DOES DIGITAL RELATIVITY = DIGITAL PRINTING ?
DOES DIGITAL RELATIVITY = DIGITAL PRINTING ?
2009-08-14 at 3:53:16 pm #22773
The theory of digital relativity
The printing industry can take a lead from Albert Einstein, says Frank Romano.
Albert Einstein conceptualised a unified field theory to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. Until the day he died he sought a Theory of Everything that could explain all the physical constants of nature.I think there is a Theory of Digital Relativity that can explain the future of digital printing. There are five forces at work:
1. Digital origination
2. Digital integration
3. Digital communication
4. Digital storage and retrieval
5. Digital metamorphosis
It begins with the fact that almost all content is created and stored in digital form. For text, there are very few typewriter manuscripts to re-keyboard or photo prints or slides to scan. Hard copy is hard to find. This article is being typed in Microsoft Word on a Mac. It will be sent to the publisher as an email attachment. It will be edited on-screen, formatted into a publication, and placed on a website.Word processing and electronic editing changed the authoring and editorial processes. Digital cameras reduced reality to pixels. Most new digital cameras are over 8 megapixels, more information than many reproduction devices can reproduce.
For a while (40 years) there was a typesetting industry. It is gone because we all set type no matter what computer programme we use today. Typesetting is integrated into every programme that deals with words or images. As processes were integrated, industries were reinvented, creatives were empowered, and skill sets shifted from craft to science.A colour make-up system once sold for $1 million; now you get more power from Photoshop (no, Adobe, you cannot price it at $1 million). Almost all artwork and illustration is electronically created. Art supply markets changed as the need for transfer type, rubber cement, X-actos, and paste-up tables more or less disappeared. The digital camera integrates photography and processing to provide instant feedback. The cell phone frees us from the limits of the wired telephone. The PDA integrates the phone, camera, and computer.
Once information became electronic, the world changed. The file could be sent over phone modems and then over the internet. Files could be sent to multiple plants for print produced closer to the postal entry facility or distribution location. At the same time, ads and content could be pinpointed to readers in that geography. Cities were once clogged with messenger services that moved documents and camera-ready art from place to place. Most of them have driven their bicycles and scooters into the sunset.No longer did print buyer and print producer have to be proximate to one another. As buyer and seller moved apart, new tools allowed on-screen proofing and collaboration. New approaches let us buy print over the internet. Bits know no borders and file transfers could be to another state or another country. Most of us no longer needed to work in offices as such. I contend that our work space is no longer the office or the cubicle — it is the computer screen and PDA screen. And those screens can be anywhere. Teleconferencing and telecommuting are becoming routine. We learn from webinars and online courses. Most of our day is spent basking in the glow of an LCD or LED display.In a pure digital economy, some products and the commerce that supports them, never become corporeality. Music, software and publications are found, ordered, downloaded, and paid for electronically.
Digital storage and retrieval
For a while we continued to output film as an intermediate medium, but the ability to store and retrieve files was so compact and convenient that we eschewed the hard copy. Think of all the files, images, documents and more stored on your hard drives, removable drives, thumb drives, CDs or DVDs — to say nothing about those floppies, Syquests, and Zips you have packed away (as though you will ever be able to read them). In a few decades we have evolved from kilo-, to mega-, to giga- bytes, with terabyte drives now in the pipeline. The effect of such digital filing affected the makers of file cabinets and physical storage systems.The downside to all this is that media change and over time become vestigial, like 8-track tapes, Beta cassettes, and 8mm and 35mm film. Punch cards lasted for 50 years but no digital medium has prevailed for even a decade.
Digital metamorphosis is mostly printout — we convert the digital information into spots of litho ink, flexo ink, gravure ink, toner, or inkjet ink in all its forms. It used to be that the input to copy centres (commercial or inhouse) was a stack of pages. Those pages began life on the computer and underwent one level of digital metamorphosis, only to undergo another level to produce the final document. As time went by, we got smarter and the input to the copy centre became the digital file — the input to the printing company also became the digital file.All print is already digital in whole or in part. Digital platemakers bring us closer to paper than ever before. Eventually, we will be plateless for offset litho, as pure digital processes like toner and inkjet get us right to the substrate. Flatbed inkjet printers print directly to foamcore so printing to sheets and mounting are eliminated, and inline digital diecutting eliminates manual processes.The future of print is the ability to define the digital metamorphoses. Those suppliers who make it easy to change bits into spots will be the winners. Those users who find and apply new technology to develop new opportunities will be the winners. Those marketers and print and media buyers who procure the right blend of print and electronic media will be the winners.
What can be digitally originated, integrated, communicated, stored, retrieved and metamorphosed, will be. The Theory of Digital Relativity is not based on evolution; it is based on revolution.