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Claiming a Domain of My Own: Choosing a Name

Over the next couple weeks, Lee Skallerup Bessette, new Instructional Technology Specialist at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, will be blogging her way through the process she is taking while setting up her own website through Domain of One’s Own.

Most people are surprised that I don’t have my own personal website. I have a robust web presence through Twitter and my blog at InsideHigherEd.com, as well as my writing for platforms such as Hybrid Pedagogy, Keep Learning, and ProfHacker (according to Contently, 250k words for 17 different publications!). Because of this, I’ve never really felt the need (or found the time) to create my own website with my own domain name.

Now that I am at University of Mary Washington working at DTLT, it’s the perfect opportunity to do just that, while at the same time, learning about Domain of One’s Own. Audrey Watters, in her book Claim Your Domain – And Your Online Presence, makes some compelling arguments around why I should, and really anyone in education fields, as well as our students, should reclaim our space on the web. This particular idea from her book resonated deeply with me:

Life bits is a better term than data to describe all that we’re creating now thanks to new technologies … The term life bits might help us to recognize that all this data we’re creating — intentionally and unintentionally — are pieces of our lives.

My online presence is literally scattered across the web, some of it behind paywalls. I’ve been doing content on the web since 1996 when I moved our undergraduate program’s student newspaper online and started writing for my friend’s webzine. Neither of the sites / spaces exist anymore; one lived on a long-dead university server while the other disappeared from the web when we forgot to renew our domain and hosting service. I often fear that this will happen to me again, or at least to my content, that I’ll lose those bits of myself I have left all over the web.

The first question I need to address is: what to call my domain? What is my space on the Internet going to be called? It’s not as simple a question as it seems because so much of my digital identity is tied to a very specific moment for me on the web: 2010, when I launched my blog and Twitter account associated with my (failed) online business. This is when “readywriting” was born, and it became my primary digital identity and identifier, purposefully working to distance myself from the “academic” Lee Skallerup Bessette.

Unfortunately, readywriting.com isn’t available, so I also considered using my own name for my domain. This is fraught because of my double last name, which is made up of my maiden and married names. There is a long explanation for this involving immigration, but some of my academic identity online and elsewhere was formed before I was married, as well as Skallerup being a nice uncommon name that is memorable.

So some places I’m Lee Skallerup and others I’m Lee Bessette, and others still Lee Skallerup Bessette. All the more reason to create a domain of my own. Except no one can spell either of my last names correctly. And leeskallerupbessette.com is really long. What good is a domain that no one remembers how to spell? And buying up every single possible misspelling of my name would break my bank. The choice of domain is not purely an abstraction. It will be both a figurative representation of my digital identity and also, in a very practical way, how people will find me on the web.

So I’ve settled on readywriting.org (all you’ll find there so far is scaffolding). So much of my professional and personal digital identity is now wrapped up in this particular brand that it seems unnatural to me to try and separate myself from it. Readywriting is such a large life bit for me, it should be considered a life chunk. A chunk so large that it makes sense for me to built my domain around it.