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London College Mixes Communication and Print
Web workflows presented at hard copy show
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2007-10-29 07:08 (KST)   
The Futures Conference organized by London College of Communications managed this year to fulfill the scope of "communications" as well as complement the Digital Print World trade show at Earl's Court. In the previous two years, the first day had concentrated on print, and the impression was that the history of the London College of Printing was still central despite the name change. It seemed not until the third day with presentations from recent graduates did the current trends for digital media get suitable attention. This year there was no set pattern to the topic for the day. Print was always included, but the scope included video, sound, the Web -- genuinely any kind of communication.

Earl's Court, London.
©2007 William Pollard
There were some reservations about the Internet on the first day, possibly associated with a print tradition. Ian Lacey from Deixis argued that the benefits of personalization could all be found in digital print. He claimed that so far e-learning has not been as effective as hoped for. Video conferencing has failed a number of times over 25 years. There was nobody from Adobe to explain why the recent Connect addition to Acrobat should be any different. Ian Lacey pointed out that anonymity contributed to involvement on the Web. He saw more of a future for avatars and spaces in 3-D. He spoke about "differentiation" as a way of presenting the same information in different ways. This could be argued to include blended learning with online elements complementing print.

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Chris Linford included some "Doomsday" elements in possible scenarios for the future. The fact that most of the Web is free is a danger for professionals creating content. There was no enthusiasm for the user-generated content coming from amateurs. This may have been intended as a balance to the support for Web 2.0 ideas on the second day.

Colleen Murrell from Deakin University in Melbourne spoke about the problems of a country where only the large cities are on broadband. Most of Australia by area is still on dial-up. So although the average figures compare with the United Kingdom, the situation is very different. Deakin has always been involved in distance learning, but there is now a block in design development as bandwidth cannot be assumed. Newspapers are slowly featuring more video and would probably support more citizen journalism as broadband becomes more available. The term "citizen journalism" is used but seems to describe occasional contributions. The journalism course that Murrell teaches includes how to edit video, but at the moment there is not much interest from potential employers. They still expect a concentration on skills around text. There are some podcasts on the Deakin Web site, but Murrell regretted there was nothing comparable to "Stanford on iTunes."

Alan Greenberg from Apple advised against speculation about unannounced products. The iTunes University is currently only arranged with universities in the United States and Canada. The podcasts are free to download. The audience is global. This suggests that some form of informal learning happens with the Web; even if there have been problems in formal design for e-learning.

There is a continuing debate about the value of the knowledge on sites such as Wikipedia and the authority of newspapers or journals. David Weinberger in his book Everything is Miscellaneous writes about grassroots and official ways to organize knowledge. David Penfold talked about both Web 2.0, the world of blogs and wikis, and the Semantic Web, where tags and structures are closely defined by experts. He managed to suggest that there could be spaces where the benefits of both approaches would be combined. He included an introduction to XML and formats for documents. This section would have been of great value for people visiting Digital Print World who wanted to link print and corporate documents.

Martin Brown from Asset TV described how a controlled TV channel is possible over the Web using Flash video. The service is restricted to people working in the financial industry and the programs are paid for by companies with products and services to promote. There is a social aspect as channels can be selected for particular groups, and there is an exchange of views around this. The subject matter is unusual for a Web 2.0 style but there is a viable business model here that could be adapted for other content as broadband is more widely distributed.

A history of recorded sound included a look at the current problems of the record industry, which is faced with illegal downloads and reduced sales for CDs. Angus Carlyle suggested that the world of fashion might offer a model with haute couture still being able to command high prices. Radiohead offer a boxed set and accept the mass market for lower quality sound as downloads. The market for haute couture is actually very small, but there is income from sunglasses and perfume. Perhaps music and other media will find ways in which different levels can interact.

Alan Sekers suggested that computers already contribute to our understanding of the world. He showed how individual photographs could form a constructed model of a space or building. My own response was to wonder if a model could be built up for Earl's Court itself, which was something of a mystery as we found our way from the Digital Print World at the back through the lift and corridors at the front toward the conference. There must have been a more direct route but it was impossible to imagine.

In September Printweek reported that Rochester Institute of Technology has launched a Web site about "Print in the Mix," showing how print can be effective as part of a range of media. This is a similar move to the name change from "Printing" to "Communications." Print is now part of a wider range of options.

At the exhibition Artwork systems showed Webway, software for print customers to comment on proofs of work in progress. No plug-ins are required other than Java. A print company pays a fixed price for the server software and an unlimited number of customers can use it. This seems more sensible than with similar systems where multiple copies of PDF software must be purchased. Gradual Software showed how Crossroads extends the scope of their workflow to integrate with several other suppliers. The "configurators" process data from other applications. Adobe and Quark products are supported, although they are not yet part of the project.

Canon ImagePress C7000VP.
©2007 William Pollard
The Show Daily was printed on digital kit by Canon. Journalists from Printweek were working from a stand as they would at IPEX, a larger show where the daily is printed litho by Komori. Page design was done at the Hammersmith offices of Haymarket, fairly close to Earl's Court. Advance information was that the print-ready PDFs might have been sent by courier on a CD or through dedicated FTP. The actual method was by attaching PDF files to e-mail. Each page was about 1 megabyte in size. Canon then merged the files using Adobe Acrobat. There were some professional plug-ins from Electronics for Imaging but the essential method is not that complicated and could be used by most people working in an office. Canon also published a report on European use of the Internet for "Web-to-print" solutions. About half the print companies asked expect to have something working by 2012 -- however, only 21 percent understand this to include remote soft proofing. Job submission is mentioned by 63 percent, so this is better established.

The Digital Print World show is to be changed to include litho and renamed as Total Print! Expo. There are ways for litho to compete on short runs, and the range of runs associated with digital print continues to extend. However, Digital Print World has been a chance to look at digital workflows and connections with other digital media. London College of Communications' Futures conferences are open to anyone attending Digital Print World, so this will probably remain for the future. This year the recent graduates were mostly working with Web design, although print remains an interest. The "communications" scope of the college suggests a future direction for people involved in print. Litho production can be included in a Web-to-print workflow, so there is every reason for discussion around a digital print world to continue.
Find further reporting at the drupa2008 blog.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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