Map: 'utopback.GIF'

Utopia-Background and Context

Scandinavian R&D Project 1981-86
Utopia was a Scandinavian research and development project on trade union based development of, and training in, computer technology and work organisation, especially text and image processing in graphic and newspaper production. In the Scandinavian languages Utopia is an acronym for Training, Technology, and Product in the Quality of Work Perspective.

Image from an edition of Thomas More's Utopia from 1516.

Participants in Utopia
Researchers and graphic workers with their unions
Utopia was carried out by researchers and graphic workers in Scandinavia together with the Nordic Graphic Workers' Union. Besides having members working directly in the project group, the Scandinavian graphic workers' unions followed and supported the project through a reference group consisting of representatives from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The research was performed at the Swedish Centre for Working Life, Stockholm, now the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, NADA at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and DAIMI at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Technology and skill and social implications
The overall objective of Utopia was to contribute to the development of powerful skill enhancing tools for graphic workers. Thus not only the development of technology, but also human qualifications, i.e. training, was stressed.
Quality of work and product
Quality of work and product was very important. Both technical and social prerequisites, as well as obstacles and limitations were examined. The labour processes of page make-up and image processing in integrated computer based newspaper production was in focus.

Roots in Scandinavian research tradition
Ambitious continuation of a research tradition from the 1970's
From a research perspective the Utopia project may be seen as an ambitious continuation and follow-up of a number of projects in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in the 1970's, in which researchers followed and supported the attempts of local trade unions to influence the use of technology at work.

Activities 1981-84
1981-82: Study of existing technology and work practises, also in North America
Visits were made to newspaper production plants, technical exhibitions, suppliers, and research laboratories in Scandinavia and abroad to collect information. A study of the development of technology and working practices in North American newspapers came to play a particularly important role as the antithesis of a desired development.
Mutual learning between graphic workers, social and computer scientists
A major aspect in this first phase of the project was the mutual learning process in which the active participants: graphic workers, computer and social researchers, established a common "knowledge platform" for the future work.
Concretion ...
Many difficulties had to be overcome. The graphic workers who were used to rapid concrete results in their daily work, found that the work progressed too slowly and lacked the necessary concretion.
... through cooperation with system developer, TIPS, Liber's Text and Image Processing System
In 1982 the Utopia project was approached by the Swedish state-owned printing concern Liber through the Trade Union of Graphic Workers in Sweden. This provided an incentive to delimit and concretise the project. Liber wished to examine the possibilities for cooperation around the company 's development project TIPS (Text and Image Processing System), an integrated computer based system for text, image, and full page makeup for newspaper production.
Late 1982: Cooperation agreement
After concluding the discussions with the board of the Nordic Graphic Workers' Union, a cooperation agreement was signed in late 1982. The basic idea of the agreement was that the TIPS project should exploit the competence of the Utopia project (work organisation, quality of work, training, man-machine interaction, graphic skills, etc.) in its development work. In this way the Utopia project obtained the opportunity to try out many of its ideas. The cooperation would also offer valuable experience of possibilities to exercise influence over a large technical development project. However, the agreement did not force Liber in the TIPS project to follow the requirements of the Utopia project. Correspondingly, the agreement gave the Utopia project the self-standing right to freely cultivate and inform about its viewpoints and requirements which the TIPS system might not fulfil.
1983: Technology Laboratory
During the next year Utopia project concentrated on requirement specifications. This, however, called for the development of working practices so that the researches and graphic workers together could formulate the requirements. To this end the project established a "technology laboratory" with development tools to simulate different kinds of page make-up, image processing, and the surrounding organisation; thus making it possible for the graphic workers in the project to develop requirements and wishes on a concrete level by actually carrying out the page make-up and image processing on simulation equipment, cf Design Method and Process. The researchers could contribute by pointing out possibilities and limitations to equivalent real equipment, and by systematising the experience in requirement specifications. Techniques used are described in Design Tools.

Late 1983: Requirement Specification
The first version of Utopia's requirement specification, which was continually discussed with TIPS, was published in late 1983. The requirements were meant to be generally applicable in negotiations when introducing new systems for newspaper production. Thus they were meant for all suppliers and newspapers, not only for Liber/TIPS. The requirement specification drew a lot of attention in graphic trade journals, at seminars and conferences on newspaper production technology, and in connection with collective bargaining and local negotiations, cf Requirements Specifications.

Study of pilot installation 1985-86
Pilot Installation at Aftonbladet
The cooperation with Liber/TIPS also included a second phase: evaluation of the TIPS image processing system in connection with a "pilot installation" at the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Here the original intentions proved difficult to realise. Management of Aftonbladet was not particularly interested in a well-defined experiment on work organisation in connection with the "pilot installation". The attitude was: "let's get the technology, and we'll see what happens". The graphic workers demanded an agreement on the operation of the equipment and on the design of the experiment. All this meant that the ideas of the Utopia project for active participation in an organisational experiment where graphic workers and journalists together seek new ways, had to be abandoned.
The theme of this Qualiteque exhibit
Nevertheless, the Utopia project performed a study of the introduction and use of TIPS IMAGE 500, the image processing system, at Aftonbladet, which is the theme of this Qualiteque historical exhibitit of IT design in use: its work and feel, users' experience, developers' experience, etc.

Not a successful product but experience and competence ...
The TIPS system was never produced in full, the main product that was finished was IMAGE 500, both for newspaper and for scientific image processing. For newspaper image processing a few pilot installations were made but abandoned rather soon due to lack of integration with the rest of the production. Nevertheless the evaluation at Aftonbladet gave the graphic workers and their union and the management very valuable experience on possibilities and limitations of the image technology and background for competent negotiations on introduction of such technology later on.
... and requirements and methods
Seen in the UTOPIA context the studies at Aftonbladet contributed to the requirement specifications, very useful as background and common understanding of the technology in negotiations about introduction of page make-up and image processing systems later in the 1980:s. The studies also contributed to system development methods with user involvement, especially the "Scandinavian" Participatory System Design methodology, cf the conclusions of the developers' experiences.
Graffiti no 7
This description is adapted from the UTOPIA project's information magazine Graffiti 7, distributed to all graphic workers in the Nordic countries.

Latest update by Axel Henriksson 96-04-16