On the first day of PUB 101, a creative journey that is extremely confusing, exciting, and valuable begins. I was prompted to begin a project that offers a completely unique learning experience, following the suggestions Gardner (2009) and Watters (2015) make to create a personal cyberinfrastructure. Although I began this journey feeling lost, I eventually discovered the value of creating and maintaining a personal cyberinfrastructure, as it helps me craft a crucial digital identity, exercise my creativity, and develop technical and design skills which will help me move forward in the field of Communication.
What is a personal cyberinfrastructure?
In the digital age, it becomes increasingly important to use the Internet to your advantage. As Watkins (n.d.) explains, “you have the power to create your own professional brand and leverage multiple channels to position yourself online. This is the key to developing a professional online identity which is your brand with respect to professional pursuits that is visible through social media” (pg. 3). The current knowledge economy relies on digital technology; utilizing these participatory platforms is almost always advantageous (Costa & Torres, 2011, pg. 47). In the dawn of the digital age, Gardner (2009) asks: “How might colleges and universities shape curricula to support and inspire the imaginations that students need?” Rather than simply learning to navigate other existing web servers, Gardner (2009) proposes an educational assignment that requires students to shape the Internet themselves. This assignment is called “a personal cyberinfrastructure,” and it is realized when a student purchases a domain to customize and receives assistance building their digital presence. “For students who have relied on these aids, the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on their minds, so deeply has it been discouraged. Many students simply want to know what their professors want and how to give that to them. But if what the professor truly wants is for students to discover and craft their own desires and dreams, a personal cyberinfrastructure provides the opportunity” (Gardner, 2009). Watters (2015) agrees: “giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web.” Gardner (2009) claims that a personal cyberinfrastructure offers students “the most flexible and extensible environment for creativity and expression that human beings have ever built.” With proper guidance, developing a domain of one’s own allows students to showcase their identity and creativity, acquire “crucial technical skills,” “engage in work that provides richly teachable moments ranging from multimodal writing, to information science, knowledge management, bibliographic, instruction, and social networking,” build a network, and “study design and function of their own digital environments” (Gardner, 2009). Ultimately, students should become “effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives,” and those that are digitally fluent in this way will be more qualified and competent in pursuits beyond their post-secondary career (Gardner, 2009).
How I Have Developed a Domain of My Own
Throughout the entire course, my PUB 101 peers and I have developed exactly what Gardner (2009) and Watters (2015) recommend. To begin this journey, I visited Reclaim Hosting to purchase my own web space. Initially, developing a domain of my own seemed daunting. Although it would be personal, my domain is not meant to be merely for me. “Networked publics serve as publics that both rely on networked technologies and network people into meaningful imagined communities in new ways. Publics are a mechanism through which we construct our social world” (Boyd, 2014). In order for my digital presence to become meaningful, it was crucial to consider how I could target a specific audience. I have grown accustomed to writing theoretical research papers, but as Glass (2015) mentions, these projects rarely see the light of day. Most of my writing is a “waste product,” as it will be read and graded by one professor, then eternally ignored. It intimidated me that my personal cyberinfrastructure would be accessible to anyone. I pondered what I could possibly create that I would be proud to promote to a specific audience. Eventually, it registered that this project was a chance for me to craft my online identity, so I wanted it to reflect my own interests and target an audience similar to myself. Reflecting on my own interests by creating a vision board allowed me to recall my passion for film photography that I had been neglecting to explore. I chose to create a community to share amateur photography and called it www.carlycamera.com. I wanted to show an honest look into a creative process, documenting my own art, sharing personal stories, discussing products I would use and mistakes I would make. The ultimate goal would be to inspire others to create and eventually create a community of photographers. Once I understood the focus of my blog and that I would be primarily targeting amateur photographers, I allowed my content and design choices to be influenced by this throughout the term.
The Carly Camera Content And Design
Expression and Creative Process are the two post categories found on Carly Camera. In my Expression posts, I share my own amateur photography. In my Creative Process posts, I provide more information about the products I used and technical mistakes I made in the process. Although I am not a film photography expert, the desire to create became the blog’s driving force, and I wanted to showcase an authentic aspect of my personality through each type of post. The value I provide to my audience of amateur photographers is creative inspiration through art-sharing and technical insight through product tutorials.
Designing my personal cyberinfrastructure allowed me to develop technical and design skills in order to maintain my brand identity. At the beginning of the term, I learned to navigate WordPress on my own by watching YouTube tutorials, customize themes, and use graphic design software such as Canva to create clean graphics and logos. I customized my theme according to design principles taught in class. For example, a light orange became consistent on my website after Mauve Page explained what colour could communicate. Orange is bright, fun, and even has a childlike element, which I thought perfectly represented amateur photography.
The Future of My Personal Cyberinfrastructure
I have thoroughly enjoyed growing through this unique learning experience, and understand the value of creating a personal cyberinfrastructure. This project has prompted me to showcase a digital identity, maintain a brand consistency, learn design principles, constantly create content, and strategically promote my blog across multiple social media platforms. This has made me more comfortable expressing myself to creatively to a public, and allowed me to practice creating spreadable media. Gardner (2009) recommends students seize the possibilities of a personal cyberinfrastructure “throughout their college career – and beyond.” While creating my personal cyberinfrastructure, I have also been searching for a Co-op position. In my resume, cover letters, and interviews, I have discussed every skill I have developed through creating a personal cyberinfrastructure. Since this project has proven to be incredibly valuable, I intend to continue blogging. If I were to continue to develop Carly Camera, I would continue to focus on making my infrastructure a community to share amateur photography. Despite my efforts to promote my website on Instagram, Google Analytics revealed that I do not have a very large audience. In order to create the uplifting, inspiring community I envision, increasing my exposure would be crucial. Since I frequently discuss different cameras and photo accessories in my Creative Process posts, I do see an opportunity to monetize through affiliate programs, especially if I gain a larger following. Although I do believe that there is a potentially successful future for Carly Camera, I may completely change my focus after this course ends. As Glass (2015) mentions, a personal domain serves to showcase one’s learning to others “beyond the classroom,” and I want my personal cyberinfrastructure to be more relevant to potential employers. Using my blog to reflecting on my Co-op work experience that I intend to gain this summer may be an excellent way to make my content more relevant professionally. I am interested in becoming a Community Ambassador for YVR Airport. In this role, I would be promoting the airport at exciting festivals in Metro Vancouver throughout the summer. If I were to secure this position I would be interested in transforming this into a blog into a space where I could document experiences at each festival. I would appeal to a target audience of Vancouver locals and tourists while creating more professionally relevant content. I consider this the ultimate way to utilize Gardner (2009)‘s personal cyberinfrastructure project.
Boyd, D. (2014). Searching for a public of their own. It’s Complicated (pg. 213-227). Retrieved from https://www.wattpad.com/203798155-it%27s-complicated-8-searching-for-a-public-of-their
Campbell, G. (2009). A personal cyberinfrastructure. EDUCAUSE Review, 44:5. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-cyberinfrastructure
Costa, C., & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, (pg. 47-53). Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/9844014.pdf
Glass, G. (2015). Why we need social paper. Retrieved from https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/papers/45249/
Watkins, N. (n.d.). Developing your professional online identity: Defining who you are and how you show up in the world! Retrieved from https://continuingstudies.sauder.ubc.ca/sites/continuingstudies.sauder.ubc.ca/files/cs/documents/program/tmap/Developing-Your-Professional-Online-Identity.pdf
Watters, A. (2015). The web we need to give to students. Medium. Retrieved from https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713