MPub alumnus Jarin Pintana presents at the first-ever 'Swiftposium'

March 29, 2024
Jarin at the first-ever 'Swiftposium' hosted by the University of Melbourne in Australia. Photo Credit: Jarin Pintana

Master of Publishing graduate Jarin Pintana recently presented at the 2024 Swiftposium, a first-ever academic conference on Taylor Swift's global impact, organized by the University of Melbourne in Australia. A devoted 'Swiftie', Pintana gives us an insight into what she calls the "highlight of her academic career". She shares her experiences as both a fan and a keen observer of Swift's incredible legacy. 

You recently presented at the first-ever Swiftposium organized by the University of Melbourne in Australia. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Sure! I found out about this academic conference from a friend. At the time, I was in Australia for my MPub research, so the coincidence was a bit crazy, but I am so glad it worked out! 

2023 was Taylor's year (Swift re-recorded and re-released her 2010 grammy-nominated album, Speak Now, kicked off her ongoing and sixth global concert tour, The Eras Tour, and was named TIME magazine's 2023 Person of the Year), and so the University of Melbourne wanted to use the opportunity for scholars to engage in critical dialogue around her popularity and address a range of issues including gender, fandom, popular culture, the economy, the music industry and literature. 

Originally, it was open to the public, but they had to shut down the registration and only allow presenters to attend because the conference received an incredible amount of attention. In fact, it went viral as soon as it was announced. It was so cool!   

Your presentation, “An Investigation of Taylor Swift’s Impact on the Book Publishing Industry”, discusses the phenomenon that she is, and her ongoing influence on an industry she isn't necessarily a part of. Besides your admiration for her as an artist, what inspired you to talk about her work within the context of book publishing? 

Publishing is a perfect blend of everything the conference covered. Like the Swiftposium, it has different aspects such as literature, economics, media, culture, business etc. Taylor Swift is undoubtedly a global superstar, but the lyricism in her music is something that is worth analyzing. It begs the question - “Is publishing lyrics the same as writing a book?” In the MPub program, we talk a lot about what book publishing entails and how it is the dissemination of information - which is essentially what Taylor Swift does through her music. 

Since I am a huge fan, and my background is in book publishing, I wanted to participate as soon as I heard about it. I thought I could bridge the gap in a way that could be interesting to people outside of the industry. Even in the MPub, I made sure to use every opportunity I got to talk about Taylor Swift. Whether it was a project for Mauve’s design class or a discussion in Juan’s technology class, I always went back to her work and tied it to publishing. 

As for my presentation at the conference, it comprised of three sections. The first was about her impact on book marketing and sales, the second was about 'Swiftie' book displays, and the third was about her role in introducing classic literatures, such as A Tale of Two Cities, Alice in Wonderland, The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and many others to younger audiences (through her musical references). 

Overall, I think my goal was to make a presentation that was accessible to a semi-informed academic audience; well informed on Taylor Swift, and maybe less informed on book publishing.  

Jarin's presentation, "An Investigation of Taylor Swift's Impact on the Book Publishing Industry" at the 2024 Swiftposium. Photo Credit: Jarin Pintana

To be able to present at the first ever academic conference on one of the most famous contemporary popstars must have been surreal, to say the least. What was the experience like, for you, personally? 

It was the highlight of my academic career! I was thrilled to be a part of it. It received so much love and appreciation. Most people who attended took it seriously while still ensuring it was fun. It felt like such a community experience. Some of us were in costumes too. Honestly, it might be the best dressed academic conference I’ve ever attended. 

Anyway, what's also interesting is that she was scheduled to perform in Melbourne the same week, so there was already some buzz and excitement surrounding the conference, which was great.

Most of the attendees were either huge fans or people who weren’t necessarily fans, but had a certain level of interest in her. While the conference provided us with an exciting opportunity to connect with other fans, it also allowed us to create a safe space where we could critically think about her impact in the world. 

As a fan, I am aware of the level of scrutiny, criticism and backlash she faces because she is a celebrity, but more so because she is a woman. That is why I thought the conference was such a meaningful place where we could shift the discourse and view her from a completely different lens. 

You recently graduated from the Master of Publishing program. Has your experience in the program shaped your interests or broadened your own lens in some ways? 

Yes, of course. The MPub program at SFU is a huge reason why I could do the presentation in Melbourne. As someone who has been a part of the program, I can say that it enables you to dig deeper and explore the things that you are passionate about.

No matter what our interests were, the faculty always encouraged us to feel confident about the topics we wanted to engage in. As a matter of fact, I was able to embrace being an academic and move past just being a fan of Taylor Swift. Some of my MPub projects were similar to what I did at the conference. I remember designing a Taylor Swift themed magazine for Mauve’s class. It was so much fun!

Jarin's presentation for her Master of Publishing design class with Mauve Pagé. Photo Credit: Jarin Pintana

What was your background before you joined the Master of Publishing program at SFU?

I have an interdisciplinary research background. My undergraduate degree was in Biology and English Literature. My program essentially focused on the intersection of the arts and the sciences. 

Now that I look back, I think I've done many things! I've worked different jobs in order to get some interdisciplinary experience. Whether it was for business, or a creative field, I took on many professional roles, and eventually, I decided to pursue my masters. 

For my masters, I chose book publishing because it is a creative industry with a business side. You get to think critically and analytically, but also creatively. Unlike other industries, publishing is where both of these things are rewarded equally.

Although I had a lot of marketing, copywriting and editing experience, I was less familiar with graphic design. This was when I first started out in the MPub. Anyway, I think it was a good thing because it challenged me to work outside of my strengths. 

I learned that your MPub placement/internship was with the Indigenous Editors Association (IEA). How did that happen? 

I remember John (Maxwell) and Suzanne (Norman) were looking to see if any of our cohort was interested in going to Australia. I believe they were looking into doing a partnership with Agatha-Mrva Montoya from the University of Sydney in regards to Accessibility and Indigenous publishing. Since I was interested in reconciliation, and the discourse around that, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn and gain insight, especially as a non-Indigenous person. 

I think it is important to remember Canada’s violent history, and also consider the struggles that people have faced post the Black Lives Matter movement as well as before it. So much of my taking on this internship and writing this report was about introspection and awareness. A lot of the work that I did focused on how I, as a non-indigenous settler scholar, could engage with an Indigenous project in a mindful and respecftul way. 

Working with the IEA was vital to my project (report) being successful. For me, a big part of that meant taking on the labor of doing some of the work that the Indigenous Editors Association wanted done. I would actively avoided making recommendations, and would focus more on providing observations and raw data.

Getting the opportunity to go to Australia, and also work with the IEA for my MPub project report, as well as Suzanne, John and Dr. Agatha-Mrva Montoya was so incredibly rewarding. 

What are you currently doing, and where do you see yourself in the next few years? 

I recently joined Tandem Collective’s diversity, equity and inclusion pod, which I believe stemmed out of my MPub research project. I also work with Green Book Alliance, which is an organization that works towards improving sustainability in the supply chain. The GBA is an initiative by Book Industry Communication (BIC)Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and BookNet Canada (BNC)

In terms of my role, I report directly to the CEO of those companies, which is crazy. We try to help publishers and people across the supply chain access and understand the best sustainability practices in publishing. Whether it is about printers or papers, we address concerns surrounding publishing practices. For instance, our carbon footprint. So it really is about understanding and managing our role and our responsibilities towards the environment as publishing professionals.   

As for the future, I am hoping I can pursue a PhD. There were people I met at the conference in Melbourne who were extremely encouraging of the idea. They even said they would want to supervise me. However, the conference was not too long ago, so I haven't really done something about it. Anyway, I am very interested in the intersectionality of book publishing, fandoms and online communities, as well as book marketing, so maybe something around that.

What is your advice for students who are possibly lost or struggling to find their voice? 

Do not let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. My love for Taylor Swift and my persistence in that is what led me to Swiftposium. Even as a student in the MPub, I always brought up Taylor Swift during our discussions. To me, it was never trivial or insignificant. 

Challenge yourself to do the things that you are uncomfortable doing. Whether you're in the program or you’re still figuring it out, be open to making mistakes. I was not the best graphic designer when I first joined the MPub, but I learned along the way. Today, I am much better at it. So, the program shows you how diverse and multi-faceted publishing is. You might go into the program wanting to enhance a skill you already have, but you come out of it with a lot more.

I have to say that the MPub helped me develop the core skills I have today. 

Learn more about the MPub here.  

Learn more about Jarin's project report here

Watch one of the events at the Swiftposium here. (You can find Jarin at 48:55).