Domain of One’s Own is ALL BUSINESS

Unviersity Busines DoOOSomehow I missed the fact that this article about Domain of One’s Own published in University Business has already been out for a week. I’m slipping. I love that the article was published in an IT management-centered publication. IT management might not be our particular focus at DTLT—we’re all about the teaching and learning—but that’s part of the genius of Domain of One’s Own: it’s protean. And this isn’t the first time a more business-centered publication picked this initiative up, last semester Nicole Henderson wrote an article about UMW Domains on the Web Host Industry Review. The author of the article for University BusinessMatt Zalaznick,  talked with Tim “the wizard” Owens about the project, and it all sounds so good:

The tools provided by the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative make it easier for students to carve out their own space on the web, and control and customize it…

“Students want to make something their own—to personalize it and say this is my space, this is who I am, in a way to personify themselves on the web,” Owens says.

Users have complete control over the content and the design of the page. Mary Washington students can install a variety of open source software, such as the blogging platform WordPress, to help them design their sites.

Exactly, these three paragraphs really get at why someone at University Business or Web Hosting Industry Review or some other solutions-minded publication would be interested in Domain of One’s Own—because it is an amazing solution to have university communities thinking more critically about how the web works. It provides a space for students (as well as faculty and staff) to experiment with their web presence through the university, but not necessarily on it.

Enabling an academic community to experiment with a wide range of open source applciations (like WordPress, Omeka, Mahara, Moodle, MediaWIki, DokuWIki, etc.) is built into the design of UMW Domains. This isn’t a unilateral, campus-wide approach to a singe tool, an approach often taken with most content management, learning management, and e-portfolio systems, and one that often breeds mutiny in pockets. This is a platform that enables and encourages experimentation of possibilities and a diversity of options. Such an approach recognizes the university campus as a lab that can simultaneously be virtualized, de-centered, and personalized.

UMW Domains provides myriad opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to once again imagine the work they do at and for their university as part of a broader set of resources and conversations the campus community can and should be publishing on the web. The general neglect of campus provided web spaces (remember the /~space) as part of a university’s web infrastructure could very well mean that less and less personal, pedagogical, and scholarly work is freely published as part of that community despite the fact that the tools have never been easier. This isn’t to say the work won’t still be published on the web, but it’ll be all over the place providing no unified sense of a networked community with a shared sense of purpose that in many ways defines what a university community is. Why would we let the very core of our mission languish so?

And we haven’t even gotten to the points of controlling one’s data in the era of the NSA Spygate (this is not a conspiracy, we actually all know this now), interrogating how the web works, learning the inner workings of web hosting and open source tools that can make students more marketable, etc. Why isn’t everyone considering something like this? It seems to me we have a lot more to lose than to gain by not doing it. No, I guess we would rather just build or lease huge virtual auditoriums that seat tens of thousands of people and show videos because the web is just an amphitheater and ebooks are the popcorn 😉

Today I sat down with one of the many great professors at UMW. As we got started, rather than telling her to sign-up for a blog on our system—something I have been doing for eight years now—she logged into her own web hosting account  and started exploring CPanel, creating subdomains, editing files in the file manager, and installing an open source software—all before we even got to the tool. This was an awesome moment for me professionally. At UMW we have evolved with the technology and we’re bringing our community along. We’ve built several layers of what some folks might refer to as “work” into the process, but it’s work that people want to do because they want to try and understand how the web works. UMW Domains provides them a place to start from; a space to manage, archive, and explore what it means to be sysadmins of their education.

What’s more, because this professor was part of the Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative, we actually started talking about Vaneveer Bush’s Memex, Doug Engelbart’s “Mother of All Demoes,” and Jon Udell’s “Seven Ways to think like the Web” while doing it. That’s a professional peak for me 😉 The Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative kicked off this week with 19 faculty, and you can see the first week’s curriculum here. In just about a year we’ve gotten almost 70 tenure-track and administrative faculty their own domain. It’s all the rage!

In fact, instead of sitting here writing this in my den, Martha Burtis, Tim Owens, and I should have been in Atlanta tonight preparing to attend the three-day Domain Incubator that was set to start tomorrow. Unfortunately, because of the snow and ice it has been rescheduled for two weeks from now in mid-February (the 13th and 14th). This event will bring together a number of regional faculty from a variety of universities in the Atlanta region who are ready to experiment with their own domain projects. In fact, Pete Rorbaugh and David Morgen published an excellent article in Hybrid pedagogy yesterday in which they framed the theoretical context for building a cross-institutional community around web literacies at this moment.

Add to all of that a meeting DTLT had at the beginning of the week with our Provost. He asked to meet to get a better sense of the project so that he could start explaining its broader technical and conceptual possibilities to others—and he gets it. It’s truly been an awesome week for Domain of One’s Own. The press is writing about it, the academic communities are theorizing it, administration is groking it, and DTLT is rocking it. It’s a win-win, baby! I feel like I am living in the ds106zone!

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