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Which side of the digital divide do you fall on?

We feel it’s more urgent than ever to stay connected with each other and share how we’re each navigating this challenging time in the digital world. On March 24th, the Creative Users Projects and Bodies in Translation research team met with a group of Deaf artists and stakeholders to discuss the challenges that artists are facing during COVID-19 and what the immediate needs and opportunities are.

On March 24th, the Creative Users Projects and Bodies in Translation research team met with a group of Deaf artists and stakeholders to have a conversation about the challenges that artists are facing during COVID-19 and what the immediate needs and opportunities are going forward.

Below is a summary of key themes that came out of the conversation and further questions that we can explore going forward in our communities. This event was made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts.


Theme #1: There is a real digital divide between those that have the means to participate digitally online, and those that do not.

Need for improved technology in homes (internet connection)
In light of events being canceled and artists being told not to travel, this has effectively eliminated all upcoming opportunities to connect with the community. While technology exists for artists and arts patrons to connect online, not everyone has access to high quality internet connection at home or the necessary devices to support online social activities.

Concern for young people and other vulnerable groups
There was a particular concern for young people and other vulnerable groups who are further isolated from their usual support due to social distancing measures, or lack of agency to access relevant technologies for a variety of reasons.

Destabilized livelihoods
Many artists are seeing their sources of income getting cut off quite suddenly due to events and projects being canceled or postponed. There is an immediate concern for livelihood in the short-term, and also what it means if the situation continues for many more months.


Theme #2: The digital world does not map perfectly to our analogue world.

Transitioning from physical space/experience to online space/experience
For most performing artists, their connection with the audiences is part and parcel of the artistic experience. The challenge now is figuring out what it means to transition to online space where that connection is now mediated by technology.

Adapting and learning through experimentation, empathy and patience
Artists emphasized the need for patience, collaboration and extra time and space to adapt, make mistakes and get comfortable with online format. Existing and new communities are taking on the approach of “learning by doing” as new online meetings and events are created.


Theme #3: There is a silver lining if we are open to change.

A positive direction towards exploring making online artistic content and experiences accessible
This time of COVID-19 may be an opportunity to start experimenting, improving and expanding how we make online events and gatherings accessible by incorporating interpreters and captioning into these technologies. For example, artists are already adapting and finding ways to continue creating art and engaging audiences by performing in their living rooms, with an interpreter being filmed with a separate web camera.


We want to hear from you

  • If you are amongst those that have access, how can we bridge that divide? If you are amongst those that lack access, what kind of support is most meaningful?
  • What new kinds of socialization or artistic engagement are you seeing or participating in?
  • What are some creative ways different artists can use digital media to continue their artistic practice?

Other questions that came up

  • How can we share ideas and examples of how the community is adapting as inspiration for our own work?
  • How can we share and/or access the right tools so that we can use technology effectively?
  • What is the impact on our young people, and how can we address that?
  • What is the impact on our income and livelihoods, and how can we address that?
  • What does meaningful artistic experience mean in our current space? Is it possible? What makes a meaningful experience virtually?
  • How do you create an “online venue”?
  • What if you don’t have everything you need at home? Ways to connect/partner with someone who does?
  • Work that needs to be live – how do you get feedback during a performance?
  • How do you hold an accessible online event?

Mentioned resources

Connecting
Discord
Slack
Zoom

Creative technologies
Deafverse
Deafverse video on Facebook showing the use of green screens
Article about the Deafverse game

Artist platforms
Patreon
Tik Tok

Social
Facebook (groups, polls)
Instagram (live video)

Community
ORAD (Ontario Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf)