Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit


Summit dates: November 22 – 24, 2019
Registration deadline: Extended to November, 15 

Experience this three-day summit that is designed to ignite curiosity, confidence, and enthusiasm within Canadian art-making practices, which are facing a rapidly digitizing world.

By stimulating expansive imaginings of our digital futures — the good and the troublesome — we'll strive to create an ambitious vision for the role the arts must play in fostering creative, inspiring, and humane realities. To mobilize this vision, we will move beyond information-sharing toward concrete pathways to creation, production, and collaboration.

What does the summit offer?

The Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit moves from world to art to the audience, connecting the expansive with the practical. We will seek the intersection of two fundamental questions: Where are the arts needed in this disrupted world? And, what do the arts need to expand creative visions there? Join in this dialogue with a breadth of stakeholders including artists, arts and culture leaders, technologists, futurists, funders, policymakers, gamers, researchers, capitalists, and Marxists. 

Together we will absorb big questions around big data, delve into discoverability, and explore relationships with rapidly evolving audiences. We will investigate new modes of reality and new ways of making and disseminating creative expressions. We will encounter Indigenous views and practices, and explore how Indigenous voices inform our digital landscapes. We will seek to understand how Canada’s digital arts opportunity connects to larger strategies for our nation as a whole. 

Throughout the summit, an ongoing evaluation will surface key themes and concerns in conversations, and structure responsive dialogues. With luck, we will find ourselves in a transformational moment for how we might imagine, create, and occupy our digital selves and the worlds they call forth. 

Who should attend?

We welcome all who seek to contribute to a national conversation around the emerging pressures and opportunities arising in a hyper-digitized world, and how we find and make meaning there. The summit is aimed at a cross-section of cultural leadership including:   

  • Artists seeking to find the audacity to dream of the digital world with a critical, enthusiastic, expansive lens; while seeking increased practical literacy on how to navigate the wild world of digital opportunities
  • Cultural leaders seeking to adapt and evolve organizations, institutions and companies towards the realities of an increasingly digitized world
  • Technologists looking to build new practices and networks
  • Researchers eager to understand the emerging complications and opportunities surrounding digital literacy
  • Policymakers and funders striving to navigate the disrupted landscape of audiences, practices, indicators, and industries
  • Everyone who has come to realize the need to build new networks, new literacies, and new enthusiasm for a world that is increasingly of our own making

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Welcome Messages

We welcome you to the Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts - Simon Brault

Minister of Advanced Education, Province of Alberta - Demetrios Nicolaides

Mayor, Town of BanffKaren Sorenson

Vice President of Arts & Leadership, Banff CentreHoward Jang

Summit Overview


Day 1: The Big Horizon

The Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit at Banff Centre explores four key areas, evolving from the expansive to the practical over three days. 

disruption. ideas. art. (AX)pectations.

We live in an era of self-driving car crashes, rigged elections, post-truth media, and the biggest wealth gap in history. Wasn't technology supposed to be good?

Today, we explore the breaking dream through the lens of big data, emerging digital identities, and the perspective of Indigenous practitioners.

Day 1 – Morning 
Keynote: Calibrating the Disruption 

Uncertainty surrounding the depth of digital disruption makes us question whether we have new tools for the same ends, or if something far deeper is at work. As technology infiltrates the many corners of our lives, diagnosing our digital disruption becomes a pressing concern. Hear one of the world’s sought-after thinkers contemplate our rapidly digitizing existence. 

The keynote address will be immediately followed by an interview between the keynote speaker and a member of the summit leadership team, weaving questions pertaining to summit themes prevalent to days two and three into a conversation spanning global views, artistic practice, and audience experience. 

The morning will conclude with a general Q&A discussion with the audience, as well as conversations facilitated through smaller group discussions. 

Day 1 – Afternoon
Launchpad Discussion: AI, Reality, and Ethics 

Nothing has come to represent our digital anxieties like artificial intelligence. Is this the robot apocalypse or the tool we’ve been dreaming of since we first tamed fire? This session explores AI – how it works, how it replicates and revolutionizes our real worlds, the ethical challenges it raises, and the implication of agency that arises for all humans except a very select few. 

Presentation: Being Online  Identity, digital identity, and the forces that shape (and own) us online 

We all live online in ever-increasing ways – from those without internet access existing as mere statistics, to those whose material and existential purposes are inseparable from online platforms. How are we defining our digital identity versus our ‘other’ identity, what are the forces shaping digital identity, and how do they differ from more traditional contexts in which our identities emerge? 

Panel: Agency and Voice in Response to a Digitized World 

The offline world has been proficient at marginalization, oppression, and exclusion. In exploring the question of marginalization and the digital world, we ask whether the digital world is replicating or magnifying our past, or if it can offer unique agency to marginalized voices to escape this pattern. 

Panel: Ideas into Practice 

The sprawling ideas, anxieties, and possibilities addressed over day one find their way into artistic practice. Three leading practitioners from around the world carry us into the wild world of art-making in a digital world. Join our guest artists in an exploration of how these expansive themes find unique platforms in digital creation.


Day 2: The Practical Work

As governments the world over transform arts policy and funding mechanisms for digital life, we contemplate the ideas and assumptions that lie behind this transformation. A surprisingly long history of digital arts in Canada informs our understanding of where we are on the continuum, how we fare globally, and where our future lies.

The perspective of artistic practice has sometimes struggled to make it into our digital strategy discussions. In moving our practices into emerging spaces, we illuminate key challenges and opportunities associated with making the often-not-so-magic leap.

Day 2 – Morning 
Banff – The Third Space

Former Director and Executive Producer of the Banff New Media Institute, Susan Kennard shares reflections on the evolution of the Banff New Media Institute.  This presentation highlights hopeful experiments, thematic debates and the high altitude culture of engagement, creativity and risk-taking curated and designed by the Founder and Creator of the Banff New Media Institute, Sara Diamond.

Launchpad Discussion

Learn about best practices and worst nightmares. Follow the developmental path of a theatre artist, director, and dramaturge who shares the often-humbling insights of creating new work amidst the rapid proliferation of digital affordances.

Day 2 – Afternoon
Panel: Systems Change – Digital disruption and funding development, a global view 

Countries around the world are experimenting with new approaches to policy to keep up with digital disruption and, ideally, to get ahead of the curve. Starting from the viewpoint that keeping up requires concerted efforts among policy-makers, funders, and practitioners, this panel will explore the design and impact of recent policy and funding approaches in Canada, the U.K., and Europe. 

Panel: Industries Colliding or Cross-Sector Collaboration 

The swift tide of cognitive habituation and ‘novelty malaise’ in the digital age is daunting, especially for small and mid-scale players who can't afford to invent new platforms and forms with every project. This panel explores the challenges in bridging the divide between the creative industries, as gaming and tech advancements provide tantalizing and challenging opportunities that don’t always align with the culture and constraints of Canadian arts practices. 

Presentations: Practitioner Pecha Kucha 

20 images. 20 seconds. Hear from an array of artists who have braved the worlds of digital transformation, bringing the challenges and opportunities of digital art making into their own practice. 


Day 3: Great (AX)pectations

Digital landscapes are changing our audiences, their preferences, their patterns and their expectations. Online streaming, shifting artistic forms, and AI management of information systems are producing urgencies and rapidly evolving questions when it comes to our relationships with and understanding of audiences.

The structure of the Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation Summit is designed to maximize emergent ideas and dialogue and employ strategies to capture salient themes throughout. The final day includes a yet-unprogrammed session, allowing us to workshop priorities as determined by you, the summit participant.

Day 3 – Morning 
Presentation: What is a ‘Good’ Audience and When Are They Not? 

Digital disruption doesn’t just mean new things for artists to learn, but the audience as well. New modes of expression mean new roles for the audience to play, and new skills needed to play them. What are the implications of this fluid reality for audience engagement and the development and dramaturgy of new work? 

Presentation: AR, VR, MR, and the Fluidity of Reality in Digital Arts Practices

This session explores the evolution of the audience experience through work that is curated, location-specific, and features interactive prototypes proposing audience interactions with emerging technologies in augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality encounters. 

Panel: The Interacting Audience 

This panel explores themes of audience interactivity, authentic invitation, high-risk versus low-risk interactivity, directed versus self-directed interactivity, and laying out the rules of engagement. 

Panel: Incubating Infrastructure

Exploring the infrastructure response to our digital curiosities, this panel discusses how to optimize the technical and human resource dimensions of our facilities in order to incubate efficient and adventurous experimental processes. The panel will highlight best practices from Canada, the U.K., and Europe as we look to see what’s missing in the Canadian landscape and how we might fill that gap. 

Day 3 – Afternoon
Panel: Creative Technologies Beyond the Screen

While always a component of digital innovation, the pace at which creative technologies are extending beyond the screen-based world is accelerating, impacting design, fashion, performance, and production. This panel will explore how novel software and hardware, including advanced robotics, manufacturing technologies, projection, sensing, AI, and mixed realities impact the creative sector. In particular, the panel will focus on how these techniques are part of an ever-evolving relationship with audiences.

Panel: Discoverability 

As machine-learning becomes an essential go-between for humans and their worlds, ensuring compatibility and coherence of metadata strategies requires significant overhaul of current marketing, promotion, and classification practices. How do we lead such a process in order to keep Canadian arts visible and thriving in a digital world? 

Closing: The Way Forward 

The goal of this summit is to inspire dialogue amongst a gathering of esteemed colleagues and artists across the three days, which will uncover and identify emergent themes, and highlight critical areas of discourse that remain urgent. These elements will be brought forward as a means of ratifying outcomes and focusing on opportunities for spin-off workshops and gatherings. 


View the regularly updated schedule of events and find event details.

Schedule Overview PDF

Mobile Itinerary 

Free Summit Activities

Virtual Reality, Art Installations, and Performances will punctuate the sessions of the Arts, Culture, and Digital Transformation summit. These activities are open to the public and offer an insight into work being done in these highly relevant fields.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.


Summit Partners