Gardens of Discussion: What Makes Online Communities Work?

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I’ve been contemplating online communities lately — specifically, that I don’t know what comprises the magic that makes one community tick and another one fail, despite the fact that I’ve participated in many different communities online over the last twenty years. I can tell you that the magic of a successful, vibrant community comes from […]

Alternatives to the CMS-Based Student Project

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This post is part three of my three-part series on the CMS and Web-based student projects. While in parts one and two I talked about how CMS projects came to be and reasons why we might want to re-think them, in this post I suggest some alternatives to these types of student projects.

Why Re-Think the CMS-Based Assignment?

Derelict typing machine

Since I have been at W&M, we have gone from the relative freedom of the Web left over from the 1990s to the more managed reality of the content management system. Content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress, provide easy ways to build websites and have your students present their work on the Web, but the CMS does have its drawbacks. In order for it to allow for the easy creation of polished-looking sites and let your students focus on writing, the CMS makes many of the other decisions about the website for them. Thinking through what a CMS-based student project often accomplishes may help you better refine your web-based student projects.

The Origins and Drawbacks of CMS-Based Student Projects

Nothing says 1990s Internet like Netscape!

As an undergrad at W&M in 2002, I completed my first website for an assignment in an American Studies class. Ten years later, the Web has changed, but I am not so sure if I can say the same for many classroom Web projects. Publishing content on the Web is far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a category of Web applications called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows people to publish content to the Web without much technical skill. This is great because it allows class projects to focus more on writing and Web publishing. However, I wonder if we have lost something in Web projects as CMSs like WordPress have become more prevalent. I think it is time to reevaluate what a semester-long Web project should look like.

Touch and the Computer Interface

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In this post, I talk about the trend towards the touch interface of personal computers. The question is, why now? Both Apple and Microsoft have chosen to start designing their operating systems around more iPhone and iPad-like touchscreen interfaces.

Imagination, Interiors, and User Interfaces (Spatial Turn Series)

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Designers, writers, and developers have the challenge of finding the right balance of interaction among sources, interface, and user, and “virtual tours” are no different. My favorite digital humanities projects are those that get this balance right. They draw me in and allow my imagination to go anywhere. By looking at three examples of virtual tours, we can start to see the ways in which sources, interface and users interact to produce moments of interest and imagination.