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.

 

 

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.

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.

Pub802 Reflection

Me, looking forward to my new relationship with technology

Before taking Pub802, I had a fairly good understanding of a slice of many of the issues surrounding technology and media, but I wasn’t able to express my opinions nearly as coherently as I can now. I also did not have or use information from both sides of arguments to draw upon for my understanding and discussion. In this essay, I will draw upon the objectives stated in our course syllabus to reflect on my experience and growing relationship with technology. 

Objective One: 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 whet my appetite in that it made me more aware of the effects of digital technologies. This was particularly relevant during Week 6: Copyright! and Week 10: Digital Reading which both focused on the ways in which the internet enables information (especially copyrighted information) to spread more freely and unrestrictedly through the digital space. I am particularly interesting DRM after Week 10, as I have a deep interest in audiobooks and their growing role in the publishing industry. I found Linda Flanagan’s How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle With Reading particularly fascinating.  

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

This course laid out the current events and trends surrounding technology in a more approachable and in-depth way than I’d previously been exposed to in my own reading. I found that Alex Singh’s twitter thread On the Web’s transition from nomadism to feudalism particularly thought-provoking. I often used this twitter thread as a “historical” lens to view other topics we covered in class. 

Objective Three: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work

Nothing illustrated this objective to me more than our discussion of how the internet actually works in Week 2: The Web Changes Things. Before this, I never thought of the internet as a physical technology. I also liked the introduction to the intricacies of Youtube in Week 4: Internet Business Models. I’m very interested to see how this particular technology develops and affects society, in both positive and negative ways.

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

My experience with digital publishing tools prior to this course was very limited. I feel like I’m now fairly well versed in word-press and hypothes.is, particularly with the later. I’ve also learned that my online style of annotation is to write many annotations that are on the medium to shorter side, which also mirrors my physical annotation style. One note on hypothes.is; I would like to see an easier way to integrate GIFs. I used them often, but it was difficult to implement them. I have not yet finished my Wikipedia article, but I have finished all of my training and have edited on Wikipedia, which demystified the Wikipedia process a lot for me. 

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

The blog posts, in particular, were a way for me to thoroughly develop my ideas before expressing them online, as they took a bit more distilling to make them coherent, in comparison to in the class discussion. I do wish that there was a little more direction early on in the blog post assignment. The title was misleading and I felt that it was difficult to express my thoughts in a way that met the assignment requirements. However, as the class progressed I think that my writing about technology became clearer. 

Conclusion

Overall, I thought that the class expanded my understanding of digital technologies and ideas. There were some weeks where I felt that there was a strong overlap of information that perhaps should have been touched on a little less in class. I feel like we discussed data privacy a lot in this class, which is fine, but it meant that we didn’t get to focus as much on other subjects I personally found more interesting. This class did give me a new framework and lenses in which to interact with and view digital innovations. 

I’ll miss these GIFs…

Bibliography

Flanagan, Linda. 2016. How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading. KQED

Singh, Alex. 2018. On the Web’s transition from nomadism to feudalism. Twitter.

Reflection on PUB802

** To organize this post I will be referring to PUB802’s learning objectives. After each main idea, I write [in square brackets] what learning objective it’s related to **
  1. To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume
  2. To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends
  3. To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work
  4. Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (Hypothes.is)
  5. Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology.

For the past few years, I’ve become hyper-aware of how much technology influences my life. I see myself and people around me dealing with phone addictions, going on social media detoxes, using tech for entertainment, for learning, for connecting, buying the latest Alexa, learning to code, etc, etc.  At least once a day I see an article or a TED Talk on my newsfeed about how technology is changing our mental and physical behavior. How it’s destroying humanity. How it’s empowering humanity. When a new feature is introduced on our gadgets, the immediate reaction seems to be “Woah! that’s magic!”.  It’s part of our everyday life, we wake up to it and go to bed with it, and yet it shocks me how little I understand it.
Therefore, I was pretty excited about PUB802 because I wanted to have tech demystified for me. To be totally honest, I wanted to learn all the nitty gritty details about how everything worked and some basic coding skills…this is probably because I enjoy learning how things work in a technical sense. But the course was more realistic in scope, and was more about thinking about tech in a  philosophical way and about the social and political implications of tech. I can now admit that this is probably more important to think about as we enter into our own publishing careers. However, some of the top highlights from the course for me was Juan’s brief mini-lessons on how the internet worked (Week 2), how data encryption worked (Week 8), and what XML and Pandoc are (Week 5). The technical aspects interest me and the course has spiked my interest more and allowed me to go do more reading on how things work and to teach myself some code.
[Learning Objective 1, 3]
**

The in-class discussions were my favorite part of the course. It always felt very conversational. I was able to listen to different opinions, develop my own ideas and share them in a coherent manner. It forced me to reflect and also dig deeper into my opinions. Some weeks were more challenging for me than others in terms of discussing topics as I felt a lot of points were brought up on Hypothes.is nonetheless, in-class discussions were always fruitful. I also learned that I don’t always have to hold one opinion or the other. The biggest takeaway from the discussions was that these topics such as copyright and data privacy are very complicated and there is no right or wrong answer. Which leads me to my favourite weektopics were:

  • Week 6: Copyright and Fair Use
    • learning about remix culture and the copyright implications of it and net neutrality were two very new topics I never knew about. I think as future publishers it’s super important to understand this
    • the blog prompt for this week was challenging but rewarding. Wrapping my head around fair use factors and applying it to a case study was a great exercise
  • Week 4 and 5: Internet Business Models
    • I’m grouping these two weeks together because for me they were less about the particular business models we talked about (Medium, Patreon, etc) but about thinking of the internet and the web as a business in general. I’ve always thought about the web as this place for free knowledge and entertainment, but this week shaped a more realistic picture.
    • I enjoyed writing my blog post for week 5 because I looked into how many different types of business models there were for the web (a lot!) and how different people and businesses utilize these strategies to make a living. As someone who wants to help creators showcase their work in a digital space, the ideas from these two weeks were valuable!
    • This week also felt the most optimistic in terms of how people use the web because we learned about peer-to-peer networks and platform cooperatives.

Though these two weeks were the most novel to me, I learned something new every single week such as Facebook’s shadow profiles, what data is being collected from us (answer: EVERYTHING), thinking about the web as a space, the switch from open web to platform based, AI’s role in publishing, and pros and cons of digital reading. This list can go on and on. The readings and discussions were engaging and I would even bring home certain ideas and discuss them with my housemates! I am now comfortable talking about metadata, ebooks, data privacy, etc.

Hypothes.is also played a huge role in allowing me to think critically about the readings and spend time digging deeper into the topics. For example, due to the comments, I was able to learn about things like Web 3.0  and watch a TED Talk about new trends in dealing with data (I can’t link to it because that Hypothes.is comment by Melody disappeared).
[Learning Objective 1, 2, 3, 5]

**
In terms of using publishing tools and formats, I believe the Wikipedia assignment was the most beneficial. I agree with the cohort that writing a Wikipedia article was challenging, however, learning how to do it and running through the modules was very inspiring! I noticed around the city that there are Wikipedia edit-a-thons (Art+ Feminism, Indigenous Writers). Now that I know how to do it, I’d love to attend future events such as these. I think it’s a really important thing to do and I want to contribute more to public knowledge. I’ve also noticed that now I’m a more critical reader of Wikipedia articles and have caught quite a few missing citations and biased information.
 [Learning Objective 4]
**

Future learning and course recommendations

Overall I think this course has allowed me to gain foundational knowledge on technology and how it relates to publishing. It has also taught me how to read articles, blog posts, and various other content about tech – it doesn’t seem so scary or mystical anymore. Even within our cohort, I can see that we’ve all developed interest in the topics in the course and when we find links about tech and publishing we share them with each other. For example, last week Charlotte shared Apple’s announcement about starting a magazine publication and Steph shared a link about Medium looking for partners to launch new publications.
In terms of course recommendations, I (and many others in the cohort) found that writing a blog post every week to be challenging. It required a lot more research and effort than what we expected. I agree that in some weeks it led to many interesting insights and deepened my knowledge of the topics, however in other weeks I felt the blog posts to be repetitive to the in-class discussion and I didn’t feel like I added anything new to the conversation. My recommendation would be to allow students to perhaps choose three or four topics that they’d be interested in and write blog posts about that.
Another recommendation is that I think basic coding knowledge would be invaluable and very practical for us as we enter into publishing. Having some weeks that are workshop days, where we learn HTML, CSS, and perhaps basic Javascript would have been very beneficial.
Other than that, it was a very enjoyable course and it’s definitely changed the way I think about technology. It’s made it less ‘magical’. There are real humans behind the technology we use, making real decisions that can impact how we use it. Understanding this is important because now I can critique it, fight against it, or support it.

Reflection on my experience in PUB 802

Going into this course, I didn’t know what to expect, but assumed it would be more about hands-on training in the use of technology; in particular I had coding in mind. And in fact I did learn how to use a browser plug-in called Hypothes.is for annotations, and gained a little familiarity with editing WordPress. But also before the class began, I wondered how much we could learn about a given technology in such a short time. So it made sense when I learned that the course would be more of a seminar and discussion about the “digital landscape” than hands-on training in particular software or apps. I would say this is as close to a takeaway as I can describe from this course.

The starting point was getting us to understand the difference between the Internet and the web. That was helpful for me. I also wrote in my notes that Juan wanted to prepare us to navigate the shifting landscape around publishing, enabling us to see what’s happening and the active forces behind it. This course did provide more of a perspective than a set of skills.

The grading contract was a good incentivizing tool and I definitely was stricter with myself about my engagement with this class than any of the others. The required Hypothes.is annotations on readings were also a good incentive to do the readings. I did notice that when I was reading under time constraints, I skimmed to find points to comment on, rather than skimming to find points indicating the author’s argument. This led to me making comments I didn’t really feel strongly about, but that’s no different from the skimming I did in my undergrad when preparing to write a precis.

Some of my peers gave really excellent and engaging lectures. I would also have liked to hear more from Juan. The early lecture where we learned about the history of the formation of the Internet was excellent, and whenever he allowed himself to interject, he offered interesting and important perspective. In one class discussion many students expressed how little they cared about their personal privacy on the internet. In response Juan tried to clarify the importance of the issue, and this is an example of the type of issues I would have liked more directed conversation about from someone whose work involves thinking them through. That said, I appreciate the trust Juan put in us and the level of engagement and discussion this class facilitated.

If someone asks me what I learned, I would be hard pressed to say anything specific. But I feel like I’m a little better prepared to understand conversations in the media around Amazon and Facebook, AI and machine learning, data and privacy, and the changing business models around the publication of content. Also, because of discussions like the ones we had around print and digital reading, I also feel more aware of personal biases publishers are susceptible to, and how they affect our attitudes toward technologies, the internet, and web apps. This course mainly gave me a little experience in trying things out, and a level of comfort discussing technologies today.

Reflection of Learning

After having spent the past several days moving out of my apartment in Vancouver it feels like PUB 802 was so long ago. The content of this course was something that I was already enthusiastic about and had a basic working knowledge of many concepts, however the discussions that occurred both in class and within the online annotations certainly pushed my thinking and challenged my beliefs.

I spend a considerable amount of my leisure time watching educational YouTube videos including video series about the history of the internet, intellectual property, and machine learning. As these were topics that were discussed within the course, this prior exposure to concepts allowed me to contribute during class discussion as well being able to share these resources with classmates within annotations as well as in the MPub facebook group. The fact that I regularly seek out this type of information for fun shows that this content is something that I have a keen interest in and am consistently looking to further expand my understanding. This course provided additional resources to continue to learn about these topics and to build upon my existing knowledge.

There were times throughout the course that my opinions and believes were challenged. There were two areas that pushed my beliefs the most, the first was digital tracking. Prior to this course I was aware of digital tracking however I was not of the opinion that this digital tracking was wrong, something to be alarmed by, or that this data could be used in malicious ways. After news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal first broke it caused me to reflect on how this information could be used and for what purposes. I had previously thought of digital tracking to be solely for the purposes of marketing and advertising. While it is sometimes unsettling to see an ad for the pair of shoes you were just browsing for on Amazon, there is nothing inherently nefarious about Google Ads. I was surprised by the sheer number of my classmates that had installed different ad blockers on their web browsers because I firmly believed that ad blockers were morally repugnant and punishing online content creators for not wanting their content to be placed behind pay walls. What pushed my thinking was the sheer number of trackers that were installed on websites and how the information they were harvesting could be used to influence politics. This use of digital tracking is something that I find much more unsettling than Google Ads and while I am not about to install an ad blocker onto my web browser, the discussions in this course have resulted in me installing Ghostery and thinking more critically about the potential for digital tracking. Another topic in the course that has challenged my thinking is the idea that companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA) alter people’s consumption habits. While I was willing to admit that these companies had a tremendous amount of influence over people I had not considered how Amazon opening a physical retail location was for the purpose of shaping people’s shopping habits to better suit the business model of Amazon. Unlike my thoughts on digital tracking this was nothing something that I had a firm stance that was contrary to the course discussions, but rather that it was not something that I had considered as motivation prior to PUB802.

Both of the topics that challenged my thinking the most within the course are areas that I would consider to be the somewhat alarming reality of how technology (and giant tech companies) shape and influence individuals. My first blog post in this course rejected Adam Gopnik’s categories of  “Never-Betters”, “Better-Nevers”, and “Ever-Wasers”. While I did not align myself within a particular category, and I still believe that people’s interactions with technology is a spectrum and cannot be easily fit into three neat categories, I would consider myself to be between the Never-Betters and the Ever-Wasers at the start of the course. I still maintain a level of optimism that I think it a defining feature of the Never-Betters, however this course has caused me to reconsider certain areas and as a result I have moved more towards a more realist understanding of technology and therefore am closer to the Never-Betters on the spectrum that I was in January.

Pub802 Reflections, refractions

Way back in October I wrote a paper for John Maxwell’s course Pub800: Text & Con­text: Pub­lish­ing in Con­tem­po­rary Cul­ture hoping and dreaming about what a “socialist” publisher might look like. The paper came out of my early naïve look at the book publishing industry, where I received shocking a wakeup call in the form of the realization that, hello, book publishing is a business, and accordingly is concerned with making money as much, if not more, than producing important works of art. I posited then that “If publishing was truly one of the forebears of modern capitalism, as [Richard] Nash suggests, and if capitalism is a factor that has thrown the global mood into this malaise of spirit–not to mention the suppression of knowledge–doesn’t publishing as a field have the unique opportunity to serve culture and counteract this current iteration of capitalism at the same time?” My paper went on to look at alternate business models for traditional book publishing. At the time I was aware of but didn’t want to get into Open Access publishing due to its association with academic publishing.

After Pub802 this semester, however, I feel like I might actually be able to better round out my revolutionary dreams. Our work in thinking through the business models that have emerged via e-commerce, as well as considering Open Access as a business model or case study for literary or, I daresay, art publishing, is extremely exciting. I greatly appreciate our exploration of the Creative Commons in relation to publishing, though I can’t say I’ve yet been able to walk away with answers or a clear sense of a way forward. What does it take for Creative Commons to take hold on a mass scale, a commercial scale? Is it possible? Along with more questions, what I do have is a growing toolbelt of concepts that I can engage with, continue to grow, and attempt to apply to real aspects of the publishing industry.

Funnily, I was struck by how this course continuously reiterated the contradiction of the internet: that it embodies the potential for a democratization of publishing while at the same time almost seamlessly turns every publication into a capitalized subject. I find this to be an endlessly challenging topic, but also perhaps one of the most important of our time.  Possibly the most important or urgent lesson I took from this course was how to be aware of and take agency over my data and interaction with different parties online. I think I am better equipped now to advocate for online privacy and both the functions and dangers of data tracking for studying a market.

The Hypothes.is annotations were a surprising and amazing way in which I could unpack issues like this. The ability to respond to specific ideas, and have to opportunity to receive feedback in an almost chat-like setting was like no educational experience I’ve had. Most important was how it helped foreground classroom discussion, allowing those who might not usually speak up share their opinions, and provide the initial response we felt to the readings against the synthesis of classroom discussion. Between annotations and the blog posts, which also came to feel like relatively low stakes, I felt notably that I was able to explore ideas in an academic setting without the pressure of having a finished or complete understanding of a concept.

Looking back over our assigned blog posts this semester, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern emerge in many of my responses: the Internet has changed all the rules, and we need to learn to adapt and be creative about the capabilities of new technology rather than hold onto habits of print or real-life interaction. I do recognize that this has an edge of sounding like one of Gopnik’s “Never Betters”, but that isn’t my intention: the point is that I see the way we function on the Internet, particularly in relation to publishing, opens up possibilities we haven’t yet embraced, and by necessity must leave behind forms which are better suited to other technologies. The missing piece, for me, remains that more often than not I wasn’t able to predict or extrapolate for what these different possibilities are; I just recognize that they are there and feel a pragmatic disassociation from any kind of nostalgia for print (it’s still there, believe me, I just place it to the side). Moving forward I want to maintain this criticality while continuing to imagine ways in which technology may best be applied, especially in relation to publishing on/offline and the display, annotation, and sharing of images in a digital realm. I also want to add that this course very satisfyingly tracked with our Pub801: History of Publishing seminar which we participated in concurrently: the topics explored in history’s past informed and often corresponded to our explorations of publishing’s rapidly progressing present. 

I want to add a final note about the Contribution to Public Knowledge assignment, which seemed to take a backseat to the course in some ways though, in the end, was a very interesting exercise. For starters, it was a challenge of looking at oneself and thinking “What do I have to contribute?” to a seemingly bottomless repository like Wikipedia. However, once one gets digging, the gaps and underground caverns in public knowledge become clear. From my personal experience, I was surprised, intrigued, and frustrated by how difficult it actually is to write a Wikipedia article from scratch that met its stringent guidelines. I understand the need for moderation and appreciate it; the acceptance of Wikipedia from a questionable website to a relatively reliable starting place (if a not source in and of itself) is a marked evolution I’ve noticed over my academic life. However, the guidelines that lend Wikipedia its “credibility” are through its citation and reference process: if something hasn’t been written about or published, it cannot be credibly referenced, and therefore can’t exist, at least not on Wikipedia. This self-enforcing system reminds me somewhat of academic peer review and makes me suspicious of those entities which may not appear “legitimate” enough because they haven’t gained credibility through the Web, and who truly is given access to write or be written about.

Pub 802 Reflection

As I sit here at home, munching on an apple, reflecting on my experience in Pub 802, trying to boil an entire semester down into a couple of talking points, I realize how hard it is to put my take away into words. So I’m going to try to speak to it through what I liked and didn’t like about the structure of the class.

In regards to the structure, for the most part I thoroughly appreciated the unusual way of doing things. Student-led syllabus and discussions, readings and blog topics worked out to let us have more say in what we wanted to learn. It was a unique way to give us students more agency, and therefore feel more engaged, in the course content. What I found to be the best aspect of the course structure was the annotated readings. I do disagree with how it factored into marks–mainly that there is an arbitrary requirement to comment enough times to get a satisfactory for a week, which to me encourages superficial engagement with a topic but doesn’t actually represent the time or thought put into a reading–however I found it to be the most helpful portion of the course. I’m a slow thinker and generally spend a lot of time doing something that most people do at a fraction of my time, including putting my thoughts into words. The online annotations allowed me to participate in discussion around the readings in a capacity I cannot achieve in seminar discussions. It allowed me to read, reread, comment, reply, and think about what external source to bring into the conversation. It also played into the psychology of social media notifications through emails about replies, which made it kind of exciting to participate and leave a comment.

What I didn’t like, and mostly because I found it more difficult to engage with or care about, were the weekly blog posts. I’m the type of person to prefer few big projects over consistent small projects, as I have a binge-work ethic. The requirement to write a bunch of small blog posts meant I had to force myself to write for a topic I didn’t care about, which I never think is a good thing, or force myself to write short for a topic I had a lot to say about, which I also don’t agree with. Both result in me feeling like I just submitted a rushed work for the sake of submitting. Factor in the fluctuating workload of other courses throughout the term and the “consistent” workload of 802 became more and more of a burden. I would have much preferred a system of choosing fewer topics from all available and being able to write a more detailed blog post. While I understand that that would create an imbalance in the amount of blog posts each peer would be saddled with to give feedback on, I ultimately think that would be a more productive form of learning, at least for me. (What if students signed up for topics much like we signed up for weeks to lead the class, in order to balance the blog post to response ratio workload?) Even as I read the blog posts for my week that I need to give feedback on, a lot of them read like they are just going through the motions to answer the prompt. Perhaps that is also because it is the last week, too, but I also think it is because they are too short for students to go into enough depth, and the fact I’m reading through 10+ of these short bursts of thought, and it leaves me feeling like, as the feedbacker, I’m just saying the same things over and over again on each post. “Oh this is your opinion? Did you think about this part, though?”. In summation: I do not feel engaged or that my time is being used productively. (Note that this is what it feels like and is not a reflection of the actual quality of the blog posts).

I have spent most of my words on the structure and how it worked for me because I honestly do not think the content of this course changed my idea of the role of technology in our lives. That is not to say the class was not valuable, as it certainly deepened my understanding, but I have not come out of the class with a different approach to my future than before the class. No, I will not be taking away new information about the ways in which technology is changing our society and blurring the roles of the people within. My relationship with technology has not changed because of this course, my opinion on tracking has not changed. What I will be taking away are questions, thinking points about the implications of technology that will, in the future, continue to influence my changing understanding of the effect of technology on society. A couple years down the line I will look back and be like: “You know what? I wouldn’t have had this current perspective on technology without those thinking points given to me in that pub802 course so long ago….”

PUB802 – final essay

Coming into PUB802, I was worried that I would have to have programing knowledge of some kind. It’s not like I don’t think practical knowledge of programming or coding is important, but very often that gets prioritized over actual discussion about the role of technology and I am glad this course gives preference to theory over application. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed the required reading for any other course like I did for this one. I felt like each reading of each class opened my mind to something I either did not know before or knew about but had not thought about it in a certain way. For instance, I knew that people’s internet activity was tracked. That’s the reason I have Ghostery on my browser. But I did not know the details about how it works, what it tracks and what implications that has on my personal information. The extent to which data is tracked these days, especially in light of the Cambridge Analytica case, is truly astounding and I am glad I got to study this.

I also did not know much about AI, beyond that yes, it exists! And so, to learn about AI and its various offshoots like Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing, was extremely fascinating. Both tracking and AI have a huge role to play in the publishing industry. As someone who is about to enter the book industry, it was very useful to know the ways in which these technologies can impact and change the publishing landscape. I also really enjoyed annotating each article. I am glad that this was enforced. Sometimes just annotating an article required me to read more articles so that I could offer some meaningful food for thought, and there were times that this, no doubt, felt like a chore, but I am still glad this was enforced. It forced me to read carefully and not skim over the articles. It was also the first time ever that I was using Hypothes.is. It seemed intimidating to me at first. But I am amazed at how you can install it within minutes and start annotating. Like others, I have been tempted to annotate other articles I read on the web, just because Hypothes.is gives me the option to do so. I think the annotations played a huge part in creating a sense of community within our cohort. I liked reading what my class mates had written and responding to them. I also enjoyed the class discussions. Most of us – and I might be wrong here – don’t usually read the kind of articles that we did for this course. I had a lot of apprehension about writing an essay each week and compulsorily annotating 5-6 articles. The “contract” only heightened this apprehension. But the workload was doable because the articles were short and manageable reads. I thought the discussions in class were helpful and important. Writing the blog every week was tough at times, especially because some research was needed to be able to write a thought-provoking piece, but I think this was a worthwhile exercise. I had never written about technology before, so the blogs helped me expand my writing vocabulary.

PUB802 is a unique course in that it forces us as students to do nothing but immerse ourselves in thinking and philosophizing about technology. I feel like this is a luxury, one that when we start working, we will no longer have.

REFLECTION

Being a user of technology at every seconds of my life, I was excited to learn more about technology in this course. PUB 802 was a very interesting course; I have learnt as evidence by this reflection.

My lecturer, Mr. Juan Pablo Alperin, has afforded me the opportunity to learn more technological terms and trends. We were also exposed to different materials highlighting the importance of integrating technology in the publishing industry. As I reflect on the course, I must say that I have really learnt a lot.

I believe that technology integration continues to increase in the publishing industry. It is important that we, as future publishers, possess the very skills and behaviours to better survive in a digital age.

Applying technology at school has had a great impact on me as it has given me more knowledge, such as sannotation, e-book and Amazon. This course has taught me different ways that I can use to plan effective technological integration for working in the industry.

In this class it was challenging at times, especially with the weekly assignments but I have learned to use different technological tools. I opted to try different things even though I wasn’t sure how it would work, but because of my determination and curiosity, I did it anyway and it worked. I guess this says that I take risks in learning on my own at times.

As I willingly accepted the opportunity to explore educational technology, my darkened state was lit as it was brought to my attention how technology savvy the 21st century learners are. However, as the course progressed new information surfaced. At some point in the course I felt frustrated, but I continued to do what I had to do, knowing that it would only redound to my success.

As I continue to reflect I realize that this course has helped me to understand that the use of interactive educational activities can promote higher order thinking skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. I have proven this to be true, based on the discussions and group activities done in the class. This course has helped me as I work with my colleagues and we collaborate and make decisions to create meaningful, learning experiences.

Without a doubt technology has become a vehicle for educational growth and I am happy to be a part of this vision. This course has definitely helped me to realize it.  

Final Essay: Reflection on Learning (PUB 802)

Each student will write a final essay (approximately 500-750 words) that outlines their experience in the course, and the ways in which their thinking about the roles of technologies in publishing, and in our lives, has changed as a result. Students can focus on a single takeaway, on several, or discuss the course as a whole. The takeaway need not be about a specific piece of knowledge, but rather about the experience as a whole.

Three months after the start of PUB 802 – Technology & Evolving Forms of Publishing, I can barely remember what I wrote on my cue card on that first day when we were asked to write out what we wanted to get from the class—but no matter what I wrote, I leave this class satisfied with the knowledge I have gained.

I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed by the fluid structure and the amount of autonomy we were given from day one. But coming from an educational background (I work for a school board), I understood the reasoning behind and the importance of letting students take control of their own learning. I understood that I would be more engaged in the course material if I had played a role in selecting in.

It has been an interesting experiment, seeing how these strategies that we encourage our teachers to use have played a role in my own life over the course of the semester. And I think that when looking back on my year in Vancouver, this course will stand out for me because of the forward-thinking structure it was delivered in, and because I will remember more of the content having made a conscious decision that this was information that I wanted to learn.

While I’ve taken many marketing, business, writing, and design courses before and have found much overlap with that content and the content in many of our other MPub classes, this tech class contained new information—information that will have a real and lasting impact on my life.

As much as I had hoped around the start of the class that I would leave with more concrete skills to navigate the ever-evolving world of tech, I understand now after our deep dives into the difference between the web and the internet, digital reading, tracking and measuring, and so forth, that having the background knowledge and the language to talk about these things is equally important (and has hopefully given me a solid foundation on which I can base future independent hard skills learning on).

I think a big part of the reason I have been able to take so much away from this course is because we used the hypothes.is plugin to annotate all of our readings. While I have always been a decent note-taker, being required to dig deeper and pull meaning, connections, and questions from the text on a public stage in front of my classmates lead me to think much deeper about the readings rather than take them at face value. I found in doing the annotations, I became more critical of the authors and was more likely to fact-check their claims, even if the articles came from reputable sources. I was also much more likely to seek out additional information to broaden my and my classmates’ understanding of the topics we were learning about. This sense of community, both between myself and the class, and the class and the author, has helped hold us all accountable to being engaged and doing proper research. If only this relationship dynamic showed up more throughout the online world, it would be a healthier place.

I also have a new appreciation for evolving and emerging technologies such as AI. Prior to this class, I was fearful and skeptical (and I think I still am, which isn’t a bad thing), but now I am able to acknowledge the problems rather than ignore them. I definitely can’t fix them, but I know that having an awareness and understanding of how they impact my life and my career is necessary. Furthermore, I understand that things like AI and metadata can benefit our lives, such as by leading to greater accessibility, knowledge, and connection. But that without proper regulation in place to hold big tech (and ourselves) accountable in this very real world, the results could be disastrous, as we have seen recently with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

I leave this class equipped with the tools necessary to understand technology, even as it shifts and changes. While we spent the last three months looking at things through a publishing lens, I feel that the background knowledge I have gained is applicable to many different fields and will be of benefit to me whatever career path I follow.

I could go on about my experience planning and leading a class, the weekly blog posts, or the contribution to public knowledge—all of which also challenged me to grow and learn—but I’m running out of space, so I will just say thank you instead.