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.