Rich Reflection: A Domain of One’s Own

Rich Reflection on “A Domain of One’s Own,” Wired

In the New Yorker article “Small Change” Malcolm Gladwell describes the benefits/drawbacks to online organizing. Particularly, he argues that online connections are primarily comprised of “weak ties,” which he says can be powerful in certain situations. In particular, the networks and connections we create online constantly provide us with new and fresh ideas and opportunities for collaboration.

This image provides a quotation which says, "our acquaintances--not our friends--are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency. It's terrific at the diffusion of innovation [and] interdisciplinary collaboration..."

As I read “A Domain of One’s Own,” I was struck by how UMW, Gardner Campbell, and Jim Groom have done just that; they have worked to maximize the creative and connective potential of online engagement. According to the article:

“For UMW, the openness of BlueHost’s proto-cloud was a liberating alternative to the closed learning management systems that all my ed-tech pals rail against. Why, for example, should a university provide its students with temporary cyberinfrastructure — email accounts, web hosting — that was increasingly redundant for many, and would in any case be supplanted after graduation?”

The article goes on to explain some impressive UMW stats: aggregated blog posts from 40 UMW students about world travels, student created research sites, 35 original literary journals written by UMW students, etc. I visited the UMW blogs page, which contains a “latest posts” box that links to students latest blog posts, a flickr feed, a link to all study abroad posts, and a link to course wikis, among other things. Anyone in the UMW community has the opportunity to network and collaborate with others– either at UMW or other universities. Collaboration and network-forming is not limited to a single semester-long, course/section/Blackboard cohort.

The internet may not be good at some things, but, as Gladwell points out in the quote above, it is good at creating “networks.” It is good at the “diffusion of innovation” and “interdisciplinary collaboration.” It seems to me that rather than try and “do what we’ve always done, just digitally” (the “Digital Facelift” idea), UMW has effectively set traditional learning management systems aside, embraced the strengths of the internet, and maximized the collaborative and creative potential of digital tools.


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