We are providing this technical insight into the project in the hopes that it can help other organizations be that for building something of their own or taking our initial work even further. To get more information than what is here, please get in touch with us!
The CAVI was built in a few stages:
These stages are simple to describe in hindsight, however our process was fairly exploratory. As described elsewhere in this set of resource pages, we built this prototype as much to fulfill a specific function as to use making as a way to understand the audio-video infrastructure of our time. We approached this with a DIY/hacker spirit, working to pull things apart and put them back together again in a new, sometimes unexpected, way.
The most obvious place to build our dataset from was through open data from funders. We focused on the Canada Council for the Arts, and informally cross referenced it with other provincial funders.
The Canada Council offers a wealth of open data (check here), however much of it does not include websites or social media channels. We began using Airtable to filter the data, add new information and explore the content.
Key Finding: If public funders released Open Documents that included all available websites and social media channels it would enable smaller arts organizations to do more with the information, faster. (It took us several days to manually find and add this information to the available open data).
We compared content from Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Vimeo and YouTube. While the content landscape is always shifting, our informal observations led us to conclude that YouTube represented the central publication platform for most of the organizations we looked at. The CAVI is far from comprehensive, but in our initial explorations it was clear (and somewhat of a surprise to us) that YouTube was a very dominant force in the online infrastructure for this material.
Artengine is happy to share the list of 516 arts organizations with their corresponding websites and YouTube channels which we built the scraper from. Please download the csv file of the list here.
The open data from public funders was both an opportunity and limitation in this project. Artengine is very aware that this is only one version of Canadian arts content online. It is only a partial picture, and one that intersects, for better or worse, with a large state organization and its national and institutional mandate. The institutional approach to building the list gave us the opportunity to build a large list for our prototype with a clear limitation to the data in mind. We did not get involved in editorial or curatorial decisions, but used the funding structure (including all core funders and many projects in various Fields of Practice – a key funding term in the Canada Council data tables).
Based on the questions for inquiry, while also taking into account the peers selected for the consultation, four main themes stood out while consolidating the feedback and discussion notes.
Essentially, it was confirmed that the Index would be a very useful tool to get programming and curatorial work done. It would fast-track research to reveal Canadian art content and break through the corporate algorithm inherent to big streaming platforms. Although, it was agreed that there should be interface and structural improvements made to add value to how it searches and displays the data. Apart from this, there was mixed debate about its social impacts, how it may cause harm and the safeguards needed to protect artists.
Lastly, it is necessary to look at the combined feedback to understand that developing the CanCon AV Index, as a fully workable and successful tool, would require dedicated staff, operational processes and substantial funding. In order to do this, Artengine would have to significantly change its mandate to proceed with the development of this tool.
The last stage of prototyping was preparing a front-facing search function to access and play with the data scraped from YouTube. We decided that the best way to display and access the data would be to build a search engine on the Artengine’s WordPress website.
To build the Index interface into our website we used the following plugin tools:
Completeness and usability were not central to our process, rather we focused on prototyping and hacking as drivers of the design. We think of hacking as inspired from the DIY and maker movement, as a mode intervention that breaks, appropriates existing infrastructures and tools with the ethos of openness, sharing, and decentralization as a way to reflect, challenge and reimagine new ways of being in the world. It was important to this project that open-source and easily accessible tools were used, documented, and shared. That is why, although we had the option to hire a developer and build all the components by scratch, it was more valuable in our approach that tools and knowledge were accessible to those of us with some technical expertise and be able to share it with those who may not have an IT background. By hacking the tool ourselves, we reclaimed a sense of agency over the digital, understanding what limits could be pushed with our own limited set of technical skills.