Digital technology is transforming the news, media and publishing industries, through the movement of activity to the web accessed both through PC and 3G phone, specialised eReader devices such as the Kindle, and the flexibility that digital printing offers over traditional offset approaches.
This transformation is coming at a time of increased concern over energy availability and greenhouse gas emissions. Will the transformation decrease or increase the energy requirements of the news and media industry? Can the industry embed an understanding of the future energy/climate implications in the strategic decisions it makes?
The SYMPACT project aims to support this understanding by considering a number of questions; what is the environmental impact of both print and online media? How will changes in technology alter this impact over time? How is digital technology changing customer behaviour now, and how might this happen in the future? What new business models do technological advances open up, and how will they affect the environmental impact? How will environmental factors, such as carbon pricing, act as business and behavioural drivers within this system? Beyond energy and climate, what other sustainability implications might this transformation have?
To tackle these questions, the project will develop a number of models of the current and potential future impact of digital transformations within the news, media and publishing industry. These will be developed using a combination of techniques from systems modelling, environmental life cycle analysis, scenario development and qualitative representation of uncertainty.
The models will be embodied in a flexible tool which will allow business strategists, sustainability professionals and other stakeholders to critique assumptions within them and explore alternatives. This will be done in such a way to allow future application to other industries.
Sympact is a joint research project between University of Bristol, University of Surrey and Guardian News and Media Ltd. It is led by Dr Chris Preist of University of Bristol Computer Science Department and Dr Mike Yearworth of University of Bristol Systems Centre. It is funded through the Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation portfolio of the Research Councils’ Energy and Digital Economy programmes.