What do we talk about when we talk about digital reading?

We have been comparing digital reading to reading in print for a very long time. However, in many discussions, I noticed that people did not tend to differentiate what kind of digital reading was being compared. Digital reading has become an umbrella term that could refer to online reading, reading with ebooks or even listening to audiobooks. I believe it is time to look closer at digital reading and differentiate one type of digital reading from another.


1. Online reading: reading on websites with either computers, laptops, tablets or mobile phones

Personally, I read on websites only for news or articles. I have never finished an entire book with my web browser although I know some people may have done that. For example, I was quite shocked when I found my roommate could finish a very long novel that was published on a fanfiction website.

For me, I found it was very difficult to stay focused when I read on websites. I tend to skim read a lot and become very easy to be distracted by anything going on the websites. Sometimes it could a pop-up ad, sometimes it could be the hyperlinks embedded in the article, sometimes I just automatically start to check my Facebook without even being aware of it. For this reason, I really want to name this type of reading “the open reading” because my mind is still open to all sorts of notifications and distractions in this reading environment.

I am not the only one. A survey found that, on Slate, a daily magazine on the web publishing about politics, business, technology, and culture, most readers scroll to about 50 percent of the article (shown by the graph below).  Well, I did have to admit, I was also one of them.


Cognitive neuroscientists had worried that our online reading habit may have negatively influenced our ability to read in print. That is, when we read in print, we would be less able to process long and complex sentences because we had become so used to read shorter sentences online.

This alerted scientists but some of them believed that there are advantages to both ways of reading and there is potential for a bi-literate brain as long as educators start to train students to read both on screen and in print properly.

I agreed and I think deep reading on screen may be achieved by extra tools such as Hypothes.is. It helped me to slow down and to go back and forth between the paragraphs to figure out the logic connections. Also, with Hypothesis turning on, I would feel like I’m seriously learning so I would consciously control my self from checking Facebook.

Overall, for the purpose of learning, I will rate reading on websites 3 out of 5 but I believe that it could be improved to 4 with training and extra tools.


2. Reading with an ebook reader or a specific app designed for reading

Another popular digital reading is to read with an ebook reader or with a specific app on your phone (such as the Kindle app). Personally, I often use ebook readers or an app to read an entire book. In my opinion, reading with a specific app is similar to reading with an ebook reader. They both require you to take an extra step (to buy an ebook reader or to download an app) to read! Because of this extra step, I will be more serious when I read with an ebook reader or an app.

Most ebook readers had been trying to resemble print books with its display and page-turning function. Comparing to reading on websites, there are generally fewer ads going on but if you are reading with a phone, you are still very likely to be distracted by notifications.

Another feature I like about reading this way is that I can highlight sentences I think are interesting and I will be able to go back to these notes later.

Overall, I would like to rate this type of digital reading 4 out of 5 for its convenience and its capability to hold numerous books at the same time. Despite that, I am still not a keen ebook reader because I had spent way too much time on the screen every day for my school work (and sometimes for Netflix), I am eager to do something without looking at the screen when I want to relax. Therefore, I’m going to tell you about my new hobby–listening to an audiobook!


3. “Reading” audiobooks

Thanks to Moorea and Avvai who highly recommended me to “read” audiobooks, I now had finished 4 audiobooks! They are mostly fictions and mostly fun read for entertainment.

Audiobooks are the best when you want to multitask. Usually, I will listen to an audiobook when I was commuting, doing chores or sometimes designing for Mauve’s class (don’t tell her!). That is, when I do anything that is not text-related, I would be able to listen to an audiobook at the same time.

After listening to several audiobooks, I realized that it could be a good way for ESL students to learn English. For me, I always found it really hard to learn about all of the slangs and informal way to speak because when we learn English in school, it is always based on textbooks with an academic objective (TOFEL, IELTS, SAT, etc). Those exams will never teach you how to talk casually when you just want to chat with your coworkers or friends.

In the past, I tried to watch a lot of TV shows to learn about the slangs but it was exhausting to my eyes. However, with audiobooks, it would be much more comfortable. I think anyone who wants to learn another language should try to listen to the audiobooks in that language.

However, for me, listening to an audiobook is not the best way for deep thinking. For example, if it is for Hannah’s history class, I would definitely not listen to the textbook. For that scenario, I would prefer a print book.

Overall, I would rate audiobook 4.5 out of 5. This is my favourite way of digital reading so far.


In conclusion, I think they are all reading. I would choose the way for reading according to the circumstances or my purpose. If I am jogging, audiobook! If I want to learn about the update on technology-related news, read something online with Medium! If I need to prepare for a test, probably a print book for me. There is definitely no “pure” form of reading. Let’s just READ!

Works cited

Rosenwald, Michael. 2014, April 6. Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say. Washington Post.

Manjoo. Farhad. 2013, June 6. You Won’t Finish This Article: Why people online don’t read to the end. Slate.

 

Innovation not Limitation

In Hannah McGregor’s history of publishing class, we often talked about how new technology doesn’t “kill” old technology, that they can in fact live alongside one another. Spotify exists, so do record players, both are forms of listening to music, both offer different experiences and both are great. There’s this fear with digital reading that the print book will become obsolete, a fear that it will disappear. On top of that there’s this added fear of the new technology. It’s a habit we humans have. When Gutenberg’s print book was “invented” they called it witchcraft and lamented for the handwritten books of the scribes. When the handwritten book was “invented” they mourned the loss of the scroll. When people started writing stories down Socrates said it would melt our brains and we’d never be able to remember anything anymore… that oral storytelling was the way to go. My point is, “reading” (storytelling) is an ever changing form, that all forms past and present count, and no form is more “pure” than the rest. I also argue it’s more important to look at it as storytelling instead of reading and that it’s our thirst for an entertaining narrative that spurs innovation.

When reading online I tend to have a difficult time settling into a longer reading, and am instead used to skimming for pertinent information. Even when I’m interested in what I’m reading, I find myself wanting to skip forward and get to the point. It’s only when I force myself to slow down and focus (hypothes.is helps accomplish this) that I can connect with the longer form of online reading. Then again, it honestly hurts my eyes if I stare at a screen for too long (Digital Eye Strain). This is more about personal preference than anything, and I prefer print if I’m doing long form reading.

Of course, online reading is good for quickly disseminating information. While there has been a rash of fake news, there’s also credible sources (NY Times, Kottke, Shatzkin etc.) out there that are able to produce reliable articles. Plus, even the longer articles are pretty short in the grand scheme of things. There’s also the ability to update information if someone is able to disprove a “fact”, or there’s at least the ability to have a conversation around it (in the comments). Aside from the standard Medium sized article (pun intended), there are micro stories (tweets and tweet threads) or lengthy, novel sized stories (fanfiction). Both have their own tone, and allow for different levels of detail and expression.

Technology doesn’t limit the stories we can tell, it allows us to be even more innovative than before. From Twinscapes to Twitter, humans enjoy sharing narratives and are hungry for them in any form they present themselves. Some forms work better for some people than others for a variety of reasons. Audio books (oral narrative) work better for people who want to multi-task or enjoy the “company” of someone telling them a story. I prefer print books because they don’t strain my eyes and force me to focus more on the narrative. Other people prefer ebooks because they’re cheap and easy. Here’s the best part, you aren’t limited to one form or the other, you can enjoy all forms of narrative as many people do.

You can have whatever you like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Codices have been around for more than 500 years, they have evolved over the years to now become e-books. E-books have evolved to have many different formats for different devices (e.g. Kindle, nooks, etc). Their portability and accessibility were taken many steps further and now we have audiobooks.

Every single person has their own way to learn and reacts differently to new information. I don’t think audiobooks are a form of reading, rather they are an experiential medium for users with different capabilities. for people who prefer to listen rather than (physically) engage completely.

I think it’s a matter of investment: sometimes you want to be 100% focused on a medium: with your eyes, body, and hands e.g. with a book. Sometimes you just want to listen while doing something else e.g. audiobook, podcast, radio. Avvai, my class fellow, likes to listen to audiobooks while following along with the physical book in front of her. It’s not right or wrong, it’s her preferred way of experiencing a narrative.

All the different mediums/platforms to read out there, have an audience: which makes me believe they are wanted by someone. There is a gap in the market which these services fulfilled e.g. nook, kindle, audible, apple books, etc. They all get traffic: in this world, if they are up and running it means they are useful for someone somewhere. As a designer, I know that no one design/system can fully satisfy everyone; even if said system is very sophisticated.

When I was young, graphics novels and comic books were frowned upon by my parents as they were not considered reading. Consequently, I was never allowed to buy a comic book. Instead, I would sneak Archie comics from my friends or read them in book shops, hidden from parental eyes. Now, I am firm that reading in its traditional form is not the best medium for every single person. Many people respond to graphic medium much more than they do to traditional codices. A nice way to tell learners apart is when given a new appliance to install, do they read the instruction manual or do they put on a youtube video.

I do not think any one form is superior as compared to another, they all serve different purposes and cater to different audiences. they are not stealing each others’ markets/users. Everyone out there has a different preference and unique way of learning that it is wrong to consider one medium “better” than another.

For all the Bettys in the world who are afraid of tech…

This weekend I met a mid-40s lady, Betty, who was struggling to upgrade her old 2014 MacBook Pro, despite it having a large crack on her screen, with the newer USB-C powered MacBook Pros. We had an interesting conversation about technology, and in the end, I could not convince her to try new technology. This got me thinking about my own views with digital reading, as I could somewhat empathize with Betty. I’m quite a traditionalist with my reading habits; I just can’t quite get into audiobooks or ebooks. However, to not be a hypocrite with the opinion I shared with Betty, I recognize that I must move forward, that perhaps reading must also move forward to digital technologies and future advances.

The traditionalist in me can’t give up the overall feeling I get from reading print books. It is pure magic; it is unlike anyone experience there is in our lives. Perhaps it’s partly because of the ownership that comes with books, the physical aspect as I’ve learned in Professor Hannah McGregor’s class about the history of “The Book” and the effect of its tangibility, social & cultural value from a physical object. A new study shows that millennials actually prefer print books to ebooks, outlining that there is a strong factor of emotion that comes to play when making an opinion about books. 

While almost everyone expressed a strong attachment to physical books, and no one embraced a fully digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more advantages than younger consumers to reading with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text (Alexis Blue-U, University of Arizona).

To support this idea, I was able to find a popular Reddit thread that outlined many users’ everyday reasons for not liking ebooks: “For some strange reason, I get nauseous when reading from an e-reader.”, “I live in a large city and rely on public transit. It is less likely that I would be mugged for my book than I would be for my kobo, kindle, or iPad.”, “Formatting. With e-books, some pages are just a mess.”, “I like taking my book down to the beach and I’m afraid of getting sand all in its components.” Could there be more traditionalist Bettys than I thought? 

I think I’m more interested in learning about the technology that advances digital reading experiences than the actual technology that currently exists. I understand that ebooks can be more practical and economical for many consumers, but I’m more interested in how we can apply the emotional value from the physicality of a book onto digital reading experiences because I know we can get there. Like AI technology, I believe we can get to a point where man meets machine, which is a scary thought, but I know it is happening. As we lose the traditions from generations before, I wonder if we are able to keep memories and moments of the past and include it in future technology. 

Betty shared with me that one of her greatest reasons for her hesitancy is fear. She fears trying something that’s foreign to her because she’s afraid of forgetting what she already knows. Perhaps this is an inherent fear in all of us, with change, with technological advances, with the future. We can treasure traditional print reading and we can be curious about new digital reading ways. Perhaps there isn’t one greatest form of reading, but the very act of reading is what makes the experience the greatest of all. I hope one day Betty will have the courage and try the new MacBook Pro with touch bar. I’ll start by downloading an ebook for my guilty pleasure reading.

Alternative, not less.

Since the 1970’s the concept of different learning styles began percolating and since then, it has shaped the classroom. With most of us possessing a general understanding of our own learning styles and the fact that people have different learning styles, the development of different reading formats is well overdue.  Digital reading and audiobooks, in particular, the relatively new reading formats that allow readers to engage in new, not different ways.

Digital reading through e-readers and using the internet are much like text reading still requires visual perception, but offer those with visual impairments ways to modify their reading experience than traditional books. These include the ability to invert colours and enlarge text among many other features. The physicality of an object is not really present in e-reading as it utilizes an electronic device and the “collection” of books can only be seen through a virtual library. While e-reading can be beneficial, it does have some limitations; mainly as a result of how we were interacting with these types of readers. Digital reading in both e-readers and the internet do open readers to hyperlinking.  Which can be beneficial, but also it does pose “limitless input and decisions, including images, video and multiple hyperlinks that lead to even more information.” As a result, digital readers will often skim text which not necessarily the same reading habit they would have for physical books.

Audiobooks, on the other hand, would greatly appeal to more auditory learning styles and open the opportunity to read for those who may have an impairment that prohibits them from “traditional” forms of reading.  In classrooms, audiobooks offer a number of benefits that include: Increases comprehension,  Removes printed word decoding anxiety, and Increases word exposure and improves vocabulary. The same benefits could also apply to adult readers. In only offering the “traditional” reading forms as we have done, we’re excluding the means of reading from those who may have dyslexia or illiterate. Audiobooks, in this case, open up the reading experience to a broader audience that we have been doing thus far.

 

The Medium is Not the Message

“I don’t believe there are books I’ve never ‘read’ because I have only heard them, or poems I’ve not experienced because I’ve only heard the poets read them. Actually, I believe that if the writer is someone who can communicate well aloud (some writers can’t), you often get much more insight into a story or poem by hearing it.”— Neil Gaiman

In English there are many things we agree we can read:

The room filled with well-dressed strangers

The mouthing of lips from across the table

The strokes of paint fanned over the canvas

Yet when it comes to digital books, for some reason the agreement seems to end.

Is reading an ebook still reading?

Do books on tape count as reading?

Our ability to read exists in many forms, from interpreting shapes, to gaging situations and listening to sounds. Regardless of format, be it a physical book, an audiobook, or an ebook, the messages they carry remains the same—making them different paths that lead to the same end. To think that there is a hierarchy within the forms (or claiming one is more “pure”)  is to negate the historic ways people have learned information, the different ways people receive information (see the social model of disability), and the quality of the information they get through these different forms.  

For most of human history, writing has not been the dominant mode of human communication. The written word has existed for less than 6,000 years, and it is suggested that we have yet to develop the mental processes specialized for reading the written text, and instead rely on our older cognitive tools that have developed to understand oral language. As  Neuroscientist VS Ramamchandran argues:

“Language comprehension and production evolved in connection with hearing, probably 150,000 years ago and to some extent is ‘hard wired’; whereas writing is 5,000 to 7,000 years old – partially going piggyback on the same circuits, but partially involving new brain structures like the left angular gyrus .”  

As oral storytelling and the written word are intrinsically linked within our physical states, we should think of them as two sides of the same coin—to read is to listen. Indeed, most readers do something called ‘subvocalization’, which is the habit of ‘saying’ the words on the page in your mind as if they were an external voice. In fact, those of us who subvocalize when we read will find it incredibly difficult to even imagine any other form of reading.

Writers of great historical importance in ‘western’ literature, from Homer to various contributors to the Bible over multiple centuries were never in-fact writers but oral storytellers. And in the case of the latter, literacy became a powerful tool of social control through the delegitimization of religious stories not contained in sacred texts.

But does this make their work any less valuable? Any less literate? Of course not.

So why would we assume that listening to audiobooks is somehow inferior to reading them?

Listening to oral stories and reading texts both disseminate the same set of ideas, feelings, and messages. The mediums may vary, but the message remains the same. Text used to be the only means of relaying information across space and time, but modern technology allows for the spoken word to be stored and shipped in the same way, and it can even be used to convey information that text is often lacking, like a specific intonation, or a musical score.

 

When the question of “what is reading” was posited I could not help but think of the Examined Life episode with Judith Butler where she explores the meaning behind “what is walking” and how we as a society have a narrow notion of how bodies are used. To limit the idea of reading as being something we only do with our eyes, or within the contained structure of printed books, is to fail to value to the experiences of those who exist outside our default norm. Digital formats like ebook and are essential for those with visual impairments (who can change the size of  the text on an e-reader), those with dyslexia (who can apply Open Dyslexic font), those who simply aren’t able to physically turn the pages of a book, or those in remote communities who don’t have access to physical books. Audiobooks work in much the same way. Originally created as wax cylinders as part of the initiative of the American Institute for the Blind, they are now used by those with visual impairments, by children who struggle with reading, people who learn auditorily, and people who are non-native speakers (and plenty more!). These “non-traditional” ways of reading do not negate any of the information conveyed by the authors. Much like Butler’s claim that the use of a wheelchair is still ‘taking a walk’, listening to an audiobook or reading a digital copy is still reading, as the relationship between the producer and the consumer of the text is the same.

Some have argued that the information provided through these forms is somehow less valuable, or less tangible. Yet research has argued that information is equally comprehended in these different forms. Furthermore, others have argued that listening to audiobooks actually helps people read. Audiobooks are not a substitute for literacy, but they are also not something that should come with any of the stigma attached to illiteracy.

 

 

 

Extra, extra

Discuss how different digital reading experiences are similar or different from one another. What distinguishes each? Are they all forms of reading? Is one more “pure” than the rest?

The other day during a job interview I was asked where I get my media and how I engage with it and I really had to stop and think about it. Part of my answer was that most of the news I read, I read on twitter from seeing an article that has been retweeted and then choosing to click on it and read it in full. What this generally means is that I read the news on my smartphone.

According to NeimanLab’s Laura Owen, there is, well, “bad news” about reading news on mobile. A paper published in 2018 by Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication by Johanna Dunaway, Kathleen Searles, Mingxiao Sui, and Newly Paul argues that attention is not the same for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, as opposed to attention to news on computers. They conducted an extensive study on web traffic data and used eye tracking in two lab experiments to capture the effects of mobile devices on attention.

Through tracking attention to news links in the following ways: “duration of fixation on links embedded in news stories, number of fixations on embedded news links, and a dichotomous measure of whether participants fixate on links at all,” they determined that on average, people spend less time on news story content on mobile, and are less likely to notice links on their mobile devices in comparison to when they are on their computers. Their overall findings were that people spend less time on news web pages online and that their focus wavers more while on these devices, and so platforms that prioritize delivering our news through mobile (like Twitter) can be harmful since readers are processing less of the information.

It is worth considering how reading on mobile devices can change our reading experience because according to Fortune.com, 85% of U.S adults read their news on a mobile device. That is not even digitally — that is specifically on mobile!

“There is the stereotype that people buried in their smartphones in public places have tiny minds to go along with their tiny screens and tiny attention spans. None of this bodes well for the future of long-form journalism” — Forbes

Interestingly, a study done in 2016 by the Pew Research Center also investigated how much time people on their cellphones spend reading news articles and what kind of routes readers take to get to news websites from their phones. Pew specifically wanted to measure if mobile users are still responding to long-form journalism (so journalism as was originally intended).

This is what Pew found:

What they discovered was that reading time does, in fact, increase with the increase of the word count. On average, cellphone users spend 123 seconds on long-form articles versus 57 seconds on short-form articles.

While Kevin Murnane’s Forbes article “Think People Who Read On Smartphones Have Short Attention Spans? Think Again” seemed optimistic about these stats, I am not sure I share his positive outlook, because those are awfully short times spent on news articles if you compare them to the amount of time each of my classmates spent on each individual article for our readings every week.

I think there are a number of reasons why readers are not spending as much time reading on mobile devices (despite the increase in accessibility to news sources), the first being distractions. I do not have push notifications on my laptop, but I do on my phone. If someone is as much as writing me a message on snapchat, that is visible to me and can immediately grab my attention, leaving me to forget the article.

Most of us skim on both our mobile and our computers, but the space is narrower on smartphones than it is on a computer, which can result in the article length feeling more daunting, thus resulting in an increase in skimming. And my third rationale is that phones do not necessarily utilize tabs in the same way that computers do. My phone has multiple tabs, but only one online tab visible at a time, and so when I go to delete unused tabs I often have over 20 to delete that I had long since forgotten about because a new link route had been opened.

I can see why mobile reading might be a less “pure” form of reading than reading on one’s computer, with print journalism trumping both in terms of providing the best reader experience resulting in the absorption of information. That being said, access is a necessity, and I have easy access to articles on my phone, whereas most newspapers cost money. I also have zero interest in having newspapers pile up and occupy my already cramped living space, and so while I might make the switch to reading more on my computer rather than mobile, newspaper journalism remains an unattractive alternative.

Works Cited:

People read news differently on phones than they do on computers, new study suggests

85% of U.S Adults Read the News on a Mobile Device

Think People Who Read the News on Smartphones Have Short Attention Spans? Think Again

Google and I have grown (separately) since January 2019

I walked into PUB802 expecting to learn to code and walk away with being able to comprehend the backend working of technological magic. However, this class helped me gather vocabulary about publishing technologies and create opinions about the implications of feudalism on the internet.

 

I always figured there was lots going on at the back of the internet, but it was always a vague curiosity and not something I actively tried to figure out. This course helped me answer many random unanswered questions while equipping me with the vocabulary and confidence to speak about technology.
I never had the opportunity to actively try and figure out how digital technologies evolved so quickly and entered seamlessly into our lives. The front end of technology (hardware, the advertising of products) is so glamorous, flashy and attractive that, growing up, I never really thought it was important to keep up with the back end advances in the field.

The physicality of all things internet was an eye-opener: we, as a generation, use the internet as a common everyday feature without most of us diving into the back end working and logistics. I feel it is like using a refrigerator: very few people actually go out and learn how one works and yet it is an absolute necessity in this time and age.

There were some topics covered in class, that had a profound impact on how I think about technology. Understanding all the consent we have given to big companies (google and facebook) and the amount of control it gives them over our online experience is mind-boggling. I wish I understood the perils of over-sharing online, earlier in life.

I did NOT realize how cool and helpful metadata can be: the idea of having a system that collects key information about published content and makes it easy to search, reference and store blows my mind.

My previous experiences with publishing technologies

I had worked with WordPress beforehand, writing articles and editing for a digital magazine, so it was not a completely new experience. However, tagging (metadata!!!) was a new idea and I saw how easy searching and compiling became after the use of careful tagging.

I did not know the real way to write/edit a Wikipedia article and it was neat to know that it is a very collaborative platform with people who check and make sure everything is up to standard and format.

My thoughts and opinions now

Alex Singh’s twitter thread taught me the metaphor of nomadism and feudalism. Growing up with technologies that gradually grew in power, at an accelerated pace, and took over everything (online advertising, networking, maps, even online versions of word, excel, and powerpoint) was something I had never consciously registered. The early classes set the premise for a new understanding of tech giants.

I also understood the struggles and challenges faces by publishing platforms and crowdfunding: it is not easy to come up with ways to earn money online for providing quality content.

I feel that technology is a tool that greatly improves human life in every aspect imaginable. What unsettles me, however, is the uninformed intervention of third powerful party which swoops in and uses the (seemingly private) information to make money. My main takeaway from the course is that data privacy and the consequences of over-sharing online should be taught to children in schools.

 

Reading is Reading is Reading is Reading is…

The summer I discovered fanfiction, I started to do the bulk of my reading online. I was thirteen years old at the time, reading on homemade fan sites and platforms that had either been co-opted or were fanfic-friendly with awful interfaces (those spaces were not the web libraries Frank Chimero envisions, let me tell you). Still, I have been reading online for years, and if my experience with digital reading has taught me anything, it’s that:

  1. We definitely have to train our brains to read digitally.
  2. People can be just as snobby about how they read online as how they read books.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that cultural capital of digital reading is already less than that of print—though the reasons why could fill an entire semester’s worth of blog post and won’t really be covered, here. Suffice it to say that there is something about the digital medium that makes it be perceived as lesser than to its print counterpart. Therefore, it’s no surprise that within the digital medium, those forms that most resemble print (i.e. eBooks, online articles) are the forms that hold the most cultural capital. Though I don’t agree that one from of reading is more “pure” than another, I do feel that the sentiment exists.

Audiobooks are a great example of this. Associate professor of education Beth Rogowsky of Bloomsberg University of Pennsylvania says she viewed audiobooks as “cheating.” This implies that listening to a print book is not a form of reading, but a way to consume stories that is viewed negatively due to its accessibility and ease of use; it’s a short-cut for people who don’t want to spend their time reading Real Books.

The act of reading a book traditionally is something that requires a certain degree of privilege: one must know how to read, which means having the ability to attend school. Traditionally reading a book also requires leisure time, whereas audiobooks can be listened to on the go—while driving, working, etc. This supports the idea of audiobooks as being less valuable, or as a technology that is used to “cheat.” The expectation is that it’s what you listen to when you can’t get to a Real Book, not as a valuable piece of technology in its own right. There are even misconceptions that we do not retain as much information when listening to audiobooks.

Essentially, these arguments use the same logic surrounding the question of what books have and do not have literary merit: those use plain, easy-to-understand language, and can be read quickly—like romance, crime, and erotica—are considered to be commercial fiction, which are considered to be low brow for many reasons, but mostly for their accessibility (in language, in price point, etc.). Commercial fiction is not Important, and is therefore not part of the literary canon, which is curated by tastemakers and the Academy. Not called an ivory tower for nothing, university English departments are still rife with snobby professors who believe that the English literary canon, for all its lack of diversity and generally inaccessible language and writing (James Joyce, I’m looking at you)—is the only thing people should be reading. In my opinion, this argument has merely been superimposed onto the question of form in digital environments; instead of viewing commercial fiction as lesser due to its accessibility, we think of audiobooks as such. The scope has shifted from what you read to how you read, despite the fact that the underlying arguments are the same.

So, yes, I think that there continues to be a belief that “pure” or “tainted” reading experiences exist—but I want no part in them. People who feel this way about audiobooks do not consider how helpful they can be to those learning how to read, or those who can’t read in a traditional manner due to accessibility issues. I believe that as technology changes, our ways of reading change as well, and no one method is not better than the other.

Reflection time

What is a tech course doing in a publishing program? Before this program I would have thought it strange to find such a course in a program that is supposed to be about the book etc. business. Now I can see that the course accompanies it nicely, that books are fish in the tech sea and they’ve got to figure out how to thrive. Technology is ubiquitous in our lives; it became so rapidly integrated into our everyday in a very short period of time that we often don’t think about the implications and consequences of that. This course really forced my eyes open to the world we’re living in and the road we’re going down with tech. With a fair bit of background knowledge from the first semester with John in PUB 800, I went into this course not knowing what to really expect other than going even deeper into the tech realm. Two aspects of the course which I enjoyed the most were the throwback days of the 90s/00s bloggers and the open web, plus the more contemporary possibilities of using data mining and reader analytics for good, while two critiques I have are the digression from publishing and the book world to the much heavier tech world that wasn’t related back to the industry and the lack of incorporating the online discussion into the physical discussion. Through discussing both sets of my takeaways, I intend to address each of the learning objectives, both explicitly and implicitly.

Despite the internet only being roughly 30-years-old, it sure has gone through a lot of changes. As someone who grew up alongside it (literally, we’re almost the same age) it was interesting to also reflect back on the internet’s childhood and to dive into those idealistic views of the web. The web was meant to be an open space with endless possibility, however a Capitalist society cannot sustain something so free. It feels like the story of the Wild West all over again, with people carving out their plots of land on the internet landscape and then corporations came to put everyone in boxes. Now we fall at the whims of our benevolent overlords and hope they don’t take away the things we like (here’s looking at you Tumblr). The Alex Singh’s Twitter thread on feudalism for that week was an interesting metaphor for this. However, this metaphor of the Wild West just takes me back to thinking of the internet as a physical space we each inhabit, that each URL has its own “feeling,” which was articulated in one of my favourite articles of the semester, Frank Chimero’s The Good Room.

After we explored the terrifying might of Facebook, Google, and Amazon in the following weeks and the struggle for artists to make a living off the few sites that are supposed to help them (Patreon), I was definitely not optimistic about tech. Something so powerful can be used for good or evil, but which do you think the mega-data-collecting corporations are going to choose? Well, there are glimmers of hope in ventures like Jellybooks or the studies being done on the structures of stories and how data mining can help the writing instead of hinder it. I stand by the idealistic view I hold in my blog post on the matter. In the end, for better or worse my new understanding of the complexities of the tech world leads to opinions that are no longer indifferent or neutral. I also feel that if new technologies spring up (as they do) and current ones continue to flourish and change I will be able to better interpret and analyze the events and trends that coincide with it.

Onto the (small) critiques. While I understand that the tech world is integrated into the publishing world, and that Google, Amazon, and Facebook effect our industry I just felt that we digressed from the book conversation most of the time. Our thesis is “books and publishing” with a tech lens, and the points we discuss should always be referring back to the main thesis. These topics of course did more for my general knowledge and education (a positive), but I would have liked to have more publishing examples tied more into certain weeks, especially in the discussion. Yes, at least one article (often more) each week was related to our industry, but I found we avoided talking about it in class.

Speaking of class discussion, I did love using Hypothesis and engaging with my peers in an online discussion of each reading. I felt we were really able to flesh out ideas, musings, perspectives and gain more collective knowledge on a reading. It was always a safe space where I didn’t feel like it was high-stakes to develop and express my thoughts and ideas. Now, Hypothesis offered a preliminary round for thoughts on these readings and I would have really liked to expand on them in class. There were ideas my peers brought up in their annotations that I would have loved to dig deeper into. However, it often felt like even if these annotations were brought up in class they were only acknowledged and not developed. It felt like we’d had these rich and interesting conversations online and then when we came to class they felt more like a fever dream or something we were all aware happened… but that was in a different world. The discussion online just felt disjointed from the conversation in class, but I’m happy we had both.

Overall, this was a class that challenged my outlook on technology and its uses and it opened me to the different ways we can interpret and analyze something that is prevalent in our lives. Digital technology is here to stay, and I imagine it will only become more integrated into our lives. With what I’ve learned in this class I know I won’t be able to accept things at face value anymore and feel prepared to assess whatever new tech trend is on the horizon. Now, it’s time to ride into the sunset of the not so Wild West.

Mission Complete…

Like most of the cohort members, I walked in this class at the beginning of the term with an expectation to learn about some actual technology-related skills such as coding. I was surprised to find out that this class was mostly philosophical. Honestly speaking, part of me was relieved because I did not want to learn to code (I just feel that I need to do that because of the trend); part of me was also curious about the big picture topics we were going to discuss. In the end, I did enjoy most of the readings and discussions we had. I would like to elaborate on the objectives listed below.

  1. To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume.

This course has 100% whetted my appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies. As I mentioned in my first blog, I had terrible experiences with some Chinese social media before, so I was aware of my behaviours on any Chinese social media. However, I did not apply the same degree of consciousness when using Facebook, Google or Amazon. This lack of awareness was probably due to my biased perception of Capitalism. Before this course, I did not actively think about the shortcomings of Capitalism because as an immigrant, I wanted to believe that I am now living in a society with more respect to individual, freedom and transparency. However, during this course, I started to think about the relationship between Capitalism and digital technologies, especially during the week on data privacy and surveillance when Echo and I lead the seminar.

  1. To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends.

This course has helped me to develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends. First, I learnt about where to find the technology-related content. I really like platforms such as Medium, the Guardian, Electric Lit, The Shatzkin Files and etc. I am considering choosing a platform to subscribe after this term so I will still be able to follow the recent technology-related news and trends. Second, I learnt about how to critically think about technology-related controversies and apply it to my personal life. For example, I used to turn on my ad blocker all the time without any second thought, but after we talked about advertising and Internet business models on Week 5, I became aware of the importance of advertising to some websites and started to adjust my use of ad blockers accordingly.

  1. To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work.

This course has helped me to better understand how different technologies work. I appreciated that at the beginning, Juan told us about the origin of the Internet which was maybe a basic knowledge but very helpful. I also like the mini tech lessons on topics such as XML, HTML or DRM. I did have a better understanding but also felt that my knowledge of these different technologies was still very minimal. I wish we could spend more time on elaborating these topics or we could have more readings on how these technologies work and fewer readings on the big picture concerns.

  1. Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (Hypothes.is)

I enjoyed using Hypothes.is. because usually I am not used to talk in class but with Hypothes.is, I am able to participate in discussions and engage in conversations with my cohort members. I really appreciated their input. Also, if someone mentioned something I am interested in, I would be able to keep a record, reflect upon and go back to the topics afterwards. In retrospect, I realized I may have asked too many questions in the annotations, but I was happy when my questions were answered. I also like sharing my thoughts via blogging and reading what my cohort members had written. I like this chance to research, practice my writing and learn something new about my classmates. However, I found that sometimes, it was difficult to keep blogs every week. I was not sure if each blog should be research-based, but for those are research-based, I ended up spending a lot of time on researching and it was especially time-consuming when something else from other classes was also due in the same week.

  1. Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology.

As I mentioned previously, I appreciate that I can express my own opinions with Hypothesi.s and blogging. I was very happy to write about my own experiences with Chinese social media in the first two blogs because those were unique experiences that my cohort members may not have. When I read the comments from Avvai and Juan under my second blog, I was very glad that I could contribute something to this class and motivated to keep exploring the cultural differences of technology.

Mission Complete!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, I think this class is definitely inspiring to me. I did learn a lot from every topic and I enjoyed the assigned readings. This course does not only change my perspectives on digital technologies but also affects my views on Capitalism and western societies. This class will end soon but my life will still be full of technologies and I will think about what the class had taught me whenever I encountered any controversy regarding digital technologies.

 

 

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.

Reflecting the reflection- pub 802

I was looking forward to taking PUB 802 when I was reading about the master’s courses on the SFU website. It definitely helped me not only to develop the opinions I had about technology but also to create new opinions on how to deal with technology on a personal and a professional level.

This course has made me really interested in learning about technology.  For example, before I started the course, I wanted to know more about the “tech industry” and how to get into the tech industry after I graduate. Instead, in week two, I saw a whole new point of view on the tech industry. I realized I have been a part of the industry without even noticing. Readings about how the web changes things, especially how there is no Tech Industry anymore in the world we live in. Readings about how the web changes things made me realize that technology is incorporated with almost every action we do

I enjoyed that we all had a chance to lead the class discussion. Because it is not graded directly, it gave me the opportunity to challenge myself by choosing a topic I did not know a lot about without fear of making mistakes. Week 4 and 5, when we learned about Internet Business Models, were the most interesting weeks for me. They opened a new horizon that allowed me to form informed opinions regarding the ongoing problems the publishing industry is facing. They also helped me understand that there are a lot of unexploited business models that can help the publishing industry get better results, and we should not necessarily follow or focus on the dominant business models.

Another aspect of this course that I enjoyed was using Hypothes.is to annotate. Although I was not the kind of user who made a lot of annotations all over the place, I appreciated the fact that I could read others’ annotations. It allowed me to see different perspectives on a single idea. Moreover, it made me aware of how people can look at things in a way that is different than mine.Hypothes.is also made me a better reader because I found myself stopping to think and analyze every time I saw an annotation. I am not going to lie here, sometimes I felt overwhelmed by it. However, overall, when comparing the pros and cons, this tool has been very helpful.

In terms of the weekly blog post, I felt those were a bit too much to be doing every week. They were very challenging for me because writing is not my sweet spot. I tried my best to incorporate the comments I received to new blog posts, but due to the delay in receiving feedback, I was not able to do this as much as I would have liked. As I write this reflection essay, I have received feedback on two of my blog posts and there are three after those two I still did not receive any feedback on. While I definitely understand that Prof. Alpreni was very clear that he was making an effort to get them back to us as fast as possible, I just wanted to clarify that this was challenging for me because I would have liked to receive more comments on how to improve. As a person who likes to work on herself, I will be waiting for the feedback and will be updating the published blogs simply because I want to get better at writing, even after the class is over.

Overall, I enjoyed this class. It was a class where we were all able to work collaboratively every week, which allowed us to develop new opinions about the structure of technology as a whole. Moreover, it allowed us to learn how to interact with different technologies while doing our weekly assignments.

Closing the chapter on PUB 802

Technology for me had been this big encompassing word to describe not only the internet but also the devices we use. While I interact and engage with technology in both a professional and social capacity, I never really questioned the growing role it plays in our lives. Taking Technology & Evolving Forms of Publishing in conjunction with the History of Publishing puts into context how relatively young technology is as an industry. This course has given me the opportunity to think about technology a little more critically through the various learning objectives.

Objective 1: To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume;

Having written a few of my papers for PUB 801 on AI and publishing technologies, I came into the technology course with an interest in learning more concretely the ways which technology is shaping the publishing industry. I had a particular interest in how scholarly publishing is changing as a result of these new technologies. Although these topics were not covered in this course, the mini-lessons were a bit helpful in this regard. I do feel that they would have been more effective had they been a more hands-on exercise rather than a mini-lecture.

Objective 2: To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends;

Having developed a more critical framework of how I interact with technology, I feel more confident engaging with developing technology-related events and trends. Throughout the course, I have been able to see varying perspectives when it comes to technology. When discussing data privacy, I felt like I was able to see the value of data mining through the lens of the company who are choosing to sell their consumer data as well as the consumers. Going forward I am interested in being more learning more about the more “technical” side of publishing. Being able to think more critically about the extent and the ways we use technology would help in being a more responsible member of our society.

Objective 3: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work; Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (Hypothes.is);

As most of the digital publishing tools we used in this course were things I never really engaged with normally it was a great way to learn about these things worked. While I thought the Wikipedia assignment was interesting, I did come into this course with my own set of biases. The last time I really even looked at wiki pages were in high school and was discouraged from using it as a source as it was not the most credible at the time. It was interesting to know that it does engage in peer review which helped reframe the way I thought about this. I personally enjoyed doing annotations in reading as I would often find it hard to focus on digital readings. Having to annotate did force me to slow down and engage in the readings. Blogging is not something I would normally do so it was a great learning experience. The lack of clear expectations was a little frustrating at first. I also found it to be time-consuming and having to do it for every week meant that I did not really have time to devote on each one nor was I really engaged in all the topics which made having to write a blog post for them even harder. Perhaps having students complete a certain number of blog posts by the end of the semester instead of every week would be more effective.

Objective 4: Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology.

The online discussions through Hypothes.is and in class had been a valuable experience in learning more about technology. I thoroughly enjoyed reading my peers comments and insights into the readings. They also provide some valuable resources and we often collaboratively helped to understand larger concepts. The discussions we had in both platforms were helpful in both solidifying some of the thoughts I had regarding technology and at other times put into question my own thinking. This was especially true in our discussions on data privacy, while I came into the discussions being comfortable with being open (to a certain extent) on the web. It was helpful to see my peers stance on this and their logic behind it.

This course has introduced several new concepts and ways about thinking about technology. I feel that I’m better equipped to engage with the technological world more responsibly. As mentioned, going forward I am interested in engaging more with technology. One of the key things I’ve taken away from this course is how technology shouldn’t be seen as being the opposition by replacing the place of humans. It would be more helpful to see them as helpful tools that could improve many processes.

Reading is Reading is Reading… or is it?

Is reading a book on your phone different than on your computer, or on an ereader? Are we good at reading digitally? Does digital reading change the way we perceive text? Context, including distractions like internet connectivity, plays a large role in how various digital reading experiences can be distinguished.

Context shapes how we read and how we interpret what we read. The surrounding elements of a book or piece of text such as where a person is reading, the goals they have for the reading experience (whether they want to be informed or entertained etc.), and the interface of the text all will change how the text is perceived. Reading on your computer or phone has an innate connectivity, that many ereaders don’t have. When I’m on my phone I feel like I’m in a state of multi-tasking because the phone itself has the so many other functions outside of just reading. With many tabs and apps open all at once, I can hop from my ebook, to look something up on Google, check in with Instagram, text a friend, then get back into the book. Patricia Greenfield found that multi-tasking slows the reading speed down, although it doesn’t seem to impact understanding of the text. I can definitely relate to that finding about, however I would  argue that my comprehension takes a hit from this experience because I’m not focused and engaging deeply.

Since ereaders are designed primarily for reading (rather than other actions like browsing, texting or emailing), I can imagine that I would be able to focus on reading much more than attempting to read on my phone. When I read, I want to do so in a printed format so that I can limit distractions and really immerse myself, but that is perhaps because I grew up reading printed books and I’ve been really stubborn in transitioning to digital experiences. An ereading device would, in theory, offer me the distraction free reading experience I’m looking for.

I really like Maria Konnikova’s stance on this debate as she doesn’t say which type of reading experience is best, but rather that as we all start to read online more and more, we just need to become better digital readers and learn how to work at limiting distractions in order to have deeper reading experiences online. She stated in her New Yorker article, “We cannot go backwards. As children move more toward an immersion in digital media, we have to figure out ways to read deeply there.”

I think that ebooks have come a long way for reader retention and comprehension, but what I think will really require more work, as Konnikova suggests, is articles or other forms of long format articles found online. For the similar reasons of distraction, I find myself giving less importance to online reading experiences. I often scan through the text since there is so much surrounding the text from ads and links to “related articles” and more. I don’t see the reading experience as in depth or valuable as a printed book because of this. Again, this is likely my own personal bias coming through. With learning and practice I could reverse the effects of years a childhood of reading in print.

Since each digital reading experience is so different, and has not had the benefit of hundreds of years of refinements like the reading of printed books, we still have a long way to go. Consider even hyperlinked interactive books, how do we become good readers of those? Are we able to remove distractions all together because of their ability to immerse readers into the story by allowing their choices to impact how the content plays out? Each of these new digital reading experiences have different contextual elements that distinguish them. We grapple with these elements in order to have an optimal reading experience and we may require new skills and practice to become better digital readings.


While observing the differences in reading experiences one question that also comes to my mind is one about form. Do we read or listen to audiobooks? I keep overhearing discussions and reading articles that make mention of audiobooks as a form of reading a book but I don’t entirely agree. I don’t agree because the definition of reading that I have come to adopt is that reading is done by visually decoding text. But, even as I type that statement, I realize that this overly simplified definition negates using braille as a form of reading, when vision is not required at all.

A screen reader may be reading the text to the user who is listening, but does that then mean that people with visual impairments don’t read? I definitely would disagree with that statement so I think my definition of reading needs updating. I would call upon the wikipedia definition, but even it’s explanation of reading needs to be revised. The page states, “The symbols are typically visual” and acknowledges both printed and tactile texts that can be read, but there is no mention on the entire page about audio.

As Linda Flanagan 

I really like this quote by William Irwin that states, “Audio books began as a boon to the blind and dyslexic and have been mistaken as a refuge for the illiterate and lazy.”  This article by Writer’s Edit outlines a helpful summary of the two sides of this debate and has started to convince me that listening to an audiobook is a form of reading especially when you look at the comprehension rates of reading visually or ‘reading’ by way of listening. I look forward to following how this debate unfolds.

Reflecting on Tech

Before this course began in January, I did not spend much time thinking about the role that the internet has in my life. I did however think that I was thinking about “digital technologies” quite regularly. I complain about the reliance that we have on computers and technology today and feel that progress isn’t always for the better; just because you can do something infinitely faster doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes when things get faster and more automated, it actually creates more work for the people it is supposed to be helping, or leads to the expectation that people can get more work done and operate like machined too. I’ve been there, and the technology burnout is real.

When I think about ‘tech’ I get overwhelmed by the word. Everything is tech now. Making en ebook, making a print book, sending emails, texting friends, social networks, medical devices, voice operated speakers… and of course the list goes on.  What I haven’t really spent any time thinking about specifically is the internet and for that reason I didn’t really know what to expect from this course. I haven’t considered “publishing technologies” to be associated with the internet including new business models, data privacy and copyright, but through our discussions, I learned how the internet plays a central role and connects all of the various publishing technologies together. At a more granular level, here is how I believe I faired at completing the learning objectives for this course:

Consuming Tech

I definitely became fully immersed in critically thinking about tech from the start of this class. On Wednesday’s I would come home to my parter saying,  “You gotta see this! Did you know…..” and I would forward friends some of the readings I thought they would also find interesting. Many of the discussions we had during the semester were about things that I was already aware of, but didn’t take the time to pay attention to or really understand in any meaningful way. Now I seek out more information about the discussions we’ve had.

I tend to think more critically now especially about internet business models. The consequences of big companies having my data are something I consider more deeply now as well, but this course has inspired me to think about the smaller companies too. How do they compete, how can they use the possibilities of tech to make a mark and create a new model that really works? I am more on the lookout now for new initiatives that I would like to support.

Using a Framework for Analysis

I don’t feel like I have specific frameworks to draw upon to analyze  tech and it’s impact now, but I do see things more holistically and that’s the general framework that I draw upon. I was looking at the minute details about tech before without connecting the dots between models and ideas. The class discussions, with many perspectives on the table really helped me see things from many sides. For example, our discussion about copyright and whether or not it should exist really made me think! On one hand I see how it works, but it also really prevents the spread of knowledge that it is there to protect, and if it was gone, there would seemingly be many repercussions! Many of our discussions did not have answers, but they were thought provoking and exciting.

How it Works

I will fondly remember learning about how the web is different than the internet. I thought I had a pretty thorough understanding about how the internet works but I was wrong! Now I can have much more in-depth discussions about the internet and how it’s all connected.

I know that we only scratched the surface of many other technologies such as xml markup and html but I do feel that I can now converse with people who deal with code a little bit better. This is very important since many of us will go on to work at small companies where we will need to understand the languages of our colleagues, even if we’re not in the same roles or departments. This applies to how Mauve has been teaching the cohort to use the elements and principles of design to really talk about design in a meaningful way and get our ideas across effectively.

I would have liked to dive into a further discussion on how AI and machine learning works. It was a mini lesson in the schedule but I don’t think we really got to it. Someone asked a question at tech forum about when a publisher should start using AI. the panel responded with, “Right now, and start feeding your AI data!”  To that I thought, how? Where does one even start? I think a further discussion on this would be a great addition to the syllabus.

Digital Publishing Tools

WordPress
As someone who really struggles to write, a course where all assignments are written including weekly blog posts was incredibly taxing. I completely understand the use of the blog posts and do think it’s great that we have learned to write in a way that can be read by the public and understood without any prior knowledge of our conversations. This is a great skill so our opinions and ideas can get out in the world in a sharable, cohesive and public way, but it was definitely difficult. Some of the questions felt too big to even begin to answer in the space and time allotted, which made the expectation of a short blog post hard to grapple with. Having four slightly longer and in dept posts throughout the term may be a solution to this so we could dive into the responses more. The requirement of doing one every week alongside annotating 6-10+ readings made it seem like they shouldn’t take more that three to four hours, but I ended up agonizing over it for quite a bit longer.

I can also officially say that I am now typing directly into WordPress rather that using Microsoft Word. I think I have a bit of an inherent distrust of the internet, but this course has warmed me up to a few things which will serve me well as I move through our technology driven world!

Wikipedia
The Wikipedia assignment was actually quite interesting and upon posting it, I felt great that I had contributed to public knowledge and now people can go to the article and learn more about hybrid publishing. I now know that if a page doesn’t exist and I think it should, I have the ability to simply create it! The scope of the project however didn’t quite line up with the percentage value attributed to it. I know that it is now an extra credit piece, but for the research, writing and editing involved, it feels like it should be worth a bit more to make students more keen to really put the effort in. I also understand however, that having many smaller things due that are more equally weighted takes a lot of pressure off for some.

Hypothesis
In the Hypothesis survey I submitted, I definitely sang the praises of the tool. It helped me gain a deeper understanding of the content and I loved getting more perspectives from my peers, which often would end up changing my opinions about a subject. I however really do prefer off-screen time and prefer reading on paper. This would have allowed me to take readings with me on transit or to sit offline at a cafe or park bench. To me those little breaks of connectivity really help my experience as a student. As per my introduction about tech, you can see how I’m not fully on board with making every part of my education experience online!

Developing my Own Perspective

As I mentioned above, I think this course has made technology seem a bit more friendly. With an inherent distrust and dislike of technology and the way it seems to be taking over, I started to see some of the really great things that it does, as well as some examples where people are trying to combat some of the more unsavoury aspects of the online world. An example of this was our discussion surrounding platform cooperativism – giving power, ownership and autonomy to all those involved within an online business. It is really important to know what’s going on and analyze the trends in technology in order to see what exactly is problematic and in turn, see new areas of opportunity. When I mentioned a holistic analysis above, I think that’s what has helped shape my own perspectives on technology the most, because now I can see what’s happening with a less biased lens. From there, I can then form an educated opinion around what’s happening. Having this ability will make it easier for me going forward to not simply by into whatever a big tech giant tells me to do, but question if there’s another option or if there’s anything I can do about it.

In Conclusion

This class reminded me a lot of Text and Context with John last semester. This style of seminar discussion is my favourite type of class because it really helps open up the floor for an engaging discussion that gets everyone involved rather than an idea coming from one source. I learned a lot from this course and have book marked most of the readings so I can keep going back to them!

I will no longer make the mistake of thinking that the internet is somehow separate from “publishing technologies”, and the word tech it is starting to feel a bit more friendly after we unpacked some of the issues that we face today and discussed them openly.