On Monday (May 30) at The Carlu, the Canadian digerati gather for a round of egoistic self-adulation. It's the night of the Canadian New Media Awards (CNMA). They celebrate Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail, and the perfect circle of life they've created to support each other through a cycle of funding, supported development, recognition and awards.
For the most part, it will be a group hug with left arms patting backs while right hands sneak into wallets, groping for remnant funding and drink tickets.
Power and prestige start with drops of funding. There's a lot of money out there for "new media" projects if you're sharp as a tack, personable, great at writing proposals, well connected and well connected. You should also have a good portfolio. And it doesn't hurt to be well connected.
The lion's share of money comes from various federal or provincial government funds and, in Ontario and Quebec, the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, which was created to meet CRTC obligations.
Successful proposals tend to include a history of prior grants, so familiar names regularly appear on recipient lists. Once you make the cut (and deliver on your promises), the odds of your receiving future funding improve.
The "award-winning" label helps in the pursuit of funding, and spreading that particular brand of love around is something many people are rather particular about. Just as the money tends to follow familiar names, nominations for major awards also overlap.
After receiving more than 500 CNMA nominations, the selection committee of "126 new media professionals and industry experts from across the country" (www.cnma.ca/committee.html) collaborated to select 54 finalists in 18 categories. While the calibre of the selection committee is impressive, it includes representatives from the funds and many current and previous award recipients. It's also worth noting that many organizations that made the final cut were represented on the committee.
Of the 21 finalists in the seven "excellence in" categories, at least 11 were distributed by the CBC or TVOntario, and at least 10 were funded by the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund or a major government grant.
And the same names appear again and again.
I am not in any way implying that the work that's been nominated is not great, because all finalists in the excellence-in categories are top international-level digital projects. But I question whether the shortlist comprises the "best of the best" or, rather, constitutes justification for continued public funding and/or feathers in caps for future funding applications.
To be fair to the CNMAs, this is the first year they will recognize the work people do as opposed to just the people doing the work. In the past, the awards have focused on the visionaries instead of the realized visions, and perhaps the highest-profile projects were the ones to make the final cut. As well, the nomination process was not as widely publicized as it could have been.
The Canadian new media industry, by one estimate, consists of more than 3,000 companies with 30,000 employees and yearly revenues of nearly $2 billion. In an environment of that scope and scale, I think it's reasonable to wonder at the legitimacy of the cliques celebrating Ouroboros.
All that being said, make sure to check out the award finalists listed at www.cnma.ca/finalists.html and their amazing work. Evidently, the people running the CNMA website have never heard of hyperlinks, but you can easily Google most of the projects and discover them for yourself.
It really is remarkable what people out there are creating today. email@example.com