Monday, August 20, 2007

Digital Collage and Online Research

Sometimes I will visit one or more websites which contain visual reference material that better enables me to understand a particular subject. I could just make printouts of all of the web pages which contain the information of interest to me, but that could use up a lot of paper in some cases, because a lot of companies tend to scatter information all over the place. What I would prefer would be to create a single page of information containing the most important parts of those web pages, while leaving out the redundant aspects (such as navigation bars and the like).

What I like to do is to use image editing software in order to create a digital collage consisting of diverse images from one or more related websites, along with my own personal comments next to those images. Sometimes I'll also copy text from the website and then paste it into the collage, either in the form of another graphic image (via a screen capture) or in the form of actual text (which eventually becomes another graphic image once it's been pasted into the digital collage).

The nice thing about this is that I don't have to make any prints at all. I can just burn the resulting image file onto a CD-R disc and then view it on my computer. Why kill trees if you don't have to do so?

For example, I recently learned about a construction method involving the use of ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms). I'd never heard of the method before, and I thought it was pretty interesting. Polysteel, a company which makes such forms, had quite a bit of useful information on its website, but that information was scattered over a number of pages. So I created a number of screen shots, and downloaded a number of small individual graphic images, and I then used my digital photo editing software in order to combine all of the information I'd found into a single 8x10 graphic image which could be printed onto a single page of paper. (Much more ecologically sensible than printing numerous different screens from the website and then binding the printouts together.) I also added little text comments next to some of the images.

This link is a link to a PDF file consisting of that 8x10 collage. I'm offering the sample both as a PDF file and a JPG file so that you can see the difference. Converting from the JPG to the PDF distorted the image slightly in terms of text legibility (probably because I was using an online service, not Acrobat, and because I didn't have any control over the settings they used when they performed the conversion). On the flip side, the PDF file can be viewed in Acrobat Reader, offering more control over the various magnifications possible when viewing the image online.

The thing is, most online photos have relatively low resolution. But that isn't as important when one is creating a digital collage, because no single image has to fill the entire print. In the case of the Polysteel collage, the entire collage has adequate resolution for making an 8x10 print (admittedly, with some white space at the bottom) at 200 pixels per inch, which is quite respectable.

In any event, most of these little digital collages are mostly for my own personal use. As long as my computer is functional, I can view them just by reopening them in my image editing software, which allows me to zoom in on particular parts of each collage in order to get a closer look. And I don't have to be online in order to do so. I think of these collages as scrapbooks of useful information to which I can refer at a later time.

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