The publication of self in everyday life

John Maxwell and Suzanne Norma
John Maxwell (left) and Suzanne Norman have developed a course that helps students understand and take control of their online presence.

By David Porter

For Suzanne Norman and John Maxwell of SFU’s Publishing program, the “publication of self in everyday life” should be a core piece of the university experience for all SFU students. Their vision is a liberal arts course that complements academic programs and provides students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of accomplishments that matches their areas of interest. Their PUB 101 course, titled, not surprisingly, “The Publication of Self in Everyday Life,” does precisely that.

“It’s the kind of first-year course that everybody in university should take. You take an English course to insure you can read and write. You take this course so you’ll know how to operate online, know what’s beyond your keypad and know how to take responsibility for it,” says Maxwell.

PUB 101 is part of the Print and Digital Publishing Minor, an increasingly popular choice for students of Communications, English, Business, and from SIAT (School of Interactive Arts and Technology) who are looking to build skills and increase their employability. It’s an example of a flexible learning experience that provides students with new digital publishing skills as well as the know-how to build a professional portfolio of their own.

For Suzanne Norman, who currently teaches the course with Juan Pablo Alperin, the strength of the course is its requirement for students to manage their digital presence end to end: “The PUB 101 course is about taking responsibility for public presence—taking ownership with no parental guidance.”

Maxwell agrees: “The whole idea of portfolio assessment could be given to students in its entirety. It’s their responsibility. They should completely own their own stuff.”

Rowland Lorimer, founding director of SFU’s Master of Publishing program, gave PUB 101 its direction by suggesting to Maxwell and Norman that they build on Erving Goffman’s ideas from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and provide a modern outlet for personal expression for students of the digital era. Maxwell and Norman found ideas for such an outlet in the DS106 and A Domain of One’s Own projects designed by Jim Groom and Alan Levine.

Norman emphasizes that “the most important part of PUB 101 is peer learning. If you end up in publishing … you need to work with people you don’t know, contractors and designers, sometimes temperamental creative types … so you need to be able to work and share and teach each other.” These are life lessons embedded within the flexible learning experience that PUB 101 provides.