Postgraduate funding

Ego-Media: The impact of new media on forms and practices of self-presentation - Fully Funded European Research Council Studentships

Eligibility criteria

  • Open to residents of the following countries
    European Union, United Kingdom
  • Applicants will normally have a good upper second class or above in their first degree, and a Master’s at Merit or Distinction level, in a field or fields relevant to their proposed PhD topic. They must be willing to participate fully in the Ego-Media team’s activities, attending its regular workshops and other events. They are expected to have opportunities to gain some teaching experience.
  • Applicable subjects
    Social science, Linguistics, English literature and language, Digital humanities, Culture, Media & Creative Industries, Cultural studies

Application details

Applications may be submitted
01-Sep-2014 until 29-Sep-2014

Information about the funding
The Department of English and the Centre for Life-Writing Research, in collaboration with other Arts & Humanities Departments and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London are seeking a well-qualified applicant for a PhD scholarship -- fully-funded to cover UK/EU fees plus maintenance -- attached to the European Research Council project ‘Ego-Media: The impact of new media on forms and practices of self-presentation’.

In 2013, funding of €2.2million was awarded by the ERC for a major research project on the impact of new media on autobiographical narratives. It is analysing the range of ways in which autobiographical forms and discursive practices are being transformed at the frontier of technological change; then consider the implications of the new forms and practices for such notions as autobiography, selfhood, subjectivity, individuality, self-intelligibility, agency, creativity, privacy, and sociability; and their impact upon these and related concepts.

This project will combine a humanistic, life-writing theory approach with an interdisciplinary methodology, in collaboration with researchers from Sociolinguistics, Medical Sociology, Psychiatry, Modern Languages, Culture Media and Creative Industries, Digital Humanities, Medical Humanities, War Studies, and Education.

The project is led by Max Saunders (Professor of English and Director, Arts and Humanities Research Institute) in collaboration with:

  • Clare Brant, Professor of English and Co-Director, Centre for Life-Writing research;
  • Alexandra Georgakopoulou, Professor of Discourse Analysis & Sociolinguistics, Centre for Language, Discourse & Communication;
  • Leone Ridsdale, Professor of Neurology & General Practice, Institute of Psychiatry
In addition, there will be two postdoctoral researchers working full-time on the project.

The PhD studentship will be supervised jointly across disciplines if appropriate.

We invite applications for the indicative topics below, which have been designed by the project team as especially germane to the Ego-Media project as a whole.

The successful applicant would need to be available to begin the research in January 2015, though a deferral to 1 April 2015 may be possible.

The duration of these full-time scholarships is 3 years.

Indicative Topics

Ethics, Technologies and Narrative Construction in Facebook and Other Online Identities.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserted an ethical stance in relation to identity when he claimed that ‘The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly. Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity’. However it is unclear if either the technical affordances of Facebook's codebase or the use of those affordances by individuals ensures the creation of this ideal of a single integrated identity. It is arguably disingenuous or at least naïve in three respects: about the ways in which users fashion multiple online identities in different contexts (professional, social, dating, tweeting, gaming etc.); about how people have always developed different aspects of their personalities in different social contexts; and about the notorious difficulty of separating autobiographical truth from fictionality. The question of how identity is constructed on social media is accordingly an ethical and psychological one which needs to be examined in relation to both its technologies and its users' forms of identity creation and maintenance. This project will critically analyse the idea of multiple selves in networked contexts by taking up the theory of the ‘networked self’ and analysing it in relation to the methodologies of life-writing, cultural studies, and narrative-based ethics, adapted to social media and digital culture-based theories of socio-technological affordances. The primary focus will be on Facebook, though reference will be made to other media, both social and print.

Study addressing how on-line practices transform self-presentation for a patient group with long-term neurological conditions
This project would study a patient group with conditions like Migraine, which have profound social and biographical implications for them. It would recruit patients, families, moderators of websites etc, and develop a picture of how people with migraine present themselves, make contacts with others who share commonalities of experience, and change their sense of themselves. Qualitative methods will be used to examine participants’ perceptions and experiences. Interviews will be semi-structured based on a topic guide that will be informed by the literature and discussions with users and staff. Informed consent will be obtained and interviews conducted by telephone or face-to-face according to patients’ preference. All interviews will be recorded.

Analysis: Interviews will be fully transcribed and entered into NViVO. Transcripts will be coded, with initial open coding followed by more detailed coding. A thematic analysis will be followed by more detailed analysis of patterns and relationships. This will involve a constant comparative approach to examine emerging explanations.

Self-Presentation and Online Interactivity
This project would assess the impact of the forms of interactivity afforded by digital and social media upon the practices and experiences of life writing. It would use a combination of new media theory (including the notion of the networked self), participant observation of blogs, vlogs, social media and emergent sites, and interviews and focus groups with selected online users. Research questions could include: how do audience responses affect what and how people write or the ways in which they otherwise present themselves online? How conscious are they of the respondents? How far do they engage with them? How does online interactivity modify users’ senses of issues such as privacy, subjectivity, relationship, or abuse? How reciprocal are such forms of interactivity? How do they compare to: a) the imagining of, and constructing of, readers’ responses to handwritten or printed texts? b) the interactivity of real dialogues? To what extent does digitally-mediated interactivity require us to reconceptualise notions of reader response? Is there a danger of online interactivity becoming a substitute for non-virtual exchanges? Or is the danger that what it offers is a specious form of interactivity – for example what Žižek terms ‘interpassivity’?

Value of award
Fees & Stipend. The duration of these full-time scholarships is 3 years.

Application procedure
Applications may be submitted from 01 September 2014 until 29 September 2014. Candidates are actively encouraged to contact us to discuss their projects, and we welcome any questions.

Applicants should indicate one topic only for which they wish to apply. Applications should include:

  1. A proposal for how you would undertake your topic and develop it into a realisable PhD project (maximum 300 words)
  2. A concise description (maximum 300 words) of a past project or piece of writing relevant to the ‘Ego-Media’ project, which you feel represents your work at its best.
  3. A CV of no more than one page, including the names of two academic referees, with a font size no smaller than 11-point.
To apply, please send the material outlined above to the project administrator Helena Metslang. Deadline for receipt of materials: 29 September 2014.

You must also apply by this deadline to the Department of English via the King’s College London admissions system, see: how to apply, prospectus and the online application system

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (either in person or Skype) on 5 November 2014.

For informal enquiries please email Professor Max Saunders

Contact details

Please address all initial queries to Helena Metslang

Funding provider
Department of English - Centre for Life Writing

Please note the database is updated regularly but is a guide only and not a guarantee of funding nor an exhaustive list of all funding available.

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