Archive for the ‘Digital Identity’ Category

DS106: An Internet Odyssey

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Image of an illustration of Homer's The Odyssey

I’m teaching Digital Storytelling for the second time this semester, and we just finished week 4. The semester goes quick, and last time I didn’t blog this course nearly as much as I’d hoped to. So this semester I am trying to build the very assignments for the class into my blogging routine. A means to directly integrate the work I do here with the work I do in class, which makes total sense to me given the entire course is framed around the idea of one’s own space and the framing of a digital identity, both of which are part and parcel of an ongoing, fragmented narrative. It would be silly to try and divorce my work on the bava from the course. In fact, my work on the bava over the years is probably why I’m teaching a “computer science’ course in the first place. My expertise is not in programming, and as an introductory, 100-level course this is very much about the web, and identity on the web as a form of narrative. The class is rooted in the web as a means of story telling, and like the web remains dependent upon everybody’s willingness to experiment, make mistakes, and participate regularly by bringing a sense of wonder and their own interests and visions to the fore on a regular basis and with their own voice.


Exploring Themes and Plugins

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Domain Name

I came up with my domain name last year for a different class that required us to purchase our domains. I knew I wanted to continue using this site for Digital Storytelling, so I stored all of my content from my previous class on one of my UMW blogs and am keeping it there until I figure out what role I want it to have here as I reshape this domain throughout this semester.

I chose MediaMegan because I wanted the name to reflect the content on my site, which eventually became clips and examples from my experience with journalism. I didn’t want to limit myself to one type of media, which is why I chose to use that term combined with my first name.


I chose the WhiteHouse 2.0 theme because of its clean, professional appearance. It’s simple. I didn’t want a theme with more than two columns. Two column themes work well for me because I don’t necessarily like to use a lot of  unnecessary Widgets. For example, I’m the only person who will be posting to my site, so I don’t see a need for a Meta sidebar when I know how to login differently. I also don’t care for a calendar-when I’m reading someone’s blog and there is a calendar in the sidebar, I don’t use it. I search for posts/content based on tags or categories. I felt like if I went with a theme with more than two columns, I’d just be adding Widgets to take up that space. The two-column WhiteHouse theme works well with the plugins I’ve selected so far.

To find my theme, I used the Features Filter on the Install Themes page and browsed through featured/newest/recently updated theme sections. I read the blurbs of the ones I liked and performed searches for keywords and tags based on words from the blurb. I also explored for themes, which is where I found the WhiteHouse theme.

I love magazine style themes, but at this point don’t have enough content to effectively use one. I’ll probably switch to one as I continue to build my site.


My first comment…spam!

Akismet: Within an hour of posting my Gardner Campbell reflection, I got my first spam comment urging me to purchases craft supplies. At first I thought Akismet charged for accounts, but they offer a free API key for personal or hobby sites. You have to register and select 1 Free API key at the top of the registration screen. Then you’ll get your API key, which you paste into the Akismet Configuration page textbox on your blog after you’ve installed the plugin.

Google Analytics: I’ve used Google Analytics for sites I had a role in developing in past classes, so I knew I wanted to use it on this site. It tracks visitors to your site and has loads of data. One of the sites I installed it on was for Professor Mike McCarthy’s Fall 2009 Principles of Newspaper Writing course. From March 11 to September 4, 2010, Google Analytics tells me there have been 249 total visits via 134 search keywords to the UMW Power Structure web site.

It’s interesting to look at what those keywords are. As our site was about the University of Mary Washington power structure, many of the search terms were the names of institution leaders or some variations of their names (for example, Judy Hample, Judith Hample and even “What is the scuttlebutt on Judy Hample” all lead to visitors to the site).

Google Analytics even offers a Map Overlay so you can see where your visitors are located. Here’s a look during that same time period:

Google Analytics shows our site received 290 visits from 15 countries.

143 visits came from Virginia; 84 of those from Fredericksburg (the largest circle).

Google Analytics offers much more information than this; it’s definitely worth considering installing if you’re interested in learning about your website traffic.

Sharethis: Another plugin I installed is ShareThis. I’ll admit I’ve never used this as a visitor to someone else’s web site to share their content, so I’m not sure how useful this will be.

Social Slider: I like having all my social networking/media accounts displayed on my site. Right now, they appear as a side bar that extends from the left side of the screen when you hover your mouse over it. This was very easy to set up; all it required was the URL addresses to your accounts.

Gravatar Widget: I chose to install a plugin for Gravatar Widget, which allows user to fill out a sidebar that displays your Gravatar image and the text you chose to go along with it (I chose to insert text under an “About Me” heading).

Setting up a account was slightly confusing for me for a very simple reason. I set up my account years ago using my address, but I never set up a Gravatar image for my account.

I used the same e-mail address to register my personal accounts for this class. When I tried to set up a account, it told me I already had an account. I knew I had never been to before, so I kept trying to login with the password I use to login to my domain’s WordPress account. Then, it dawned on me to try my UMWblogs password-which finally worked and I was able to upload my image.

Other: I tried out a few standalone plugins for Twitter widgets, but decided to use the PageLines-Welcome Widget instead, which displays a welcome message followed by your latest Tweet. For now, I like how this looks more.

I found plugins by googling phrases like “Most Useful WordPress Plugins” and “Coolest WordPress Plugins” and “Best WordPress PlugIns.” I also clicked on the popular tags in the Plugin Directory and made my selections from there.

I know I’ll continue exploring my theme and plugin options as I add more content to my site, and I am excited about this! I could probably spend hours playing around with plugin and theme options as I build my site and not get bored.

Campbell Reflection

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I’ve taken 102 credits during my time as a student at UMW, and the class that I remember most is the one that promoted the type of digital learning environment Gardner Campbell presents in his article “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” and presentation “No More Digital Facelifts: Thinking the Unthinkable About Open Educational Experiences.” While I can only name a single course (excluding Digital Storytelling) that encouraged students to become managers of their own space and data, I also consider it one of the favorite and most memorable classes of my undergraduate career.

As Campbell notes, higher education’s version of the “digital facelift” appeared legitimate. The environments he references-online class registration, grade displays and forums-are certainly convenient in education, but Campbell got me thinking, “What do these digital environments really do for me long-term besides save me from a trip to Lee Hall to register for a class or save some paper by posting an assignment only the professor will probably read to a Blackboard forum?” I benefit from these online services in the short-term, but when they’re compared to the personal Cyberinfrastructure Campbell presents, their advantages fade, and I realize the real digital environment all of higher education needs to embrace is one that gives students the freedom to “discover and craft their own desires and dreams” (Campbell).

I like the direction Campbell points academia toward as he discusses the personal Cyberinfrastructure and explains, “[Students] would become, in myriad small but important ways, system administrators for their own digital lives. In short, students would build a personal cyberinfrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career—and beyond.” The work we do as students (and beyond) would retain its value and always be available, a feature Blackboard forums and class web pages fail to provide. There would be more opportunities to connect, customize and produce, even after a course ended or a student graduated.

As I viewed Campbell’s presentation and read his article, I continually thought back to the single class at UMW that seemed to understand the validity of the digital education environment Campbell urges higher education to welcome. Professor Zach Whalen gave students the opportunity to begin building their digital lives in his Spring 2010 Writing Through Media Course. We purchased our own domains, and over the course of a semester, began crafting our digital identities. In those fourteen weeks, I was able to explore several creative possibilities in the way I presented my digital content, which included the subject of my blog and myself. In class projects posted to our websites and through my blog, I had many opportunities to explore topics through audio, video, text and/or images. There were few limits to the way I could appeal to and/or interact with my audience and classmates.

As a student, I loved my experience in Whalen’s class because it allowed me to feel creative about a topic of my choice and think outside of the typical “what the professor wants” attitude. In this case, the professor did as Campbell suggests and was able to “…lead by example—to demonstrate and discuss, as fellow learners, how they have created and connected their own personal cyberinfrastructures” (Campbell) by giving us a tour of his own digital identity, introducing us to HTML and CSS, assigning us digital projects we could design around our blog’s focus and showing us the digital tools available to expand our digital lives. And now, like Campbell foresaw, I am continuing to modify my digital life through my college career, and am confident I will continue to foster it well beyond my graduation date. I see where the personal cyberinfrastrucutre has value because of the educational experience I had in Whalen’s class, and I want to continue learning and exploring how to become an “effective architect, narrator, curator and inhabitant of my own digital life” (Campbell).

At the same time, I can’t imagine some of my past and current professors (and perhaps even some of my classmates) endorsing the idea of a digital identity, and I wonder if higher education is currently “stalled” in some ways regarding the idea of personal cyberinfrastructure because not everyone is past the “digital facelift” stage. Rather, they are content with connecting through Blackboard or Eaglenet and may not know how to lead by example when it comes to a digital identity. Campbell concludes his essay with, “Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal cyberinfrastructures, to embark on their own web odysseys. And yes, we must be ready to receive their guidance as well.” This sounds great in theory, but in some cases I wonder how certain professors and students in higher education will even meet at and then eventually emerge successfully from this point.

The only thing better than this comic…

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Image by XKCD

Is this tweet about that comic: