THREE years ago, York applied to be a UNESCO world heritage site. This bid failed, but now the city has finally won UNESCO recognition – not, as you might suppose, for its mediaeval architecture, but as its first official city of media arts in Britain.

This is a permanent designation and admits York to an exclusive network of 68 other leading creative cities across the world. It also offers new opportunities for practitioners and researchers on an international scale.

The title was secured by a bid from York@Large, the city's cultural partnership, which demonstrated the development of our cultural and creative industries triggered by digital technology, the integration of media arts into urban life, and the widening of access to culture through digital technology.

In fact, York is a leading destination for creative and digital businesses. This is the largest growth area of the city’s economy and benefits from significant investment in recent years, including the £20 million Ron Cooke Hub for creative enterprise and the £30 million Heslington Studios at the University of York.

Indeed more than £100 million has already been invested by the city's two universities in this sector's infrastructure.

York has also achieved an international reputation for media arts based on the efforts of a number of individuals and groundbreaking companies. Global players such as Stage One who designed platforms for the Olympic games and Pilot Theatre which produced Blood and Chocolate and turned the city centre into a living stage.

Then there is the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Illuminating York and the annual Shift Happens digital conference.

"We interpret media arts as the application of technology to any art form from how it's created to how it's consumed," says Stuart Goulden of the bid team. "It applies to everything from video games to theatre and museum interpretations."

York’s involvement in the network will be co-ordinated by the city’s new marketing and business development partnership, Make It York, in a number of ways.

"Media arts comes to the fore with live streaming and that's one of York's strengths," says Stuart. "Everything from live streaming Blood+Chocolate to the Mystery Plays around the world."

With an emphasis on ensuring everybody in the city will benefit from this newly won status, York has big plans for 2015-16 that include an international programme of cultural festivals showcasing media arts.

There will also be a new digital and media arts centre based at the Guildhall, which will be an apt symbol of York's past melding with it's position as a 21st century vanguard of the digital age.

"We view this as an invitation to be leaders in the art form and at the heart of this city's future," says Stuart. "It's as important as world heritage status, it's more about people and the opportunity for creativity and culture."

Which means a groups such as Inspired Youth will get a global forum. This not-for-profit social enterprise uses digital video and arts to inform and educate, especially people who are considered hard to reach.

Other companies are already known internationally. Take interpretive designers Bright White, which has been creating multimedia learning environments for some of the world’s leading museums since 2004.

Then there is KMA, an ongoing collaboration between Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler, whose interactive kinetic light installations have been commissioned around the world, including thermal imaging productions The Square on York’s Davygate, and Congregation in Shanghai.

Charles Cecil, founder of Revolution Software which is based in the city centre, believes the inherent skills and facilities in York are complemented by one unique factor. “Media Arts encourages people to share, communicate and experience art in new ways," he says. "It’s a thread that connects people, not just on a local but global scale.”

York's newfound status is also intended to double the value of visitor numbers to £1 billion over the next ten years, primarily through the city's cultural offering, with creative industries represent ingYork's fastest growing sector.

Other ideas include expanding Illuminating York from three days and adding more life to the city centre in early evenings. The canvas being the city's historic landscape and venues which become a global platform for ingenuity.

"Put simply media arts is where technology meets art to make anything possible," says Stuart. "It can be experienced everywhere and shared with everyone to bring people together across all walks of life."

If all that sounds rather grandiose, just remember that Marconi's detractors told him the curvature of the earth would limit radio transmission to 200 miles.

Now look at what we can do.