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 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 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 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.

Let the authors and publishers determine the terms

My answer to this week’s blog prompt is more complex and complicated than a yes or no. I do not think that my stance is firmly grounded on one side or another. For me, it depends largely on a case-by-case basis whether or not the writer has the define who can comment or not.

Most likely, it is inevitable that even if there is not a convenient means to comment, create annotations or marginalia notes that that shuts out all online socialization over a text. There will be another platform to discuss, comment or make notes about the work through forum communities and websites like Reddit. For example, if a Youtuber disables comments on their video then that community can easily jump to that YouTuber’s subreddit and create a discussion post about the video. While the writer or content-creator can discourage it, and make it harder for online socialization to occur, I can only imagine that it is nearly impossible to completely shut it all out.

Then again, Audrey Watters brings up a great point in her blog post Un-Annotated where she says: “This isn’t simply about trolls and bigots threatening me (although yes, that is a huge part of it); it’s also about extracting value from my work and shifting it to another company which then gets to control (and even monetize) the conversation.” This brings up the messy ground where the authors also have the right to protect themselves from those trolls and bigots. Especially women on the internet who face a higher level of these types of attacks and threats all the time.

However, in some other cases where the writer writes a controversial or ignorant piece and disables comments to keep their echo chamber up then that is where I would take issue. If there is no constructive criticism, peer review or annotations then that can also be very problematic.

Although it is not a specific written piece, the arguments on both sides reminds me of the case where Discord, a private instant messaging app, began to shut down neo-Nazi, alt-right and other various hate-speech servers. It is important that it is also the publishers or server’s responsibility to shut down these types of toxic and hateful content. Websites like Blogger, Livejournal, WordPress, Medium and even YouTube (for the case of digital content publishers) should also have the right to shut down online socialization just as much as the author.

It is all hard to say. But ultimately, text that has a vibrant commenting section is a clear indicator of how much buzz it is generating and allows the writer to connect with their audience. Disabling the comments would mean to sacrifice all of that. On the other hand, the author may want to protect themselves for good reason and to keep their content securely within their copyright and no outside influence. It all really all depends on what your goals, why you decided to write the piece or create the content you did and what message you want to perpetrate.


Digital-first publishing

What I had thought prior to MPub was that digital content for publishers was mainly to supplement the content. It is fascinating to see some publishers move to a digital content-centric publishing and marketing strategies. I recognize that this may be a rise in digital content publishing in the next several years.

I think of it this way: because word of mouth sharing and recommendations is still the biggest way people discovery the books they read or buy according to BookNet Canada’s report on the English market in Canada. But the way we communicate those word of mouth recommendations is increasingly online through social media and instant messaging. Now if we come across anything we like online and think a friend or family member would like it, you can so easily and instantly link it to them through dark social.

In Harlequin’s video-centric marketing strategy, they share that 90% of consumers say video helps them make buying decisions. If such a large percentage of your readership is trusting digital content like for Harlequin, then it would not be so much of a stretch to see them also create a digital only imprint like Penguin Random House’s Penguin Petit. In these cases, this content needs to be good enough in its form to stand on its own and not seem like it is supplemental content. For new and growing publishers, it is this point that I think is most important for them in introducing digital content to their business plan. It must be digital-content first publishing or else it may just seem like it is adding to the noise.

While it is convenient to have your favourite book accessible to you in any format you please: print, ebook, audiobook, etc. Digital-first publishing would need to exist first, only available as a digital format (at least, at first) and optimized for that format. As I have introduced and discussed in class before, Webtoons (webcomics with a vertical layout) would be one case that does this extremely well. Essentially webtoons have transformed and innovated the art of comic storytelling in a way that only works to be read digitally with the infinite scroll-type experience. Webtoons simply would not be the same experience if it was printed as a book, and arguably its purpose is completely defeated if it was to be printed.

For new and growing publishers to include digital content I would recommend if they want to publish digital content, it must be solely on a new imprint. First they would need to recognize that there is a potential audience for their imprint too. The new imprint would help to differentiate from their main publications and so that it does not seem like it is supplemental material. It must be digital-first publication with print, ebook and audio formats being the one that supplements the content down the line (or maybe it would not work out at all, like with webtoons as I’ve said). After the imprint is established, publishers can play with how the content release is being staggered or episodic to retain audience engagement because of the evidence people don’t read until the end and getting to the level of deep reading for online content is a challenge. Overall, publishers would need to strongly consider how the user experience of digital content software to overcome these challenges needs to be optimized for it to work.


Changing our online habits: a start

In considering the Cambridge Analytica breach of Facebook’s data, digital tracking and online privacy has been brought to the top of the public’s concern. I am relieved that this is not news that mainstream news sources is ignoring and is being properly covered across the board. Since the news came out, it has been a very eye-opening revelation that the “Big Brother” dystopian landscape has already happened and is our reality. What can we do before it is too late?

While deleting Facebook may seem like the easiest solution, I do not think there are any simple steps that I could suggest changing our behaviour about digital tracking. Also, not everyone has the luxury of deleting their Facebook profiles and still retain the same amount of follower reach or brand awareness for their businesses. High-profile companies like Tesla, SpaceX, all associated with Elon Musk have made the choice to delete all of their Facebook pages. These companies are popular enough that they do not need to depend on Facebook anymore. There is also the #deletefacebook movement occurring too. However, the solution is not as simple as deleting Facebook but rather making meaningful changes to your online habits and the traces you leave behind.

Everyone has their own relationship with technology and social media, and the levels at which they depend and use it. While one person may jokingly (but with a grain of truth) say they cannot live without their smartphone in their hand, there are some people who still completely embrace the analog and all the levels in-between. Where you fall on that scale depends on the person. That is why it is so crazy to believe how much of an influence of the curation of online advertisements and articles by Cambridge Analytica had a role in the U.S. election.

To understand Cambridge Analytica’s strategy, they used psychographic information. Psychographics is not a term that is unfamiliar to our classes either. Cambridge Analytica optimized their data analysis process to micro-target specific groups of people based on their personalities. Similarly, for publishers this data would be immensely valuable to their marketing strategy too, just applied in a different context. We have already tried to narrow down exactly where our audience lies with resources like Vividata for our media projects.

It is almost like this double-identity/awkward place to be in as both a stakeholder in these data companies optimizing their analytics for publishers, and also treading the lines of being the potential target for other brands and know exactly what is happening to you but “don’t mind.” When Cambridge Analytica spreads fake news, and “alternative facts”, I think here is where it is important to balance which courses are credible or not, doing a careful reading, and to triangulate the information from what the source is telling you. Then, it is also about being a skeptical reader and having the self-control to pause for a moment and think before spreading an article. At the other end, checking the credibility of the source, who the author is, the publisher will help too. For publishers, I believe this is where it is important to build a genuine relationship between readers, the authors, and the publisher itself so that readers know that what they are reading is from not only from a credible source, but wants to inspire a genuine connection with its audience. I think that leveraging social media as a platform for that interaction is a way that can be done. Overall, these are just a few of my suggestions!


Utilizing metadata

Readers’ impressions for primarily visual based publications would be data that would be of interest to collect for me. Gathering this data from online communities, Twitter, Tumblr, and forums would be key places to capture that data. I think any type of issue-based visual publication like magazines or comic books especially lend well to a wealth of potential metadata because these types of publications inherently create an active community. These communities constantly have new material to discuss and analyze because new content is refreshed with each new issue or volume.

Publishers utilizing technologies like OptiQly could optimize using information collected from the web to improve marketing efficiency and sales on online stores like Amazon. Furthermore, metadata can derive from folksonomy and tags from websites like Goodreads or Wikia, an online wiki website for more in-depth information for characters or chapters that may not be notable enough to constitute a page on Wikipedia itself. OptiQly would be an important tool to figure out how to position the book, then marketing strategies could be derived off of the easiest ways for discoverability online. For example, building lists of suggestions for stories like “strong female lead with large weapon.”

To go beyond only online communities or social media, these impressions could even be collected from e-readers because these devices have the built-in potential to track and monitor a readers’ habits. These devices could create more metadata on accurate timings for the speed of the read, and how much time an individual spend reading it. This type of metadata is especially valuable for magazines publishers to know because their issues are more often thrown away in comparison to books, or that not every article is read. Magazine publishers could use that data to rearrange their layout in a way that improve reader engagement. Or perhaps readers may be looking for quick reads and want that type of information arranged.

Metadata would also be valuable to inform an understanding around where areas of visual flow, striking visual imagery, layouts, spreads, arrangement of the composition, and visual confusion, etc. could be improved to enhance the readers’ experience. Being able to track these bits mini-reviews and impressions about the visual information itself would be useful for editors and publishers. It can be used to guide artists and designers on where improvements could be made for future issues such as for magazines design, or the flow of comic book panelling, or any sort of visual storytelling. For example, it would be useful to recognize where readers find a lag in the pacing of the storytelling. Publishers could find with the metadata where a chapter, issue or volume was not as well-received, then made editorial decisions based on that feedback. There may be areas where the designers had intended their design to work a certain way, but when in practice it was unsuccessful.

Overall, readers’ impressions can be utilized to benefit both the readers and publishers. Publishers can used metadata as a type of feedback for their work, and take that into consideration. And readers can find more information based on their tracked data of their reading habits from e-readers.

Natural language translation’s possibilities

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being integrated into the publishing process. One of the earliest, and probably most obvious, ways is through marketing personalized advertisements to consumers online taken from data of our search histories, likes, and social media posts. There are numerous ways that AI will inevitably become more and more prevalent for publishers to utilize.

AI and publishing can work together through the development of natural language translation. As translation technology improves and becomes more seamless, it opens the potential to more content for publishers to publish. As highlighted by Rave Technologies’ post about Artificial Intelligence and its Use Cases in Publishing, the article outlines many positive ways that AI can solve publishers’ current challenges, or innovate new products. I imagine one way is the instantaneous translation of communication between businesses, and business-to-consumers.

Rave Technologies highlights that AI could be used to assist publishers through personalized customer service. Where natural language processing could fit in is that in the future, it may be able to read through countless books, in every language, instantaneously. Then, generate a custom list of recommendations. Readers would no longer be limited to only books that are published in their fluent languages.

Overall, what I imagine the future to look with natural language AI being perfected is one where language barriers are completely broken down. Authors’ writings are instantly translated in every language desired, and there is no more need to purchase the language specific rights of a book from one publisher.

Authors have now gained a wider audience—the entire world. This has me thinking about my research paper for PUB801, where the rare object I chose was an alternative comic anthology, Raw magazine. One reason why Raw was such a significant work in comic history is that it published European and Japanese comic artists for the first time for Western audiences. Raw was attributed for kickstarting many of these authors’ careers in America, who were all well-deserving of reaching larger audiences. Instead of having to wait for a publisher to find these authors, then go through the long language-rights process, and acquisitions process from publisher-to-publisher, this timely process would be eliminated with the help of natural language translation.

I may be biased because I do strongly wish that this could come sooner than later. Having to wait for a translation to come out, when you know that what you want to read is already out in its publication language, is such a grueling wait! You feel behind, and there is the risk of being spoiled. This problem exists across many industries, not just publishing too. For example, having to wait for a foreign movie to finally get subtitle translated, or a video game (which is arguably even worse because those also need to be translated with voice-acting, usually). Thoughts like, “I want to read that new Haruki Murakami book…now!” And not have to wait two years for the translation. I think if I sat down for perhaps 3 hours every day for two years studying the language of the book I wanted to read, I could probably learn that language in good enough form to read it before the official translation is released.

I recognize that there are potential ethical and moral issues or implications that such an instantaneous system would present. What if the author does not want their book released in every language? What if the natural language translation lessens the need to learn other languages? Or what if it perpetuates the growth of the number of languages dying off each year because of rapid economic growth in this area? What if it stunts linguistic evolution, or neutralizes what makes the languages unique? To publish books with natural language translation AI may take out the human aspect of the translation process that some may appreciate as a form of art in itself too. There are many possible consequences, and questions that challenge how applicable or unrealistic it may be on such a mass-scale that I present it as. However, I think the pros outweigh the cons. It is impossible to predict the future, but here is my outlook.

A greater opportunities for publishers

In response to modern business models, where publishing platforms are becoming more accessible to anyone who wishes to find an audience, I would argue that this phenomenon is to the publisher’s advantage. Publishers have a new incentive and responsibility to become more inclusive and diverse, or else they are not evolving. It should be regarded as an exciting time in publishing instead of it being a threat, where lower barriers to access creates greater opportunities to in finding creators who are deserving of wider audiences and recognition.

This question reminds me of the discussions during the Emerging Leaders week about publishers being space makers as opposed to gatekeepers. As future publishers, if your objective is to be become one of these gatekeepers then your response to this question is probably that you see internet business models as a threat. But, I personally am on the other side of that stance. Internet business models, like ones where creators can grow their own audiences, manage and publish their content (the so called, “Uber of Publishing”), is making publishers look more valuable and distinguished too. Getting officially published will always be a way for creators to have that guarantee of quality embedded into their work that I think is especially important in such an oversaturated market where anyone can self-publish.

The greatest potential out of self-publishing and modern business models I would argue is being able to better gauge what audiences care about, or even providing them with a product that they didn’t even know they wanted (which reminds me of the guest lecture about user experience that we had last Thursday). As audiences are getting increasingly tired of mainstream media telling the same stories, the same perspectives this is a gap that publishers can try to fill.

Recently, there have been many call outs of media or entertainment industries being “too white” (like the Oscars)  or too male-dominated, even “too straight.” Increasingly, there is a sense of a desire for more representation in media. The media industry cannot expect to just keep doing the same thing to stay competitive, especially when there are lower barriers to entry where creators can self-publish, and generate an audience doing their own unique thing. Does that mean publishers should go after creators who have x-number of Instagram followers or Patreon patrons? They could, but that is also not what I am trying to say either. But more so that it is time for publishers to push the boundaries, and to develop a curiosity for publishing a more diverse range of stories. Why? Because representation matters, inclusivity matters. And the success of independent creators shows that this is something that people want and care about. Instead of neutralizing what sets other cultures, publishers can push for stories that feature more diverse representations.

What is great is that we are seeing publishing companies take these cues into consideration, and are changing their mandates and value propositions. Penguin Random House, one of the big five publishers as we all know, is showing promising signs of change. Publishers are already beginning to adapt during this rise of self-publishing and changing business models. It would only begin to worry me if there is not any evidence that they are.

Why not brick and mortar?

It is too simple to label whether brick and mortar stores as either an evolution or devolution, as only one or the other. There are many complexities and reasons to why brick and mortar stores are still not dead, and why internet business models like Amazon chose to open a brick and mortar store.

The way I see it is that: some businesses choose to be strictly online, or are traditional brick and mortar stores, or both. And honestly, why not just have all three options available to the business? I do not believe that it is only a matter of being either an evolution or devolution for a business to try to tread into each market. Each option represents new opportunities like a new market, new concepts, potential partnerships, and greater visibility.

I would like to bring attention to an example that is not so focused on mature or large businesses, but rather on startup companies. Many independent fashion companies from Los Angeles, California began online, one case being Valfre. Valfre’s store is primarily online and marketed through social media. Social media was one of the catalysts in driving customers and interest to the brand.  And while brands like Valfre had been doing extremely well through online orders, they grew large enough to gain partnerships with stores like Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom where customers can now purchase the Valfre’s clothing in person.

And like many fashion brands, (I have seen many occupy empty storefronts in Vancouver too) Valfre has had pop-up shops around the U.S.  I think a case like this brings to light the double standard that online stores moving into brick and mortar may be assumed to be a devolution. However, I do not think that anyone would see it as one in this case. To get the opportunity to open a storefront for an independent fashion brand would be considered a major success. It would allow their business to grow beyond online, and into malls where they can have stores alongside other established fashion companies across the country. Why not take every opportunity to grow your business and brand that you can? And even if the reception to a store is not as successful as the business wants it to be, it can still fall back on its online store.

The decline of brick and mortar has been attributed to what is called “The Amazon Effect,” where the digital marketplace has changed what customers expect during their buying journey. They now expect the experience to be “entirely frictionless and immediate, regardless of the particular industry or product in question.” I see the future of internet business models and brick and mortar stores being as an opportunity for each model to borrow what works from one another. And one way that online stores have already done so is by opening brick and mortar stores, like Nordstrom Local or Ikea pick-up centers where customers can pick up online orders and returns.

The same article linked previously also provides two other ways to alleviate “The Amazon Effect” by using brick and mortar stores to track customer behaviour and leveraging mobile technology in store. The value of of brick and mortar stores is not something that should be seen as “coming back” but has been there all along. And now, perhaps there are new ways to use that traditional method to collect consumer data in ways that an online store would.

The first of GAFA to take a hit

If I were to envision a future in which of the “big four” were to decline, my instinctive choice would be Apple. That is not to say that I think it is possible for any of the four to fail completely or go bankrupt, but moreso speaking of their prominence. It is Apple’s influence that I predict will decline from its current dominance, similarly to how Microsoft and Blackberry’s brand presence has lost its visibility and popularity.

At the end of December 2017, it was confirmed that Apple purposefully slows down its older models of iPhones.  Apple’s purpose for slowing down iPhones was because the batteries of older devices simply could not keep up with the updates to the latest operating system (iOS). To summarize, what Apple essentially did was slow down the phone to extend the phone’s useful lifespan. If they did not do so, the older models would not run out of battery much quicker. What was once just speculation, is now official.

But what Apple did wrong was make the mistake of not being open and honest about their policy. This news sparked disappointment, outrage, and distrust from Apple’s customers. It became a collective wakeup call for Apple’s extremely loyal fanbase since there is nothing they can say to defend Apple in this case. Apple essentially made their customers out to be the fools the whole time, making them think that it was not the battery that had to be replaced but the entire device. Ultimately, Apple consciously made this decision to drive the sales of its latest models, and deceived their customers to thinking they need to upgrade their device.

However, it is not only customer loyalty backlash that Apple faces. Apple is now faced with over 26 lawsuits over slowing down their older models.  One of the most notable is from France, where a criminal lawsuit is filed against Apple. France being a country where planned obsolescence is against French law. These lawsuits negatively affect or disrupt Apple’s business operations because of the potential compensatory damages or class action lawsuits that could set Apple on the decline. I recognize that all the bad press that Apple is garnering is also going influence consumers to sway away from Apple, and no longer making Apple their go-to brand for the latest in hardware.

Update #1: I do recognize that Apple has very deep pockets, with over $250 billion in foreign banks, I want to reiterate that I do not think that Apple will fail solely because of  the  several worldwide class-action lawsuits against them. I also do not think that it’s so easy to say that only because of how wealthy a company is, that they are outside of litigation being a threat to their company.

Overall, it is the larger implication that Apple misled their customers about their iPhones. Therefore, causing customer backlash and disbelief in their product. Already, there is news reporting that Apple’s efforts to gain back their customer loyalty by slashing the price of replacement batteries is also garnering backlash. Additionally, the iPhone generates almost 70% of its revenue in comparison to all of their other products, so I also recognize that this is a signal of Apple’s potential decline from their prominence in comparison to other GAFA companies who do not have such backlash against them. Apple’s stocks are reported to have declined 6% in two weeks, and iPhones reportedly may have lost $10.29 billion in revenue.

Apple has made a huge mistake, with potential major consequences. It is the first major backlash out of the “big four,” that those other companies can learn from so they do not make the same mistakes as Apple. Out of this is where I see consumer choices and the underlying conditions starting to change. Apple will lose its loyal consumers, and those consumers consider other options. Especially now that their newer models have a high price tag (iPhone 8 starting at at $929 USD, and iPhone X starting at $1319), it’s becoming less affordable to stay with the iPhone smartphones.

Edited: Paragraph moved

Blackberry was once considered one of the top smartphone brands in the world, but fell due to it’s the consistent service outage problems for BlackBerry Messenger and not being able to stay competitive in the market. Similarly, I think that Apple’s current problems parallel Blackberry’s decline: customer dissatisfaction, and a gradual decline in their sales is a hit that Apple may not be able to recover from to stay on top.

Apple’s old models will keep being slowed down too, making their “backlist” of models obsolete. Competitors like Xiaomi, OnePlus Huawei are fast growing smartphone brands, and more affordable than iPhones. Overall, what I predict coming out of this are consumers making better, smarter, and more informed choices when purchasing their next upgrade and diverging away from Apple and starting to consider other brands.

Update #2: I have asked many solely Apple users, who swear by their products (their choice of laptop is a Macbook, smartphone is the iPhone, etc.), and their easy answer is that each product is compatible with one another and conveniently synced across all devices. I am not going to attempt to argue against this point, as it is surely a mark of Apple’s success that I will not devalue for their customers. However, I also think that there are many ways which Apple limits or holds back their technological features with each product in such ways that it does not make sense to buy an overpriced Apple product when another comparable device is cheaper, and has the same specifications or better.  For example, iMac desktops, and Macbooks still do not have touchscreens when all other laptop brands have had it as a feature for years now. (Just looking at a Best Buy flyer will tell me this.) They have the iPad which is touchscreen, so they have the touch-screen technology but still choose not to move that to their desktop and laptop product. Apple products are also regarded as an industry norm for professional artists. If Apple were to release an iMac with touch screen features, similar to the Microsoft Surface Studio released a couple years ago, it would have the potential to breathe new life into their products. But, still they choose not to. To align myself with the argument I in my last paragraph, out of the companies of GAFA, Apple’s customers will start to realize other brands as an option. 




Thinking about Progress

The description that Gopnik provides in his article that “Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment,” regarding the three types of books about the Internet. Initially his description of Ever-Wasers stood out to me as the one that made the most sense out of the three. The Never-Better and Better-Never opinions were both too narrowminded. However, as Gopnik went on to add his commentary about the current digital landscape about “the age of the inverted self,” and “social networks” is where he loses me.

During one of my undergraduate history courses, we learned the philosophy of looking at history as progress. Historian E.H. Carr defines: “history in its essence is change, movement or progress.” If you believe history as progress, then the Ever-Waser description shares elements of that idea. That there is something coming along that can be distinguishable as significant regarding “the new way”, and the relationship between facts and values that reflects our view of society regarding that it can then be “thrilling to some and chilling to others.”

However, the Ever-Wasers description fails to encompass that there is progress going on. Rather, Gopnik points to “something like this” as a moment in modernity that is the sum of it all. The advancements of information technologies, the internet, machines, etc. can also viewed as progress, and not suspended in a single place and time. To answer, in the end I do not define or want to prescribe myself to any of the three classes that Gopnik describes. Instead, I would rather have my classmates consider the question: what progress means to you, and what is your definition of it? As for me, I think that history can be regarded as records of progress because the idea that things are getting better is what I believe is uncontested.

As a society, we are evidently living in the best era. No longer is life expectancy at the low age of 35, or that there is still a prominence of women dying during childbirth. The list of improvements humanity has made to sustain its life is all around us. I argue that Gopnik leans too heavily on seeing the Internet as harmful or an unprogressive force. While the internet does have the potential, and creates outlets for malice, like from some examples of internet commenting, it also provides greater opportunities to connect and engage with others in a positive way. I do not believe that how societies across the world being more connected is something not to be grateful for. I also want to add that progress in history is not continuous without its regressions or deviation, nor is there a finite goal of progress to not align this to the Better-Never category. But more to the idea that: if we are coming from somewhere, we are going somewhere as well.