How can we incubate creative projects at a distance?


This project was generously funded by the Toronto Arts Council and supported by Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design. Over 4 months, a group of four students are working with ukai Projects to assess user needs and prototype solutions to issues surfaced during the observation and interpretation phases.

As disciplines converge and as new technologies are integrated into existing and new practices, appropriate approaches to support incubation and collaboration will be needed. In a country as globally-connected and geographically dispersed as Canada, how might virtual or distance incubation practices be supported, particularly around acts of digital creation and dissemination?

The main questions that we are currently holding around digital incubation include:

  • What are the relational dynamics that support or prevent digital innovation embedding in an artistic process or project?

  • How do we identify and overcome differing attitudes, expectations and practices about digital creation among different parties including creative technologists, artists, arts administrators, community members, audiences and others (particularly attitudes to risk and failure, differing processes and methods)?

  • What are the appropriate processes and approaches to synthesizing techniques and technologies?

  • How do we measure and assess progress, outputs and outcomes of collaborative incubation activities?

There is significant research into how face-to-face incubation in a shared physical space might be supported. Virtual or distance approaches to creative incubation are less well-understood but increasingly important as collaboration and coordination of specialized disciplines intersect.

ukai Project’s research focuses on promoting and supporting the diverse artistic practices of grassroots, independent, and emerging arts organizations that are not established in traditional, professional spheres of arts creation, production and dissemination.

Our clients and partners span disciplines, geographies and sectors. Addressing issues of virtual incubation would allow us to grow our impact and many regions in Canada and globally are recognizing the need for new approaches to creating and collaborating on artistic work. Platforms that lower barriers to market entry and cushion financial risk so that effective operating models can be developed are appearing around the globe and ukai Projects wants to continue to provide critical support to those outside the mainstream arts world.

Our research and services help partners bypass organizational development stages to immediately benefit from advances in technology and respond to large-scale social and cultural changes. Being able to bring together collaborators from different geographies and with different practices would allow for new markets to be created and new business models to emerge to support creative activity in Canada and elsewhere.

Overcoming this challenge will allow many organizations to better understand the opportunities for creative collaboration, particularly with international partners. Culturally-specific practices will see the field of potential collaborators increase as well as potential audiences outside of Canada. Mixed models of incubation can also emerge that don't ask for committed co-location but provide the benefits of collaborative exploration.

Jerrold McGrath