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.

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.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Looking…Around

At the outset of PUB 802 I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the way the course has encouraged me to reflect on the role that technology plays in my life and how I relate to technology. Technology and Web 2.0 are so ubiquitous in my life, and has been for so long—I realized over the course of this semester how complacent I had become with how it functions and even the lack of awareness that I had related to a lot of things that go on behind the scenes. This has played out in regards to each of the course objectives.

Appetite: Whetted

This course has encouraged me to think more critically about how interact with and consume content in a digital environment. I’ve reflected on my reading habits; for instance, last week’s reading on Being a Better Digital Reader  has made me more aware of the obstacles we face trying to engage deeply with content online, which has had the twofold effect of alleviating some of my anxiety/guilt regarding sometimes feeling like I’m not full absorbing online content, and also allowing me to consciously employ strategies to absorb content online in a more meaningful way.

Hey, I See what You’re Doing over There

This course has also educated me on the function that data serves in the Web 2.0  economy. I was aware of this in a vague sense before coming to PUB 802, but I had no idea how extensive and pervasive of an issue this really was. Reading this Twitter thread about Google and this article about Facebook really brought into focus the surveillance economy. I feel like, now that I know more, I can make conscious decisions about how I’m using technology in my life, and, when I am offering up my personal data as currency in exchange for a service or product, I can make a more informed decision and weigh the cost against the value of the service.

A Peak Behind the Techno Curtain 

My technological knowledge was very use-based before coming to this course; I understood how programs worked from a user’s perspective, but I really had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. It was so interesting for me to learn about the origins of the Internet and how information travels. Specifically, I appreciated acronyms like IP, HTTP, and CSS being demystified. I like understanding what’s going on around me, and when it comes to something as ubiquitous as the Internet, I really appreciate things being made a little more transparent.

I Do, Therefore I Am

The Wikipedia assignment, admittedly, was not a favourite of the 2018/19 MPub cohort. That being said, I’m happy to have completed the training module. It’s empowering to feel like I’m equipped to contribute to public knowledge production projects like Wikipedia, and I also enjoyed the WordPress work that we had to do. I think it’s good in a course like this that there is a hands-on aspect to the learning, because I think technology really lends itself to learning this way.

I also really appreciated working with Hypothes.is. All throughout this year, in PUB 800 and 802, it was a great tool for our cohort to make meaning out of the readings, and also build community among us. Even when serious knowledge production wasn’t necessarily happening in those margins, it helped bring us together as a group, and it was also a fun GIF testing ground.

Wrapping Up

Prior to coming to 801, my relationship to technology was quiet passive—things were what they were, and I didn’t necessarily spend much time or energy thinking about how technology functioned in my life or how it affected me, I think partially because I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. After having completed this course, however, I do feel more engaged, informed, and empowered when it comes to thinking critically about technology in our society. Thank you for an interesting course, and have a good summer!

 

 

I Object! A Pub 802 Reflection

I walked into PUB 802 feeling very excited and fascinated by the course syllabus, partly because I’m a rookie tech lover and constantly surround myself with social media and new tech forms. I soon realized that the class would be centered around thinking about technology with a critically analytic lens. I have never been in a seminar like this, or even felt challenged to think about technology in an academic way, so I felt very inspired to alter my thinking and learn further about the technology that consumes our everyday lives! To critically reflect on my experience in this course, I will address my attitudes towards each learning objectives from our course syllabus. 


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.

I felt most drawn to the articles from Week 7: data privacy, Lynn Neary’s article “Publishers’ Dilemma: Judge A Book By Its Data Or Trust The Editor’s Gut?[Week 9: Measuring & Tracking], and the text from Frank Chimero, “The Good Room” [Week 3: The Internet changes everything]. These articles and our class discussions during these weeks definitely challenged me to further my thinking and spiral down a rabbit hole of research and additional relative news articles. Technology is not just a fancy shining thing that needs our everyday attention; in fact, I’ve learned specifically from those weeks that perhaps we desperately need technology for our society to evolve and continue growing. Technology has thoroughly integrated into our lives; could it be for the better? I don’t believe we can go backward toward a time without tech now.

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

I feel that I’m quite up to date to popular news on technology while discovering them by the trusted Twitter; but with those stories, I read it, hear it, and go on with my day. However, this class has given me the opportunity to dive into the technology-related events and really question it’s deeper context and reasoning. Specifically, with the Facebook scandal, many of my close family/ friends vowed to never use Facebook again, and I started feeling a little hesitant towards social media. However, after reading Cory Doctorow’s “Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives’ “operating system” [from Week 7: Data Privacy], I realized that if we don’t discuss and think critically about these issues, then it is a form of ignorance and avoidance to the problem. I learned that perhaps technology is not the real problem, but the problem is how creators/users interact and make bad decisions with technology.

Objective 3: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work

I felt like one of the biggest missed opportunities in this class is that we didn’t learn how to code. I think it’s a fundamental learning objective that should have been included within the course schedule, as it’s an important and growing skill that could be beneficial to our relationship with technology/ publishing. I truly appreciate the mini-tech lessons, especially the first lesson we had that helped us understand how the web works (with the cool web drawing Juan made). I understand that learning how to code within 30 mins sounds impossible, but I wonder if we could have devoted a class to it. 3 hours seems reasonable? I often felt a little lost during the mini tech lessons as they were huge concepts squished into a slim 20 min time slot. Could workshops break up the discussion heavy component to this course? I think it would help us feel more motivated and on track with the course. It’s hard to be in a technology course and always talk, just talk, and not feel like we are interacting with tech more beyond using the basic publishing tools.

Objective 4: Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (hypothes.is)

I felt very comfortable with using WordPress before I came into this course, having run a small lifestyle blog site before. I also completed the exact same Wiki assignment in my undergrad English literature class, so I was familiar with the site and the weekly tasks. I particularly liked being provoked to annotate via hypothes.is as it kept me motivated to complete the readings and contribute to my class’ online discussion. I liked how it became a space for me to communicate with my cohort and further discuss how we each felt about the readings. I think hypothes.is is a powerful tool that can invoke better online reading, and with a couple more enhancements (better @ system or reply/comment area, or a better way to include photos and GIFS!), it can be game-changing.

Objective 5: Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology

I really liked each blog prompt, despite some taking more time from me to ponder and outline. I like feeling like I have a space to explore my thoughts, even if they are incomplete, incoherent ones. One of my biggest fears with sharing anything is the fear of failure or rejection, so knowing that I am sharing my opinion with my peers who do not judge me, but rather push me to think harder is really motivating and new for me. I particularly liked the task of reading everyone’s blog post and posting a comment during my lecture week. It inserted me into a position of having to challenge attitudes and ideas, despite initially agreeing to them and wanting to move on as I always do. One of my favourite things about this is seeing a thread going on in the comments in hypothes.is ! The digital party is always bumping! 


Overall, this class has opened my eyes to technology, to not simply read what I see and live in ignorance about it. Group discourse is important about tech issues because we can better understand and find ways to live a balanced life with technology (hence, the birth of recharge). I’m excited to learn about new technologies that come and interact with them the same way I did during this course, if not better and deeper.

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.

Reflections on Pub 802, Spring 2019


Upon looking at the lineup of classes this semester, I must admit I was a little apprehensive to be taking what looked like a tech-heavy course load.  Despite being someone whose work is heavily based on digital technologies, I consider myself to be a bit of a Luddite. However, my original fears that Pub 802 was going to be “techy”, dry, and beyond my comprehension were quickly proven wrong. Instead, I found the reading material and subsequent class discussions to be generally exciting as they didn’t focus so much on the digital technologies per se but the social, political, and economic implications these technologies have. Overall, I feel like I have learned a lot from this class as well as met, and in some cases exceeded, the learning objectives set forth in September. Continue reading “Reflections on Pub 802, Spring 2019”

Time to Say Goodbye: A Review of PUB802

Before taking this class, not only did I not think critically about anything involving the digital technology in my day-to-day life, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about anything tech-related in a serious way. Now, at the end of the semester, I can hold my own in a casual conversation about technology-related events and trends, drawing on the various lenses through which we looked at the digital technologies to do so.

Objective One
This class has definitely whet my appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, and how they relate to the content I consume. Learning about the Web versus the Internet in our first class immediately captured my interest. In the future, I’m curious to learn more about some subjects than others—as a fan and frequent remixer, I’m still very interested in learning about copyright as laws continue to change—whereas I have less interest in online business models. In short, my eyes have been opened with regards to critically thinking about technology and the tech industry; the way the Web has evolved over time, the way we think of data collection and privacy versus what’s being collected and how that data is used, the dangers of using only one business model both on and offline, and the web as a space as it pertains to design were all of special interest to me.

Objective Two
As I said in my first blog post, this course has provided me a vocabulary and framework to analyze and talk about technology-related concepts, events and trends. I’ve become much more cognizant of how I interact with technology in the digital spaces I frequent, and now have the framework to be critical of them. I can analyze any platform through multiple lenses: business model and data privacy, measuring and tracking user behaviour, design as an integral part of the online experience, etc. As such, I’ve been able to develop my own thoughts regarding various aspects of technology—especially concerning the issue of data privacy, and user measuring and tracking. After reading and discussing in class, I’ve managed to better understand what my comfort level with regards to these things are, and why I feel the way I do.

Objective Three
While I have a very good grasp of copyright law, XML, various online business models (subscriptions services, the Patreon model, advertising, etc.), and how the Internet works, I wish we had learned more about how to implement a lot of the technologies we talked about, such as spending time learning to code. That being said, I definitely understand how the technologies we covered work, and can implement this knowledge in my future endeavors. My knowledge of metadata comes to mind, here; knowing how it works as well as its function permits me to understand why it’s important and how it can be better used to help publishers in the future.

Objective Four
After completing all required blog posts, annotating all the readings, and posting my Wikipedia assignment, I can confident say that I have experience with all three of these digital publishing tools. I really enjoyed annotating all the readings—I feel that they helped me grasp the material, and the sense of community created within the annotations was a welcome addition to the class, and provided further learning opportunities through links, explanations, and anecdotes. I’ll continue to use them. I found the blog posts to be extremely difficult to keep up with—they were very time consuming and the expectation for the assignment was unclear until later in the semester, which I found frustrating. That being said, I think I’ve hit my stride with regards to the assignment objectives and requirements; I’m linking, tagging, and adding gifs to my posts and have balanced the narrative reflection with information and analysis.

I’m very happy the Wikipedia assignment was optional; the weekly blog posts and annotations are a lot of work by themselves, but combined with that assignment and my other classes, the class workload was impossible to keep up with. It was still very difficult—I wish there had been fewer blog posts with longer word counts, and that they had been presented as mini-essays or articles.

All told, this class provided me with a solid framework to understand, use and analyze various digital technologies, and I’ve come out of it better equipped to be critical of the online world.

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.