Domain of One's Own Research Reflection

The Internet is such a big piece in everyday life. We use social media on a regular basis. There are so many accounts to manage. Users are bound to the specific guidelines set by the specific social network giving them a very little freedom to expand, create, or build out their own space. So where is the space that users can build out their own space? Where is that space for a user to house all of their projects or create a new blog?

That’s where Domain of One’s Own comes in. DoOO is a projected started in 2012, at the University of Mary Washington, that allows students to just that. It allows students to register for their own domain, free of charge while they are students at the university, and create whatever they’d like on the site. Utilizing numerous open-source programs through Installatron, students can create whatever they’d like, giving them a space of their own. The name stems from Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” Woolf writes about women having a space to call their own. Once the writer has a space of their own they can fully expand as a writer. And just like Woolf’s piece, the DoOO give students a chance to have their own online space. A space to grow and create.

After the program officially launched in 2013, with only 116 domains the program has expanded rapidly in the last 4 years now hosting over 2,400 domains. Students not only have their own domains but professors have their own and regularly incorporate DoOO in their classes.

In recent years, in educational technology, there has been a shift in technology. With DoOO, professors integrate the idea that students get to own their own space into their classrooms to allow students to create a flexible work environment allowing for creative development. They begin to bring their assignments online. Through this integration, students begin to think about their digital identity.  Claiming this domain as their own, they begin to take part in a wider digital conversation. And that conversation shifts to what can I build on the web? Students begin to learn how to develop their own online presence. Gardner Campbell talks about building out their domain students begin to create their own personal cyberinfrastructure. Campbell says, “In building that personal cyberinfrastructure, students not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives…”

Throughout the student’s time at UMW, they develop their own space and they get to take that with them when they graduate. Campbell continues “Students would build a personal cyberinfrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career—and beyond.” In traditional classrooms, those programs where students don’t have the option to create and manage their own domain, the online portion of their education doesn’t move with them. Audrey Watters writes that DoOO “gives students agency and control; they are the subjects of their learning, not the objects of education technology software.” The learning management system is a lot like social media. The user is bound to the specific constraints that are already set up when the student signed up for the account. Not only are they constrained but they don’t get to take the material in the class with them. Students are also isolated to the courses they are currently taking. They don’t have access to every class section on the site.  

Domain of One’s Own doesn’t put students in specific in those specific guidelines. Students start off with a blank slate to create whatever they’d like on their site. DoOO also provides a great safety net for students as well. Leslie Madsen-Brooks talks about how Domain of One’s Own exemplifies some of the best innovations, it “develops communities of learners, fostering collaboration, encouraging writing and reflection, and developing curiosity about the world.” UMW specifically creates this sense of community through the DTLT department and the DKC as well. UMW provides an atmosphere that allows students to learn without the embarrassment of lack of knowledge.

With these tools, students would be able to navigate our increasingly online world with ease. As Gardner Campbell says “In a building that personal cyberinfrastructure, students not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives…” Not only would the students gain the tools that they would get to take with them after they have completed their education, they would also gain a new community where they would be able to grow within creativity and learn new skills.

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