A journey from cables to people´s minds

Ok, so here we are, it has been like one of those roller coaster rides where you experience a lot in such a short time and by the end you say: Its that all? After you were (probably) screaming during the ride.

I leave this ride shook but very satisfied with what happened. Suddenly, as everything starts to calm down and I write this, my very last assignment for the term, I realize so much had happened week to week. Yes, I was sitting here, most weeks “rolling the squirrel” (that is how we Mexicans say… Oh forget it!) thinking about what we discussed earlier in the week about the topic. The routine, to read, annotate and write something coherent has been the most enriching exercise for me, it helped me get more disciplined, academically speaking and preview what was coming next. I certainly wrote most of my blogs at this time, 7, 14, 21, (not 28) days ago. But I can say I spent many other days just thinking of what we talked or telling  my wife about those articles that did not make sense to me.

So for knowledge, yes, the internet and DARPA, interesting story, “Its just a Cable” said Juan the first day, “The web is not the Internet” and started to shed light over those tiny details that make the whole thing as fascinating, powerful and dangerous as it is. This is the modern Pandora’s Box, except that we open it regularly without it exploding in our faces… most of the time.

Having references and learning some  tags and categories was very useful, we were building our internal agreements and vocabulary, Never-Betters, Better-Nevers and the other lukewarm water guys helped a lot to understand further topics, but most important, to understand each other in the discussions. Obviously the categories were simplistic and the words changed over time, (early/late adopters for example) but the discourse kept growing over the weeks, we were discussing “What Rachel and Anu” said the other day for example.

More than a study of technology, was a discussion about the human mind, or if you allow me, the human soul. I can say I learned from every reading and from everyone, whether they share my point of view or not, the world is a big place, and it becomes even bigger in cyberspace (finally found a place to use that word). Being the oldest around also helped (yes, older than Juan, if not as smart), as I was raised in a world where computers were just a luxury accessory and you dialed the phone, literally. Where you could create things with 512 Kb of RAM, had to be careful to save an image with 1.3Mb of capacity and the user friendly concept was a work in progress (for computers anyway). I certainly may have seemed alien in many of my opinions during discussions but as much I learned from other views, respected them (mostly) and I can say they changed my own vision.

I am sure this was the plan so the ride was successful, as for my favorite topic… I am still debating. I really enjoyed reading about Copyright from a different perspective, always was glad we did not take it off the syllabus, but Digital Reading was also fascinating. In the end, I can say the one I enjoyed most reading was Interacting and socializing, although this may be because it triggered a lot of things and the focus Trenton and Lena gave to it was great, after all, what is the future of Publishing? We will find out, probably soon. … well, not that soon anyway.

So excuse me for being enthusiast, I could talk about “what I learned” in terms of knowledge, but that is well known and has been discussed already, the most valuable thing is what I learned from my cohort  and Juan, because all of them are exceptional people and I am honored to have been part of this group. It saddens me not to be able to hear your opinions in the same forum although it may be interesting to create a group for that… I can see your faces saying “Are you crazy? Get some sleep!”

Anyway, its been a great ride! Now, let’s get out there.


Lets go back to the fundamental question:

What happens to publishing in an era where the vast majority of publishing and reading happens on the Internet?

My impression is internet and printed books are seen many times as poles of the same thing, while it is not the case, we love the dialectic discourse and had been trained to look at things this way.

There are reasons why some really BIG corporations and individuals see it as a problem, they were shaken by the advent of the Internet, they were happy curating, editing and printing books, magazines, newspapers and other printed materials, enjoying a great power and misusing it often to shape the world along with their friends, the mass media: TV, Radio, Movies, etc. Then comes this thing, the Internet with the Web and suddenly, everyone is talking, discussing, expressing opinions they did not asked, they did not allowed to ask and actually nobody had a way to ask publicly. When heard, read and discussed, these questions raised more questions, in a snowball effect.

Suddenly everyone was aware of many more things than those that were filtered through the TV screen, newspaper, books or radio, everyone was giving an opinion and not hearing to those “expert” writing books or talking in shows and programs, people started sharing events not sanctioned by the publishers and media and making the whole thing a mess.

It has been some times discussed in class, publisher houses have been progressively absorbed into “Media Groups” as have been the case of film companies, and like Alphabet is starting to understand, these Media Groups, like Bertelsmann and Pearson (Owners of Penguin-Random House), do not like to be under the light, after all, people is happy having those funny “big” companies as referents, while the real BIG ones just watch the game unfold.

In the above example, it would be definitely bad for the business if someone finds use for the fact that Penguin-Random House is actually co-owned by Bertelsmann a German Company that has been around for nearly 200 years (183 to be exact) and which, for example, during World War 2, was a leading supplier to the Wehrmacht and even used Jewish slave labor to increase their profits. But also Pearson plc, the other co-owner, started as a construction and engineering company which among other things, built Tanks for WW1. Nothing farther from “the preservation of culture” unless your idea is to preserve your culture by wiping out the rest, which is a discussion point for later.

Those really BIG companies started to build their empires, way before the publishers we know today, and like them, other BIG players came into scene like CBS (Owner of Simon & Schuster), Viacom, Time Warner, etc. They are not concerned with readability, legibility, privacy respect, ebooks, etc. They just want YOU.

So what the internet has to do with this? Like I said, it came to shake the way we shared and consumed information. But then it derailed somewhere, when America On Line (AOL) came into the picture, it growed exponentially, like them, allowing to merge (buy) with Time Warner while retaining 55% of the shares, they really screwed up so Warner took it back some years later. In the meantime, other companies benefited of the big boom and then, later we had the players we love to hate  (some just love them) Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the other guys who really don’t matter. What does that mean? That the Internet has become another great power source, and just like the other media companies, it has given us more titans that fight among the older ones with no clear victory foreseeable and the only real effect in that they “change people’s lives”.

But wait! Wars and disease also change people’s lives, so don’t be deceived by the kind-related motto, product of years of marketing seen almost everywhere.

The whole point of this picture is to these companies have been there for a while and struggle today for having the big prize: US (as in we, not the country). It has been sad and terrifying to hear many of my classmates to say: I am no one, my data is not important, let them track me if they give me what I want and things like that. It points out that the indoctrination has worked, and so, everyone is jumping freely into the furnace (enter cartoon of people hitting the “I Accept” button and jumping into a fire pit).

Yes, we share, we laugh and we give our data “freely” having little space to rationalize it. Events like Cambridge-Analytics are opportunities for that. What happened to that internet that would free us from the BIG ones? That caused them to shake and even be acquired by the new players? Weren’t they supposed to change the world? So many questions but lets back to the first. What happens to publishing?

We now are aware of the potential power a Publisher has, not only in the book industry, but as an expert in making things public, to divulge, to understand what is happening, to get information, setting up strategies, tracking and distilling data, all those skills that will help us not only in the immediate industries, but as a human activity. The conclusion, Publishing is not disappearing, far from it, is outreaching and adapting to other fields, interacting with them and figuring out what to do.. Game publishers, interactive narratives, video game publishers, podcasts, bloggers, social media, social causes, publishers can make a change in many places now, not just the book and magazine industry. The key here is observe, learn and adapt.

Now that I know better, I don’t find a reason for the printed books to disappear like many early adopters suggest. I am contemplating a huge landscape with millions of possibilities, this is what this course has taught me. To think about who are the players, to know what is my role as an individual and as a future publishers and to learn the existing technologies and business (rather difussion) models we have available. It has been really helpful to learn this because even if I decide to set up a Scriptorium where we make books manually old-style, I will be aware and watching what is happening outside and for sure, I will be using what I have learned here to promote these hand made products. It has been helpful to know other’s opinions, we gave the best and we gave it for free, we even hit the I Agree button.

So what is coming next? We will see, now, lets get those tacos!


Tech It or Leave it

I may sound like a broken record by the end of PUB 802. Each week, I’ve inevitably taken a philosophical or spiritual route to express my views on topics relating to technology. I am conscious that some of my thoughts have taken a wide arc to arrive at certain conclusions. The tech class was more about the journey, rather than a particular destination.

For me, the class was less about what I know, but more about what I need to know and may never know. How technology evolves during my lifetime (whatever it may be) is anyone’s guess. The tech class helped me put things into perspective the potential of human communication and knowledge sharing. It also presented me with some hard truths about how technology can be misused or misinterpreted.

If there is one clear takeaway I have from this course, it is awareness. Through the entire course, we waded through a wide spectrum of topics relating to technology and publishing, in particular. I appreciate the learning and insight I have at the end of this course. But most of all, I appreciate the conscious thought I have about technology and how it affects me as person, and how I inevitably affect the society as a whole.

The course made me aware of what my contribution and interaction means in the bigger picture. I realised that I am not separate from the system I am part of. I know I need to examine my routine actions (digital footprint) more closely. Technology is a two-edged sword.  Either I use it consciously, or it’ll end up using me.

I am also thankful to my amazing cohort for bringing different point of views to the table. I enjoyed the discussion on annotations and how it was carried forward into the class. Even though I had my reservations about the self-driven pedagogy of this course, I was more than happy with what each and everyone in the class contributed to the conversation. In a way, this course was a perfect example of collective and conscious group effort, which eventually became greater than the sum of its parts.

This course, in a nutshell, gave me perspective, objectivity, consciousness and awareness . . . not only about technology, but myself too.

Thanks Juan, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Reflection on my experience in PUB 802

Going into this course, I didn’t know what to expect, but assumed it would be more about hands-on training in the use of technology; in particular I had coding in mind. And in fact I did learn how to use a browser plug-in called Hypothes.is for annotations, and gained a little familiarity with editing WordPress. But also before the class began, I wondered how much we could learn about a given technology in such a short time. So it made sense when I learned that the course would be more of a seminar and discussion about the “digital landscape” than hands-on training in particular software or apps. I would say this is as close to a takeaway as I can describe from this course.

The starting point was getting us to understand the difference between the Internet and the web. That was helpful for me. I also wrote in my notes that Juan wanted to prepare us to navigate the shifting landscape around publishing, enabling us to see what’s happening and the active forces behind it. This course did provide more of a perspective than a set of skills.

The grading contract was a good incentivizing tool and I definitely was stricter with myself about my engagement with this class than any of the others. The required Hypothes.is annotations on readings were also a good incentive to do the readings. I did notice that when I was reading under time constraints, I skimmed to find points to comment on, rather than skimming to find points indicating the author’s argument. This led to me making comments I didn’t really feel strongly about, but that’s no different from the skimming I did in my undergrad when preparing to write a precis.

Some of my peers gave really excellent and engaging lectures. I would also have liked to hear more from Juan. The early lecture where we learned about the history of the formation of the Internet was excellent, and whenever he allowed himself to interject, he offered interesting and important perspective. In one class discussion many students expressed how little they cared about their personal privacy on the internet. In response Juan tried to clarify the importance of the issue, and this is an example of the type of issues I would have liked more directed conversation about from someone whose work involves thinking them through. That said, I appreciate the trust Juan put in us and the level of engagement and discussion this class facilitated.

If someone asks me what I learned, I would be hard pressed to say anything specific. But I feel like I’m a little better prepared to understand conversations in the media around Amazon and Facebook, AI and machine learning, data and privacy, and the changing business models around the publication of content. Also, because of discussions like the ones we had around print and digital reading, I also feel more aware of personal biases publishers are susceptible to, and how they affect our attitudes toward technologies, the internet, and web apps. This course mainly gave me a little experience in trying things out, and a level of comfort discussing technologies today.

Reflection of Learning

After having spent the past several days moving out of my apartment in Vancouver it feels like PUB 802 was so long ago. The content of this course was something that I was already enthusiastic about and had a basic working knowledge of many concepts, however the discussions that occurred both in class and within the online annotations certainly pushed my thinking and challenged my beliefs.

I spend a considerable amount of my leisure time watching educational YouTube videos including video series about the history of the internet, intellectual property, and machine learning. As these were topics that were discussed within the course, this prior exposure to concepts allowed me to contribute during class discussion as well being able to share these resources with classmates within annotations as well as in the MPub facebook group. The fact that I regularly seek out this type of information for fun shows that this content is something that I have a keen interest in and am consistently looking to further expand my understanding. This course provided additional resources to continue to learn about these topics and to build upon my existing knowledge.

There were times throughout the course that my opinions and believes were challenged. There were two areas that pushed my beliefs the most, the first was digital tracking. Prior to this course I was aware of digital tracking however I was not of the opinion that this digital tracking was wrong, something to be alarmed by, or that this data could be used in malicious ways. After news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal first broke it caused me to reflect on how this information could be used and for what purposes. I had previously thought of digital tracking to be solely for the purposes of marketing and advertising. While it is sometimes unsettling to see an ad for the pair of shoes you were just browsing for on Amazon, there is nothing inherently nefarious about Google Ads. I was surprised by the sheer number of my classmates that had installed different ad blockers on their web browsers because I firmly believed that ad blockers were morally repugnant and punishing online content creators for not wanting their content to be placed behind pay walls. What pushed my thinking was the sheer number of trackers that were installed on websites and how the information they were harvesting could be used to influence politics. This use of digital tracking is something that I find much more unsettling than Google Ads and while I am not about to install an ad blocker onto my web browser, the discussions in this course have resulted in me installing Ghostery and thinking more critically about the potential for digital tracking. Another topic in the course that has challenged my thinking is the idea that companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA) alter people’s consumption habits. While I was willing to admit that these companies had a tremendous amount of influence over people I had not considered how Amazon opening a physical retail location was for the purpose of shaping people’s shopping habits to better suit the business model of Amazon. Unlike my thoughts on digital tracking this was nothing something that I had a firm stance that was contrary to the course discussions, but rather that it was not something that I had considered as motivation prior to PUB802.

Both of the topics that challenged my thinking the most within the course are areas that I would consider to be the somewhat alarming reality of how technology (and giant tech companies) shape and influence individuals. My first blog post in this course rejected Adam Gopnik’s categories of  “Never-Betters”, “Better-Nevers”, and “Ever-Wasers”. While I did not align myself within a particular category, and I still believe that people’s interactions with technology is a spectrum and cannot be easily fit into three neat categories, I would consider myself to be between the Never-Betters and the Ever-Wasers at the start of the course. I still maintain a level of optimism that I think it a defining feature of the Never-Betters, however this course has caused me to reconsider certain areas and as a result I have moved more towards a more realist understanding of technology and therefore am closer to the Never-Betters on the spectrum that I was in January.

Final Reflection: User Journey

The Technology course, for me, was a perfect fit. Like a cozy mitten or a mermaid-tail blanket. Coincidentally, I did a lot of reading and annotating in said blanket. I grew up with friends that went to both IT high schools and universities, then I also ended up working as an Executive Assistant for an IT recruitment company. In a way, it’s like a moth to a flame kind of relationship for me: there is an undeniable magnetism because there is no limit to my curiosity, just as there is no limit to the Technology field’s progress.

Along the way, some things have fascinated me – like learning about Halt and Catch Fire and watching it without blinking at the very beginning of the term, or learning about Online Business Models, or learning about Annotations and their implications. Some things, on the other hand, have scared me – like the tracking apps or machine learning (and Sophia), things that were once only in sci-fi books and yet my generation is experiencing as “normal.” Overall, though, the underlying feeling has always been of satisfaction because there was always something to keep my mind busy and my spirit vested.

It was not all pink and rosy, however – being an introvert and a go-getter, I took the word of the contract as Law and drove myself into an anxiety attack two-thirds through. I have been told I am the Type A kind of personality, the kind that needs to do everything, needs to do everything right and if something goes wrong, tends to punish themselves with much too harsh consequences. It might stem from the type of household I grew up in, and by “might” I mean “for sure.” This is something that I have been working on over the last few years, especially because the Publishing industry is so fast-paced, entails so much group work and thus, means interacting with different creative and business types. I’ve definitely rounded my edges a bit through this academic journey, both during the Technology course, as well as through the final projects that we worked on. I also found a healthy balance where I restructured my personal goals, switching from wanting to do everything like a robot so I can tick away at tasks to focusing on the learning and managing the many tasks on my plate, and patting myself on the back for each small accomplished task.

In addition, I reminded myself to enjoy my passionate self and continue on my path of learning and success, and mind less what others might do or say or think. Writing the blog posts, for example, was for me an exercise for both expressing creativity and for practicing concise writing. I made it a personal goal to stay between 500 and 600 words, and that was something I did for myself to make it fun. I dabbled in some Toastmaster-ing here and there over the years, and there is a certain art in saying the same thing in less words. It’s a really fun game for me to constantly practice this skill. I may not always get it right but it’s the process itself that I enjoy. Writing these blogs was tough to manage at certain points during the Term, like when our demands for the Group Project were breaking our back, but again, my feelings when going into this Master’s was to make sure I focus on the learning and not to obsess over the marks (for once – even though just saying this gives me a bit of a *ZGR* on my brain).

I am in just a few days heading over to Simon&Schuster and during the Emerging Leaders’ week, my supervisor plain advised me to keep in mind that “the real world” might end up being nothing like what I am learning during the terms. So that’s perhaps the key takeaway: to keep an open mind. I think the lectures, activities and discussion certainly focused on this aspect, and I remember going down the same staircase during my undergrad so I can pass by my favourite quote on campus: “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions” (Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.). If I could get paid to be a student, that would be brilliant, but at the same time, I have learned through this course that there is a ceiling for me in terms of academia… and then I start to ache for practicality and actual work.

So with what I have learned during this course, I feel like I am entering the workforce knowledgeable in many aspects. Or if nothing else, I’ll be one ridiculously fun factoid machine at publishing parties!

Anna Stefanovici

The Life of Text Online

The life of text online – each word makes sense on its own, yet what an odd concept to grapple with. We talk about stories coming alive, we are thirsty for narratives in books or films, but our interaction is from creator to receiver. In reading articles like Audrey Watters’ Un-Annotated or Brent Plate’s Marginalia and Its Disruptions, I realized that this world of “interaction with and shaping of the text” was entirely new to me. To better portray my shock, I need to give two examples that define my behaviour: I have loved books so much ever since I was a child, I considered leaving a mark, any mark of any sort, to be… like, the eighth Cardinal Sin. I particularly ached when I saw ear-marking as a substitute for a purchased or self-made bookmark. I eventually found a more sane balance in university, when I found highlighting and annotating to save me time. I actually enjoyed it for the first time, to leave commentary that I could then review at a later time.

This is pre-social media.

Then, similarly, online commentary for me has been incredibly scarce (mostly due to my scarce time) and always of a positive nature. I mean, you know what they say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” For example, I follow my artist friend’s journey because I purchased a piece from her over Etsy. We’ve never met in person but we’ve become close through our appreciation for the art. She’s also American so it’s been highly educational to compare the fate of art and artists in Canada vs the US. So coming from this perspective, I am naturally bewildered by the vast amounts of negative or trolling commentary. I just don’t know when people have the time, really, and that’s what horrifies me – how many people devote time to this kind of interaction.

Coming from this perspective, I just think that a writer does indeed have the right to define who comments, and moreover, to carefully review and curate what kind of “life” is given to their text. This sounds extreme but to soften the perspective, I have to say that I also believe this to be context-based. The kinds of magazines that I enjoy reading, like Discover, National Geographic and The New Yorker, they have geeky readers like me that engage in super interesting commentary. Sometimes it’s fun just scrolling down past the article to read a few thoughts or debates, they’re equally “alive” and entertaining.

However, Watters’ writing on the vast amount of “threats of sexualized violence” had me contemplate on the purpose of texts online. Many years ago, I read this moving piece on the initial purpose of “the online world” versus what it has ended up being over time. A review of the development of Internet is this article but the article I read was in a magazine (Google and I tried our best but to no avail). Long story short, the view of scientists was positive and uplifting, this world of resources, knowledge, and limitless interaction of global proportions – but over the decades, it’s exploded into this universe of galaxies near and far, where so much ugliness and uselessness has crept up (like porn and trafficking and such tragic things).

So yes, sometimes, audiences could do with some parameters and limitations in their online socialization over a text. Some texts online can be “alive and well” just on their own, without any trolling or #pwning or whatever you may call it. Some texts can do just fine being left alone.

Anna Stefanovici

Pub802 Reflection

Using Hypothes.is as a tool for annotating course readings was very beneficial to me. It made me think critically about and engage with the reading on a level that I rarely achieve in other classes. I appreciate reading others’ opinions on the subject matter, and I appreciate reading their comments on my own opinions. Hypothes.is gave community to our comments. If I ever feel the need to comment on an article, I usually avoid doing so because I feel that my comment will lost in the abyss, never to make any significant impact. I know that when I comment using Hypothes.is my words are heard and considered by people thinking about the same things as me. I like having many smaller assignments (Hypothes.is annotations as well as the blog posts) because I know that if I fall short one week, it won’t make or break my final mark. Knowing this causes me to feel less pressure, and I think I ended up doing better than I thought I would, both in terms of the quality of my contributions and in keeping up with the schedule.

Student-led Content:
A student-decided syllabus can be a useful tactic in getting students engaged, but I know I for one had no idea what we were getting into at the beginning of this semester. As I had little knowledge of the content beforehand, it was difficult to predict what I would want to talk about in the weeks to come. As for student-led marking, I wish there had been a clearer set of expectations on what was considered satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If we had been provided with a rubric with which to mark our peers, I think we would have felt more stable as both the markers and the marked.

Contract Grading:
I like the concept of Contract Grading, but I wish the grades had more definition behind them: what makes an A, what makes a C, and so on. For students to be in control they need plenty of structure.

Public Contribution to Knowledge:
I have yet to submit my Public Contribution to Knowledge so I am not sure how I will fare in this part of the course. I understand why this segment is important, but once again, I wish there was a bit more structure to how we will be graded for it. Perhaps it would be helpful, if in future iterations of this course, students were provided with examples of what types of subject matter they can write on and in which platforms.

Course overall:
I now think about the technology in my everyday life a lot differently, and by that I mostly mean I think about it a lot more. I began this course with questions about technology and how it applies to our lives as publishing professionals, and I have left with even more questions. I mean that as a compliment to this class; the course, its content, and our discussions have opened my eyes to many new concepts that I had never even considered before, and I now have a hunger to learn more. I think we all learned very quickly that this class would not answer every question we had, so we instead came to class to discuss subjects we were interested about, to share opinions, and to be exposed to viewpoints that we may not have known existed. The topics we discussed in class are open and neverending ones. Although we may never find answers to some of the technological questions that were raised during this course, I know I am leaving this semester with a better understanding of how to even begin to have these conversations in the first place.

Pub802 Reflections, refractions

Way back in October I wrote a paper for John Maxwell’s course Pub800: Text & Con­text: Pub­lish­ing in Con­tem­po­rary Cul­ture hoping and dreaming about what a “socialist” publisher might look like. The paper came out of my early naïve look at the book publishing industry, where I received shocking a wakeup call in the form of the realization that, hello, book publishing is a business, and accordingly is concerned with making money as much, if not more, than producing important works of art. I posited then that “If publishing was truly one of the forebears of modern capitalism, as [Richard] Nash suggests, and if capitalism is a factor that has thrown the global mood into this malaise of spirit–not to mention the suppression of knowledge–doesn’t publishing as a field have the unique opportunity to serve culture and counteract this current iteration of capitalism at the same time?” My paper went on to look at alternate business models for traditional book publishing. At the time I was aware of but didn’t want to get into Open Access publishing due to its association with academic publishing.

After Pub802 this semester, however, I feel like I might actually be able to better round out my revolutionary dreams. Our work in thinking through the business models that have emerged via e-commerce, as well as considering Open Access as a business model or case study for literary or, I daresay, art publishing, is extremely exciting. I greatly appreciate our exploration of the Creative Commons in relation to publishing, though I can’t say I’ve yet been able to walk away with answers or a clear sense of a way forward. What does it take for Creative Commons to take hold on a mass scale, a commercial scale? Is it possible? Along with more questions, what I do have is a growing toolbelt of concepts that I can engage with, continue to grow, and attempt to apply to real aspects of the publishing industry.

Funnily, I was struck by how this course continuously reiterated the contradiction of the internet: that it embodies the potential for a democratization of publishing while at the same time almost seamlessly turns every publication into a capitalized subject. I find this to be an endlessly challenging topic, but also perhaps one of the most important of our time.  Possibly the most important or urgent lesson I took from this course was how to be aware of and take agency over my data and interaction with different parties online. I think I am better equipped now to advocate for online privacy and both the functions and dangers of data tracking for studying a market.

The Hypothes.is annotations were a surprising and amazing way in which I could unpack issues like this. The ability to respond to specific ideas, and have to opportunity to receive feedback in an almost chat-like setting was like no educational experience I’ve had. Most important was how it helped foreground classroom discussion, allowing those who might not usually speak up share their opinions, and provide the initial response we felt to the readings against the synthesis of classroom discussion. Between annotations and the blog posts, which also came to feel like relatively low stakes, I felt notably that I was able to explore ideas in an academic setting without the pressure of having a finished or complete understanding of a concept.

Looking back over our assigned blog posts this semester, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern emerge in many of my responses: the Internet has changed all the rules, and we need to learn to adapt and be creative about the capabilities of new technology rather than hold onto habits of print or real-life interaction. I do recognize that this has an edge of sounding like one of Gopnik’s “Never Betters”, but that isn’t my intention: the point is that I see the way we function on the Internet, particularly in relation to publishing, opens up possibilities we haven’t yet embraced, and by necessity must leave behind forms which are better suited to other technologies. The missing piece, for me, remains that more often than not I wasn’t able to predict or extrapolate for what these different possibilities are; I just recognize that they are there and feel a pragmatic disassociation from any kind of nostalgia for print (it’s still there, believe me, I just place it to the side). Moving forward I want to maintain this criticality while continuing to imagine ways in which technology may best be applied, especially in relation to publishing on/offline and the display, annotation, and sharing of images in a digital realm. I also want to add that this course very satisfyingly tracked with our Pub801: History of Publishing seminar which we participated in concurrently: the topics explored in history’s past informed and often corresponded to our explorations of publishing’s rapidly progressing present. 

I want to add a final note about the Contribution to Public Knowledge assignment, which seemed to take a backseat to the course in some ways though, in the end, was a very interesting exercise. For starters, it was a challenge of looking at oneself and thinking “What do I have to contribute?” to a seemingly bottomless repository like Wikipedia. However, once one gets digging, the gaps and underground caverns in public knowledge become clear. From my personal experience, I was surprised, intrigued, and frustrated by how difficult it actually is to write a Wikipedia article from scratch that met its stringent guidelines. I understand the need for moderation and appreciate it; the acceptance of Wikipedia from a questionable website to a relatively reliable starting place (if a not source in and of itself) is a marked evolution I’ve noticed over my academic life. However, the guidelines that lend Wikipedia its “credibility” are through its citation and reference process: if something hasn’t been written about or published, it cannot be credibly referenced, and therefore can’t exist, at least not on Wikipedia. This self-enforcing system reminds me somewhat of academic peer review and makes me suspicious of those entities which may not appear “legitimate” enough because they haven’t gained credibility through the Web, and who truly is given access to write or be written about.

Pub 802 Reflection

As I sit here at home, munching on an apple, reflecting on my experience in Pub 802, trying to boil an entire semester down into a couple of talking points, I realize how hard it is to put my take away into words. So I’m going to try to speak to it through what I liked and didn’t like about the structure of the class.

In regards to the structure, for the most part I thoroughly appreciated the unusual way of doing things. Student-led syllabus and discussions, readings and blog topics worked out to let us have more say in what we wanted to learn. It was a unique way to give us students more agency, and therefore feel more engaged, in the course content. What I found to be the best aspect of the course structure was the annotated readings. I do disagree with how it factored into marks–mainly that there is an arbitrary requirement to comment enough times to get a satisfactory for a week, which to me encourages superficial engagement with a topic but doesn’t actually represent the time or thought put into a reading–however I found it to be the most helpful portion of the course. I’m a slow thinker and generally spend a lot of time doing something that most people do at a fraction of my time, including putting my thoughts into words. The online annotations allowed me to participate in discussion around the readings in a capacity I cannot achieve in seminar discussions. It allowed me to read, reread, comment, reply, and think about what external source to bring into the conversation. It also played into the psychology of social media notifications through emails about replies, which made it kind of exciting to participate and leave a comment.

What I didn’t like, and mostly because I found it more difficult to engage with or care about, were the weekly blog posts. I’m the type of person to prefer few big projects over consistent small projects, as I have a binge-work ethic. The requirement to write a bunch of small blog posts meant I had to force myself to write for a topic I didn’t care about, which I never think is a good thing, or force myself to write short for a topic I had a lot to say about, which I also don’t agree with. Both result in me feeling like I just submitted a rushed work for the sake of submitting. Factor in the fluctuating workload of other courses throughout the term and the “consistent” workload of 802 became more and more of a burden. I would have much preferred a system of choosing fewer topics from all available and being able to write a more detailed blog post. While I understand that that would create an imbalance in the amount of blog posts each peer would be saddled with to give feedback on, I ultimately think that would be a more productive form of learning, at least for me. (What if students signed up for topics much like we signed up for weeks to lead the class, in order to balance the blog post to response ratio workload?) Even as I read the blog posts for my week that I need to give feedback on, a lot of them read like they are just going through the motions to answer the prompt. Perhaps that is also because it is the last week, too, but I also think it is because they are too short for students to go into enough depth, and the fact I’m reading through 10+ of these short bursts of thought, and it leaves me feeling like, as the feedbacker, I’m just saying the same things over and over again on each post. “Oh this is your opinion? Did you think about this part, though?”. In summation: I do not feel engaged or that my time is being used productively. (Note that this is what it feels like and is not a reflection of the actual quality of the blog posts).

I have spent most of my words on the structure and how it worked for me because I honestly do not think the content of this course changed my idea of the role of technology in our lives. That is not to say the class was not valuable, as it certainly deepened my understanding, but I have not come out of the class with a different approach to my future than before the class. No, I will not be taking away new information about the ways in which technology is changing our society and blurring the roles of the people within. My relationship with technology has not changed because of this course, my opinion on tracking has not changed. What I will be taking away are questions, thinking points about the implications of technology that will, in the future, continue to influence my changing understanding of the effect of technology on society. A couple years down the line I will look back and be like: “You know what? I wouldn’t have had this current perspective on technology without those thinking points given to me in that pub802 course so long ago….”

PUB802 – final essay

Coming into PUB802, I was worried that I would have to have programing knowledge of some kind. It’s not like I don’t think practical knowledge of programming or coding is important, but very often that gets prioritized over actual discussion about the role of technology and I am glad this course gives preference to theory over application. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed the required reading for any other course like I did for this one. I felt like each reading of each class opened my mind to something I either did not know before or knew about but had not thought about it in a certain way. For instance, I knew that people’s internet activity was tracked. That’s the reason I have Ghostery on my browser. But I did not know the details about how it works, what it tracks and what implications that has on my personal information. The extent to which data is tracked these days, especially in light of the Cambridge Analytica case, is truly astounding and I am glad I got to study this.

I also did not know much about AI, beyond that yes, it exists! And so, to learn about AI and its various offshoots like Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing, was extremely fascinating. Both tracking and AI have a huge role to play in the publishing industry. As someone who is about to enter the book industry, it was very useful to know the ways in which these technologies can impact and change the publishing landscape. I also really enjoyed annotating each article. I am glad that this was enforced. Sometimes just annotating an article required me to read more articles so that I could offer some meaningful food for thought, and there were times that this, no doubt, felt like a chore, but I am still glad this was enforced. It forced me to read carefully and not skim over the articles. It was also the first time ever that I was using Hypothes.is. It seemed intimidating to me at first. But I am amazed at how you can install it within minutes and start annotating. Like others, I have been tempted to annotate other articles I read on the web, just because Hypothes.is gives me the option to do so. I think the annotations played a huge part in creating a sense of community within our cohort. I liked reading what my class mates had written and responding to them. I also enjoyed the class discussions. Most of us – and I might be wrong here – don’t usually read the kind of articles that we did for this course. I had a lot of apprehension about writing an essay each week and compulsorily annotating 5-6 articles. The “contract” only heightened this apprehension. But the workload was doable because the articles were short and manageable reads. I thought the discussions in class were helpful and important. Writing the blog every week was tough at times, especially because some research was needed to be able to write a thought-provoking piece, but I think this was a worthwhile exercise. I had never written about technology before, so the blogs helped me expand my writing vocabulary.

PUB802 is a unique course in that it forces us as students to do nothing but immerse ourselves in thinking and philosophizing about technology. I feel like this is a luxury, one that when we start working, we will no longer have.

PUB802: Reflection

Overall I found this course very informative and educational. While I enjoyed the opportunity to lead the class, and thoroughly enjoyed the other teams’ class lead, I was disappointed that we had to come up with our own syllabus. I struggled to decide what should be removed, replaced, added, or shuffled to the already existing syllabus. The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” comes to mind, and in an institutional setting I usually come in expecting to be told what I don’t know, and for those gaps to be filled in. When there is so much wiggle room to learn anything we want, I am left wondering if there was something that got missed along the way.


I did appreciate the grade contracting. I feel that publicly committing to a grade early on served as a constant reminder to do the best that I could. Likewise, I enjoyed the peer review aspect of the blog posts. While writing an essay with an audience of one has its uses, having the class give feedback and judge each blog post likely changed my writing style as well as my perspective when writing the posts. I was grateful for the feedback that the class gave on mine and Anna’s class lead, and I was happy to be able to provide feedback for the other teams.


One of my favorite aspects of the course was the use of Hypothes.is. It generated fantastic discussion with the class, and actually made the readings more enjoyable. I looked forward to finding something to comment on, as well as finding ways that I could reply to my classmates’ comments in a constructive manner. It would have been nice to have an email notification from Hypothes.is of new comments or replies on the articles, but I understand that that is a work in progress. I will definitely keep the app installed, since I have already noticed some articles that have public comments and annotations, and I think it is interesting to see what the public has to say!


I would have liked to have a clearer understanding of what assignments and participation were worth, marks-wise. There was a clear distinction that points would be deducted for late blog posts/missed classes/etc, but it was unclear how much each aspect was worth in the first place. Likewise, I would have preferred if the public contribution to knowledge was a little more structured. I struggled to come up with a way in which I could “contribute to knowledge.” I was unsure what would count besides editing a Wikipedia article, as well as what subject matter I was able to talk about.


Overall I would say that I enjoyed the course, and it definitely broadened my curiosities! I feel I have a little bit more knowledge about copyright, I am glad I learned about Creative Commons, and I am excited to see where the world of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will take us!


PUB802 Reflections

I am so glad that PUB802 is a required course as part of the MPub. The course allowed myself to become better versed and informed about how the landscape of technology is affecting and influencing the business and meaning of publishing. I understand how important it is to take into consideration of how technology is impacting not only the publishing industry or moving forward in starting my career in publishing, but also its influence on every aspect of our personal lives and learning about how it already is and will impact society in the future.

There are times that the class only bred my cynicism with how bleak it could make publishing’s future, but many times that allowed me to see what opportunities and untapped potential there can be if publishing and technology interact more. I firmly believe now that “traditional publishing” needs adopt and use more practices with technology, data analysis, online business models and optimizing the digital reading experience so that they do not fall behind with the new types of business models and to enhance the publishing practice.

The learning experience for PUB802 was overall a solid experience. It was an interesting learning pedagogy and one that I believe works well for what the goals of this class are. I think this must be one of the most engaged I have been in with the class readings thanks to using Hypothe.is for annotations. Instead of the readings being done alone then having the discussions start off in class class, having the first run of discussions through Hypothe.is then being able to delve deeper into a discussion in class allowed for greater understanding of the topics and I believe I could retain much more information because of that.

Then writing the reading responses afterwards really helped to solidify what I could retain because it made me articulate what my opinion was before the class, during the class and after and how much it had changed from then. I am much more confident in myself that I can follow these types of conversations about evolutions in technology and its relation to publishing much better now. I would encourage to continue using online annotations and blog posts for the class.

While Hypothe.is was a great tool to use, I believe that the class could have benefited by having more readings from academic sources or open access journals. Many of the readings were blog posts or news articles which I think were of lesser quality and much more opinionated without much research to back it all up. It was also obvious that some articles were self-promotional pieces too.

The student-led discussions were a fun and engaging way to discuss each week’s topic. My only critique is that there were times that the discussions did seem to lag and I wish there was more mini-lectures or lessons from Professor Alperin. I would suggest that the format from the class could be two hours allotted to a student-lead discussion: one hour for discussion about the readings and one hour for an activity. Then the remaining class time could be used for a mini-lecture just to avoid any possible inaccuracies or bringing up any of the readings that were on the b-side that were not in the main readings, but still had valuable points and information. I think there is certainly much left to be desired there.

My biggest takeaway from the class was learning more about the potential and threats of Artificial Intelligence. It was great to see some of the myths debunked in that class that I think allowed everyone to become more aware of what changes it could bring in the near future. I think that it has the potential to take over many professional jobs and publishing is not an exception. That is what makes it so important for publishers to start seriously considering what they can do to adapt and change.

Set them free, the world is your limit!

This week questions are quite interesting, they took me back to square one: our firsts discussions during Pub800 class where we talked about the differences between texts and documents and how Publishing was the process to make these public, resulting also in counter-publics that detached and created further texts of their own.

As we have have learned, Publishing’s ultimate goal, in its aspect of creating, gathering or finding a public for a text, would be that such public shares, experiences and adapt the texts contained in the documents produced. Thus, once published, the text becomes part of the common knowledge domain and its nearly impossible to prevent audiences from interacting, shaping and even limit them to experience it the best way they can, because, in any case, its unimaginable to expect to provide a single experience out of it.

However, the document where such text (or texts) is contained, is usually protected by Copyright laws in order to ensure the author and publisher get proper compensation for their efforts producing it. And thus, is becoming subject of discussion about its integrity and the right of the audience to change it.

When an author wants to publish something, whether to reach a specific/limited audience or looking for more widespread recognition, he or she must be ready for such appropriation by the public, after all, that is the whole point about publishing. Yet, they have also the right (along with the editor and publisher if present) to shape the way it is told and presented,  so that way  reflects the intention and ideas contained withing it, we know this as the moral rights.

Now, considering these two factors, the document becoming public on one side and the author retaining moral rights on the other, seems pretty simple to draw a line where the audience can use and enjoy the text while authors and publishers can enjoy the right to decide upon the possible outcomes and follow up from there on.

Whether as marginalia or annotations, sharing or discussing in real public forums or digital media, or even expanding a text, the public is using their right to experience it, after all, it is what is expected. But the author, as the creator of an idea, and the publisher as the responsible to shaping it for the public, have the right to decide on the following step (if any) of its publishing history. Still, authors should not limit who can talk about them or how they do that, that is practically impossible, although they can give their opinion on the subject and use their moral authority on them.

So certainly, people can create fan fiction, music themes or other derivative works of The Expanse novel series for example, but that does not mean these will become part of the next novel or the “official universe”. They cannot be used to make profit as detachments but they can be shared and discussed of course. No matter how democratic we wish to be, the moral rights for those works simply belong to the Authors and they are the only ones allowed to decide on the next step of this story. The only exception to this rule that comes to my mind, would be an academic text, which contains some erroneous theories or conclusions that would be observed by the community and peer reviewed.

Furthermore, adding some of the topics also reviewed last week, let me bring the example of Role Playing Games to this picture. RPGs are quite fascinating. In their tabletop version, we suddenly have a whole world at our disposal to play in, and tell stories. Storylines and worlds are offered to the audience to freely play with them (literally) and thus, createtheir own versions of them.

Simply speaking, I can read a story written by some author, adapt it or even change it completely to tell a spin-off with my playing group. In practice, every playing session of a RPG will be different, even if the same group of people plays it a second time. This kind of narrative outcome clearly exemplifies these matters, people appropriating a text, using it, adapting it to their interests and then delivering a group experience. When I ran weekly campaigns for war games at our business in Mexico, the results of one week games shaped the way the following week’s story, and thus, the collective experience we had with one particular story-arc, was unique.

Is it possible we can figure out a similar way to use these annotated, non-linear narratives for the next story we plan to publish? Probably yes, and it would be interesting to see what kind of outcomes we get and how are they shared and evolved. We are not limited to fiction of course, think of a travel guide where people contributes their experiences using it, having a second, annotated edition. Or a cookbook where readers suggest substitute ingredients or cooking times based on their location via an app. Possibilities are unlimited and we just now have learned of the many technologies available to make them happen, be it as part of an application, podcast, blog. Anything is possible!

Declining to publish your opinion is not censoring you

Keeping in mind the readings on marginalia and annotations, and thinking more generally about the life of text online, should audiences be allowed to interact with and shape the text? Does a writer have the right to define who can comment? Should audiences be limited in their online socialization over a text?

In “Marginalia and Its Disruptions,” S. Brent Plate examines what it really means when readers write in the margins. He references an article by Laura Miller in which she writes, “Marginalia is a blow struck against the idea that reading is a one-way process, that readers simply open their minds and the great, unmediated thoughts of the author pour in.” Plate adds that marginalia “turn[s] readers into writers, and upset[s] the hierarchy of the author as authority.”

He also references Tim Parks who argues that “We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us.  . . . We overlook glaring incongruities. We are suckers for alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. We rejoice over stories, whether fiction or ‘documentary,’ whose outcomes are flagrantly manipulative, self-serving, or both. Usually both. If a piece of writing manifests the stigmata of literature—symbols, metaphors, unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, structural ambiguities—we afford it unlimited credit.” Parks concludes, “What surprised me most when I first began publishing fiction myself was how much at every level a novelist can get away with.”

These are some of the arguments in favour of encouraging and facilitating marginalia on digital works by enabling comments as well as annotation plug-ins like Hypothes.is. But not everyone agrees. Audrey Watters writes, “I took comments off my websites in 2013 because I was sick of having to wade through threats of sexualized violence in order to host conversations on my ideas.  . . . I’ve made this position fairly well known – if you have something to say in response, go ahead and write your own blog post on your own damn site.”

I find this position pretty unassailable. I don’t think writers have any obligation whatsoever to allow comments on their work. I think all writers deserve the right to decide, but it becomes clear in light of how women writers and other marginalized groups face harassment issues that can leak into offline threats and aggressions.

There is some anxiety that not allowing comments amounts to some kind of censorship. This is due to a misunderstanding of what censorship means. Being denied access to a specific platform to voice your views is nowhere near the same thing as being persecuted for voicing your views. Historica Canada defines censorship as “the exercise of prior governmental control over what can be printed, published, represented or broadcast.”

One might argue that even if it is not the legal definition of censorship, it’s still bad to ignore others’ viewpoints just because you disagree. But there are still plenty of other reasons not to force authors or publishers to allow comments or annotations on their work.

We can think of an analogy in print. How ridiculous would I sound if I insisted that the Vancouver Sun is censoring me by not publishing every letter I write in? The editors and publishers have a write to decide what is included in their publication. Comments and annotations are an act of publication, and it is no different when it is digital. The person who pays for the publication decides what gets in. As Watters writes, you can always write whatever you want about her work on your own damn blog. That’s what makes it not censorship. 

Forcing writers to allow comments directly on their work is not striking a blow in the name of free speech. Especially not in a context where hate speech and threats and trolls are par for the course. Hate speech is not a case of “disagreeing with someone’s opinion.” It’s part of a larger context in which certain groups suffer systematic oppression and violence. That’s why it’s not protected under free speech. Take a look at the comments sections under many news articles involving Indigenous people. You can see why many larger news outlets have disabled comments sections on some or all of their online articles. 

At the same time, you can always write a letter to the editor, publish your own free blog, start a social media account, make posters, write to other newspapers or blogs… This saves the author the work of having to read and mediate what could be a bunch of useless and/or hateful comments when all they ever signed up to do was write.

To sum up: Declining to publish something is not censorship; hate speech is not free speech; and we are not entitled to access to any platform we want for our opinion. I hope that we as future publishers can see that a writer has no obligation to allow comments or annotations on their work and that not allowing them  does not amount to censorship. Public discourse will benefit from leaving the choice up to the writer or publisher on their own platforms and giving writers the chance to opt in or out when they are published on other platforms.

If you love something, set it free

I am a supporter of marginalia. Written works do not exist in a vacuum: society will always surround anything that we write, and by publishing something once and expecting it to never change is a good way to ensure that it fades from people’s interests very quickly. Our thoughts are never the same one moment to the next, so why should we expect our written work to stay stagnant? School textbooks release new editions every year or every few years for this very reason; information is always changing, adapting, and updating, and there is no reason that we should have to keep learning old information. Being open to the idea of readers commenting on a written work is a great way to make sure the publication stays up to date with society, not to mention the benefits this has for archival purposes. Reading a manuscript from a hundred years ago is interesting to be sure, but consider how much more interesting it is if you understand the social field of the same time. By allowing our works to be commented on, we are allowing society to flood its pages, giving depth to the work as a whole.

Before the introduction of the printing press to Western Europe, the way people (I am thinking here especially of poets) spread their work was to read it aloud in front of an audience. For some, poetry was a performance art more than it was a written one. If a listener enjoyed the poem, he or she would write it down. Frequently, these copied-down poems would take on a life of their own, with frequent  mishearings, misspellings, and misinterpretations. The copier-downer was free to write down the poem as they liked and how they saw relevant. Furthermore, the poet him or herself would often adjust their poem to suit their audience or their feelings as the situation saw fit. Their poem was a fluid document. When the printing press and movable type was introduced to Europe, some poets were unhappy with the permanence this gave their poems and chose to reject its use. Some poets believed that publication would deemphasize a poem’s intimacy. The social aspects of poetry preserved a closeness with the reader or listener that was difficult to duplicate through print at the time.

I see current society’s interest in marginalia as a return to this era of “social publication.” “Meaning exists in the exchange, and contrary to modern print assumptions, not solely on the page” (Wollman, 91). By allowing readers to comment on and add their thoughts to a published work, it becomes richly socially-charged in a way that hasn’t really been the norm for centuries. Marginalia adds new life and personality to a text. A text should never be one thing and one thing only: there are so many benefits to opening up your work to the world to see what society has to add to it. As the old adage goes, if you love something, set it free!

Works Referenced:

Slizak, Annie. “The Importance of Print Culture in Seventeenth-Century Poetry.” April 8, 2014.

Wollman, Richard B. “The ‘Press and the Fire’: Print and Manuscript Culture in Donne’s Circle.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. Vol. 33, No. 1, The English Renaissance (Winter, 1993). (1993): 85-97. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Comments: On

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but seeing as this is the last response of the course, let’s have one more for good measure: in regards to the social life of online texts, writers, readers, and publishers all need to think forward about not only how text is currently received and interacted with online, but also about the possibilities for interacting with these interactions. Of course bracketing all of this is how these parties must deal with the challenges of fully public discourse in the face of hatespeech or trolls, the Internet’s native fauna.

In week 4 I talked about Marshall McLuhan’s prediction that the invention of the Web would cause a societal shift from a print/written culture to an electronic/oral one, and how this would signal a change in the public’s interaction with media and each other. I want to go a step further in thinking about texts. Within print culture, interactions with text were mediated through a culture of discourse where one publishes an idea and any responses to that text move lineally onward, either publicly in a similarly published form or lecture, or privately, in the form of marginalia or conversation. The scope of responses in this mode were greatly limited by both the classic “gatekeepers” standing at the doors of publishing and education. The electronic oral age brings a culture of participation, where the public may not only be content publishers but also content critics. Couple this with the looping, tangled, multi-dimensional way in which texts exist and interact on the Web. This is worrisome for those comfortable in the previous era, especially authors or content producers who fear negative– or just, opposing– conversation around their work. However, the advent of the Web and social accessibility means that social hierarchy has the opportunity to be levelled, and that all opinions can at least be publicized. Obviously, in today’s context, this is threatening to a neoliberal society of creators or intellectuals who have been trained to protect and capitalize their unique gifts of wordsmithing and critical framing. If any Average Joe can respond and even challenge a published text, modern civilization will surely descend into anarchy and chaos.

Which is why I say “Comment on!” Nothing grows or evolves without challenge. I might even add–cautiously– that the truly negative or insidious commenting that takes place is a necessary part of a democratic ecosystem. For a writer receiving trolling on their work, a new kind of critical eye must be honed. First, publishers and writers must learn to distinguish real criticism or opposing views worthy of discourse from comments that are not only inflammatory but more importantly, meaningless. Second, they must learn how to respond (to those where response might be productive) in a way that grows the work, or the public’s relationship to the work, in new or more nuanced directions. Dylan Marron’s podcast “Conversations with People who Hate Me” is one such example of how an author might learn from and interact with trolls in a productive, and I daresay transformative way. In each episode, Marron calls up people who had left hateful comments on his online work and engages them in an open conversation about their experiences. More often than not, the hatespeech the commenters espouse comes either from a place of ignorance or from their own seat of trauma and online conflict. When actually listened to and questioned, as Marron does, these commenters are able to see themselves critically and possibly the ways in which they would change in the future.