Humanizing Digital Data

When we initiated the Digital Strategies Research Project, we could not have predicted the quick shift to digital technologies as a result of a pandemic. Now, in the wake of our Dissecting New Realities Conference, we see the increased need and the timeliness of this project. 

The goal of the Digital Strategies Research Project is to assist, support, and build craft organizations in taking effective steps towards concrete improvements in their digital connectivity. The Dissecting New Realities Conference is a continuation of the Ten Digit Technology series and was our first conference since our in-person Understanding Virtual and Material Realities Conference in Saskatchewan, March 2020.

Over the course of 3 days, we invited our stakeholders to review the results of the Craft Maker and Consumer Survey. On the first day, Forum Research Inc. led participants through these findings, building a basis for our brainstorming and ideation sessions. We learned interesting differences and similarities in perspective between makers and buyers and gained insight into what pre and post-pandemic craft practice looks like. 

Day two was dedicated to digital strategies. We heard from Kit Hillis from Zu who presented a talk about “Assessing your Digital Strategy.” This was a great presentation that allowed us to dig deeper into the user experience when they engage with digital platforms. We also heard about innovative projects that were digitally built out of necessity including a talk by Alison Murphy, Executive Director for Craft NB. Alison spoke about Craft NB’s digital problem solving of uniting artists and poets for the “Atlantic Vernacular Exhibition”, a high-calibre travelling exhibition. Participants also got an inside look into how Crafted Vancouver was able to repurpose a real estate photography app to create Crafted Interiors, a virtual Lifestyle Exhibition, presented by Marion Coureur. 

The final day of the conference was themed “Human-Centred Goal Setting”. This day included sessions on assessing and improving organizational diversity, equity and inclusion plans, and implementation. Parul Pandya from Community Impact Consulting presented the talk “How to Implement & Measure an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Plan” which incorporated immediately actionable steps for organizations to edit and adapt EDI plans. Heather Ervin from Arts Etobicoke explained their innovations with augmented reality to activate community spaces. Heather also gave examples of interactive ways to collect data like asking visitors to place wood beads in jars corresponding to participants’ postal code at events to see which communities they are reaching, encouraging attendees to make their data collection simple and fun for audiences. Our last conference presenter was Sarah-Jonathan Parker from ArtsNB who explained how they initiated a “Voluntary Self-ID Process for DEI Goals”. By collecting simple, but meaningful data, ArtsNB is able to gather relevant information to help build programming.

Much like the digital project examples from our presenters, the process to develop a virtual conference was also an experiment. The CCF/FCMA worked with Inga Petri from Strategic Moves to learn about what makes an awesome virtual conference and most importantly, what would work specifically for us. We used new digital tools like Google Jamboard to allow participants to type or doodle notes, thoughts and ideas in real-time. We scheduled small group breakout sessions to ensure everyone had an opportunity to connect and to speak. We even designed Zoom backgrounds for staff to be easily identifiable. We found that these small changes made for a meaningful and engaging conference and we are encouraged to incorporate these methods into a hybrid model of digital and physical meetings in the future. 

The 3-day conference left us inspired and motivated by the collective craft advocacy from councils and organizations from across Canada. Our next steps are to gather all of the ideas, notes, and energy shared, to move forward with a public conference planned for fall 2021. While we would have loved to gather for longer, one thing is clear, the world has gone digital and craft won’t be left behind.