Summer of Love: Domain Mapping


Image credit: This cheesy t-shirt over at neatoshop that I love.

My love affair with domain mapping has been well documented on this blog, and last week, before I went on vacation, UMW quietly took a big leap forward in terms of experimenting with domain mapping as a way to bring some of the more official sites being built on UMW Blogs back into the umw.edu domain. Fact is, we have successfully mapped a site on UMW Blogs for the University Faculty Council on this domain: http://ufc.umw.edu (running all the while on http://umwblogs.org).

It was pretty cool to see how easy and pleasant the whole process was (Deb Hovey in Network Services made it a cinch, and the future of IT at UMW is looking bright for all of us these days 🙂 ), and this marks a really important moment for the larger community on all levels seeing WordPress as a solution for communicating and making distributed publishing to the web easier. Our University Relations folks are framing an information site/newsletter running through UMW Blogs, but also pointed to a umw.edu namespace—which will provide official information for the community, and allow more direct conversation across the environment (more on this as it unfolds). Fact is, UMW is poised right now to make a complete transition from our current website structure (a homemade php template driven CMS on top of Adobe Contribute) to a full blown campus wide adoption of WordPress 3.0 Multisite. Looks like I may be working on the consulting with this, and I am now a proud member of the forming web committee. What’s more, there should be a forthcoming advertisement for  a hardcore WordPress developer at UMW to be posted on the bava in the near future 😉 That’s right, UMW is ready to become a WordPress shop for its primary web publishing tool—if all the stars align—and I am just beginning to get excited thinking about the possibilities.

Like why can’t we make UMW’s History and American Studies department site, or the Economics department site, stock for departments. Then start thinking about ways to feed in course content, or aggregate activity through syndication around departments and disciplines—a space where the work on UMW Blogs can be easily featured on umw.edu. And then there are faculty personal sites. Hey, our Novell storage and network space— with the relatively unused www files for hand coded HTML—is going away this November. Why can’t we re-open the discussion of faculty members controlling their own site, and even getting a umw.edu domain to boot if they like, though they could always map their own like Warren Rochelle, to name just one of more than 70 mapped domains on UMW Blogs.

Fact is, this idea is still percolating around campus, and between Zach Whalen’s domain mapping work with his Writing through Media Class, various faculty members simply grabbing their own, and a Digital Storytelling class very much rooted in the idea of one’s domain as a sense of ownership and charge of one’s intellectual presence and online data—a course undergirded by Gardner Campbell’s Personal Cyberinfrastructure epiphany—I would think the conversation and possibilities are just starting to emerge.

And UMW student’s are increasingly realizing the value of creating a domain for framing their experitise. Check out this site created by a UWM student for no class on the fly: hirehassan.com —not a bad way to show off your portfolio work. And to see a beautiful instance of this with student work, check out Rachael Dawn’s Portfolio here, very impressive (and part of Zach Whalen’s aforementioned Writing through Media course).

The domain of one’s own is always fresh to me, and when I see factuly like Jessie Fillerup grabbing and mapping her own domain to blog about Tennis, or Gregg Stull creating his own blog and domain though his own bluehost server, I know it’s a concept we can still go a long way towards cultivating and nurturing a sense of the possibilities throughout the year. And while the actual mapping is not always essential to frame one’s presence, the commitment and notion of conceptual ownership of one’s data and digital identity begins to really matter. And that conceptual shift, whether one chooses it over the long haul or not, is important to a sense of thinking about the deeper questions of digital identity, literacy, and the critical creation of one’s self.

And what’s more, the underlying technology and architecture fueling such a web publishing platform need not be limited to WordPress, it can act as our hub, but it allows us to rethink our use of MediaWiki—which currently runs our documentation, courses lists, and various pages for course sites. How does a well-gardened wiki—as Brian lamb points out here—-help us move  both within and beyond the personal to the collaborative with open technologies? Well, if we look to the outstanding work the UBC team has done to document their process with creating a Resource Management Framework on an enterprise scale, as well as the work the CUNY Academic Commons has done integrating MediaWiki seamlessly into the WPMu/BuddyPress flow, we get  the roadmap to a real powerful content creation frameowrk that is open and flexible. And just yesterday, Joss Winn articulated the benefits of such a system quite brilliantly in this video on WordPress Beyond Blogging (Winn FTW!):

WordPress beyond blogging from UKOLN on Vimeo.

So, seems to me like certain things in the web publishing domain with open source tools are still around, in fact, they are leading some of the most innovative examples of integrating the idea of fluid publishing, identity, and networked learning into the academy on institutional scales. And while the EDUPUNKS are constantly being counted out, or co-opted as the poster children for the decline of education, and by default Western Civilization —I think we still have a few more concrete examples of why all the hoopla around vertically integrated LMS, standards integration, et cetera, still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter—you can’t innovate in a prison house, no matter how vertically integrated it is (just a more tightly run and designed penitentiary). I mean we can look to other companies within the LMS space, or write love letters to Google, but whether or not the free and open web has been bought and sold already, and we re just a burnt out hippie threat, I can’t help but think reporting the meainstream vision of edtech and the web will ever get us anywhere. We need to promote and support what is happening now that is good. And I have yet to find an example in BlackBoard—got any I can see?

Point is, the open web is not a convenience we need to evolve, it is a public good we need to preserve and foster. You cannot do that when it’s all been accounted for and the gig is up—if “open and free is an ideology” then isn’t “closed and expensive” just as ideological as well—and shouldn’t the two be in deep struggle on a larger stage? Rather, what’s happening, is the one is trying to subsume the other under cloud of night and terminological uncertainty. The LIS standard that’s been announced makes systemwide integration easier perhaps, but does it give people control over their identities and data? Does it promote a sense of one’s space and value on the web in real time? Does it deliver on the idea of a Personal Learning Network on the open web undergirded by syndication and community? These things are integral to teaching and learning on the web right now, and they have little, if anything, to do with an LMS, or so it seems to me.

And that is why I love domain mapping so much—it makes all this so perfectly clear to me.

Updated:

All this said, I forgot to mention one of the projects involving an LMS I am actually excited about, the open LMS being openly developed by Stas Su?cov. Given the trajectory UMW is on right now, we can start experimenting with Stas’s work as soon as this Fall, and start thinking how our setup will take care of all the bloated overhead and insane costs that the dreary LMS provides us at such an insane price. I’m ready to push for a replacement, and if I have to go edtech guerilla, as Matt Gold lays the framework, I will. Remember, that $116 million dollars during these times of austerity came from all the blood that’s been sucked out of institutional coffers through such a deal with the devil. Oepn is not over, it’s just been forgotten because there is so much other cool stuff to report on in edtech, like how the iPad has made everything else irrelevant, and at the same time costlier 🙂

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9 Responses to Summer of Love: Domain Mapping

  1. Joss Winn says:

    Hi Jim, This is great news.

    I’m always a few steps behind you but it looks like our set up might be used to run our department websites. The Web Manager seems keen to move them over. Also, there’s a lot of interest in using BuddyPress to run all the staff profiles, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something happen there over the next year. At the moment, any member of staff can have a http://blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/jwinn profile URL. We intend to develop the information that’s collected on that domain (expertise, funding received, projects in progress, publications, etc.) and then use BuddyPress (or rather the WPMU database) to feed into other sites and databases. I’m quite excited about this, as it will be a serious adoption of WPMU/BuddyPress for the self-management of all academic staff (and student) profiles/digital identities.

  2. LIS doesn’t, by itself, put people in control of their own identities and data, but it can be an enabler. One of the first integrations we did was with a company called Inigral that makes a Facebook plugin called “Schools on Facebook.” Some schools (an increasing number) love that idea, while others are freaked out by it. My argument has been that students have a right to publish their own information about who they are and what courses they are taking wherever the heck they want to, that FERPA has absolutely nothing to say about that, and that the school administration should have nothing to say about it either. In fact, providing course participation data to the students in a publishable format should be a core service that colleges offer. LIS could be used to enable this. It’s a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s still a piece.

  3. Hi Jim:

    “if “open and free is an ideology” then isn’t “closed and expensive” just as ideological as well—and shouldn’t the two be in deep struggle on a larger stage”

    Excellent point. It is precisely for this reason that I have mild, but noticeable internal organ hemorrhaging whenever I hear someone say “it’s about the learning, not the technology”. If you take that line of reasoning, you never get down to the deeper issue which is that all technological implementations are an instantiation of a philosophy or ideology.

    I’m currently in a period of “why are we having an impact’ doldrums. Time and again, I see the marginalization of innovation in education because new ideas don’t integrate with the existing system. I’ve tried to turn my focus to the systemic view (see: http://www.ineducation.ca/article/systemic-changes-higher-education). I’m currently inclined to think that we must change the system of education to allow alternative models (PLEs/edupunk and such) to exist, rather than trying to use alternative models to change the system. Obviously it’s a balance of “top down” and “grassroots”. As you noted with the prison example, however, change of a more dramatic nature than “ooh, let’s add a blog to my course” is needed

    George

  4. Pingback: Jim Groom on individual control of data | D'Arcy Norman dot net

  5. Sami says:

    “if ‘open and free is an ideology’ then isn’t ‘closed and expensive’ just as ideological as well—and shouldn’t the two be in deep struggle on a larger stage”

    They are. The closed and expensive part is a side-effect of the business logic of “value-added” and “barriers to entry” in pursuit of ever higher profits. Free and open is the opposite of any sort of proposition that would make a company any sort of money, in a word it is efficient. The economic dogma which supports this proposition is that maximum wealth should be created. Creating maximum wealth involves charging as much as you possibly can, and not leaving a penny on the table. And doing it as long as possible; which, is inherently inefficient. The market dogma holds that if things are given away for free and are open then the business model cannot be maintained as competitors will step in and reduce the revenue to next to nothing; in another words the market will become efficient.

    It’s funny that the capitalist class expects the people to play by the rules of efficiency, and yet attempt to avoid playing by these rules to the greatest extent possible. What’s the side effect of this behavior? Well monolithic companies that are inflexible holding captive consumers hostage with ridiculous prices. This usually goes on until government steps in and deregulates, or regulates away, the barriers to entry or competitive advantage that these companies have. By and large as the system runs, these companies work harder and harder to dismantle this mechanism of regulation… become more fatter and inefficient in the process.

    However, the answer to the problem is not open source software, though ideologically it’s fabulous. It’s forcing the companies to the same level of efficiency as is expected by the working class. In some ways open source does that. Where it misses the mark is where consumers expect it to all be free. Unless the government were to raise taxes for the purpose of developing open source, it means the development is either done for free or subsidized by a company. I don’t think this part is fair. I think just like Apple or Microsoft, consumers should be willing to pay for open source software so that its developers can have careers and there is enough money to market the software as well. Barring that, the corporations with the big marketing budgets will always win.

  6. Reverend says:

    @Joss,
    Man, I feel like it’s me catching up with you, betwwen yours an Tony’s Writetoreply, all your cool theorization of the space for a campus to author, and now a hyper-cool video where I can actually get a sense of your crazy British self—I’m digging the Winn. I too have been thinking about BuddyPress, and I already referred to the work Stas is doing on an LMS—which I am not opposed to entirely as long is it’s just one small piece. Fact is, using some of the awesome plugins for BuddyPress via Boone Gorges and the CUNY Academic commons (http://dev.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2010/05/25/buddypress-plugins-running-on-the-cuny-academic-commons/), I’ve made a run re-framing groups as courses spaces for a grant project I am working on. We even played with the KB Gradebook, thanks to Ryan Brazell. Here is a first look: http://vls.redbaiters.com

    Kinda fun, but in the end I agree with you, make the whole environment more publisher friendly, and think about ways of making the website a community not a brochure. I hope that’s about ready to happen at UMW, and is already happening at UBC.

    @Michael,

    I like the idea of LIS push the student’s data out to them in a usable form. And if this standardization makes sense, than an accompanying expectation that students and faculty can get their work out in a clean XML format for archiving, republishing, etc. seems to be a parallel development. One which would make the LMS not seem like so a roach motel, and start to get at the idea you fram eand I entirely love, but the data back in the people’s hand and make syndication and republication a standard. Respect the ope web 🙂

    @George,
    Yeah, the technology certainly determines the experience, and the power built into models of control like the LMS really have been my biggest issue with them, from a more colloquial POV: http:///wordpress-power-and-simplicity/

    The power and control over data is rooted in the system, not the student or the profesor. But that is not just the technology, though the technology reflects that move towards isolation, control and dependence on a centralized force. I that this is part and parcel of your quote in your article about the integration of technology:

    Educational change pressures are those specific to higher education. Global, social, and technological change factors impact higher education, but research specific to teaching and learning provides greater direction into how the process of learning should best be facilitated. In particular, the development of learning sciences (Sawyer, 2005) as a field offers promise in assisting administrators, educators, and designers in creating effective learning environments. However, as with new and emerging fields, the emphasis on sciences creates some unease among educators. Some researchers have turned to complexity theory to advance education, suggesting that emphasis be placed on the whole system rather than reductionist views often found in “mainstream science” (Mason, 2008).

    THis kinda sounds like the management of the teaching and learning process that Obama and Arne Duncan are using to gut any ideas of tenure or specification and independence of professors at community colleges. I think Marc Bousque’s post The United States of Alabama/25517/ gets at the recent history of highered, and the basic gutting of a professionalized class of professors with tenure to a part-time, ghettoized group of part-time teachers. That to me is a major force of the change we are in now, and I can’t help but think the systematic change has to come from those folks teaching. And maybe “oh look a blog” won’t change that by itself, but the very ideals you speak of in that article are realized on a daily basis at UMW, which has a physical campus for public education. Elearning has become a means to hack into the accreditation and federal money provided as a result for all kinds of scams as we look to “eduprenuers” and the business world for cheap and quick solutions to scale. College Inc. is a great video on just that: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/

    Fact is, many others share your concerns systemically, but I still think the top down approach reaffirms the reality that the administration holds all the power and they are more and more thinking about education as a business almost exclusively. The grass roots approach provides some ways of thinking about the ways these innovations can be realized without seeking after all that is great about elearning, but also all that is great about a good course taught well—either in person or online. There is real work being done on the ground that is re-imagining the networks of power and connection for teaching and learning, and they may emerge at the same time the new plan descends—-as Brian lamb says in this awesome post by Luke Waltzer on the emergence of opened tech at CUNY and elsewhere is “the evident humanity baked in.” That is what I want from a learning community dedicated to critical inquiry, and the systematic approach always seems to have a hard time capturing it for numbers, data, and scale.

    @Sami,
    I like your initial breakdown of the issue, and the maxiumum exploitation fo wealth is exactly what is driving this, I mean look how much money Bb has to spend on puying up competititon and sealing it’s rule as monopoly, so it can make lucrative deals with folks like Barnes & Noble to advertise in these spaces with particular vendors. A full package for corporate presence.

    As for paying for open source, I still think the model for open source is development and consulting, work with folks making stuff they need, and share out what you make as a byproduct of your business. it is not the extraction of as much profit as possible, but it is a way to make a good living if done well. Bill Fitzgerald has exemplified this spirit beautifully over the years, and to me it is a space that few seem to occupy for too long before they go for the dream of as big bucks as possible.

  7. Sami says:

    “As for paying for open source, I still think the model for open source is development and consulting, work with folks making stuff they need, and share out what you make as a byproduct of your business. it is not the extraction of as much profit as possible, but it is a way to make a good living if done well. Bill Fitzgerald has exemplified this spirit beautifully over the years, and to me it is a space that few seem to occupy for too long before they go for the dream of as big bucks as possible.”

    I agree that’s the business model that open source generally tends to follow… But there are a few different problems with it. The projects that tend to get done in the open source space generally start out as a curiosity of developers. If they are able to develop a community around them in enough time, then a consulting model as your described can take over. The consultants, however, may or may not contribute back to the project… So I know many companies that suck the money out of open source and there is nothing that can force them to give back. They are in fact leeches. When they do give back, they want as much bang for their buck and that’s what leads them to try to create some sort of value proposition outside of that which is open and free.

    Another model that I have thought of is one in which a guild or a union holds the license… and it is made available to the developers who meet certain contribution requirements. I won’t go into that now; but so far that even seems in inefficient to me… as greed and misery are much better motivators than the more humane ways of conducting business.

  8. Stas Suscov says:

    Hey guys, found this post accidentally in wp-admin trackbacks.

    Thanks a lot to Reverend for mentioning my work in his article. Looks like there’s a lot of expectation from this project and I really hope it will be what people expect it to be.

    From my experience, I agree that LMS solutions must be Free Software and one of the main reason for that (if I close my eyes on data portability and privacy) is probably because the learning system in different countries is not the same and requires modifications. Getting a company behind it will not help you, simply because the time required to make studies and prototypes will cover at least twice the time a local student/(local free software consultant) can improve (lets say existing Courseware).

    Back to BP Courseware, I think it is worth a try simply because it was created by teachers and students (my mentors and I), and I’m definitely looking forward for improving it.

    Keep in touch, the release is coming this month.

  9. Reverend says:

    @Sami,
    I think there are those examples of leeches in open source development, just like p2p networks, but there is enough good stuff, sharing, and solid energy to make the alternative true as well. Would love to hear more about your Union theory though.

    @Stas,
    Huge fan of the work you and your mentors are doing, and I couldn’t agree more—this is worth a big shot. More than that, possibly developing this out across a distributed set of schools and universities for contributions and tweaking may allow us to avoid the corporate-centric model, and truly share out the possibilities.

    I’ll be looking to test your release as soon as it’s available, and would be more than happy to run a series of test pilots for your project.

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