Catching up with Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) Alumni

Yana Breindl attended the 2009 Summer Doctoral Programme in Brisbane. She is currently a Wiener-Anspach Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow at the OII, working on digital rights campaigning in Europe. Having already spoken about the SDP with Yana, we caught up with her for another chat…

Ed: You are now a visitor at the OII! What’s it like being in Oxford (after Australia)?

YB: It’s impressive! Oxford is a researcher’s paradise: centuries of academic history, more traditions than you’d ever be able to understand in a year, beautiful libraries all over the place, fascinating seminars on any topic you could imagine and, of course, many amazing scholars and brilliant students that are the heart of Oxford’s academic life. During my PhD, I’ve gotten used to traveling around the world to attend conferences (and summer schools) to meet other internet researchers. Here, visitors from all over the world come and participate in the vibrant academic life. Two weeks ago, Jimmy Wales was here to speak about free speech with Timothy Garton Ash (just a day after the Wikipedia blackout). Sometimes, it’s intimidating actually.

Ed: Are you still in touch with anyone from your SDP year?

YB: Absolutely! We’re not writing everyday but I regularly meet other SDP09ers (often the same 5-7 people actually) at academic conferences, or when visiting each other’s cities and universities. It’s great to have a network of people all over the world with whom you can remember good old koala times. With each new encounter, we have more memories to share and look forward to meeting again in the future. And then, there’s always facebook that allows us to see what’s going on in each others lives and keep in touch, even if it’s just from time to time. When one of us finishes his/her PhD, gets a baby or finds a new position, we’re all there to comment on his/her wall! Since 2009, I’ve met many SDP alumni from other years as well. Three of us are at OII at the moment in fact!

Ed: What was the most useful thing you were told (by faculty or students)?

YB: The most useful thing? That’s a tough one. There’s certainly Nancy Baym’s “perfection is the enemy of done” that I pasted above my desk when writing up the dissertation. Or Bernie Hogan’s advice: “you don’t need to do network analysis, you just need to understand enough network theory to justify why you’re not doing it!”. The career discussion with past SDP alumni was very helpful as well to think about life after the PhD and possible trajectories. More generally, the experience of sharing a common passion for internet research but also our doubts and fears with students and faculty was a rewarding experience. You realise that all academics are humans in the end.

Ed: And what memory will really stick with you, do you think?

YB: There are many memories: the classroom at QUT covered with colourful drawings where we spend most of our days, our attempts at making Jean LOL  in class through the etherpad backchannel, the engaging discussions with students and faculty working on a great variety of subjects (“eye-opening” as Nikki put it), our pot luck dinners in Andres and Jin’s flat (they had the best view!) and of course the video we made with Tim and Neal, that was great fun!

Ed: Any advice for students who are thinking about applying?

YB: Be honest about your research. Don’t try to fit it into a potential SDP theme (ours was “creativity”). Think about the strengths of your PhD: what’s the gap in the literature that you want to fill and how are you going to achieve this? Remember that your readers might not be familiar with your theoretical background so be clear and concise in addressing the literature. Don’t forget to justify your methods and what you expect to find. If some things are still unclear about your research, that’s normal. If they weren’t, you would not need to go to a doctoral school. Don’t be shy in articulating your expectations from SDP. You won’t find all the answers there but lots of useful hints and advice that will help you keep going. Many SDPers don’t have a home institution focusing on internet research; this is a good reason to apply.

Students at the SDP2009, undertaken in partnership with the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane. The thematic focus was on 'Creativity, Innovation and the Internet'. Credit: andresmh

Students at the SDP2009, undertaken in partnership with the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane. The thematic focus was on ‘Creativity, Innovation and the Internet’. Credit: andresmh