There was a small piece in one of the broadsheets a couple of months ago about how leaps in communication technology act as a spur for periods of ferment, extremism and revolution.
So the invention of the printing press led to pamphleteering and folk sailing on the Mayflower. Lithography was the production method by which Toulouse-Lautrec and others popularised the spirit of the fin de siècle. The internet has delivered us ISIS and Candy Crush. You get the idea.
Digital printing is also creating the potential for a little revolution, if not quite on this scale. Because its agility and ability to facilitate short runs means that brands can try things out in very limited quantities. They can act local, topical and potentially more boldly. If an ‘edition’ is going nationwide, one might expect it to be a bit vanilla – nobody wants to bet a career on a wild card. But if it’s just designed for a tighter location, as a piece of media, then it can afford to stick its neck out a little more perhaps.
Of course this still carries risk – and due diligence and common sense still need to be applied to ensure something more provocative doesn’t backfire. But it would be nice to think that we are now working in an era where technological flexibility will afford us a bit more creative liberty. Even, perhaps, the chance to experiment on shelf, and dare to fail.