“As a newbie, to be so instantly surrounded and welcomed by such a fantastic group of people made me feel so connected, particularly after a year of very little contact with others!”
On March 11, the Digital Ethnography Research Centre held its first on-campus planning meeting in nearly a year. Participants were delighted to be finally meeting face to face, in person, with everyone actually sitting around a table (appropriately distanced) in the headquarters of DERC. As one participant noted dryly, “There’s only so much you can hang out online.”
DERC’s HDR directors Annette Markham and Jenny Kennedy had bold ambitions for this meeting: “We want to focus the year of 2021 on rebuilding community after a year of isolation. This means fostering an energetic atmosphere where students feel prompted to talk candidly about what they want DERC to become and then make plans that end up being actualized.“
Cupcakes, conviviality, critical debate, and community:
Admittedly, it didn’t feel easy to go to campus. Everyone had been working from home for so long, the idea of filling out multiple forms and traveling to campus felt daunting. But once they arrived, participants couldn’t help but notice the sunny sidewalks were bustling, music was playing, and Streat Coffee was up and running. Inside the DERC HQ, participants were greeted with sunflowers and cupcakes.
Building community beyond our individual PhD projects
What got accomplished? DERC co-directors asked participants this question after the meeting and received some great answers.
Strong value in thinking like a Think Tank
DERC Co-Director Markham emphasized in her opening remarks that there’s strong value in thinking of ourselves as a think tank situated inside a university. She said that for the leadership team, the goal is not just to reconnect after COVID, but to take this as an opportunity to think differently about who we are as a team of researchers. We want to be in a position to leverage DERC’s capacities and expertise to make change in a post-COVID world. To do this most successfully, we all need to think of ourselves as a cohesive unit that includes both early and late career researchers. This means providing opportunities for new HDRs to take on leadership roles within the centre in various ways and play a key role in program development. We want to create an environment where we think of ourselves as a group of colleagues working together to produce fantastic connections and research that makes change in the world.
The Digital Ethnography Research Centre is a world-renowned hub for socially engaged researchers from a range of disciplines. What brings us together is our use of digital ethnographic techniques, ideas, and mindsets. The HDR community comprises nearly 50% of the core membership, so this was a critical meeting for planning the near term future of Centre activities, as well as to revitalize its missions and values.