As a graduate student in the digital age, you need a domain of your own.

First of all, you will be Googled, and when you are, your domain should appear early in the results as the fulcrum of a carefully cultivated online identity.

Second, in order to leverage the power of the social web to cultivate a community of scholars interested in your work, you need a domain to which to point your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and those who have circled you on Google+.

In thinking about your online presence as a graduate student or academic, it is helpful to conceive of it as a kind of ecosystem in which various elements work together to offer the public a picture of who you are and the work you are doing.

A canonical website – a domain of your own – should provide the essential nutrients of your online ecosystem. To create one, register your name or, if you have a relatively common name, register a unique name that identifies you across a wide spectrum of websites. It is not too expensive to register a domain name with a service like Blue Host, for example. Even if you decide to host your site somewhere else, it is important to register your domain so you have some control over your online identity.

Once you have a website setup under your domain, consider it the place in which you document your research, write reflectively on your scholarship, and invite others to discover your work. You might also use the site to curate content about a hobby of interest so as to give people a more well rounded sense of who you are. At minimum, anything you would put on your CV should be added your website and amplifed through various social media channels.

Depending on your area of research, one social media channel might be more important than another. There is a robust and influential community of Digital Humanists on Twitter, for example; while Academic.edu seems to be emerging as a kind of Linkedin for academics.

In this regard, Google Plus has a special role to play. Even if you are not very active on Google Plus, it is worth creating a profile and posting your work there because Google is beginning to integrate G+ into its core business operations, and specifically search. Once you create a G+ profile, you should link it to your domain. This allows Google to associate your G+ profile with the content you author on your site so they are able to serve information about you up with links they present in search results. When it’s set up, this is what is looks like in Google Search:

Chris Long Author G+

Here you can see the way information about you as author is connected with content you wrote to authenticate both the value of the link and your status as author. Once this connection is established, you will be better able to control the content associated with your name when a potential employer or an interested student or colleague Googles you to find out more about your work.

Resources

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Jim Groom says:

    Chris,

    I think this is extremely important, and I am fired up to think that what PSU has already done with building a culture of empowered web publishing would mean if you create a toolkit for user innovation (http://bavatuesdays.com/domain-of-ones-own-a-toolkit-for-user-innovation/) at a scale no other university in the country could even imagine. You all have a long history of doing things with tens of thousands of people that few could even imagine in a class of 25 🙂

    As for Domian of One’s Own, I can only take only a little credit for the project, and mainly as the town crier. Tim Owens built the infrastructure, Martha Burtis was dreaming up this very thing with Cathy Derecki in 2007 when most of us were still trying to understand how DreamWeaver works. And she now is building it into the cultural fabric of UMW. We’ve been fortunate to have a number of awesome people in one place at one time. We still benefit from that, and the key to this kind of innovation at any university—as you all at PSU know quite well—is a community of folks experimenting wildly. What you’re doing with your students and faculty in the College of Liberal Arts at PSU is just that.

    And it is the best kind of edtech in the world because once you provide such a platform, a million others can bloom as a result. You are giving them a platform to build platforms. A framework Gardner Campbell has understood and pushed for a long time, and we just now see it come to pass at the level of the institution, but the trick is it can only always be at the level of the individual. The insititution can only support it, they can’t own it.

    • Christopher Long says:

      Jim,

      What you say about institutions empowering individuals to create upon a platform without itself owning the platform is exactly the model for which I would advocate here.

      I would like for every student and faculty member who comes to Penn State to receive free web-hosting. If faculty leave, they could continue to receive the service for a small fee if they so choose. Students would be able to receive free hosting for 10 years after graduation in order to give them an opportunity to establish themselves professionally. Then we would ask for a nominal fee to continue to use the service.

      This would build upon an already very loyal alumni base, but more importantly, it would do what we as educators have always sought to do: empower individuals to create a meaningful identity and to cultivate a community capable of contributing to the well-being of the world in which we live.

      • Isn’t this (at least in some ways) being offered now through the WordPress-based http://sites.psu.edu? It’s free for students/affiliates, and I think alumni can pay a small monthly fee if they want to continue using it after graduation.

        • Christopher Long says:

          Yes, Tom, we are part of the way there with http://sites.psu.edu, but as you mention, that is a multiple user WordPress installation. I am advocating for supporting web hosting as a platform on which students and faculty could install a variety of content management systems so they can create the sort of web presence they desire. I am thinking that Penn State would provide a service free of charge to students and faculty analogous to the kind of service Bluehost or Brinkster or GoDaddy provide.

  • […] race, digital humanities and more.  I was motivated by Chris Long’s charge to organize one’s online presence.  I couldn’t have been successful here without blogs that served as models to me, like […]

Leave a Reply