Domain of One’s Own: a Toolkit for User Innovation

I’ve been asked the following question a lot over the last year:

What’s the difference between UMW Blogs and Domain of One’s Own?

Why build and support something like Domain of One’s Own when you already have UMW Blogs? I’ve previously gone about answering this question by discussing the differences in terms of the limits of a centrally hosted version of WordPress in the case of UMW Blogs, etc. But that’s really missing the point, the difference has nothing to do with WordPress, per se. That fact became crystal clear to me after seeing this tweet from Jon Udell:

Udell continues to be one of the most subtley profound thinkers in the edtech space—a field tangential, at best, to his work as a Microsoft researcher—in that he deeply understands how essential it is to understand technologies,  to graft a concept by Anton Chekov from a literary to a technical context, as “potentiality.” The idea that within the use of every technical tool there’s more than just the consciousness of that tool, but also the possibility to spark something beyond those predefined uses. The only real way to galvanize that potentiality is to provide the conditions of possibility—a toolkit for user innovation like Domain of One’s Own.

UMW Blogs is a powerful tool for publishing on campus, and I don’t want to minimize its impact at UMW over the years. Hundreds of people have found ways to use it beyond a blog, effectively re-imagining its potential by pushing it beyond any predefined limits. At the same time though, UMW Blogs was not necessarily an open ended toolkit for user innovation, it was specifically a tool to scale the publishing on campus to as many people as possible. And that’s why seven years later Domain of One’s Own is necessary at UMW. This is a space that we can freely offer every student and faculty member as a fullblown toolkit for innovation that they are the master of, so to speak. A step beyond UMW Blogs in that it empowers anyone at UMW to build something like UMW Blogs.

That’s the thing, Domain of One’s Own is remarkable because it gives everyone in our community the toolkit to build and innovative around their own community publishing platform, or a million other tools we haven’t yet dreamed of. What’s more, it is not tool specific. Unlike UMW Blogs, Domain of One’s Own is not all about WordPress because it’s a platform for installing a wide range of open source tools, or even a techncial environment for going about building your own. It’s a garage of sorts 🙂 I was recently asked by a UMW Bullet reporter if I thought UMW Blogs was somehow threatened by the presence of Domain of One’s Own, and rather than being threatened the later is the apotheosis of the former.

So, suffice it to say that I’m more than excited that Udell is coming to the “Minding the Future” event here at UMW in little more than a week. I’m wondering if he’ll be working through this idea of the user innovation toolkit and what that might mean in a context that explores the future of technically framed education. I’m not sure folks fully comprehend just how epic “Minding the Future” will be! Udell is just one of five of the awesome folks coming to down to lay it down!

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