“A domain of one’s own”

Gardner Campbell, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”


What is Progress? Gardner’s ideas

“. . .But that wasn’t progress. . .It was a mere ‘digital facelift.’ . .

Digital Face Lifts

According to Gardner, digital face lifts helped faculty to use online platforms without actually teaching students how to do it for themselves.  The author argues that in order to achieve progress within digital citizenship, students need to have their own domains and learn how to use them for themselves.  This makes complete sense, as “doing things for yourself” represents the highest rentiontion of knowledge learned, at 90%. 


Different from Wordpress

The author reflects on the importance of using all different internet tools and platforms that go beyond a simple WordPress blog: simple scripts and wikis. 

Be prepared

Whether we accept it or not, digital literacy is a requirement of this new world we live in.  Having the tools to interact online can make the difference between working a minimum wage job or starting your own company.  If students have the knowledge and skills to organize and promote themselves in the digital world, the opportunities for employment abound.

Gardner Campbell, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure Revisited”

Gardner’s progress revisited…

“I understand. . .for you, this is about a network. . .as an artifact.”  Gardner says it is important to be able to process and express information in a digital format.  But what about those of us who don’t express ourselves in artistic or graphic format?  I can express myself in music, powerpoint presentations, or essays, but I can’t draw or design anything in the traditional artistic sense to save my life. 

The computer as music?

“The computer is an instrument whose music is its ideas.”  I disagree.  The computer is not a kind of artistry, to me.  Cyberstructure seems more like a huge web of many different preexisting sites and words weaved together. 

Although I think it is critical to learn about digital citizenship, it is a stretch to surmise that everyone will be able (or want to) express themselves artistically in the digital realm.  Artists use all sorts of different media: words, music, stone, paint, ceramic, food. . .the list goes on and on.  Some people may feel quite at home expressing their art in terms of a cyberstructure, but for others…it’s a reach.

Servers and domains

They are different.  Servers lead directly to the internet. Gardner is interested in servers for interacting directly with the internet without having to use a middle ground. 

“A distributed publishing system operated by its users”

Gardner says this is the ultimate goal of the internet.  This gives me some pause, because this is exactly what I’m looking for in terms of music publishing.  By having a “domain of one’s own,” we can publish our own ideas and materials, and be in charge of it ourselves.

Audrey Watters: Why ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ Matters (For the Future of Knowledge)

The web was meant as a “garden of knowledge,” but knowledge (or the pursuit of it) is sometimes lost as things flow through streams of social media…

Audrey Watters: The Web We Need to Give Students

(Please keep in mind I have 0 visual artistic ability. I suppose this means a song about “a domain of one’s own” is in the works…stay tuned.)

This article, to me, was the most convincing article out of the four and actually got me excited about the idea of keeping my own portfolios in one place. One issue with web presence that I’ve had in the past (and I know I’m not alone in this) is having to partition off all of the parts of myself on a website. For instance, I have the singer/songwriter side, the classical musician/composer side, the piano teacher side, the intellectual paper writer side, the music teacher…the list goes on. I am definitely interested in having a domain of my own where I can park all of these varied portfolios…now if I could just organize it all…

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Liz,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I, too, had a hard time imagining the internet as a musical. I am not musically talented at all but it seems to me that the internet, like you also said, is made up of preexisting things. I think music is different in that a lot of the time you are creating something totally new and unique. I also really enjoyed your visual aids! The visual aids really helped to simplify the text so thanks for sharing those!

    Great post!

  2. I can say for sure that Gardner isn’t supposing that creative expression is limited to visual expression or music…that’s just both an example and an analogy for the computer, and the participatory web, as a place and medium for expression. I know Gardner and he is not a visual artist and while he is a musician, that is not where most of his web presence lies.

    I want to challenge you a bit on this, though:

    “The computer is an instrument whose music is its ideas.” I disagree. The computer is not a kind of artistry, to me. Cyberstructure seems more like a huge web of many different preexisting sites and words weaved together.

    How is the computer different in this way from, say, a piano? Setting aside the actual construction (there are some people who find various computers visually pleasing and appreciate their construction as some do pianos), aren’t both mechanical assemblages used to create and share creative expressions? It seems to me you are conflating the mechanical thing with what is done with it in a way that I don’t think Gardner intends.

    It’s true that a lot of the web is made of things built on templates and information-based, but a significant part of it is not and I think Gardner is challenging us to think about the web and related technologies as potentially deeply humanistic, with many creative forms of expression, some of which wouldn’t be possible without it (digital storytelling is an obvious example) and others which have new, modified forms (think about how the idea of the “book” has changed, not just with ebooks and PDF, but with living books that change, interactive fictions, etc).

    I’ve had Gardner speak with the class before and might be able to do so again because I love that you are thinking hard and personally about the ideas and could question and challenge him in a good way!

    I’m glad Audrey’s article resonated with you. Bringing the fragments of your online self together is a great goal…and one that has its own challenges as you have a single place that potentially serves a deeply various audience!

    1. In some ways, the computer is like a piano. You are right, I most likely was comparing the physics and comparing aspects of playing the piano that Gardner most likely did not intend. Because, playing the piano well requires some pretty intense fine motor skills that using the computer does not. I would not even say that being an expert on any game would supersede the fine motor skills it takes to play a complex piece of music on piano with two hands, pedal, and reading two different chefs.I would even say that creating art uses fine motor skills in a much different way than playing piano because in playing music your reflexes-responses need to be lightening fast.
      I think it makes more sense to compare using a computer to writing a piece of music maybe. The construction or creation of something new that inevitable borrows from all that has been made before.

      1. Ah, I see. I wasn’t thinking at all about the way one physically uses the computer in a performative way, but more in the sense that they are both machinery that can be used for creative expression. I suspect Gardner wasn’t thinking about the comparison in that way either. But it is interesting.

        On the other hand, process/performance is important in only partially overlapping ways with the products. I love origami, but in the end only other folders really appreciate the methods and sequences that go into making a piece…what matters to most is the finished product.

        I’m not sure any of the aspects under discussion can avoid the inevitability of borrowing from what has been done before 🙂

  3. I would contend that music and computers are very alike. One has to learn a new language to effectively use either. A novice musician has no idea how andagio is different from allegro, or why a slur is not the same as a tie. A novice computer user probably cannot articulate the differences between C and C++ or understand how html is similar to css. They are both tools used to create wonderful works.

  4. Greetings, Liz! Thanks for posting your thoughts on my work—I really appreciate your care and thoughtfulness. I hope some follow-up observations and clarifications will be helpful.

    I’m glad you picked up on my point that learning management systems typically block a crucial learning opportunity: what is the web, and how can it be used? Sadly, that opportunity is denied to both students and faculty. And if faculty don’t know, how can they help students learn? The result is that everyone becomes dependent on online platforms they cannot manage and do not understand. And we’re all increasingly aware these days of just how dangerous and damaging that ignorance can be.

    Please do note that the term I use is “cyberinfrastructure,” not cyberstructure (which is a little more generic). “Cyberinfrastructure” is a term I borrow from the American Council of Learned Societies, as the original EDUCAUSE Review article indicates. I’m fascinated by the idea of “something more specific than the network itself, but … something more general than a tool or a resource.” None of us control the network. All of us look for specific tools and resources. What’s overlooked is the in-between place, the place where specific tools and resources can be installed and combined in a network-enabled and web-friendly location that users can manage themselves. That space is one’s home on the web—or to be more accurate, the vacant lot and a set of building materials. The domain, then, is that home’s address. Pick a domain, assign it to the server, and build and manage your home.

    That’s a little oversimplified, but I think it gets to the main ideas. Audrey Watters and I are pretty much in agreement in these respects, I think.

    Now for that puzzling statement about the computer being an instrument whose music is ideas. That’s an aphorism by Alan Kay, one of the boldest and most influential visionaries to emerge from what we now call Silicon Valley. What he means is not just computers can be used for artistic expression—though he means that, too. His bigger idea, though, is that the computer is an unusually mind-like invention. It’s a mind-amplifying and mind-expressing technology that has many characteristics we also find in thought itself. The key is the word “ideas.” For Alan Kay, ideas don’t become shareable and influential until they can be represented somehow—in words, or pictures, or sounds, or whatever. Those representations can be created and shared in unusually complex and rapid ways with computers. Even typing these words on a computer, as I’m doing now, is an example of what Kay means, as is publishing the words to the Web in a blog post, of course. The commonality is that we’re playing a kind of “mind music” on a machine that can be used as a mind-music instrument, the computer.

    You don’t have to be a visual artist, or a musician, or a performer per se to realize the truth of Kay’s observation. Here’s a quotation from the essay Alan Kay wrote with Adele Goldberg in the mid 1970s, “Personal Dynamic Media,” that sums up what I think Alan meant by “the computer is an instrument whose music is ideas”:

    “Every message is, in one sense or another, a simulation of some idea. It may be representational or abstract. The essence of a medium is very much dependent on the way messages are embedded, changed, and viewed. Although digital computers were originally designed to do arithmetic computation, the ability to simulate the details of any descriptive model means that the computer, viewed as a medium itself, can be all other media if the embedding and viewing methods are sufficiently well provided.”

    You can find more of the Kay/Goldberg essay at http://www.newmediareader.com/book_samples/nmr-26-kay.pdf

    I wasn’t used to thinking about computers this way for a long time after I started working with them. It was a more abstract or even philosophical way to think about them, and it seemed strange or even far-fetched at first. The more I learned, though, the more I could see the truth of Kay’s remark.

    If you’d like to see more examples of how computers can be thought of in this way, be sure to take a look at some of Bret Victor’s essays at worrydream.com.

    And thanks again for taking the time to respond to some of my ideas.

  5. Hi Gardner!
    Thanks for your comment. I never considered that you yourself would respond, but I suppose in the world wide web that is always a possibility! (And now I’m embarrassed that you saw my awful drawing…)
    I’m still not sure I can agree with the aphorism that the computer is a new instrument whose music is ideas. I’m not sure I will ever see it that way, but I appreciate new and different ways of looking at things. Chris Lott let me know that you are a musician as well! What kind of music do you like to play/create?

  6. Hi Liz – yes, that’s the Web for you. It’s lots of things, but among them is an opportunity for good conversation. Thanks for fostering that conversation with your post.

    If you get a chance to read some Kay or Kay/Goldberg, or to look at some of Bret Victor’s work on https://worrydream.com, you may start to get a feel for what the aphorism can mean. It’s both literal and metaphorical–that’s one of the strange things about it. I enjoy those kinds of ideas. As you say, they represent new and different ways of looking at things. You might also enjoy looking at some Douglas Hofstadter talks on YouTube. Just thinking aloud here….

    Your drawing is perfectly fine. 🙂

    I play many musical instruments but none of them particularly well, at least these days. I’m probably best on electric bass—jazz and rock. I used to be able to read music very well–I can still do it pretty well, but I’m out of practice. I play around on guitar (acoustic and electric) and keyboards. I sing (bass/baritone) everything from folk songs to classical choral music. Over the years I’ve also played flute, bassoon, bass drum, and tenor saxophone. A little bit of ukulele. Oh, and sousaphone, many years ago, for a couple of months in a marching band. I have a little home studio rig and have made a couple of songs/recordings here and there. Here’s one, fwiw: http://www.gardnercampbell.net/blog1/?p=500

    Thanks for asking!

    1. Hi Gardner,
      That’s a lot of instruments! I like your song and the way you layered all of the instruments, nice vibe! Do you have recommendations for an easy to use recording program for a technology-averse traditionalist like myself? I learned how to use a few programs years ago; Peak was one of them which was fairly easy to use. I have always taken a very traditional approach to writing and recording, though, and have not done much layering myself with recording, which I’d like to get into. Here is a link to some of my songs- hard to believe I recorded this cd ten years ago now.

  7. That’s great work, Liz. Beautiful singing. Thanks for the link!
    I don’t know Peak so I’m not sure where it is in terms of ease of use. I use Cubase myself, now, though I’m still learning the ropes. Lots of great tutorials on YouTube (of course that applies to many things these days). I’m at the Elements level, version 9.5. It’s about 50.00 as an upgrade from the LE/AI level, which is often bundled with inexpensive MIDI keyboards. That’s how I got my start with Cubase. I like Cubase’s layout and functionality, and I like the way it accepts standard plug-ins.

    The professional standard is probably still Pro Tools. There’s a nice free bare-bones version. I went with Cubase because it gave me more plug-ins to choose from.

    Many people stick with Garage Band for ease of use and its surprisingly capable functionality. I need (or want) to be up a notch from there, but honestly I think most of what I like to do I could accomplish pretty well with Garage Band.

    Google around and read some reviews. The category you want is Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Plenty of sites come out with “best DAW” reviews each year. (Apologies if you already know all this–I didn’t.)

    Hope that helps! Good luck with the multitracking. I’ve always been a big-arrangement-multilayered kinda musician, at least in the pop/rock genre. Jazz and classical are different, of course. My hero producers are folks like George Martin, Todd Rundgren, Roy Thomas Baker, Brian Wilson, and others in that vein.

  8. What do you think of Maureen’s thought that “Do we really need access to all of our thoughts and education materials forever?” (http://claywithmath.com/readings-1-a-domain-of-ones-own/). Or do you think that creating portfolios of prior works can serve an educational purpose? I personally like the ability to keep all of my educational works as it creates a sense of worth, and finishing a degree and remembering all those times of staying up late to finish assignments creates nostalgia. What do you think?

  9. That’s a great question. I think it would be nice for students to decide what they want to keep in their own digital space. I have gone through probably 5 or more computers in the time it’s taken me to complete a bachelors and now finishing my second masters over the span of 17 years…gulp. More than likely most of the material I’ve lost has been irrelevant, and I tend to print out or save to a Zip drive those documents I think will come in handy later. Maureen mentions students having their own access to transcripts and I think this is a great idea. Also having our own access to test scores! I’m tired of all the fees to send out MY information.

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