What was, what is, and what could be

I learned a lot from Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing. Following the course, I came away with a sense of empowerment. I became more aware of the spaces I occupy online, how I engage with them, and how those spaces are surveyed. No longer do I take for granted things being the way they are now. This course reminded me to look outside of how the internet is now to imagine a new future, and to remember that the internet of yesterday was a different beast altogether. In some ways, it made me anxious to realize how dependent we are on Big Tech, how we have let them herd us onto their patch of land while they survey us and eliminate every competition that arises. The monopoly that big platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (and even service app Uber) have enable them to exploit users because they know there are not any true viable alternatives yet. In this course, I have contemplated my own complicitness in this system and how I have become more aware of the freedoms I sacrifice in return for the convenience of being a “sheep.”

This is not to say that this class made me technophobic. Instead, it has made me more critical of technology. It is in part our readings in Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing that inspired the editorial behind our podcast project for our media class. The question of how we can exist in a highly digital society without becoming complacent was one that weighed heavily on my mind throughout the semester. I also wondered how, as publishers, we can better utilize the technologies available to us. As book publishers, much of our publicity and marketing is tied to Facebook, Twitter, and Google algorithms.

How can book publishers gain more agency and independence in the marketing process of publishing? Already, book publishing marketing has had to transform itself and adapt as a result of commercial journalism dying a steady death, but how will publishers adapt to the unpredictable changes that platform publishers or the internet as a whole bring that could disrupt the current model for advertising and marketing. I also wonder how publishers can better employ research data and metadata to maximize both sales and discoverability. Regardless of the nostalgia that people may have for the book as a cultural object, I think that unless publishers learn how best to employ the research and technology that is out there, book sales will continue to be in crisis.

Another takeaway I had was that policy and the laws surrounding copyright in digital spaces are incredibly important. While it is easy to stay ignorant about these matters, this course has inspired me to follow EU’s new copyright policy (or what many are calling the meme ban). Policy is now something that I understand on a greater level, and I think the government should be more to place restrictions on platforms and media conglomerates from holding incontestable monopolies.  It was a very intellectually stimulating class and I enjoyed hearing my classmates’ feedback and being challenged by them to dig even deeper. I do, however, think that the weekly reflections felt taxing. Although the word count was small, I could feel myself losing steam as the semester went on.

I do still think the reflections are a worthwhile exercise, but I wonder if it would be possible for you to ask students to write them a lesser frequency, such as once every two weeks. I also feel that the expectations for the weekly blogs could have been better established at the start. Overall, I enjoyed this course. It opened my eyes to some horrific, data-surveying-type truths, but it also expanded my understanding of what the internet has been, is now, and could be in the future.

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