Will Toronto’s digitalmediacamp Help Better Focus The Understanding Of The City’s Digital Media Industry?

digitalmediacamp Toronto cc - Matthew Burpee

Today I attended something I found very interesting. digitalmediacamp Toronto was a BarCamp style get-together that posed the question “How can we work together to propel Toronto’s technology, content and design communities into the future and make Toronto a globally competitive hub of digital media entrepreneurship and innovation?”

For me the conference or “un-conference”, as they are known, was déjà vu all over again. Quite frankly, and this is no one’s fault but my own, I have not been active for a number of years in the Toronto Digital Media Industry primarily due to the double cohort that hit the universities some years ago and the fact that I switched my focus both locally and internationally to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for the last few years. I’m the Education Director for the organization.

The reason that I felt I was living a flashback occurred in the first session I joined. It asked the question “What has caused previous initiatives aimed at collaboration too, not fain traction or fail?” In it I heard that Toronto still suffers from a very fractured group of companies and entities that work in digital interactive media. It remains difficult for federal, provincial and municipal governments to focus and understand how to further develop the industry. This was the exact same thing that was being said 15 years ago when associations like IMAT, SMART Toronto and later the Toronto Technology Center were formed for the specific purpose of creating a focus and providing a voice to the community. As I exited the community to take my sabbatical Interactive Ontario was starting to pick up steam and provide some focus. So I was really taken aback when I heard pretty much the same discussion I’d heard twenty years ago still occurring as we hit 2010.

Toronto is blessed with really good talent in many of the areas required to commercially deliver digital media. Yet on the surface the community appears to remain disorganized and perhaps dysfunctional when viewed through a government development lens. However it strikes me that perhaps it’s not that the community is disorganized or dysfunctional, perhaps instead the community reflects a rapidly changing landscape that is at the very heart of what digital media is. Think of it, where was Twitter as an active communication tool just two years ago and yet today at the conference it was central to the way many communicated.

Unlike 10 years ago, the community now operates inside a landscape that is very collaborative. A BarCamp by its nature is heavily self-organized. It requires a small group of people to organize it, and get the word out. All the registrants book online and other than the theme and a good moderator, the participants decide what questions are up for discussion. The participants break into groups and focus on ideas around the question. With mainstream collaborative tools now operating at the base of the community I think the tools might be in place where a sustainable conversation might occur long enough and deep enough to form the focus that appears to be missing. Perhaps Torontonian’s who work in digital media fields need to seriously think about using them to organize and focus the story of the Toronto digital media industry. Having watched a number of brick-and-mortar organizations form and disband over the last 15 years I’ve come to realize that sustainability of these kinds of organizations is something that the Toronto digital media industry culture has been unable to sustain.

There were lots of great ideas at today’s event, I can only hope that the group that formed today around the digital media camp can sustain the ideas and find ways to put them into action to the benefit of all who work in Toronto’s digital media industry. I’m going to do my best to keep up with the contacts and attend the sessions that have been organized as a follow-up. You can find the details on the day at the link http://www.scribblelive.com/Event/DigitalMediaCamp or Toronto http://groups.google.ca/group/digitalmediacamp?pli=1 or http://digitalmediacamp.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page or http://dmcampto.slinkset.com/ or http://digitalmediacamp.org/