. Governments have supported college and university training, academic research, commercialization initiatives and financing for start-up firms. There is a widespread assumption that digital media developments - hardware, software,c ontent and service delivery - will be central to national economic success in the coming decades.

The problem with this scenario is very simple. With dozens of countries competing on the same space, there is global competition for top talent, entrepreneurs, patentable and commercializable and emerging companies. Tie this to the mobility of people, ideas and even companies and the world ends up with both a vibrant global network of digital development and intense struggles to maintain commercial success.

For a country or a region, the "stickiness" of digital innovation has become a crucial - but rarely openly discussed - consideration. The issue is easy to describe. Stickiness is determined by the ability to attract, retain and develop key individuals, ideas and companies. Keeping all of these makes the economy strong and supports innovation. Conversely, if large numbers of crucial personnel, commercializable items and new firms move out of the region or country, then stickiness is deemed to be low and the economy is weakened accordingly.

At present, most governments focus their programs and energy on inputs, on producing more digital talent, developing more products and launching more companies. Some nations - Japan, South Korea, Singapre, Finland among them - keep almost all of their digital media investments in the country. A few, like Taiwan and China, are offering generous incentives to get people and companies to come home. Others, like those in Africa, lose many talented people and other digital assets from the country. The United States, in contrast, has historically attracted a great deal of foreign talent, capital and commercializable ideas.

Canada does not well on the scales of digital stickiness. Hundreds of our highly trained digital students accept jobs in the United States or elsewhere. Few comeback. There is a much larger market for digital innovations outside the country than inside. Many entrepreneurs have found much greener pastures south of the border. And a distressing number of start-ups relocate to the USA, often to get access to the much more plentiful venture capital pools.

Digital stickiness gets too little attention in the regional and national discussions about the development of the new economy. The focus on input elements is laudable, but there are serious problems here. The bleeding of digital assets from the country makes some individuals wealthier, enriches other countries and supports the global digital industry. What it also does is strip key human resources from the sponsoring region or country and undermine local commercial development.

For better or worse, Canada has a weak hold on its citizens, makes virtually no effort to convince people to stay, and makes it easy for even government-supported companies to leave. Our level of digital stickiness is higher than African nations but much lower than the most digitally-innovative countries in the world.

Canada needs a new vocabulary and a new agenda around digital media. Our students should be strongly encouraged to stay in Canada after graduation. Start-up companies should be supported in their efforts to make the transition from start-up to viable and long-term successful firms. Companies getting government funding to develop their products and services should have obligations to make a commitment to Canada and the host region.

To succeed in the globally competitive digital media economy, Canadians, Canadian firms and Canadian governments have to make a stronger commitment to their home region and country. We are competing against countries that expect a passionate loyalty to the nation from their digital sector. Canada competes very favourably on digital inputs; the country lines up much less impressively on the carry-through and permanent commitment. Stickiness has to be come a key priority if Canada expects to keep up with its international competitors.

Ken Coates
Dean, Faculty of Arts
University of Waterloo

Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping Our Eyes Open

Achihabara is a gadget-lovers paradise. A few blocks square, this vibrant commercial district in Tokyo is one of the most important digital environments on the planet. Canadians, dependant on Future Shop, The Source, and eBay, can only look with envy on this remarkable intersection of commerce, youth culture and technological innovation.

Everyone knows that the economy is now globalized and that new technologies can sweep across the world with stunning speed. This is how Taiwan emerged quickly as a major player in the digital sector, how Finland and Nokia became globally competitive, and how RIM's Blackberry became as commonplace in Croatia as in North America.

Unlike many competitor nations, which devote a great deal of effort to observing and responding to global developments, Canada and the United States are comparatively complacent. There is a tendency to over-estimate the degree to which the continental market is competitive with other countries and an assumption that the digital technology available in North America is cutting edge. The truth, however, ismarkedly different.

In the mobile phone field, Europe and Asia have pushed the technologies and markets further and faster. While Americans now get to play with the Kindle (Amazon's electronic book, not yet available in Canada), the Japanese have had e-books for cellphones for several years and readily available kiosks to download books onto Japanese-built readers. There are many such examples.

And there is an unusual twist. Because of the size of the Canadian market and difficulties rolling out products in this country, it is not uncommon for Canadian-made products and services to surface first in other countries. In general, and on both the producer/service delivery and consumer sides of the digital market, Canadians and Americans are not at the leading edge of innovation.

Competing in a global market requires global awareness. The larger firms - like RIM and Open Text - know this simple truth and devote considerable effort (and benefit from overseas offices) to staying abreast of developments. At the start-up phase and when new companies are just getting off the ground, finding such international intelligence is extremely difficult. While some of the material is available from industry websites and the popular press, most of the time-critical information is available only in other languages.

China, for example, has been described as a "silicon dragon" by industry observers. The country has made a strong public and private sector commitment to research and development in the field. Hundreds of Western firms have research operations in China, hoping to tap into the talent pool, make inroads into a growing and potentially huge market and to gain access to scientific and technological innovations made in China. Canadian companies active in the digital sector would be well-advised to pay careful attention to China competitors and to keep alert for Chinese products that could be sold in North America and for market niches in the fast-changing Chinese market.

Canada's multicultural population has long been seen as a potential - but unrealized- advantage in the international economy. Some new Canadians, after all, have the language and cultural skills necessary to monitor, understand and anticipate developments in their home countries. They could be mobilized to help Canadian companies keep abreast of global developments and identify commercial opportunities or threats emerging in other countries. As a country, we have not yet found the right mechanism for creating such global intelligence, in large measure because of the challenges individual companies (particularly the small and the vulnerable) face in supporting and sustaining true global awareness.

Global economies create both global opportunities and global threats. Finding a way- individually and collectively - to monitor international developments will prove critical to the long-term viability and competitiveness of Canadian digital media firms.

Ken Coates
Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ashton Kutcher Twitter Challenge

Ashton Kutcher challenged news giant CNN recently to see who could be the first to 1 million followers. In true social media style, Kutcher's plea was spread across social media networks - all over YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and other sites. And again in true social media style, Kutcher was crowned the first Twitter subscriber to reach 1 million followers this week and his success has spread far and wide.

In his latest commentary on YouTube, Kutcher comments on what his success says about the future of social media and news. Check it out: Can social media be our next news agency? Will we be getting our news from our friends instead of from trusted sources in the very near future?

For those of us of a certain age, this may seem like heresy, but for the youth among us this is a no-brainer. Why turn on the TV and watch broadcast news, when I can look down at my phone and get the scoop on what's happening in my world at the touch of a screen? I believe the key here is "my world." Although social media has broadened our instant reach across the world, it may have also narrowed our view of what really goes on in the world today.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Web 2.0 and Barack Obama

How web 2.0 and content management helped Barack Obama become President:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Calling for a digital media strategy

In the recent months, a few articles have appeared calling for a national digital media strategy.

This article by Open Text Chief Strategy Officer, Tom Jenkins, calls for a revolution to how we approach our national strategy creation in digital media:

Yet another article from the law firm Bennett Jones expresses a need for a truly made-in-Canada solution to our digital competitiveness:

The Canada 3.0 conference aims to address the issues raised in both these articles and begin to define how Canada can compete in a worldwide market.

Join the conversation....attend Canada 3.0.

Announcing Canada 3.0

Canada is at a crucial juncture in the digital economy. The country must decide how it is going to position itself to compete in the global digital economy. While Canada has areas of digital international leadership, rapidly changing economic and technological environments demand concerted action. There is an urgent need for Canada to define and implement a national digital strategy. The Canada 3.0 Forum represents the critical launch of that national effort.

On June 7-9, 2009 digital media leaders, policy makers and educators will gather at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford Institute to begin defining Canada’s digital future. Participants from government, private sector organizations, universities and colleges will participate in workshops, seminars and roundtable discussions to share their expertise and consider the nation-wide initiatives, best-practices and resources required to make Canada a highly competitive player in the digital media space.

Topics include:
Vision for Canada's Digital Future
Digital Shovels: Building Infrastructure
Mobility and Media
Digital Media Research and Commercialization
Skills Development and Job Creation

This intensive, highly collaborative experience will showcase Canada’s digital media innovators, visionaries, policy makers and inventors an opportunity to be a part of defining Canada's digital future. Join us in Stratford in June 2009.