What is Davidson Domains?
Davidson Domains is a service that provides all Davidson students and faculty with a personally-owned and managed internet presence. This presence can be anything from a simple personal Web page to a full-fledged e-commerce site.
In technical terms, Davidson Domains is a web-hosting service, though you won’t often hear it referred to that way outside T&I. In brief, it gives faculty and students a way to build a website where they control everything from the look to the technology behind it. Both the site and the tech can be as simple or complex, and the presentation as basic or creative, as you want or need.
If we picture the internet as a house with an infinite number of rooms, Domains provides you with your own room, to be decorated to your taste and shared at your discretion.
Why would I want to use Davidson Domains?
The short answer is personal control.
Most people do not own or personally control their internet presence or digital identity. Instead, their identities are defined by the services and platforms they (and billions of others) use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and so on. These services are largely free and easy to use. Still, free comes at a price.
- Loss of agency: Every service comes with a densely-written Terms of Service agreement. The specifics vary, but there are similar elements. In return for use of the service, you give up most, if not all, rights to personal data and information shared via these services. The service provider has permission to use that data as they wish and without asking you (often forever), and they have the right to change the Terms of Service arbitrarily.
- Allowing others to profit from your effort: These services almost always generate value by monetizing user-created content, typically through strategic sales of user data, and placement of ads. You and your work thus generate income for the provider (which isn’t usually shared). This is accurately summed up by the adage “If you can’t tell what product the site is selling, then you are the product”.
- User lock-in: Once created on a particular commercial platform, your content is typically difficult or impossible to extract, move, or delete. This obligates you to remain with that particular service, or relinquish your content.
The Davidson Domains project exists to counter this extractive service model, and give content control back to you, the user. It does so in two ways:
- You own your data: Using relatively simple setup tools, Domains allows you to build a personal platform for storing data, sharing information, and managing digital identity without sacrificing ownership. Your data, and your creative work, remain yours.
- Encouraging exploration: Simultaneously, Domains offers technically-minded (or simply curious) people a space in which to experiment with the creation, deployment, and/or practical uses of digital tools, technologies, platforms, and projects. Again, it provides these functions without sacrificing your rights and agency. (As an added benefit, understanding the construction and operation of Web sites contributes to a valuable skill set.)
How do I use Davidson Domains?
Davidson Domains is free for Davidson faculty and students. To get started:
- Decide on a name: Take some time to come up with your domain name. Consider something appropriately professional. Many students elect to keep their domains post-graduation, and you want something that a prospective employer won’t count against you. Likewise, faculty who move on from Davidson often choose to retain ownership of their domains. A common practice is to use your own name (for example, jaysmith.com), then create subdomains for classes or projects (writing101.jaysmith.com).
- Make sure your name is available: Use whois.com to verify that the name you want is available. If it’s not, return to the previous step and try again.
- Get registered: Once you’ve decided on a name, open https://domains.davidson.edu, and a tool will take you through the setup process automatically.
- Look over your controls: After setup is done, the main cPanel screen -- also called the dashboard -- will appear. A full explanation of the dashboard goes beyond this document, but think of it as the control center for every aspect of your domain. From here you can install software, create subdomains, configure email, or anything else you need.
- Go nuts: At this point — returning to the house analogy — your room is built and ready to be furnished. This is where you’ll begin installing software like Wordpress or Omeka to create and manage content, creating subdomains for individual classes or projects, or a virtually unlimited number of other possibilities.
When can I create a domain?
Domains become available to you (at no charge) as soon as your College network account is created. You can set up a domain at any time during your tenure with the College, and use it until 90 days after your departure date (after which you may either shut down the domain, or transfer it to your personal ownership).
Who can I contact for more information?
- General questions & technical support: Questions about Domains services and capabilities may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for referral to the appropriate staff.
- Specific needs & project support: If you want to implement Domains for a specific project, or prefer direct contact, chat with Sundi Richard or Daniel Lynds with Digital Learning.