Neil Basu joined the OII from an undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College in the US, where a course on ‘non-verbal behaviour’ piqued his interest with the intersection between Psychology and the Internet. Neil explored the concept of impression management on Facebook for his MSc thesis and now works for a research consulting firm specializing in media and technology. Interview with Tim Davies.

Tim: What first attracted you to the OII?

Neil: During my senior year at Dartmouth, I took a Psychology course on ‘nonverbal behaviour’ which included studying facial expressions and body language. When I was about halfway through the course, I realized that all of the prevailing theories were based on face-to-face communication research that hadn’t accounted for the fact that a majority of socialization was now taking place online. So I wrote a term paper on the use of emoticons in online communication, and felt so excited about what I was researching that I knew I wanted to do more research at the intersection of Psychology and the Internet. The OII offered the best opportunity for me to do just that, and in addition, gave me the chance to study and interact with people abroad for the first time, which I was certain would have its own educational merits.

I had an overriding interest in online communication behaviours, and one of my major goals was to pick up the requisite skills in Internet research to be able to more appropriately answer questions in that area. My thesis focused on impression management on Facebook; specifically, under what circumstances individuals felt the need to censor content on their Facebook walls. I used a combination of data collection through a custom Facebook application and online interviews to gather enough data to give me a well-rounded perspective.

Tim: Where has life taken you since leaving the OII?

Neil: After leaving, I worked remotely for 2 months at a social media research company called Fizziology that analyzed online chatter about movies and Hollywood actors. Then I moved to Boston and began to work at a boutique research consulting firm called Latitude that specialized in media and technology and have been working here ever since. My duties are ever-expanding, but include designing custom research studies for media & technology clients in order to explore the landscape of their industry, answer questions they have about their business, and consult with them about new opportunities.

Tim: Did your time at the OII prepare you for the role?

Neil: My time at the OII gave me a broad swathe of exposure to the industries of media and technology and the critical thinking skills that I now use every day to assess them and analyze recent trends. The specific data-collection procedures that I learned about and used at the OII will also be useful as my company looks to expand and make use of cutting edge research techniques.

Tim: What job-hunting advice would give our students?

Neil: There are three important pieces to me: (1) make sure employers understand exactly what the OII is and what it is giving you specifically in terms of experience and skills, (2) make sure you crystallize for yourself not only what field you want to be in career-wise, but also what tasks you want to do on a day-to-day basis, and (3) have lots and lots of conversations with other graduate students at the OII, at your college, and everywhere else that you can find them. #1 will help you get picked, #2 will help you find the job you actually want, and #3 will help you firm up your thinking about what you find interesting and important (and perhaps give you connections that will be valuable on a personal or professional level long after you leave Oxford).

Tim: What do you miss most about Oxford?

Neil: The people. Technically, you can do research anywhere (you need not tell Internet scholars about remote working capabilities), but Oxford brings together such a diverse, curious, passionate and interesting body of graduate students that every meal, cup of tea and pint of beer can be spent engaged in a discussion that could change your life. I miss the stimulation I got from just spending the spare hour or two with a friend or a new acquaintance, and I will never forget that feeling.

Tim: And finally, where do you see yourself in five years?

Neil: I don’t know, and that’s unsettling. But I’m also pretty excited. I think I’ve always tried to open more doors than I close in terms of both education and career choices. It’s why I picked internships where I’d have transferable skills, why I picked a liberal arts college, and why I picked the OII, where studying the Internet is incredibly multi-disciplinary. I think that I have the tools for success no matter what I pursue, and my time at Oxford is a huge reason why.


Note: This post gives the views of the author(s), and not necessarily the position of the Oxford Internet Institute.