Domains 17 Interview with Martha Burtis: “Web literacy is cultural literacy”

Last Friday the Domains 17 organizing committee got to sit down and chat with Martha Burtis, keynote for the Domains 17 conference, to get a preview of what she’ll be presenting in June. There’s a lot to process in this 50 minute gem, a conversation that ranges from everything to how domains got started to the posts tagline “web literacy as cultural literacy” (one of the many gems from the conversation) to the ongoing work of making digital fluency a foundation of higher ed. It’s a great look at what’s in store, and listening to Martha riff on this stuff really made me miss the 10 years we worked together on all these issues and more.  Few people frame it better, and this conversation underscores the fact that NOBODY thinks domains like the Burtis!

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Domain Sessions

I’m excited to announce that the schedule for Domains 17 is now up and online. It is going to be a pretty awesome two days, and fresh off-the-press is the abstract for Martha Burtis’s keynote “Neither Locked Out Nor Locked In: Finding a Path Through Domain of One’s Own”:

Four years into Domain of One’s Own, I wonder if we are at an inflection point, and, if so, what we will do to respond to this moment. At its onset, Domains offered us paths into the Web that seemed to creatively and adequately address a perception that we weren’t fully inhabiting that space. Our students could carve out digital homes for themselves that were free of the walled gardens of the LMS. Our faculty could begin to think of the Web not as a platform for delivering content but as an ecosystem within which their teaching could live and breathe. In doing so, perhaps we would also engage our communities in deeper conversations about what the Web was and how we could become creators rather than merely consumers of that space. But in those four years, as in any four years, our popular culture, our technical affordances, and our political landscape has continued to march forward. How does Domain of One’s Own grow into and with these changes? Where do we take this project from here so that we continue to push the boundaries or our digital experiences? How do we address the ever-looming tension between building something sustainable while also nurturing new growth?

From there we have a wide variety sessions broken into three tracks: Pedagogy, Domain of One’s Own, and Tools. The categories blur for sure, but they helped us pretend there is some kind of cosmic lattice of coincidence. Sean Michael Morris, Tim Klapdor, and Keegan Long-Wheeler are providing three different lenses on the role of the learning management system on day one. Lora Taub will be framing the Domains project at Muhlenberg as spaces for “transformational resistance.” Brian Lamb, Grant Potter, and Tom Woodward will be running an API audio party, while a cadre of presenters from Michigan State University will be talking about how their digital presence and public scholarship initiative. And did I mention Jon Udell will be joining us too?  And that’s just day one!

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A WHMCS Invalid Token Error and the glory of blogging

I woke up this morning to find that our WHMCS portal for Reclaim Hosting was having some issues. WHMCS is software that enables you to manage the business of cPanel, effectively provisioning, invoicing, billing, renewing, etc. without it people can’t sign-up for new accounts, pay their bill, or access their client area. They can still access their sites through, but they would need to use their SFTP credentials to login their, so it would get bad quick support wise. So, when I discovered the 503 Service Unavailable error I knew I needed to fix this immediately. It happened at both a good and bad time. Good because it was late night in North America, so the demand was not peak. bad because my Reclaim partner Tim Owens was fast asleep 🙂 But, in fact, that might have also been good because I tend to lean on him for this stuff given I’m afraid to mess shit up.

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Reclaiming Europe with Kraftwerk Server

Concert in Zürich, 1976. The photo comes from the collection of Kraftwerk photos made by Ueli Frey.

Last week our newest server went live in Frankfurt, Germany. This is our first shared hosting server in Europe, and we were able to do it thanks to the fact that Digital Ocean has block storage available in their Frankfurt datacenter. We named the server after Germany’s electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk. And if you are new to this band, the song “Computer Love” off their 1981 album Computer World could double as the soundtrack to the story of how computers have re-defined our society over the last 3 decades since its release.

The Kraftwerk server was spun up on the heels of the Devo server  last month given how quickly the spudboy server was filling up. What’s more, we have been pushing to move our older shared hosting infrastructure to Digital Ocean, which means we needed to spread the now retired Hotrods server across both Devo and Kraftwerk. The Hotrods migration was finished up last week, and Kraftwerk is fully operational with over 300 accounts.

We figured this might also be a good time to offer anyone living in Europe (or elsewhere outside the U.S.) the option to be transferred to this server. If this is something that interests you just fill out the migration form and be sure to specify you want to move your existing account on Reclaim to the Kraftwerk server.

And for more Kraftwerk goodness, check on this BBC interview with the robots themselves:

Sharing the Domains Documentation Love

I wanted to make sure Adam Croom gets the appropriate love for helping several schools get up and running with Domains documentation over the last several months. More than a few folks have inquired if we had any recommendations for solid documentation, and it is hard to compete with the new and improved OU Create docs.* Once upon a time, before the Smallest Federated Wiki whisked Mike Caulfield away, we had an idea for federated documentation using DokuWiki, but that never came to be. There was some early momentum to prevent folks from reproducing the documentation wheel—but time, energy, focus, and squirrels got in the way.

More recently a few schools asked us if the could reproduce Oklahoma’s documentation and then customize it for their school, and it turned out that Adam had already done this for Middlebury’s Middcreate. So, he was kind enough to not only help out a few schools by porting over OU Create’s documentation site whole hog, but even wrote up a tutorial on how to do it.

Re-visiting how we re-use and remix documentation resources across schools running Domain of One’s Own will most definitely be on the Domains 17 conference agenda.  I think this is something we need to revisit in order to make this much less arduous. Thanks again Adam, you rule.

David Morgen did some amazing work with Emory’s documentation early and that was the inspiration to try and figure out how to easily share work between schools that wanted to share and re-user Domains documentation.

It Came from the Domains Stacks!

Bryan Mathers is experimenting with animating his art—which is lucky for us—and he has taken the “Domains Death Star Eye in the Sky” poster he created for Domains 17 and gave it life:

But he even got crazier than that in the following video gem (be sure to make it full screen before viewing!):

How cool is that? Embedding that animated brilliance into a stack of records to help define and promote the insanity that will be Domains 17.  Are you ready? Are you animated? Are you registered? No? Let’s take care of that now.

We’re All Devo

The name Devo comes “from their concept of ‘de-evolution‘ — the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society.”[9] Devo’s Wikipedia article

Devo’s theories of evolution have never seemed more relevant, so the latest Reclaim Hosting server is named in honor of the early 70s video/music pioneers who brought an entrenched, surreal social satire to their work. One of their unique contributions was their elaborate and trippy music videos with recurring characters such as Booji Boy and General Boy, music video narratives that prefigured MTV. Interestingly, Devo was formed in response to the Kent State shootings in 1970-where several of the band members went to school-and were conceptualized as a satirical attack on the militaristic, consumer-driven logic of contemporary U.S. culture. With their mainstream success with “Whip It” (1980), they also became representative of pop New Wave for a entire generation of kids heading into the 80s (myself included).

Yet, despite their early critiques of consumer culture, Devo was not beyond shilling for Pioneer’s Laserdisc technology in the early 80s. Their craziest work shows up in the 1984 video compilation We’re All Devo, featuring their music videos from 1976 – 1983, much of which is re-released ten years later in another compilation of their videos from 1976-1990: The Complete Truth about De-Evolution (1993). Both came out on VHS and Laserdisc, the latter work using their Pioneer promotional clips as an organizing principal. While effectively goofing on their own willingness to shill, the blurry line between a sustained critique on pop culture and indulging it always made their later work oddly uncomfortable.*

That said, Devo’s concept art-as-entertainment approach to their music and videos (I own the Laserdiscs and they are a prized possession) puts them in that interesting category of musicians who are just as much performance/concept artists. Sharing as much with bands like The Residents as  Flock of Seagulls 🙂 But unlike most of the New Wave decadents, the Akron, Ohio spud boys introduced a brave new philosophy of a changing world order premised on de-evolution. A theory we might do well to consider in some depth presently.

*I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it was hard to stomach the hypocrisy of a band constantly complaining about corporate music shilling for Disney during the mid oughts. But sadly it seems if just about any band stays around long enough they will eventually cannibalize their catalog for profit—it’s Devo in action 🙂


A Reclaimed Phone Booth

NY’s Old Penn Station Phone Booths

On Thursday Tim and I drove to a Vintage Furniture shop outside Baltimore to pickup an old phone booth we bought on Ebay for the office. We got really lucky because the booth was in mint condition, and according to the proprietor it was part of Baltimore’s Penn Station for decades. We were thrilled to have it, and it is absolutely gorgeous, as you can see below:

Vintage Phone Booth

Vintage Phone Booth

The plan is to hook up some power and USB chargers and do a little insulation so folks can use it for private calls in the co-working space. And even if that doesn’t happen, it is an amazing centerpiece for the office. After tweeting out images yesterday, Bryan Mathers came back with a next level booth concept:

To which Grant Potter noted was an image of Jack White‘s Voice-O-Graph which is where Neil Young recorded all of his 2014 album A Letter Home:

The tweet from Grant reminded me of his experimentation with an 800 number for ds106radio back in 2011, and I would love the idea of revisiting some of that insanity in an OG phone booth. All of which provided a brief reminder of what Twitter was like before it became a political garbage dump. We’re on the look out for a second booth of the same kind, but not so sure we can get anything nearly as nice. Having two of these side-by-side (like in the image of the top of this post) would be so awesome. The Reclaim offices are going to be amazing.

Reclaiming the Back Office

I am wrapping up my trip to the States tomorrow, it has been most productive. I’ve basically done two things: worked and watched movies. I’ll have another post about the movies, but this one is about some of the work. Tim and I had plans to renovate one of the spaces in our new office, and we took care of that in no time. All while migrating servers, starting a new semester, and building momentum for our Domains 17 conference. It’s been busy, but I think doing some physical work broke things up a bit which was nice.

Back Office before it was Reclaimed

^Office space before renovation

As you can tell from the image above, the space we were working on was pretty hideous. I think anything we did to it would have been an improvement. We replaced the carpet, ceiling tiles, florescent lights, and painted the paneling. Fairly simple.

Foundry back office ceiling tile

Installing ceiling tiles and LED recessed lighting

Foundry back office priming

^First coat of primer

Foundry back office under construction

^Second coat of primer

Lauren picked the paint color for the wall (Behr’s Script White). Tim picked the light gray carpet tiles and clean, elegant ceiling tiles. At the end of a week, we had a pretty awesome looking back office for folks to use at the Foundry. I think it came out pretty well.

Foundry Back Office

^View from the Conference Room

Alternative view of Foundry Back Office

^View from the back of the office to Conference room door

This was a very fun, manageable project. You can see the ceiling is fairly low and the space in relatively small, but the make over really cleaned it up, and it feels like a spacious, comfortable room. Lauren picked out the furniture, and I think it works beautifully.  The last touch will be a few pieces of colorful art, after that we’ve  reclaimed a pretty bitchin office space—and it is just a small taste of what is in store with the other 3000 square feet!

Domains as Art

I just got another delivery of Domains 2017 art. Damn this conference has the coolest aesthetic ever. Bryan Mathers rules, and he has taken the Sci-fi 70s idea I recently blogged about and is running with it. The examples below are so colorful and gorgeous, and get at the whole play on an early attempt we made at UMW to frame Domain of One’s Own as Cloud City (which none of the students really got, which was bizarre to me). The Domains conference promises to be something totally different, and you can get a sense of that from Lauren‘s recent posts about both OKC and the venue where Domains17 will be. If you are looking for reasons to come, let the focus on space and art be amongst them!

Also, have I mentioned Bryan Mathers rules?