Oxford really is a magical place. While there, I sat in the corridors of Hogwarts halls, gazed at the door to Narnia, ate where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis frequently met up, toured the campus following its (kinda) haunted history, and punted on the River Thames. At one point, the royal family of Spain came to visit and parts of the campus were filled with security, lines of big, black cars, and floods of tourists behind barricades. Blackwell’s bookstore in Oxford (the first and largest) was one of my favourite haunts while there. I wonder how more permanent students of Oxford could ever get tired of this place.
The University of Oxford’s Internet Institute’s Summer Doctoral Programme (OII SDP) took place from July 3rd – 14th in Oxford, UK (duh). I arrived late on Sunday and headed to my residence for the fortnight at Hertford College. Despite sharing a bathroom with about 5 other (wonderful) ladies, the residence was not bad. Every morning, we walked into the quad, sometimes greeted by the College Cat, and up the spiral staircase to the dining hall for a full English or continental breakfast – I didn’t realize how much I loved having baked beans and pain du chocolate in the morning!
The OII itself was wonderful. From the short walk down Broad Street, as soon as I caught the blue door that was the OII, I just felt warm and tingly inside. Walking in, we are greeted by the lovely Program Assistants where they have tea, coffee and chocolates all ready for us every morning. Lunches were catered every day and while some days were definitely better than others, the food was overall amazing and so much better than I had ever expected! Every afternoon, Jordan found us wonderful snacks as well. Let’s just say, we were pretty well-fed at OII! Burritos, sushi, popcorn, popsicles, pizza, sandwiches, champagne and strawberries, and so much more. Enough about the food, though ….
Each day, roughly from 9-5, we had presentations and seminars with OII faculty, visiting faculty and the cohort of students. The two visiting professors this year were Tim Highfield, Peter Ryan, and Nicole Ellison. I learned so much from these presentations.
I appreciated hearing from the profs, of course, but the student presentations were eye-opening and I think this is from the calibre of amazing students from all over the world. There were students who came from the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Finland, and Israel with research topics that covered: framing of the Real Housewives, cybersecurity, smart cities, surveillance, privacy, procrastination on social media, botnets, feminist porn regulation, health discourses, rich kids on Instagram, and more. The OII really encouraged us to present works-in-progress, and, at least for me, this isn’t a conference as-per-usual for this stage in our research. In public, we are supposed to always know what we are doing, but I learned here that we can’t always know everything and even the most brilliant of PhD students (there were plenty here) still find challenges with their work that may be similar challenges to others’ work. Our many discussions about research ethics over the two weeks was particularly helpful and valuable to me.
I presented my dissertation proposal and the challenges I’m currently trying to work through to the group on the second Monday in the afternoon and received some great feedback. Students and the faculty in attendance were encouraging and offered great suggestions that will truly be helpful for me down the road. Moreso, I feel like I’ve regained the motivation to continue writing and researching that sometimes leaves us academics in the summertime.
These two weeks have been so excellent for so many reasons and I’m still reflecting back on the experience. Not only did I learn so much and I feel more confidence in my work in the area of critical Internet studies, I think, and I hope, I made some long-lasting connections with some truly outstanding doctoral students who are doing amazing and such important work in internet research.
Thank you, THANK YOU, Vicki Nash and Jordan Davies and everyone who was involved in making these two weeks at Oxford an unbelievable and amazing academic summer programme like no other.
|Nasreen Rajani is a PhD student in Communication Studies in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. Her research areas broadly focues on online feminist activism and critical Internet studies.|