“Why Domains” responses for the folks of Ontario Extend

I just saw the request for blog posts (from June 8th) from Alan Levine around the question ‘Why Domains’. I’m not especially timely, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Here are my responses:

comic drawing of one dog seated at a computer explaining to another dog that on the internet no one knows your a dogWhat is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

My domain is https://simulacrumbly.com. It’s a portmanteau of simulacrum and crumbly. I’m really conscious of my online self being a kind of limited, distorted version of my real-life self.  A simulacrum, and particularly a digital simulacrum, can only be a surrogate for any multi-dimensional person. This can be incredibly liberating sometimes (like when you’re really a dog).

Other times, I push up against the limits of my own ability to express myself fully and, more importantly, express myself honestly.  So, my response here on this blog is to try a little humor, and to remember that inside my browser, I’m made entirely of cookies anyway — the ‘crumbly’.

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

I’ve worked on the web and with the web since 1998. I’ve had a hobby site of some kind since around 2000. But I’ve never been a frequent blogger. My main interest is in testing, building, and breaking things. So for me, having a web host was a way for me to learn and do stuff that could benefit me in my professional life. About three years ago, the college where I work rolled out a Domain of One’s Own initiative for students, faculty, and staff.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

I like this question a lot. Before our Domains initiative at Muhlenberg College, I hadn’t really given enough thought to how I might use my online space for my own growth and my own self-expression. Perhaps because of how my professional work had framed the Web, I saw it transactionally — here’s a project, go build a website. The ethos of working openly, sharing freely, and seeking to belong within a community of practice hadn’t really been a big part of my work on the web.

About two years ago, I was lucky to attend a workshop conducted by some brilliant folks from Storycenter.org where I and several others made our own short, 2 or 3 minute digital stories. In the opening session, Daniel Weinshenker pointed out that for nearly a century, the medium of moving images was a one-way mode of communication. It was only with the advent of inexpensive, commercial-grade video cameras, and really only with the advent of inexpensive digital video editing software, that self-produced films became possible.  Daniel stated simply but powerfully that a democratic society requires two-way modes of expression.  And it hit me, unlike movie-making, the Web has been steadily and surely shifting from a primarily two-way medium to increasingly one-way.

My foremost motivation for my domain is to make it myself, host it myself, know how it works, how to fix it if I break it, and how to build it if I can’t find something out there that suits my purposes.  Right behind that, I want to share what I know, and I want to work openly and collaboratively.  A domain allows me to do all of these things, and mostly on my own terms.

What kinds of sites have you set up one your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

Well, I wrote a blog post here about this fairly recently.  I’ve used my domain to set up a URL shortener that I host myself.  Also, I’ve set up a social bookmarking app (https://links.simulacrumbly.com), an RSS feed reader that lives on my domain, a “read it later” app like a self-hosted Instapaper using software called Wallabag, and other stuff like that.

But much of what I’ve done I eventually deleted because I either didn’t like it or didn’t need it anymore. But that is also kind of the point of my domain.  I can manage my digital footprint, and I can exercise a kind of info-environmentalism not afforded by hosted, extractive social media platforms.  So maybe one of the coolest parts of having my own domain is akin to my right to delete what I put on it.

Photo by Wonderlane CC BY 2.0

What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

I still struggle with graphic design and the visual aspects of this craft.  It’s just not where my strengths lie.  So after spending countless hours trying, I just decided that it’s not for me.  My aesthetic choices are simpler, perhaps a little plain even.  But that’s okay.  I don’t want a ton of image sliders or nifty animations.  While I appreciate visually beautiful blogs, going forward I’ll prioritize actually getting something written over a need to have it be both beautiful and done.  It would have been helpful to have someone else say this to me.  Your blog doesn’t have to be visually gorgeous or technically sophisticated.  Writing counts more.  Evidence of sound thinking counts more.  I wish someone would have told me this: Don’t look for excuses to not post something.  It’s enough to just write and hit the publish button.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

This is really exciting for me to announce.  Building upon my Storycenter workshop experience, I’ve been studying and practicing and working toward getting my own radio program.  Muhlenberg is very fortunate to have a student- and community-driven educational broadcasting radio station — 91.7 WMUH, Allentown.  In the same way that independent filmmaking makes room for more of us to be both creators and consumers, I think radio is becoming too centrally consolidated.  So I am going on the air as a community broadcaster this summer!  I will have a program that airs locally between 4-6 a.m., and can be heard through WMUH’s livestream, or via Tunein.  In just a few weeks, I’ll be using my domain to post playlists, talk about the program, and to syndicate podcasts.   Wish me luck!

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

I suppose I’d say that, just as I was welcomed and encouraged, there is already an incredible community of educators ready to meet you and assist you.  I’d say that the pedagogical rationale of Domain of One’s Own is sound, liberatory, active, and engaging.  I’d say that ‘open’ is an antidote to the slow-drip toxicant of neoliberal corporatization of education, particularly with respect to Ed-Tech.  I’d say that domains particularly and the Web more generally, is a solid platform for open educational practice —  where we can be makers, remixers, adapters, teachers, and learners.  I’d say please touch base, reach out, and let’s get acquainted!

1 thought on ““Why Domains” responses for the folks of Ontario Extend”

  1. I knew I liked this domain just at seeing the URL. Thanks for the responses, Tim. And I’m looking forward to seeing how you go about publishing your radio show materials.

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