So the last two days have been a lot of fun, I have been mapping all the domains I currently have to one WordPress Multi-User installation, and I’m glad to say it has worked like a charm (you can find my previous discussions of the process here and here). I had problems at first because the latest version of FeedWordPress 0.993 creates some conflicts with WPMu 1.5.1 which prevent you from creating new blogs and also breaks the incoming dashboard feeds. After I deactivated FeedWordPress everything worked like a charm, and I now have ten different domains mapped to one WPMu install. What’s particularly cool about this, is that each domain acts like its own WPMu installation. In other words, you can create as many sub-blogs for each of the domains as you want. For example: http://movies.bavatuesdays.com or http://course.jimgroom.net or http://engl101f06.jimgroom.net/ , etc.
So here’s what I’m thinking, you have one install to update, one place to upload plugins, themes, hacks, etc., all of which affords you the possibility to have several domains mapped on to one WPMu installation. Say, for example, we want a separate domain for faculty and/or student websites using WordPress, get the umwfaculty.org domain and/or the umwstudents.org (for that much needed simple to use web space) and map them onto the UMW Blogs installation. This allows you to create a very specific set of parameters for this new mapped domain: only certain plugins, website-like themes, etc.
Now, think about personalizing it a bit more, what if some students, faculty and staff wanted their own domains to be mapped onto UMW Blogs, say http://blog.astudent.net or http://blog.aprofessor.net, why couldn’t we make that just as easy as it is on WordPress.com, while at the same time providing them with the ability to use a wide range of plugins, hack their themes, and generally benefit from this smaller sandbox we can offer them (it is by no means mandatory, and using outside tools like WordPress.com and Blogger, etc. would work just as well in the syndication orientated scheme of UMW Blogs).
But this is really just the tip of the iceberg, the real push would ultimately be for an experiment with a service like RackSpace that provided DTLT with a dedicated server that is externally hosted and that can manage up to 100+ different shared server spaces so that we can enable anyone who is interested to experiment with installing their own tools, and controlling their own digital environment via CPanel, Plesk, or something like it–this is Gardner and Martha’s Odyssey project, and it is an important one. There’s a new way of thinking about institutional webspace, let them manage and govern their own work, and we’ll work on how to make it both visible, appropriately contextualized, and easy to find. More than that, it is all happening within a focused community, allowing people to share their work and build on the knowledge and experience of others.
A real DIY teaching environment, one that would provide an incubator for playing, communal conversations, and an unending series of experimentations and innovations, shouldn’t be confused with some slick “web 2.0″ learning pod that presents you with a pre-fabricated topic. The true future of the web and thinking about teaching and learning at its best remains a space for individualized innovation and experimentation that incorporates a healthy struggle over ideas, and an ongoing community focus—it’s not something that happens externally to the learning process, which upon the completion of the “learning object” we simply consume for a price, however nominal. It is about creation, and putting that power in the hands of the teacher and the learner simultaneously. Affording an space to imagine, and building an infrastructure that is loose enough to enable and promote experimentation and creativity.