Catching up with the SDP alumni

[posted by SDP Director Vicki Nash]

It’s one of the perks of convening the OII Summer Doctoral Programme that I get to keep in touch with the programme’s alumni as they complete their theses, apply for their first academic positions, and generally go on to achieve great things. When recently looking up what’s been published lately by the ex-SDPers, I was firstly struck by the tremendous range of research areas being covered; everything from organizational practice, to child protection, to networked protest, to smart cities.

The second thing was that the Internet has moved on so much – and so quickly – that many of the topics being researched today were unimaginable when the programme was launched back in 2003. As just one example of this, Cesar Albarran Torres (University of Sydney; SDP 2013) recently published an analysis of the emergence of mobile social gambling — a new form of media and cultural practice opened up by mobile platforms and social networking sites, that fuses social gambling and gaming (and of course raises policy challenges in terms of increased availability of gambling products to minors, and the merging of the gambling and mobile gaming industries and markets.) In other cases, our alumni have made significant contributions on topics which have persistent academic and policy relevance, such as the recent book by Elizabeth Staksrud (University of Oslo; SDP 2008) on children in the online world: risk, regulation, rights (Ashgate). Based on her PhD thesis, this important book examines whether contemporary regulation of online risk for children and teens is always legitimate and whether it results in the sacrifice of certain fundamental human rights.

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When the revolution comes, the OII SDP will be a model for the new academic order

Randy LynnFurther transformations in higher education are coming — and Randy Lynn (SDP2013) hopes that the future looks a bit like the OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme: encouraging international and multidisciplinary participants, collaborative and supportive relationships, and comprehensive engagement of the scholarly issues that mutually excite us. Randy is a Presidential Scholar at George Mason, with research interests at the intersections of youth, education, digital media, and social networks. He writes:

A glib title? Sure. But perhaps not as hyperbolic as you think.

After all, it’s no secret that a revolution has already come to higher education, dating roughly from the time Ronnie Reagan and Maggie Thatcher came to power on either side of the pond. The legacy of that revolution has been students as consumers, contingent faculty as a new category of working poor, and administrators second only to optometrists in how often they talk about their “vision.”

But there are other adverse legacies with which aspiring scholars must contend, such as the balkanization of academic disciplines. If truth and grant money are the two driving forces of contemporary academia, the firm belief that the particular theories and methods of my little fiefdom can beat up the theories and methods of your little fiefdom isn’t far behind.

Those of us who have forayed into Internet studies are a new type of scholar. Not because what we study is new, but because we’re uniquely situated at the threshold of what hinders academia –both old and new.

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Mitigating doctoral students’ perceived isolation: the value of young scholar networks

Ioana LiteratIt’s always nice to hear from SDP alumni; to find out why they applied, what they got out of the programme, and what they are up to now. Ioana Literat is a doctoral candidate at USC Annenberg, where she is studying participatory practices of collective creativity, as mediated by digital technology. She discusses her time in Toronto as a student on the 2013 Summer Doctoral Programme:

As doctoral students, we are in a line of work where we’re taught to emphasize the differences rather than the similarities. Find your niche, your adviser tells you. Distinguish yourself from your peers. Be an expert in your own unique domain. We are taught that the ingredients that seem key to a successful academic career are, at their core, all about difference, originality, individuality, and ultimately, standing apart from your peers.

But what if we started putting an emphasis on our similarities for a change? Taking part in the Oxford Internet Institute’s 2013 Summer Doctoral Program made me see that, although our personal circumstances and research interests may be different, as PhD students and young scholars, we are bound by the same challenges, goals, hopes and fears. Our research community can also function as a support system, but — for a variety of reasons — we do not sufficiently take advantage of this support system. My experience in the SDP in Toronto made me fully aware of how valuable this resource can be. It made me see points of convergence, rather than points of divergence, between my own personal and professional paths and those of my peers. It made me (re)appreciate the value of solidarity, whether that means sharing a call for papers, venting about the job market, or talking about motherhood in academia. It made me realize that I am not alone, in spite of how isolated I often feel, sitting in front of my laptop at my study desk.

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The 2014 Summer Doctoral Programme application process is now open: and we’re back in Oxford!

.. just a quick micro-post to say that the twelfth OII Summer Doctoral Programme will be held at the OII from 7-18 July 2014. The application process is now open, and the deadline is 24 February 2014.

The programme is one of the highlights of the OII’s year, bringing together outstanding doctoral students from around the world for a fortnight of study with OII faculty and colleagues, in order to provide constructive advice and support for students’ doctoral thesis research. You can read more about the experiences of the students and staff on this blog (more posts to come over the next few months!).

But if you have any questions about the programme or the application process in the meantime, just email: sdp@oii.ox.ac.uk.

We look forward to receiving your applications!

The Summer Doctoral Program and Toronto: The Meeting Place is the Message

Bernie HoganOII Research Fellow Bernie Hogan is a regular fixture on the OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme, tutoring and leading seminars on social networking. Having obtained his PhD from the University of Toronto he is well-placed to comment on this summer’s SDP, which is being hosted by the University of Toronto’s iSchool. So why is Toronto such a great place to hold the SDP? Bernie writes:

Originally named for a cross-cultural meeting place, Toronto, has sought to maintain that reputation to this day. Toronto is many things to many people, a place rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. It is Canada’s largest city and capital of its largest province of Ontario. Its skyline is defined by the iconic CN Tower, built for radio and television transmissions in 1976. For 34 years, it was the world’s tallest free-standing structure. Although that title has fallen by the wayside, it might still be the glitziest with its new LED array illuminating seasonal themes, from Christmas to Gay Pride to Caribana. The tower stands as simultaneously as a symbol of how communication can transcend space and time and yet how communication is so obviously tethered to one’s immediate surroundings.

CN Tower, like much of the city, is striving to keep pace in a global digital world. It’s a theme that permeates the aesthetic of Toronto’s architecture. Within walking distance of the University, the Royal Ontario Museum has had a hypermodern metallic facelift by Daniel Libeskind, while the Art Gallery of Ontario has had a more subtle postmodern hockey-themed façade by hometown boy Frank Gehry. Meanwhile, the unmistakable ‘table top’ Sharp Centre for Design for the Ontario College of Art and Design continues to charm and confuse.

Toronto’s vibrant present has stood on the shoulders of its rich past. Harold Innis, author of Empire and Communication, taught there in the first half of the 20th Century. So did one of his most strident fans: the enigmatic and wide-ranging Marshall McLuhan, whose colloquialisms such as ‘The Medium is the Message’ and ‘the Global Village’ were like beacons from a future that is only now arriving. Continue reading

“A unique opportunity to meet, debate with, and get to know some of the best doctoral students around the world”: Jaz Choi on the Summer Doctoral Programme

Jaz ChoiJaz Hee-jeong Choi is the Deputy Director of the Urban Informatics Research Lab, QUT. Her research interests are in playful technology, particularly the ways in which various forms of playful interaction are designed, developed, and integrated in different cultural contexts; her current research explores designing for playful interactions to cultivate sustainable food culture in urban environments. We asked her about her experiences both as a student (SDP2007) and tutor (SDP2012):

Ed: You were keen to volunteer as a tutor at last year’s SDP: why seek to take on this additional teaching responsibility?
Jaz: SDP is one of the events I genuinely look forward to every year. It’s a unique opportunity to meet, debate with, and get to know some of the best doctoral students around the world. Teaching can be a very pleasurable experience. OIISDP is memorably so. I hope to be able to make further contribution in the future.

Ed: You helped to organise the SDP that was hosted by QUT in Brisbane in 2009: any really memorable moments?
Jaz: The launch of the Legacy Project for sure. It seems to get better every year.

Ed: And of course, you were a student at the SDP2007 hosted by Harvard’s Berkman Center: how well did that capitalise on the amazing talent at Harvard? How much does location affect the SDP experience?
Jaz: The location has a significant effect on the SDP experience – it’s not just about the number of pubs around Oxford or lack thereof elsewhere ;) The SDP at Berkman was such a treat – as well as the stellar line up of tutors, extra curricular activities gave us fun opportunities such as visiting labs at MIT and a BBQ at Jonathan Zittrain’s house. The most memorable experience for me personally is the unceasing scholarly discussions and debates with other participants and tutors from dawn to crashing into bed with a mixed sense of exhaustion and satisfaction. Continue reading

Advice to candidates: How do I know if the SDP is right for me?

Victoria NashThe OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme brings together doctoral students from around the world for a fortnight of study with leading academics in a multi-disciplinary environment that aims to provide constructive advice and support for students’ doctoral thesis research. SDP Director Dr Victoria Nash answers the questions of a theoretical ‘prospective candidate’ (PC)…

PC: The OII’s research covers a vast range of topics and disciplines: law, economics, politics, digital humanities, etc etc. How do I know if I will fit into the mix?

VN: The most fundamental requirement is that our SDP students must be writing a thesis or dissertation about some aspect of life with the Internet. Beyond that, it’s the place to be if you have an open-minded approach to how best to study the Internet. Our typical cohort includes students from a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological traditions, and what they all share is a genuine intellectual curiosity and a willingness to consider these different perspectives.

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“The OII is a place that was conceived to bring together people who think broadly about the Internet and its impact on, well, just about everything” .. reflections on SDP2011

Ryan BiavaIt’s always nice to hear from SDP alumni; to find out why they applied, what they got out of the programme, and what they are up to now. Ryan Biava is a PhD Candidate in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; this is what he had to say about his time in Oxford as a student on the 2011 Summer Doctoral Programme:

The search for a shared intellectual community was one of the principal reasons I was so excited to attend the SDP. Many of us come from different disciplines where our interests might be considered novel or tangential. No matter how welcome we feel at home, the OII is a place that was conceived to bring together people who think broadly about the internet and its impact on, well, just about everything.
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Advice to candidates: what makes a great Summer Doctoral Programme application?

Victoria Nash What is expected in applications for the OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme? How can you make your application stand out? We talk to SDP Director Dr Victoria Nash, who has the following advice for doctoral students who are thinking about applying to the programme.

She writes:

  • The three main criteria for acceptance onto the SDP are academic excellence, overlap with the OII’s areas of interest, and a likelihood that the student will benefit from undertaking the programme. Bear this in mind when you put together your application to ensure that you provide clear evidence on each count.
  • We really need to know about your thesis research, as one of the primary aims of the programme is to help improve students’ dissertations. So make sure that your thesis abstract is clear and compelling. Remember that although the research is very familiar to you, we will never have heard about it before, so make sure you spell out the broad topic, research questions and likely contribution as simply as possible. Practice this ‘elevator pitch’ on your peers to see if they can understand what your research is really about.

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