Interview with Media Psychology graduate Allie Johns (@AllieJohns) on working with industry for a dissertation live brief, and presenting at TVX in Chicago.
Hi Allie. Congratulations on graduating with a Distinction! What a huge achievement. Did you think this was possible when you began the course?
No, not at all. I completed my first degree in 1990 and so much has changed since then, that I was way too preoccupied with learning to learn again, as well as the sheer exhilaration of returning to study to ever think I’d be able to complete the course, let alone be published and represent the Uni at a conference!
Tell me about your dissertation. What did you research and how did it come about?
My dissertation was an industry brief working with BBC Research and Development at Media City. They put out a brief out about an interactive TV episode that they’d developed (‘Our World War’ interactive episode), which caught my interest. I went along and met with Maxine Glancy at BBC R&D and then went to a session with Max and others from R&D and a producer and writer, and someone from Audience research. Off the back of that meeting, I made some recommendations for research around understanding user interaction from a cognitive and emotional engagement perspective. I proposed a research approach to them and to you. I really wanted to make the research applied so the ultimate was to produce a conceptual framework that could be used to understand future interactive narratives from the audience perspective.
What has happened with the research since then?
After completing the dissertation, I received an email from you about the call for papers from TVX (The International Conference on Experiences for Interactive Television and Video). My first reaction was to panic at that point – it sounded good but what to do next?! But I decided to go for it because I knew it would be both life and career enhancing for me to go through this. So then I had to submit the paper to ACM (the body behind the conference). What was interesting to me coming from a non-academic background was the amount of time involved and the amount of formatting! Every little detail needs to be 100% spot on. The process of submitting the initial paper and then the agonising wait! Then I had a mini-euphoria when it starts to sink in that this is major – having your study peer reviewed by people who don’t know you and finding out they were interested in your research! It was grounding and daunting at the same time. The process was a huge knowledge and skills enriching process.
What I would say to people in studying for a masters is to try to think ahead… I didn’t know a paper would come out of it, but if I was planning another dissertation I would be thinking where could this sit? What research would be publishable? Publishing is something to really aim for and I really think it should be a goal because it’s about setting out your stall as an expert and demonstrating your passion for your subject.
What was your experience of the conference in Chicago?
Oh it was amazing wasn’t it? The whole experience of the opportunity to learn from very specialist industry and academic speakers – there was a very good mix of research. The profile of the people surprised me – to have someone in the audience who you had cited in your research, and to have that person come up and say how they enjoyed it and were interested was truly special. The collaborative workshops were really great for networking and I’ve made some great connections. The experience of presenting was tremendous but nerve-wracking. It was absolutely fantastic to soak up others’ presentations and have the chance to give yours! Nerve-wracking, exciting, adrenalizing… and to be in one of the most incredible cities I’ve ever been to was an extraordinary opportunity and one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
What’s it like seeing your name in a printed publication?
Unbelievable! I’ve become a member of ACM and I have a ‘researcher profile’. If I go into ‘papers’ and type my name, my paper comes up straightaway! I’m very proud to share the paper on ResearchGate, and to show that I’ve started to practice my area of interest. And people have actually requested the paper! I still can hardly believe it.