When I first read and reflected on “A Domain of One’s Own” last year, I was just starting the ONID program. Even that early in the program, I recognized the web as a learning space, “designed for the purpose of sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors” (Watters, A., 2017). In my original reflection, I used the analogy of food production. In its history, humankind knew exactly where their food originated at one time. They understood the factors necessary to gather and produce enough food to survive. There was an ownership over their means of sustenance. As society shifted from rural-agrarian to urban-industrial culture, it was easier and less labor-intensive to acquire food, but what was sacrificed in return? Ownership of the process.
The ease of accessibility and availability of food in the modern age is the equivalent of the “digital facelift” in education according to Gardner Campbell in his essay, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” The “progress” that higher education achieved with massive turnkey online systems, especially with the LMS, actually moved in the opposite direction. The “digital facelift” helped higher education deny both the needs and the opportunities emerging with this new medium. What was lost with adoption of LMS systems was student ownership of their own scholarly and creative work.
In my second reading of Watters’ work, I see now how a domain of one’s own reflects ownership of the student’s work. In this personal “garden,” students are free to create, grow and reap their scholarly endeavors. “Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Students would frame, curate, share, and direct their own “engagement streams” throughout the learning environment.”
“Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web, to have their scholarship be meaningful and accessible by others. It allows them to demonstrate their learning to others beyond the classroom walls. To own one’s domain gives students an understanding of how Web technologies work. It puts them in a much better position to control their work, their data, their identity online.” The Web We Need to Give Students.
In Campbell’s video, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure Revisited,” he refers to the “network as an artifact” (01:54-02:03). The artifact, the network reflects a student’s attitude and understanding in her scholarly work. It reveals how she made meaning of knowledge in her world. How the student laid out the path in her garden, chose what to plant and grow, and displayed the fruits of her labor is the artifact.
In the domain of our own, we are free to decide how our garden grows. We retain ownership of our work. We fulfill the original purpose of the world-wide web: contributing to a “system that was – ideally at least – openly available and accessible to everyone, designed for the purpose of sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors.”