Syllabus 2015

PUB802: Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing

Syllabus for “Spring” 2015
Mondays, 1pm – 4pm & Wednesdays, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Juan Pablo Alperin,


PUB802 asks the fundamental question: what happens to publishing in a predominantly digital environment? More broadly, it is intended to encourage a critical examination of the intersection of technology and publishing. This examination is divided intro three acts, with a prologue, an intermission, and an epilogue. The acts are obvious enough: making , discovering, consuming. These naturally correspond (although they are not limited to) producing with digital tools, making works available in the marketplace (both digital and physical), and the digital reading experience. PUB802 is a seminar. This means that the course is organized around discussion, not around the instructor presenting content. As such, you should expect to come to class each day well informed on the topic at hand and, more importantly, having thought critically about it. Expect and be prepared to be challenged, but also to challenge others—without discussion, there is no seminar. PUB802 is also a graduate course. This means the discussions are based around ideas, not around specific technologies or moments in time. We will, however, ground these ideas in with concrete examples and case studies. In combination with PUB607, you will also have the opportunity to gain practical hands-on experience with specific technologies that are of interest to you. We will use the specifics to understand the dynamics of today, but also to extrapolate far into the future.


The course is split between Mondays and Wednesdays, with students leading Monday classes and the Instructor leading on Wednesdays. Mondays will generally be practical or technical and cover a lot of ground. It should provide us with the background materials for Wednesday’s discussions. In contrast, Wednesday’s discussions will generally be broad in scope and lofty in ambitions. All seminar materials, resources, and student writing will be submitted to the course website, or at least linked from there. All content, including the instructor’s, will be publicly accessible and openly licensed for reasons that will become evident as the semester goes on. Some written work will be peer-reviewed online as well. Seminar presentations and class sessions should be enlightening and entertaining. Nobody likes to be bored; everyone learns better when engaged. Instructor and students will be held to this (impossible) standard.


The following is a rough outline of the course’s coverage. In reality, we will be much more flexible around dates and topics to allow our discussions to go on as long as we feel is necessary and to cover topics as they come up. We will use the first class to capture topics that we would like to add or remove from the current structure, as well as decide on weeks for the student topics.

Prologue: Setting the scene

Jan 7: Introduction to the course

Assignment: Come to class with a long list of topics, ideas, or even technologies that you would like to discuss during this course. You may draw from Swartz, from other sources, and from your own experiences.

Jan 12 & 14: The Web changes things

Inspirations for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Travis Copyleft and Sharing
  • Amy on DRM and sharing
  • Gabby on file sharing

Jan 19 & 21: The Internet business model

Inspirations for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Taisha on Privacy (Google/Apple/Amazon)
  • Paulina on surveillance and control
  • Katie on Internet Business Models
  • Taryn on the war between Google, Apple, and Amazon in ebooks (Monday)
  • Laura (15mins) on Torrents

Act 1: The act of making

Jan 26 & 28: Production processes

Inspirations for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Sophie and Ala on ebooks, standards, and workflows (Monday – 2 hours)
  • Travis on magazine apps vs. mobile browsing

Essay 1 Due Jan 30

Feb 2: Production concepts

Inspirations for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Gaby on a variety of production concepts (see above)

Feb 4: No class (Juan away)

Feb 9 & 11: (Reading Break)

  • do the readings from week 1 if you hadn’t done them already

Act 2: The act of discovering

Feb 16 & 18: Distribution & Discovery

Inspiration for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Alessandra on Book Metadata
  • Sandra on Academic Search Engine Optimization

PUB 607 Kicks off

Feb 23 & 25: Information flows

Inspiration for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Travis on Networks redefining community
  • Ala on social contagion, viral phenomena and breaking the internet (1 hour)
  • Taisha & Molly

Essay 2 Due Feb 27


Mar 2 & 4: Knowledge Production (case study)

sociology of knowledge; access to knowledge; permanent identifiers; links; citations; citation formats; bibliographic databases; bibliometric databases; readings TBA On this week:

  • ???

Peer Review 2 due Mar 6

Act 3: The act of consuming

Mar 9 & 9 (morning and afternoon): Digital reading

Inspiration for student seminars:

On this week:

  • Mike and Laura on Online Reading Habits/Trends/Technology
  • Nitant on Technology and long form prose
  • Molly on Technology and quality of lit/creativity

Mar 16 & 18: Interacting & socializing with text

On this week:

  • Mike on Younger generation and technology
  • Sandra on Social Computing
  • Alessandra on “The Power of the (Digital) Reader: Old and New Ways of Interacting with Text”
  • Amy (1hr.)

Mar 23 & 25: Measuring & Tracking

Inspiration for Student Seminars:

On this week:

  • Laura on “Does the internet know you better than your best friend?
  • Taryn on Machine Learning
  • Nitant on Network Realism
  • Paulina on Government Surveillance

Epilogue: What  is next?

Mar 30 & Apr 1 — Possibilities and new models

On this week:

  • Molly, “Hacking the Word”
  • Gabi and Paulina Tech Forum (2 hr. on Wednesday)
  • Sophie and Katie on the assigned readings (2 hrs. on Monday)
  • Amy (1hr seminar drawing O’Leary’s Disaggregating Supply on either of the days)

Apr 6: (Easter: No class)

Apr 8 & 13: Wrap-up



Assessment is based on a combination of assignments, as follows. All work is to be posted online. Seminar schedule to be defined in class #2. There is no exam. Essay topics should be negotiated in advance.

  • 45% – 3 essays (15%x3). due Jan 30, Feb 27, Apr 3
  • 30% – 2-4 seminars. due throughout semester.
  • 10% – Peer review of essays (5%x2). due Feb 6, Mar 13.
  • 15% – Participation.


Essay topics are entirely up to you, but must be negotiated with the instructor in advance. To negotiate a topic, submit a 250 word abstract (will not be graded) that summarizes your core idea. If necessarily, the instructor will contact you to arrange a time to discuss your abstract. Essays must put forward a core idea or thesis, they must substantiate that idea, and they must be compelling. Essays have no word limits, although they are suggested to be around 1000-1500 words. The use of good Web practices (i.e., hyperlinks) are expected. Citations do not need to follow a particular style, but must be hyperlinked in both the body of the text and in the reference section.


Students are expected to lead at least half of the seminars, potentially more. Although, by their very nature, seminar courses involve every student’s participation, one student must take the lead in organizing any in-class room activity and in facilitating group discussions. Students must specify required readings, and may opt to provide a handout or do a short mini-lecture on the topic. Student lectures are intended to lay the groundwork with some of the specific skills necessary to understand the topic of the week.

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