Recently, WdKA started ‘Communication in a Digital Age’ – a lectorate-cum-centre of excellence. First lector is Florian Cramer, who already  served as ‘course director’ of WdKA’s Master Media Design.

The lectorate-cum-centre of excellence ‘Communication in a Digital Age’ is a new step in WdKA’s ambition to constantly improve quality levels and to stay in tune with professional developments worldwide. The lectorate offers the unique opportunity to bring interesting people and research to WdKA, and to reflect latest developments and issues in communication design. It will provide research opportunities for WdKA staff and students, at the same time creating a platform for professional field in the region that stimulates discussion on communication design. Thus it will contribute to curricular development at WdKA, including its bachelor/master structure.

Where in The Netherlands education of artists and designers is embedded within the system of Professional Education [in Dutch: HBO], WdKA’s new lectorate is to be compared with a professorship at university level – a focal point for fundamental research into a specific area. In our case ‘Communication in a Digital Age’. WdKA’s lectorate will be staffed on a 50/50 basis by lector Florian Cramer and by visiting researchers – two per year. These are to be chosen by the lector and an advisory board made up of WdKA course directors.

Such visiting researchers are to be active professionals in one of the creative disciplines taught at WdKA, like Graphic Design or Audiovisual Design, at the same time doing work/research that is relevant to all other disciplines as well – such as a digital media designer working on print-on-demand, a typographer working on generative typography, etcetera.At WdKA, visiting researchers will give tutorials to both master and bachelor students, as well as conduct public lectures. Their research projects and its results can either be theoretical or more practical. As a matter of course, every result will be published online and in print.

The first visiting researcher is expected in May 2009. He is Alessandro Ludovico, editor and publisher of the art magazine Neural, published both online as well as in print. Ludovico is author of the essay ‘Paper and Pixel, the mutation of publishing’ (2006), in which he argues that “the death of paper didn't happen.”

The ongoing coexistence of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media was also one of the themes of Florian Cramer’s inaugaral address on January 13, 2009, which marked the official start of the lectorate: “Snake Rituals and Switching Circuits – The blurring lines between mass and personal communication, 'old' and 'new' media”. Revisiting models of communication and publishing, both in marginal and mass media, Cramer’s lecture sketched the broad agenda of the project: to question standard dichotomies of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media and to rethink communication in the light of personal media practices in regard to both the education and the profession of designers. An abstract of Cramer’s lecture may be found  here.

The lecotorate will start a four-year research project, focussing on two issues:
1.    how has digital technology changed communication design as a whole – not just digital media design, but also print design, advertising, editorial design, audiovisual design;
2.    the convergence of mass media and personal communication – examples are social networks, YouTube, personalized publications, mapping services, and the development of web-based/Open Source collaborative design tools.
Resulting questions are: how do we have to rethink communication design? and how do we have to rethink design disciplines? This boils down to questions like: what communication designers will be needed in the future? what does it mean for the profession? and what does it mean for our education?

'Communication in a Digital Age’ will also function as a centre of excellence. It will provide WdKA staff the opportunity to do Ph.D. research on academic level. Every staff member may apply and propose a project. This can be done during the work time reserved for further professionalization. Such Ph.D. research will be monitored by lector Florian Cramer – who himself concluded his Ph.D. at the Freie Universität in Berlijn in Berlin, handing in the thesis ‘Exe.cut[up]able Statements: Poetische Kalküle und Phantasmen des selbstausführenden Texts’. Cramer will also be responsible for tutoring research projects by MA students and by selected bachelor students.

Annually, three-day international conferences will be organised as well on issues ranging from ‘mapping’, ‘open source collaboration’, to ‘hybrid media publishing’. These conferences may be attended by students and staff, and by the professional field. At these meetings time will be reserved to discuss the impications of the issue at stake for curricular development at WdKA. Naturally, the conferences’ proceedings will be published.