The Relevance of Media and Communication Studies in Nigeria’s Printing Education and Training System
The New Printing Industry
Printing has gone on record as the pioneer medium of communication. The perfection of the rudimentary movable type (started by the Chinese and the Koreans) by Johannes Gutenberg around 1439 and his subsequent invention of the hand-powered printing press (about the same period brought) brought about the era of mass communication. Historians record that the Gutenberg innovation permanently altered the structure of society. Over the years, technology has greatly improved the ability of printing presses to deliver printed information products to meet the needs of consumers.
The paradox is that the same technology has forth new media that now compete with the printing press. Since the emergence of digital technologies in the media landscape, the printing industry has not remained the same. While some have predicted the doom of print media with the rise of digital media, others have argued that digital media will rather open up new ways of using print media. As two Nigerian researchers E. Ikpe and Sifon Ibekwe aver, the “…development of digital publishing systems suggests that print media can be transformed into even more popular and versatile form of communication”.1
The emergence and infusion of digital technologies in the media landscape in Nigeria has played out in different forms. On the part of media consumers, the applications of information and communication technologies have opened up vistas of choices thereby affording them the opportunity to change tastes and meet their needs for information in varying ways. With increasing access to the Internet and the increasing fall in the prices of smart phones and Internet data, more and more Nigerians will, in the nearest future, embrace the new media to the detriment of the print medium. Already, the internet penetration in Nigeria is growing steadily. Records show that as at June 2012, the Internet penetration rate was 28.4%. Nigeria is regarded as the largest Internet population in Africa and eleventh in the world.2
On the other hand, printing companies are adopting digital technologies to streamline and redefine their print operations. Different forms of automated print equipment like computer-to- plate, direct imaging presses and other publishing devices have become regular features in the printing industry in Nigeria. However, the question remains: “How feasible is operating a printing business in the future in Nigeria?”
The challenge for printers in the present multimedia landscape is to survive - not as the typical printer who puts ink on paper but as a communication solutions provider. Printers in contemporary time must do more than sit in their printshops and expect print buyers to come knocking at their doors. Printers in Nigeria must now, more than ever before, strive to understand and gain the attention of diverse print buyers. As Michael Johnson, the chief Executive of the British Printing Industries Federation puts it, “digital technology has changed the face of all media, including print. In order to survive, all parties involved must adapt and focus on customers changing needs”.3
This position paper examines the field of media and communication and the role it can play in repositioning Nigeria's printing industry for sustainable growth.
Information Society Theory and the Challenge of Training and Re-Training
The post-industrial information theory is a vital theory in the field of media and communication. The theory has immense relevance to the printing industry. It is considered a development communication paradigm. According to N. Garnham,
“Confrontation with the theory of Information Society, both as a science and as an ideology, is now unavoidable. Here is a theory of communication massively presenting itself as both a way of understanding the present historical moment and the dominant development trends in society and at the same time as the favoured legitimating ideology for the dominant economic and political power holders”.4
The communications scholar Babatunde Folarin explains further that the predominance of the information society is enhanced by the growth of computer, the Internet and cyberspace technologies. The post-industrial information society theory, according to Folarin, evolved from the increased demand for services as against labour. This, he avers, led to an increase in the number of service sector workers. The underlining drive is the reliance of industries on innovative technologies than on labour. Folarin highlights the key features of the post-industrial society as:5
• Professionals are the core of the service sector workers
• A high premium is placed on information and knowledge by the professionals
• These professionals have a predilection for planning and organizing
• A significant proportion of jobs are white-collar jobs
The transformations that have occurred in the printing industry as a result of the adoption of digital technologies are well captured by the post-industrial information theory. There has been a replacement of the craft in printing by computers and software applications. This has turned erstwhile blue-collar jobs in the printing industry to white-collar jobs - even in Nigeria. Also, the professional status granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria to printers via the signing into law of CIPPON Act No 24 of 2007 in recognition of the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria is a great testimony to the level of professionalism attained by printers in Nigeria. These milestones and others beyond the scope of this article portray Nigeria's printing industry as a progressive and innovation-inclined industry that should be open to new possibilities and change. The urgent need for change is the imperative for printers in Nigeria to become true print professionals by training and retraining to fit into the multimedia landscape. Professionals who place high premium on new information, new knowledge; those are willing to be more than being printers. And resisting change is perilous. As Barb Pellow in a recent article titled “Being More than a Printer Means Changing Perceptions!” warns, “Many businesses will resist change to the point that it threatens their very existence.”6
A Brief Survey of Repositioned Printing Programs across the World
The wind of change blowing across the printing industry has led to massive review in the approach to training printers across the world. Two prominent examples will suffice in this piece.
In an article with the title “Changing Face of Print Media Prompts New Era at RIT” Kevin Fuller announced and x-rayed the changes at Rochester Institute of Technology's school of Print media to reflect the industry shifts in cross media communications. In the words of Fuller, “The School of Print Media at RIT is transforming and will now be called the School of Media Sciences. The shift comes as the school historically has kept up with advancing technology, economic shifts and cultural changes.” 7
Adding perspective to the change, the administrative chair of RIT's School of Media Sciences, Chris Bondy said:
“This new, strategic shift will leverage our respected and historic foundation in print media to incorporate a 'print-plus' approach, that includes insights and understanding in the areas of the Web, mobile and social media, complementing the precision and technical understanding of the printing industry.”
“Students will emerge from the School of Media Sciences as media architects acquiring skills to lead cross-media communications environments, both from a technical and operational perspective.8
Frank Romano, a RIT professor emeritus also commented, “Communication is now multi-media. Marketing is now multi-channel. RIT has re-invented itself to provide the skills needed for a new generation of publishing and promotion professionals.9
London College of Printing's Metamorphosis
London College of Communication has a long history. Its birth came from the metamorphosis of the London College of Printing. According to a former dean of the Institution's School of Printing and Publishing, Sue Pandit, the school had changed over the years since the early 1960s when it was strictly a college of printing. The institution now offers broad courses in media and communication, graphic design, creative enterprise, in addition to printing and publishing. The College did not scrap the teaching of printing technology, rather, it is taught as part of graphic design, publishing and marketing. The vital question is: “Why the change?” Sue Pandit explained that the change became imperative because some of the College's printing focused courses were facing a number of challenges, particularly recruitment problems.10
Pandit also raised the issue of the increasing reliance of the printing industry on work-based training in the United Kingdom, thus leading to a fall in the demand for classroom-based training. London College of Communication had to respond by redefining printing education to be much more than printing craft and processes.
A Brief Survey of Nigeria's Printing Education System
A look at the situation in Nigeria's printing education system gives a sharp contrast to the pattern of innovative responses to change seen in the instances cited earlier. A survey of the state of printing education by this writer and another researcher Fatai Omoyeni Jimoh of the department of printing technology, Yaba College of Technology concluded that “the printing industry in Nigeria, in line with global trends, is passing through a phase of transformation that is driven by digital technologies. Expectedly, there has been an emergence of new business models. Therefore, the print media industry has witnessed the expansion of traditional printing industry into a wide range of related areas like management, communication design, and marketing and information technology. Consequently, there is an urgent need to ensure that training opportunities in Nigeria's printing and graphic arts industry meet up with industry needs.”11
The researcher came to this conclusion having considered a number of issues. A major one is the focus and coverage of printing technology programmes in Nigeria. Both the National Diploma (ND) and the Higher National Diploma (HND) programmes in printing technology are not just production process biased but also patterned along the craft approach. While the curriculum currently in use has enough digital-based printing courses, there is no link between a digitally-driven print production workflow that it focuses on and a multimedia environment that is currently prevalent. This present a pressing need to align the nation's printing education system with global standards.
Time for a Paradigm Shift
The move to align Nigeria's printing education system with global standards will naturally lead to the extension of frontiers. The fields of media and communication, information technology, management and engineering would definitely play crucial roles in this strive. The multi-disciplinary nature of printing, thankfully, gives the room for blend with diverse fields. The results of such blends would be disciplines that promote human and national development.
The vast reach and depth that a field like media and communication will bring into the printing industry is immeasurable. One of the field's key areas of study is communication and technology. The various sub areas under communication and technology with relevance to contemporary printing industry include: computer-mediated communications, digital information, emerging technologies, new media, telecommunications, satellite communication and visual communication design.
Fusion between Media and Communication Studies and Printing: A Tour of the Globe
It is also important to mention a closely related area of communication studies to printing: graphic communication. Fundamentally, graphics refers to the use of images to communicate information. It is one of the most important components of the communications industry. Printing, basically, is the reproduction or mass production of graphics. Both graphic design (the art of creating graphics) and graphic reproduction (the domain of printing) are key disciplines under graphic communication. The graphic communication programme at Clemson University, South Carolina, provides a good reference point of teaching printing within the framework of graphic communication with the offering of courses like commercial printing, digital imaging, package printing, inks and substrates, etc. These core printing courses are well blended with allied or support courses like technical writing, management, communication skills, information technology and others. The programme, according to the university, aims at developing practical problem-solving people for the printing, publishing, imaging, packaging and allied industries.12
From the perspective of media and communication, areas of study under graphic communication include: computer-mediated communication, emerging technologies, new media, visual communication design, semiotics, advertising, economics of media industries, journalism and publishing and public relations. A good example of the study of graphic communication from this approach is the Graphic Communication programme on offer at Moi University, Kenya. The programme is intended to produce communication professionals in various fields, including graphic design, advertising and public relations.13 It is a blend of communication, graphic design, reprographic (a synonym for printing) and allied courses.
The Future of the Printing Industry
What is discernable from the examples above is the vital link between communications as a field of study and the practice of printing in the era of the information society. Now, due to the rapid technological changes and the broadening of the scope of services provided by printers, the printing industry is now referred to as the graphic communications industry. Around the world, many print companies are now beginning to do more than just “putting ink on paper”; they also provide services like creative design, e-commerce, web development, cross-media marketing, fulfillment, etc. Nigeria should not be an exception and the printing education system should be at the forefront of driving this change. To prepare workforce for the printing industry in a multimedia age, borrowing and adapting from other fields like media and communication is inevitable. The printing companies of the future can not exist as printers who merely put ink on paper; they MUST be communications solution providers. The inevitable way forward for printers is to transform or be left behind.
Yes, printers must adopt digital print production workflows but they must also take on value-adding roles. The field of media and communication provides a source of empowerment to make this possible in Nigeria. Noemi Garcia, in a 2012 study, warns: “Days where printers only focused on ink and paper are long gone, and if any existing digital printers are following this strategy it low risk mentioning they will not be in business in future years.”14
1. Ikpe, E and Ibekwe, S (2006) The Print media and the consumer in the cyber age. LWATI: A Journal of Contemporary Research. Vol 3, Pp 311-323
2 See http://www.internetworldstats.com/africa.htm#ng
3. Cited in Stamp, Graham (2010). The need for transformation within the UK printing sector. A dotgain.org whitepaper.
4. Cited in Folarin, Babatunde (2006) Advanced Theories in mass communication. Lagos: National Open Universities of Nigeria. P. 151
5. Folarin, (2006). P. 152
6. Pellow, Barb (August 2014). Being More than a Printer Means Changing Perceptions! Retrieved August 15, 2014 from www.whattheythink.com
7. Fuller, Kevin (August 1,2012). Changing Face of Print Media Prompts New Era at RIT. Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=49259
10. Pandit, Sue (2008) External Developments Impacting on London College of Communication's Printing Education. International Circular Journal. Issue No 1. Retrieved August 16, 2014 from http://www.hdm-stuttgart.de/international_circular/issues/08_01/
11. Afolabi, Abdulrasheed and Jimoh, Fatai (2014). The State of Printing Education and Training in Nigeria's High-tech Graphic Arts Industry. Journal of Research in National Development, Vol 12, No 1
12. See http://www.clemson.edu/cbbs/departments/graphics/
13. See http://hrd.mu.ac.ke/index.php.academic-programmes/undergraduate-programmes...
14. Garcia, Noemi (2012). The True Value of value-added Services in Digital Printing. A thesis presented to California Polytechnic State University.
Afolabi teaches digital printing and publishing at the department of Printing Technology, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos