My adventure begins

This is the very beginning of my PhD journey. I have completed two Masters degrees, but the last one was in 1997, so I’m feeling rather rusty to put in mildly. Re-familiarising myself with reading anything more challenging than the Sunday papers is my major concern at the moment, so please don’t expect an searing insights just yet (hopefully a few to come in due course…).

I have a few motivations for keeping a blog of my PhD adventure. I want to keep a record of my journey and I have a feeling that if I do it publically then I’m more likely to see it through. I also want to share what I learn with others who have similar interests – I think that keeping it all to myself for four years would be a bit of waste. Lastly, I want to find out what other people think – interaction is very important to me and I want to connect with other people who are keen on exploring the impact of digital media on people using and working in mental health services. Hopefully we can learn from each other.

At the moment I’m getting my head round some of the communications media literature – completely new to me.  I have attempted to capture some of my very initial thinking about social structures and agency in a picture (at the suggestion of my supervisor) – I’m sure I’ll look back at horror at my naivety but I’ve decided to be brave and share it here – never can resist an opportunity for a doodle.

I’d like to make a small observation about an event that took place last week that illuminates a number of my PhD themes. On 17 January 2012 tweeted that he had told his Leeds employer that he had depression and had been dismissed from his job. Later he tweeted his dismissal letter. This quickly went viral, and everyone from the national Time to Change campaign to The Telegraph was commenting on it. It is clear that social media enables people to amplify flows of communications to a global level. It has the potential to interrupt traditional hierarchies of power and order. It enables people to source support and validation from way beyond their immediate social circle. It has the potential to expose organisations. It is also a channel for all the stigmatising attitudes towards mental health that currently exist in society – more recently tweeted that he had had some less than supportive tweets querying whether he actually has depression.  How do organisations negotiate this rapidly developing virtual world? Can they afford to ignore it? How might they accommodate and adapt? What are the implications for power and control and agency? I hope I’ll be posing more questions and reflections in the months to come…

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