Spring 2020 Syllabus

Syllabus for Spring 2020
Mondays: 9:30-12:30, details
Juan Pablo Alperin, jalperin@sfu.ca


PUB802 asks the fundamental question: what happens to publishing in an era where the vast majority of publishing and reading happens on the Internet? More broadly, this course is intended to encourage a critical examination of the ways in which technologies are shaping every aspect of our personal lives, and the very structure of our society. For how can we understand the intersection of technologies and publishing without first exploring the role of technology, and technology companies, in shaping our values, our psychology, and our daily habits?

After a discussion of the way Web has changed us, and the way it has evolved itself, the course will explore some aspects of how technology has affected making, discovering, and consuming content. The discussion will include an exploration of publishing platforms, making works available in the marketplace (both digital and physical), and the digital reading experience. By the end of it, we will hopefully have a sense of how digital technologies have redefining the value and even the very meaning of publishing.

PUB802 is a seminar, but it is not your typical seminar. While there is a syllabus below, it is only a starting point. We will work on filling it out together during the first class, we will solicit input from experts, and we will continue to shape it every week as the course progresses. In pairs, you will each take responsibility for a week and a topic, and we will all learn together about the things that matter or concern you most regarding tech. Expect and be prepared to be challenged, but also to challenge others—without discussion, there is no seminar. PUB802 is also a graduate course. This means the discussions are based around ideas, not around specific technologies or moments in time. We will, however, endeavour to ground these ideas with concrete examples and case studies.


If you wish to take collective notes, organize ideas, leave links for each other, here is an “etherpad”.


The following is a rough outline of the course’s coverage. In reality, we will be much more flexible around topics to allow our discussions to go on as long as we feel is necessary and to cover topics as they come up.

Week 1, January 6: Introduction to the course

Week 2, January 13: The Web changes things

Week 3, January 20: Internet Business Models (Part One)

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 3
  • Assignment 1 due.

Week 4, January 27: Internet Business Models (Part two)

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 3 (cont’d)
  • Assignment 2 (Due Feb 24): In your media group, collaboratively write a blog post describing the business model you have chosen. Your post should not just describe the model, but also extol its virtues and why it is likely to succeed in the current climate. Remember that success does not necessarily mean maximizing profit in the short term.

Week 5, February 3: Tech lessons

  • Done by juan

February 10 & 17: (Emerging Leaders and Reading Week)

  • no class

Week 6, February 24: Copyright

Week 7, March 2: Data Privacy

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 4
  • Assignment 3 (due Mar 13): Blog (~500 words) about an instance where your personal data migrated from one platform to another

Week 8, March 9: Data Privacy Continued

Week 9, March 16: Distribution & Discovery

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 6
  • Lynda.com. What is Metadata? (requires SFU login)
  • Assignment 3 due.
  • Assignment 4 (due Mar 20). Find 3 examples of meta tags on webpages you regularly visit and place them in our etherpad.

Week 9, March 23: Measuring & Tracking

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 7
  • Assignment 4 due.

Week 10, March 30: Digital reading

  • Mackenzie & Alperin. Chapter 7 (cont’d)
  • Assignment 5 (first draft due April 3): Write an extension, addition, replacement for the Mackenzie & Alperin book (~750 words). What was missing from the course? What needed to be explained more clearly? What aspect of the readings should have been highlighted?

Week 12, April 6

  • Overview of course, reflections, lingering questions
  • Tech lessons (topics to be determined):
    • character encodings
    • Pandoc
    • RegEx
    • Twitter network analysis
    • trackers and ad-blockers


Your final grade will be made up of the following components:

  • Participation (in class): 10%
  • Participation (annotations): 10%
  • Class leadership: 10%
  • Assignment 1 (reflection): 20%
  • Assignment 2 (business model): 10%
  • Assignment 3 (personal data): 10%
  • Assignment 4 (metatags): bonus 2%
  • Assignment 5 (textbook): 30%

Details can be found on the Assignments, Grading, and Evaluation page.


All seminar materials and will be publicly accessible. Similarly, all student writing must be made available online (although you may choose to keep select content behind a password). Work will be openly peer-reviewed online as well, and all readings will be openly annotated. Feedback on written work will also be provided through open annotations and comments. In short, this class does as much as possible in the open, and wherever possible, it licenses any content produced with open licenses.