Digital to Analogue with Paper.li and Newspaper Club

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Newspapers are tomorrow’s chip paper anyway right? (Photo: Sameold2010 CC licensed on Flickr)

I’m working on a research project at the moment that is exploring the crossover of digital and analogue back-channels in offices and studios. We have an issue in our research department that the building is pretty unsparing and, worse, has a long corridor down the middle with offices off of it, like a hotel. The probably is exacerbated by having entrances at both ends. People who work down one end go in and out of that door as do the others at the other end. We also have a large part-time and distance workforce, so many people aren’t there at the same time. Even if you are there at the same time, the corridor problem means you might not see them.

Our situation isn’t unusual, but there is a digital backchannel via e-mail, Twitter and external and internal blogs that connect some of us up pretty well. At the same time, most of the interesting face-to-face connections happen informally. We don’t have a water cooler, but if we did, they would be water cooler conversations. You know the kind of thing, you walk into someone’s office and see an interesting book on their desk or some Post-It notes on the wall and start chatting about ideas.

The project is looking at how to connect those two worlds together. How do you bring the digital back-channel into the physical space (is it just a big screen on the wall somewhere or something more sophisticated?) and, slightly more difficult, how do you bring the physical back-channel into the digital realm.

I’ve been looking at services like Findings, which nicely collates and publishes your Kindle highlights as one way of dealing with the book example. Would we have a barcode scanner and a Delicious Library online somewhere to go the other way, for example? Perhaps something like Kooaba’s Shortcut is the way to go, given the ubiquity of smartphones.

The Near Future Laboratory’s post about making their own newspaper using Newspaper Club to print and deliver got me thinking. It still takes some manual effort to create the design and layout, of course, but perhaps it would be possible to semi-automate the digital ephemera generated via Twitter, RSS feeds, etc. and output it all as a PDF and upload it to Newspaper Club. Perhaps something like Paper.li would be the intermediary service, hooked into If This Then Than or Dropbox Automator to do the PDF processing. Might looks like a dog’s breakfast though.

I’ve turned off comments on this blog now, but if anyone has any thoughts on this please get in touch here or on Twitter.

Beyond the Fold, Print Lives On.

Although newspapers are struggling to work out what to do about the decline of the printed sheet, the death of print doesn’t seem to be anywhere near happening. The rise of self-publishing and print-on-demand services like Lulu and MagCloud are probably the everlasting afterlife of traditional publishing models. Less risk, less waste.

Despite Amazon’s Kindle 2, the popularity of Classics, the iPhone eBook reader and Amazon releasing a Kindle reader for the iPhone, it is still pleasant to touch and smell a paper book or magazine and there are some things only paper can still do, like folding.

Onlab have collaborated with illustrator Tobias Krafczyk to create a special Intersections supplement for Domus magazine.

The march issue discusses the mechanisms, strengths, frailties and possible scenarios on the eve of Web 3.0. For us, the tools, services and problems of the new or other internet are commonplace and part every day life – both at work and in private. From personal experience we know that the Web is a powerful medium, but it is not the only one. To contrast with the discourse about the impact of the web, we decided to produce an Intersections that only the printed form of a magazine could create and a possibility for tactile interaction by the reader.

The result is in the above video – the reader must fold all the pages of the magazine in to turn the somewhat Cubist looking shards of image into “Miss Web 2.0”.

It’s a nice idea and a clever take on the issue, but I can’t help feeling there are similarities to cinemas installing seat-rumblers or 3D glasses in an attempt to halt the rise of TV in the 40s and 50s.

It also reminds me of Mad magazine’s famous Fold-Ins, which isn’t a bad thing at all.