25 interviews with experts from the media and e-publishing sectors were carried out in order to assess which technologies and tools fulfilled their needs in their current practice, to ascertain which tools they believed would emerge and have an impact in their sector in the next 5-10 years, what technologies and tools they would wish for to aid their practice, as well as the strengths, weaknesses and barriers to the development of these tools. They were also asked what they believed could bridge the gap between creatives and ICT experts in their sector. The following report summarises the key themes raised in the interviews.
There was a widespread expressions of desire by almost all the interviewees for much closer collaboration between content creators (including editorial) and technical developers in the design and development of tools and technologies for the media industry. There was an emphasis on the need for technologies to be developed hand in hand with their users, so that innovations in creative production tools would be driven by needs and affordances derived from working practices, sector-based knowledge and insight. In particular there was a call for 'tactile' tools to facilitate collaboration between the different skillsets involved in media production, from creation to post-production. There was also a strong desire for open formats to become standard across the industry, streamlining many processes from content creation, editorial and post-production through to broadcast and distribution.
Communication and collaboration was a major point of discussion across the expert interviews. Many of the experts noted that work in the media sector always involves input from different teams, different companies and people who work in divergent ways. The interviewees expressed that this can sometimes be a strain on the creative process, as communicating via email can be distracting and limits creativity and expression.
Two experts from the BBC said that collaborating and liasing between colleagues with very different mindsets and workflows can be difficult. Sometimes the emotional and social value of meeting someone face to face is lost when you work across email. Some kind of virtual meeting tool which accounts for emotionality was suggested to bridge this gap and aid creative practice in the sector (it was mentioned that Google are working on something to this effect). Further, reference was made to cloud computing as a potential way in which producers can work on content in collaborative efforts.
Language & Accessibility
Reflecting the multilingual nature of European society, there was a strong desire for automated translation and automated transcription technologies. There is a perception that much media is being redundantly duplicated many times across language barriers – the potential for AI-driven systems that can automatically provide real-time translation and transcriptions of media content into major languages would reduce the need for multiple versions of the same content.
Automated Post Production
There was a strong desire for a range of new technologies and standards to tackle the complex processes and differences in skills in the post production phase. The automation of logging, incorporating automated interpretation of content was considered to be highly desirable, as well as systems that could perform automated content curation. Such tools could make major improvements in collaborative workflows and practices between, for intance, producers and editors. Creating tools for directors and producers to generate automated timelines from logged media before handing over to editors was seen as having huge potential. For example, an interviewee from Endemol Shine expressed the way in which software falls short when it comes to post-production communication, to mediate the hand over of content from the producer to the editor. Script Synch is what is commonly, but he said that these logging systems often fall short, and he wishes for something that would help him construct a loose narrative before it gets to an editor.
Interactive Media Technologies
The performance of multimedia for users who are mobile and switching across a range of devices needs to be supported in new ways. Alternative approaches to loss of signal, data speed and bandwidth, could take into account the users context and location to provide a “Graceful network degradation”, fading away instead of stuttering or freezing. And more use could be made of the affordances of low-fi screens to create compelling new experiences where relevant, instead of constantly seeking to present content in the highest resolution possible.
Responding to the changing situations in which people now consume media, as often when mobile as when static at home or in a cinema, the was a desire for seamless communication between personal devices and sensors (e.g. in the environment) to handle both interactive content, and to dynamically deliver the most appropriate media type or format for the user's location. Many new content formats were discussed by the experts in the interviews. For instance, emotionally sensitive content which curates content based on the mood of the viewer. Further, gamification was discussed as going hand in hand with tools that allow for audience interaction. As we have seen though, there is some caution in moving towards gaming territory, as some experts believe this signals the surrender of the narrative. The inclusion and creation of social media content was discussed, for instance, being able to share or discuss content with users and friends in real time alongside broadcast (i.e. on the same screen) or the use of existing social media platforms to host extra or bonus content (particularly popular with soaps and dramas on TV broadcast).
Delivery of Content
New formats for content delivery were also discussed by the experts as a key area in which innovation will begin to, and is already seeing large scale innovation. Holographic displays were discussed by most of the experts, with many saying they have heard a great deal of talk about the development of such technologies. Ultra HD and 8K and 3D technology is also being discussed as something that we will begin to see more widely implemented in peoples homes, bandwidth allowing. Many experts stated that if fibre-based tech and stronger bandwidth would allow for better quality content to reach the end user. Some experts stated that the introduction of 8K etc. will not be radical enough, and many saw a move towards projectors, electronic wallpaper screens and tools like google glass as methods of content consumption. Others, however, believed that we still have the need for the screen, which is illustrated by the fact that screens are now more commonly being fitted with IP connection and feature on-demand TV and IP based services.
In terms of how the content will reach these delivery platforms, the potential that 5G has for the sector has been cited as having massive potential in aiding innovation. When 5G coverage becomes available, it is believed that the way we consume content, and the amount of content we consume, will shift massively. Further, when all out screens have IP connection, and can all communicate with one another, this too will change the way we consume media content.
We are moving from the traditional twentieth century model of centre-to-the-margin broadcast technologies towards dynamically delivered, location and context-aware as well as highly customisable and personalisable media streamed via Internet Protocol across multiple platforms and devices. There was a desire for Augmented Reality technologies that integrate and bridge with real world. However, there was debate as to the value of AR and VR within the media sector. Many experts believed that broadcast has the value of social interaction (as a family activity) and that AR/VR moves more into the realm of gaming, and loses that social value. It was also questioned what this would mean for the narrative. Almost all experts said that this technology might be useful, but would only be adopted if the strength of the narrative is retained, which is difficult to control in tech which facilitates audience interaction and disruption. For instance, technologies that enable new forms of real time audience interaction – blending live narrative development possibilities with seamless integration of computer generated content with real-life content. Many experts were excited about this, however, and could see this is a potential avenue for future innovation.
The e-publishing sector interviewees were also keen for much closer and more extensive collaborative tool and technology development between content creators and users and technology developers. This was imagined alongside the need for mediators to facilitate communication and collaboration between creatives and technologists. The industry is perceived to be at the cusp of a digital transformation marking a future shift in emphasis from digitisation of content created and published in the 'pre-digital' age into an industry where content will digital by default. This was marked by interviewees frequent reference to the ‘digitisation of institutions’. Whilst this is the case, many in the sector are also aware that many users still value print, and are developing hybrid models (e.g. Hewlett Packard are developing personalised print). New tools and technologies will be needed to accommodate this shift, and innovative approaches developed which play to the strengths and affordances of emerging e-publishing models, rather than being constrained by pre-digital methods, practices and channels. Further, many of the interviewees (who had their own e-publishing companies) commented on the value of developing their own tools in house, to meet their specific needs. Future proofing file formats and establishing industry-wide standards for interoperability was strongly desired to improve trust among consumers, so that 'born digital' publications migrate with users and do not become stranded on outdated platforms, file formats or devices. There was a focus on the need to get creatives and authors to ‘think digital first’ to facilitate the production of ebooks.
The e-publishing sector will need significant investment and innovation in key areas of its infrastructure, such as data processing and storage. As more content becomes interactive and multimedia, publishing will change from being a business that sells static objects into one which dynamically engaged in ongoing relationships with its audiences and consumers. The ability to mine data from eReader devices and software feedback on reading habits will require considerable resources to store and process – making the relationship between creators, publishers and readers more informed and indicating future potential for personalisation. However privacy issues remain significant areas of concern when data profiling users and whilst this suggests huge benefits for the industry it could undermine trust between readers and publishers. Many of the interviewees commented on the user-centric nature of the sector, stating that tech development is much needed, but it should be centred around the needs and experience of the end user, rather than innovation for innovation’s sake.
There is a strong desire for new kinds of comprehensive content and metadata management systems to enable multichannel publishing and to create 'content eco-systems' that extend beyond the traditional book. The management of metadata within ebooks was a recurring theme in the interviews, with varying approaches being taken to how this is incorporated. Content will need to become scalable across media & devices – as readers move from interacting with a single paper book towards multimedia e-publications accessed across a variety of devices in different contexts and situations. Making sure the content renders at the right resolution and quality no matter what devices it is being accessed from will become part of the future of e-publishing. This interoperability is key for innovation, however many of the interviewees stated that the big players in the sector, such as apple and amazon, make it difficult. Further, making content which is compatible with their devices can be incredibly expensive (e.g. ibooks), which makes it harder for smaller publishers to make content that users can actually use. Investment in tools to allow this to be done by smaller publishers was suggested.
There was much concern about Digital Rights Management and its perceived constraints and frustrations for users to enjoy their legitimately purchased publications wherever they wish. In future much more lightweight DRM technologies will need to be embedded in e-publications, with content tracking capabilities and the ability to trace unlicensed use for copyright enforcement.
A future focus on the challenges of digital archiving is highly desirable, with a vision of the separation of content and interface being proposed to address the chronic and pervasive obsolescence of software and hardware over the past few decades which has blighted digital preservation.
Another important desire was to avoid future reliance on monopolies which control formats, standards and distributions channels. Amazon, Apple and Google have become more powerful than the largest publishers and media corporations and have wrested away control of the key relationships between publishers and readers. The publishing sector needs to develop its own solutions beyond these vertical platforms – especially in terms of addressing device and file format interoperabilities. The focus is on the creation of content which can be used and accessed, and that engages the user. Many interviewees stated that the devices in the sector are sufficiently advanced, and the focus should be on the production of the content that is pushed to these devices.
Validation activities paced the visions surrounding Infrastructure and Archiving in the plausible category of sustaining technologies. As we produce various new types of content and devices, we must consider how to sustain and store them. Further, as formats become obsolete and out-dated, we need to plan for how we will view and play this data and the devices it can be played on. What is needed in this domain is speed and funding—urgently.
Audience Accessibility & Experience
There were strong desires for improving the ways in which readers engage with e-publications. In-publication search capabilities providing deeper and more extensive results would be highly beneficial and could stem from better metadata standards which could also support discoverability of content elsewhere. Automated translations of content were considered highly desirable to open up greater audience reach beyond the home market and enable readers to experience new kinds of content. Selected participants made reference to the need to make devices more intuitive, for instance, to be able to link content from the internet, automatically translate text etc., which would be of great benefit to e-learning.
The interoperability of content and devices was seen as one of the most important developments to retain the trust of consumers and improve their experience of reading and interacting with publications. Alongside this was the importance of personalisation and customisation of content – weaving individual readers directly into narratives and adapting their experiences according to the type of device, location and situation. The role of Virtual and Augmented Reality and simulation technologies in transforming the nature of reading and interacting with transmedia storytelling was also considered to have significant potential. In addition to these technologies, 3D readers and the use of holograms is being discussed and developed by those working in the sector; as well as the introduction of gamified ebooks and content which has a social element incorporated also. Further, a few interviewees alluded to a link with wearable tech and the internet of things (for instance, Audi are said to be developing an in car reader). There is notable room for development in these tools that move towards an immersive user experience.
A concern which interviewees raised was the problem of connectivity. Most of these tools assume that users have a stable Internet connection, which is a problem for developing countries, schools and many individual users. One expert in the sector, for example, suggested delivering content over local nodes, rather than via broadband. Innovation to ease or eliminate this issue is needed.
There was a continued emphasis on the need for collaborative writing platforms to promote further innovation in the content creation process. Specifically, most interviewees made reference to the development of tools to facilitate e-authoring and self publishing (e.g. Oetinger34, a social platform for authors, or tigercreate a new tool for authors of interactive books being developed by Hewlett Packard).
The way that content itself is treated is also being discussed. Rather than ebook units, it is believed by the experts that we will beging to see the chunking of data and more modular content, as we did in the digitisation of the music industry (e.g. £1 per paragraph). However, how we begin to create and treat content in this way presents a challenge for designers, and also presents further concerns around DRM.
Key Future Trajectories
The following is a distillation of the desired future technologies across data collected during the whole project:
Interaction & Engagement
Infrastructure, Revenue Development & Digital Rights
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