The Blog Studio was invited to Government of Ontario’s “Digital Dialogue” conference regarding the future of Canadian media. Hosted by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the OMDC called upon Ontario’s preeminent literary, commerce, media and academic minds to discuss and ultimately, develop Canada’s digital media strategy.
Keynote speaker and New York Times writer Virginia Heffernan, Minster of Tourism and Culture’s hon. Michael Chan, former editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail Edward Greenspon and Dr. David Ellis—chair of Communications at York University—all gave their time and expertise to this cause. Among the esteemed panelists were representatives from “Digital Britain” offering their findings after having formulated Britain’s policy on new media.
Ms. Heffernan’s outstanding keynote addressed common fears regarding the forward progression of digital media. She communicated that many are nostalgic for the pre-digital age. There is a body that feels literacy is at risk in the face of video games and that many are wary of the scope and possibilities of the web. Heffernan did a fantastic job of unpacking and disarming these anxieties: She feels that this moment in media is analogous to the Industrial Revolution and that there now exists alternatives to computer and off line culture embodied in the iPad and the Android. In response to the skeptics Heffernan challenged her audience to:
- Try an e-reader (preferably the kindle)
- Jump right into the web by commenting and engaging with sites
- Record your experience
Heffernan feels that this endeavour will result in the same conclusion that she has drawn: “Literacy is not at risk because of the Internet, rather literacy is augmented as a result.”
Next, The hon. Michael Chan discussed an official report detailing the vision and direction of Canada as a top tier media economy. Cultural media is Toronto’s big business and generates billions of dollars for the Canadian economy. We must create new business models, policy frameworks, and a change management plan for Canadian society amidst our digital transformation. He shared that there are six key pillars for this project:
- The development of private investment and financing in new media.
- Creating an environment to support, stimulate and grow creative minds in the cultural media sector.
- Coordinate the force of all Ontario media companies.
- Support start-ups that inject new ideas and matters.
- Create an accessible environment for all Ontarians to learn Digital Media.
- Most importantly, Ontario must extend its global presence by having an official policy on ‘The National Digital Economy Strategy for Canada.’
Each panel highlighted their major recommendations and concerns for government policy and called upon conference peers and especially, the general public to contribute as well. The main concern recurrently voiced was Accessibility- this means the language and practices of digital media must not be esoteric or class based. We must ensure there are opportunities afforded to small business, inner city schools and the working class so that our entire country moves forward together and is educated in this regard. Digital Britain found “unconferences” were the way to include those who felt disenfranchised.” Additional issues included extension of broadband as well as funding and expansion of tax incentives.
The conference was incredible as a result of the exchange of ideas and recommendations for digital policy. A note to our friends and industry professionals: The Government of Ontario wants to hear from YOU and will be accepting policy recommendations until July 9th. Send your suggestions post haste to http://www.digitaleconomy.gc.ca and you can follow @OMDCtweets.