DEN Summer School 2016

Each year doctoral researchers from Digital Economy Network Centres for Doctoral Training across the UK have a chance to come together, learn, and enjoy a city in the summer at an annual Digital Economy Network Summer School funded by the EPSRC’s Digital Economy Network. This year this fun and informative exchange happened in Newcastle between 17-20 July 2016. This year’s theme, Digital Citizens, Connected Communities, explored how digital technologies could be used to empower communities.

Across four days, CDT students listened to inspiring keynote speakers, attended master classes, organised and took part in student-led workshops, asked the speakers difficult questions during a panel discussion, and attended a range of social events that included bowling and a boat trip along the Tyne!


Doctoral researchers were able to take charge of how they wanted the summer school to be shaped. Feedback gathered after the event included comments such as: “Thank you for listening to our suggestions about giving us flexibility to choose what to attend. Thank you for letting some of us organise our own workshops.”

Some of them took this opportunity with both hands: students organised and carried out seven workshops, across topics ranging from thematic analysis to conversations on ethics or digital democracy, and even a linguistic inquiry into what the Digital Economy actually is.

It was “a really good idea to have this interactive day rather than just listening to speakers”.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the workshops, the masterclasses, social events, and all the tea and coffee breaks were some of the things that people described to be the ‘best things’ about the summer school. It was just great “how we all bonded all together”!

World class speakers

But let’s move on to the other great thing, the speakers! We were honoured to have four fantastic invited speakers: Mimi Ito told us more about connected learning, Christopher Le Dantec introduced us to new forms of data-based participation, and Brett Scott told us all about how we could hack the future of money. Gregory Abowd told us what an applied computer scientist could look like, and Elizabeth Losh closed the summer school for us by discussing affect and digital pedagogy.

Generally, people were very happy with the “world class speaker” line-up, but there was a little contention about the diversity: while one researcher “loved the diversity of speakers backgrounds”, another complained: “Most of the talks were very US specific.”

All in all, I think this participant sums up our experience of the summer school pretty well when asked what the best thing about it was:

“That’s hard to choose. I really like the masterclass I attended, but some of the side conversations and social events were as memorable”.

Author: Angelika Strohmayer

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