Author Archives: Inga

DigitalArtsNation.ca launched!

Today, we’ve launched digitalartsnation.ca, the website for Making Tomorrow Better: Taking Digital Action in the Performing Arts. This initiative received significant funding from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund in spring of 2019. The nation-wide partnership led by the Atlantic Presenters Association includes the Manitoba Arts Network, BC Touring Council, Island Mountain Arts/Northern Exposure, Yukon Arts Centre / N3 and the Yellowknife Arts & Cultural Centre.

logo Making Tomorrow Better Taking Digital  Action in the Performing Arts

Of note: most of the participants in the face-to-face workshops live on the edges of the country. therefore we tailor content to suit the realities, including slower internet connectivity,  of rural and remote communities across Canada. Because what works there, will work in urban centres, too.

This national initiative brings practical digital know-how to participants across Canada, through custom workshops, online how-to tutorials and information-sharing

These workshops are designed to help participants speak digital with confidence – that is, we will demystify and discuss the digital realm in plain English – and quickly become competent participants in arts sector conversations about leading digital tools, emerging digital innovations, and new digital business models.

Workshops are led by Inga Petri, Strategic Moves, or Tammy Lee, Culture Creates.

Watch our upcoming workshops page and see where we are headed next!

How intelligent is AI today?

I recently attended a workshop by Arts Impact AI, which is undertaking conversations on AI across Canada. I discovered quickly that my expectation of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is, wasn’t quite in the right place for the conversation at hand. I expected the discussion to centre around intelligent machines thinking and working similar to humans. Where attributes like self-learning or the ability to intelligently change its programming based on new input would be explored.

Algorithm Making

We spent the morning considering algorithms capable of rapidly analyzing vast amounts of data. An intuitive example came in the form of a group exercise where group 1 developed an algorithm (five characteristics based on a set of 12 images of convicted criminals) to identify the most likely criminal in a crowd, group 2 – the computer – applied the algorithm and group 3 – the humans – were tasked to simply identify the criminal without an algorithm. My colleagues in group 1 –  which was made up of people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities who live on the traditional territories of self-governing First Nations in the Yukon (and yes, that might have mattered to our decision-making) – opted to select criteria that did not include racial stereotypes. Needless to say, we broke the machine.

Each group had serious struggles with the ethical implications of their group’s role. This was the point, of course: do the designers of algorithms simply reinforce the stereotypes based on a highly biased judicial system that disproportionately affects Indigenous people and people of colour, and often men that are visibly part of these groups; or do they write an algorithm that does not fall into those stereotypes but focuses on other aspects.

Big Data Analysis

In my way of thinking this kind of AI application lives in the realm of big data analysis. While I imagined AI to feel unfamiliar and new, this felt extremely familiar to me: As a market researcher, I have followed for years work on “big data” analysis and how with the aid of faster computers our ability to analyze truly vast data sets has increased many fold. The biggest advantage, indeed, being speed that cannot be matched by a single human brain.

The AI application this group exercise mirrored is based on the analysis of a vast amount of data, e.g. 10,000+ photographs of convicted criminals, using computer facial recognition. This analysis identifies statistical probabilities for the parameters that were set.  Those probabilities are then used by humans to program an algorithm. That algorithm seeks to identify people in large crowds that match the analysis. By definition, this kind of analysis is looking to the past to inform the future; or in this case, to become the future.

Ethical Dilemma

The humans who build such algorithms  – which itself is void of AI self-learning or the acquisition and application of new information and capacity – determine their outcome.

When these humans do not apply a greater understanding, or an ethical lens (related to systemic impacts of oppression of certain groups in society, for instance) to the parameters analyzed in the first place, or to the resulting statistical probabilities, they are bound to create algorithms that reinforce the systemic biases evident in society.

In short, they may miss a lot of criminals and identify a lot of non-criminals. In so doing, they may also ensure that more of the same groups of people are pursued with the government’s righteous rigour, resulting in higher incarceration rates for these groups. Rather than discover what is real, it perpetuates a seriously biased reality that increasingly would disadvantage specific groups. The past literally becomes the future.

AI governance as data governance

This discussion of what algorithms are today centred on big data and what we can and should do with it was fascinating. Alas, it didn’t paint a picture for me of artificial intelligence in the sci-fi sense.

In any case, as a result of this data focus, the AI governance discussion was heavy on data governance, i.e. the collection, storage and use of personal data. Personal Information Privacy and Electronic Documents Act and  provincial laws govern information that is identifiable to an individual already. Canadian Anti Spam Legislation tries to combat spam and other electronic threats. There is a Do Not Call List to regulate how landlines can be used. These legislative tools tend to deal with a specific technology. This approach leaves much grey and blank space as companies explore and create more advanced technological innovations.  Simply put, technology changes more rapidly than laws.

In the end I feel it is this conundrum that AI governance should address – to move away from regulating one specific technology at a time to contemplate the notion of privacy and social licence we wish to adopt in our society.

Definitions of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include:

  • – Speech recognition
  • – Learning
  • – Planning
  • – Problem solving

[Source: Technopedia]

4 Types of AI

  1. Reactive machines – e.g. Deep Blue chess playing machine
    • Reactive machines have no concept of the world and therefore cannot function beyond the simple tasks for which they are programmed.
  2. Limited memory – e.g. autonomous vehicles
    •  Limited memory builds on observational data in conjunction with pre-programmed data the machines already contain
  3. Theory of mind – e.g. current voice assistants are an incomplete early version
    • decision-making ability equal to the extent of a human mind, but by machines
  4. Self-awareness -so far only exists in the movies
    • Self-aware AI involves machines that have human-level consciousness.

Source: G2

Cross-posted on https://digitalartsnation.ca

Digital Strategy Fund: Funded Projects 2017 – 2019

Canada Council for the Arts announced its unique Digital Strategy Fund (DSF) in March 2017 with a sense of urgency: “The fund is part of a catch-up movement for the vast majority of the arts sector, which is at risk of being less and less visible and less supported by citizens (…)” As a strategic fund, it is time-limited and was to operate from 2017 to 2021. The Digital Strategy Fund is worth $88.5 million.

UPDATE August 12, 2019

Canada Council for the Arts’ Strategy and Public Affairs supplied to me new tables on August 9, 2019. My initial analysis was based on Canada Council’s grants database information. That public information does not include the amounts committed by Council to multi-phase projects as those funds will be released based on interim project report. The different between the Grants data base as of August 9, 2019 and the actual allocated pending reports is just over $7 million, i.e. $36 million as opposed to close to 29 million. Another difference was in the year to which projects were allocated, i.e. many of the projects marked 2019 actually belong to the 2018-2019 fiscal year and are now marked 2018.The basic point of the analysis remains: less than half the available fund have been allocated so far leaving significant opportunity space for new applications to the fund.

Tables below are updated using the new data supplied by Council.   

I hope it will illuminate where funding has gone and help see where the digital opportunities spaces might lie for the upcoming September 18, 2019 deadline for the next full round of funding.

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund 2017 to 2019

Table1 Digital Strategy Fund 2017 to 2019

In total, the DSF has spent $36 million for 352 projects for an average of $102,961 per project. (*IMPORTANT NOTE: The total number of projects funded is 352 over this period, however, multi-year projects are counted in each of the fiscal years in which funding is awarded.) 2018 saw nearly seven times as many projects funded, resulting in a quadrupling of funding allocated. The average funding in 2018 is substantially lower because it includes a round of funding for core funding recipients that maxed out at $50,000.

$36 million represents only 40% of the total ear-marked funding.  It is clear: there is tremendous opportunity to obtain funds for bold digital experimentation in and a great deal of learning about the digital realm  with the remaining $52 million over the next two years.

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund - Four Funding Streams

Table 2 DSF Funding Funding Streams

During these first two years, Digital Literacy projects have 25% of all funding allocated.  Public Access and Citizen Engagement stream received 29% of funds – representing 16% of projects, while the Transformation of Organizational Models received about 26% of all funding for close to 10% of all projects.  This assumes all multi-phase projects will proceed beyond their initial phases and the allocated funds will be disbursed. The Special digital projects for core grant recipients makes up about one fifth of the funds spent, but half of the projects. The multi-phase projects while few in number represent a very significant investment of the life of the projects in particular when they meet their go/no go metrics positively.

In a sector that by and large is lagging in the adoption of contemporary and leading digital tools and methods, these figures paint an encouraging picture: Not only are arts organizations embarking on becoming well versed in the use of digital tools but a considerable number are working toward producing, marketing and distributing participatory and receptive arts experiences by experimenting with and leveraging the tools and methods of the digital realm; and 34 projects representing $9.5 million ($5.7 ,million of funds have been released pending multi-phase project go decisions for later phases) are looking at what digital transformation might look like for their organizations and sectors.

These projects are predicated on partnerships and generating significant benefit for more than the lead applicant. As such seeing a segment of the arts and culture sector embracing this opportunity to obtain risk capital for strategic organizational model and business model experimentation in the digital world is encouraging.

Canada has become highly urbanized, with about 17 million Canadians living in the six largest urban centres, and more than 80% living in urban and sub-urban areas of Canada. This begged the question about the geographic distribution of funds so far.

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund Cities vs the Rest of Canada

Digital Strategy Fund Cities vs the Rest of Canada 2017 – 2019

The six largest urban centres across Canada have received 68% of all funding even though their general population comprises about about 47%. This suggests that there is a greater concentration of organizations and activities in the digital realm in the largest cities. Nonetheless, $11.5 million have gone to cities under 1 million as well as smaller jurisdictions including a few in rural and remote places. The average level of funding per project is on par when we exclude the special projects at about $103,000. Still, one of the promises (opportunities, challenges) of the digital realm is that it might create a more level playing field for geographically disadvantaged and systematically excluded places and people. There is a need to explore how smaller communities can build the capacity needed to access more of this funding. 

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund 2017-2019, Regions

Digital Strategy Fund 2017-2019, Regions

Further analysis shows that every region in the country has benefited from the Digital Strategy Fund; and it matches quite well to the size of population, with only the three Prairie provinces under-performing significantly by the measure of general population.

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund 2017 to 2019, Provinces and Territories

Table5 Digital Strategy Fund 2017 to 2019, Provinces and Territories

Perhaps not surprising given their population base or remoteness, the Northern Territories and PEI  have received funding for only 1 to 2 projects each so far. While on a population basis this would be deemed adequate, it does not reflect the depth and breadth of the arts and cultural communities.

In my  work with arts and cultural organizations in every province and territory in Canada over this decade, I have seen exceptional arts communities in unlikely places and without exception they have an interest in staking a claim in the digital realm. I expect and hope to see more winning proposals from strong local arts and culture sectors in Nunavut and Yukon as well as Vancouver and Gulf Islands, BC Interior, NWT, Newfoundland, rural Maritimes  as well as cottage country in Ontario.

Bottom line: with 60% of the ear-marked funding envelope not yet spent, the time is ripe for a plethora of proposals for the September 18, 2019 deadline. Plus there is money available for Digital Literacy projects under $50,000 to succeed any time you need them – indeed, you can apply as often as you need under this component!

Let’s get on it! Let’s talk!

Notes: I collated this spreadsheet DSF_2017to2020_Aug2019 from the data points on Canada Council for the Arts’ proactive disclosure website. It represents 337 projects and is based on a data pull on August 2, 2019.

The funding database for DSF does not specify the artistic disciplines or whether it belongs to an equity-seeking group

The three funding streams allocate either up $250,000 for single phase or $500,000 for multi-phase projects, and up to 85% of total eligible costs for a new project or 50% to refine or optimize an existing one. By any measure this is a significant and unique investment in the arts and culture sector in Canada. New in 2018 was that Digital Literacy projects of up to $50,000 can be submitted any time to be approved internally at Canada Council within a few weeks, ie without convening an expert jury. Also new was that the expectations around having a partnership lead these projects has been loosened to specify that it must benefit a wider group.

Three rounds of funding have taken place: the first closed in fall 2017 with funded projects announced in April 2018, the second one closed in fall 2018 with projects announced in April 2019, and the third one targeting organizations that receive core funding from Council was published in summer 2019.

 

Let’s work together on digital

On August 31, from 1 to 2:30 pm Eastern (10 to 11:30 am Pacific), our next online convening to discuss current digital projects and those in development takes place. Let us know you are joining in: What’s Your Digital Project? – Part 2

Through the Digital Innovation Council for the Performing Arts, CAPACOA has shared  draft plans for Phase 2 of the Digital Innovation Council for the Performing Arts. These are a  series of potential digital projects identified over the course of Phase 1, Digitizing the Performing Arts: An Assessment of Opportunities, Issues and Challenges.

We know several people/organizations are looking at data strategies, especially semantic web and semantic web automation to enhance live event discoverability, business back-end platform improvements and perhaps revolutions, and more.

Participants in these conversations are moving to digital actions; sorting out what they want to do next and how to collaborate with a profound spirit of generosity. We all figure funding for the truly worthy breakthrough digital projects will follow. For some a key avenue for public funds will be through their eligibility for the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund, that will become available in the fall of 2017. Others may need to follow a tech start up model. It is a brave new world we are beginning to inhabit and get our bearings.

Join the conversation, listen in, meet potential collaborators: What’s Your Digital Project? – Part 2

CBC Interview: Digitizing the Performing Arts

Here is my interview from today with CBC North.

The report is available here:

Digitizing the Performing Arts: An Assessment of Opportunities, Issues and Challenges.  http://capacoa.ca/en/services/research-and-development/digitizing-performing-arts  La numérisation des arts du spectacle : Évaluation des possibilités, des enjeux et des défis. http://capacoa.ca/fr/services/recherche/numerisation-spectacle

Published! Digitizing the Performing Arts: An Assessment of Opportunities, Issues and Challenges

The thrill of release! Yes, we published today our latest national report – already billed as landmark 😉 – titled  Digitizing the Performing Arts: An Assessment of Opportunities, Issues and Challenges. It is also available in French:  La numérisation des arts du spectacle : Évaluation des possibilités, des enjeux et des défis.

I hope that this assessment provides a springboard for new conversations and digital capacity in the presenting field.

The question at the core of this work is who will be the digital intermediaries for the performing arts; and whether the presenting field can carve out a digital space that supports and benefits the entire performing arts eco-system. Doing so, I think, would require both a transfer and an expansion of the arts presenting expertise we see on the theatre platform to new digital platforms.

Presenters historically have been the dominant platform where performing arts and audiences connect. The theatre, stage or the festival site literally act as a platform. With that, this report seeks to begin to answer – or at least inform – big questions:

  • Can live arts presenters re-invent distribution of performing arts at digital scale?
  • How will Canadian artistic talent be nurtured and supported to grow viable careers and earn fair compensation in the digital realm?
  • How can we, and should we, as a free, vibrant society assure a broad diversity of voices that reflect all of Canada is heard in digital spaces as well as live performance spaces?
  • What is the future of live Canadian theatre, dance, music and other performing arts as digital technologies and capacities of data networks continue to advance?

This report by CAPACOA and Strategic Moves is the culmination of several years of conversations that emanated from our study on The Value of Presenting: A Study of Performing Arts Presentation in Canada. We are grateful for an initial round of financial support from Canadian Heritage to undertake this assessment.

On a personal note, I so appreciate and enjoy working with my colleague-client, Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development at CAPACOA. He is a tireless advocate in the arts; and equal parts smart, rigorous in his thinking and affable. Thank you, Frédéric, for your work and your collaboration!