University of Central Lancashire prototypes the world's first digital interactive newspaper
March 16, 2012 // Julien Happich
Interactive Newsprint is a new research project led by the School of Journalism, Media and Communication at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and funded by the Digital Economy (DE) Programme. Working with technology company Novalia and colleagues from the Universities of Dundee and Surrey, the project aims to revolutionise the way we consume media.
Researchers are aiming at bridging the digital-gap, giving people access to the internet through a new printed platform capable of capacitive touch interactions, which means that by touching various parts of the page, readers can activate content ranging from audio reports, web polls or advertising - all contained within the paper itself.
But the developments in printed electronics do not stop there. Digital devices and microphones, buttons, sliders, colour changing fibres, LED text displays and mobile communication can all be used in an interactive newspaper. Existing forms of local journalism and content are being used as part of the project to develop a range of interactive paper documents. The team will test them out in both a lab and field setting to explore new forms of digital storytelling and more effective ways of connecting communities to the content they're most interested in.
They have already set up two workshops in Preston to introduce a range of interactive paper prototypes to individuals, groups and local businesspeople as a pilot scheme. These included a sample hyperlocal newspaper - dubbed Preston News, a music poster featuring a local music producer and sample classified ads page. The Interactive Newsprint project's design teams, journalists and user interface experts want to collaborate with Preston-based groups, organisations, businesses and individuals to identify how the technology could meet their own needs or interests in the future.
Paul Egglestone, project lead and Head of Digital at UCLan, said: "Whilst of course our newspapers won't look exactly like the Daily Prophet featured in the Harry Potter movies, this technology is in the very early stages of development and we will continue to push the boundaries. We are actively prototyping and testing radically new forms of interaction between people and the internet that have not been seen before."
"Through these workshops we are looking at how communities would develop this technology rather than how boffins in a laboratory would develop it. That's such a strong element of what we're doing. Being able to place the paper in the middle of the internet opens up a whole new ball park in the ways we can both tell stories, but also how we can collect data. Who's holding the paper, who's touching it, how are they interacting is part and parcel of the kind of stuff this project will explore."
UCLan is continuing to work with Prescap, a Preston organisation that uses a wide range of art forms to support regeneration, social cohesion and community development, to foster community journalism. Dundee and Surrey will now appraise the outputs from workshops and begin to establish common threads and themes that will be investigated further over the next few months.
As part of the project, the team is also taking its work to the world's leading technology festival: South-By-Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. SXSW showcases cutting edge innovation and ideas in digital film, music and interactive media and describes itself as "a nine-day marketplace of ideas, relationships, and products for the Music, Interactive Media, and Film industries." The project team are currently looking at ways to mass produce internet-enabled newspapers in the future.
Source: University of Central Lancashire at www.uclan.ac.uk
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