We are thrilled to announce that on 22nd November 2010, long-standing and dedicated DRF member Sarah Lewthwaite successfully navigated her viva. Examined by Prof. Jane Seale (Plymouth) and Dr. Kay Hawe (Nottingham), a summary of the thesis is below and more information about Sarah’s work can be found on our People and Publications pages. Congratulations Dr Sarah!!!
PhD Title: Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in Higher Education.
PhD Summary: Sarah’s thesis explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within the social network Facebook. The thesis presents 18 case studies that generated 34 internet-enabled phenomenographic interviews. The research draws on the thinking of Foucault and the notion of bricolage as an approach to research that lies at the juncture between disability studies, educational research and social media. The research finds that networks are shown to have the potential to reposition disabled students within taxonomies of identity. Two interrelated conclusions are drawn. First, social networks are essential to student life, yet not all students can access them on an equal basis, introducing a digital divide with material social outcomes. Second, networks represent a redefinition of dis/ability where some students with impairments are non-disabled, or may adopt non-disabled interactions, where others do not. Diversity is thus suppressed and students disabled by the network are doubly disadvantaged as disability is rendered invisible and the social and digital divide of the network is reinforced.