TourNet is live!
MANO is excited to see the MAP-TN project, now called TourNet: Canada’s Media Arts Touring Resource, take shape! The TourNet development team has brought the initial vision of the platform to life while adapting it to the reality of COVID-19 and its lingering impact on the media arts sector. Touring and presenting are now very different things than they were at the time this project was first proposed, and it’s gratifying to be able to help media arts organizations reimagine these activities in ways that will be viable in a still uncertain future.
For readers who are new to the project, TourNet is a bilingual tour-building platform that will facilitate the presentation of media arts programs at venues in Ontario and beyond. It does this by connecting organizations and collectives to the venues, equipment and resources that they need to present their work, and by including accessibility and community-focused information in the data infrastructure we are building. Traditionally, our work is only seen once, in a single community. TourNet’s user-generated network provides opportunities for a multitude of presentations.
The TourNet project is rooted in the practice of mutual aid and aims to foster collaborative relationships between organizations and individuals working in the media arts sector while supporting independent venues that have been hit hard by COVID-19. Above all, it strives to do no harm.
To realize these goals, the TourNet team has implemented an outreach-based development process that prioritizes the input of the people and communities it is designed to serve. At each stage, we have invited potential users to meet with us to consult on the technical systems we are developing, and also to discuss the changing needs of their organizations and their own well-being as cultural workers. This has led us to adopt two core principles in our work (1) a commitment to accessibility, broadly defined, and (2) a feminist ethic of care. This approach has helped us to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic while being responsive to the community of users we aim to support.
To date, our work has proceeded through three overlapping stages: (1) initial email and Zoom consultations held with key sector organizations between December 2021 and February 2022, which guided the development of the custom TourNet database; (2) a hands-on TourNet workshop session held at the August 2022 Through the Storm conference in Ottawa, which saw the participation of media arts organizations from across Canada and has informed the development of TourNet’s user interface; and (3) a new accessibility caucus comprised of self-identifying deaf and disabled cultural workers from Ontario media arts organizations, which formed in October 2022 in response to feedback we received at the Ottawa conference. Our consultation process is circular, rather than linear: i.e., we bring participants’ contributions back to the development team and modify the platform design accordingly. The next development phase will bring TourNet to MANO’s wider membership starting in June.
This version of the project will look a little different than the one we launched in Ottawa last year. Last fall, we transitioned from our initial focus on the back end of the platform and to a new developer, Helios Design Labs. As part of this process, we conducted an internal project review and decided to change the title from the Media Arts Presenter and Touring Network (MAP-TN) to TourNet. This change reflects our wish to describe the project in a way that is memorable, accessible and user-friendly, in concert with our current focus on the platform’s user interface. We’re eager to release the new build and to see how media arts organizations work with it in the course of their professional activities, and we plan to launch the platform nationally in late 2023. For now, you can click on the image below to take a sneak peek!
TourNet would not exist if it weren’t for the MANO staff and contract workers who have worked hard on the project since its inception, and special thanks are owed to developer Izzie Colpitts-Campbell and designer Robyn York for their early contributions and expertise. We remain grateful for the continuing support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and to you, MANO’s members. Keep an eye on your email!
—Lilian Radovac, on behalf of the TourNet development team