The issue: Evolving social and technological conditions could necessitate changes to the cultural expressions, institutions, and funding mechanisms that support national identity and attachment.
As new types of digital media offer more opportunity for diverse voices to be heard, narratives that support a more inclusive national identity may become more prominent.
Expanding access to digital storytelling tools with the potential for large-scale sharing could further reduce the power of traditional gatekeepers, such as broadcasting networks, production companies, or publishers. A chorus of new voices telling powerful new stories could offer new takes on Canada’s past, present, and future. This could make it easier for some to feel attached to Canada—especially if those stories are delivered in more powerful and easily distributed media. The rise of new voices and stories could feel like a chaotic unravelling of cherished stories and symbols among those most invested in a more traditional national identity. This could spark culture wars fought in metaspaces with new narrative weapons. However, in time, such conflict might open space to construct new, more inclusive national symbols and narratives.
As new digital spaces become increasingly important venues for creating, consuming, and sharing art, distinctly Canadian cultural expressions could either get lost in the noise or reach important new audiences.
Youth in the Gen Z cohort already consider online games as their preferred form of entertainment.[i] In the future, these spaces may become the main places where people create culture, learn history, encounter art, and have spiritual experiences. New forms of cultural expression and new ways of experiencing culture in these spaces could expand the reach of Canadian content. Heritage minutes, whether official or unofficial, could become immersive experiences that reinforce shared identity or destabilize it. Values like multiculturalism could be supported by attending a virtual Carnaval de Québec in the metaverse, or challenged by fringe groups using video games to advance an ethno-nationalist agenda. At the same time, these spaces might operate in ways that encode their creators’ and owners’ biases and values. Access to powerful new creation and distribution tools may not be equitable. Traditionally marginalized communities might find themselves once again sidelined in these spaces. The same might be true for virtually all Canadians if these spaces are exclusively foreign-owned and controlled.
As non-western popular culture grows in influence, traditional value systems may shift, including views on different models of social and economic organization.
People living in the Global North have more access than ever to cultural content created in the Global South, including television shows, music, and online games. This exposes them to new ideas and values, some of which are overt and striking and some of which are built into content. As the popularity of games and other digital spaces encoded with different ideas and values increases, cross-cultural understanding within and across national borders may increase. The popularity of non-western narratives and other forms of expression, especially among youth, may shift views on foundational concepts. For example, preference for individualist or collectivist models of political and economic organization might change. These shifts might lead some to expect more from the government and others to expect less, creating challenges surrounding shared views of the social contract.
[i] Todd Spangler, “Gen Z Ranks Watching TV, Movies as Fifth Among Top 5 Entertainment Activities,” Variety, last modified Apr. 18, 2021, https://variety.com/2021/digital/news/gen-z-survey-deloitte-tv-movies-ranking-1234954207/.