Category: PhD

Student Experiences of Disability and Social Networks in Higher Education

There has been a blogging hiatus here at Lewthwaite Industries, but perhaps with the best reasons. In May I submitted my corrections and in June I joined the pass list, submitting hardbound copies of my thesis in June (with thanks to the excellent Print Quarter in West Bridgford). In July I will be graduating and receiving my PhD. Whilst this has been taking place I’ve been working with Nottingham’s Human Factors Research Group, contributing to the MyUI project, a European project dedicated to developing adaptive interfaces for older users. I’ve also been developing publications from my thesis along with further research options on disability and social networks – but more on both of these developments later.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s time to introduce my thesis: “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections: a study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in higher education”. Here’s the abstract, a slightly expanded version is included on my ‘research’ pages above:

For many young people, social networks are an essential part of their student experience. Using a Foucauldian perspective, this qualitative study explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within social networks. Data comprises 34 internet-enabled interviews with 18 participants from three English universities. Accessible field methods recognise participant preferences and circumstances. Data is analysed using discourse analysis, with an attention to context framed by activity theory. Disabled students’ networked experiences are found to be complex and diverse. For a proportion, the network shifts the boundaries of disability, creating non-disabled subjectivities. For these students, the network represents the opportunity to mobilise new ways of being, building social capital and mitigating impairment.

Other participants experience the network as punitive and disabling. Disability is socio-technically ascribed by the social networking site and the networked public. Each inducts norms that constitute disability as a visible, deviant and deficit identity. In the highly normative conditions of the network, where every action is open to scrutiny, impairment is subjected to an unequal gaze that produces disabled subjectivities. For some students with unseen impairments, a social experience of disability is inducted for the first time. As a result, students deploy diverse strategies to retain control and resist deviant status. Self-surveillance, self-discipline and self-advocacy are evoked, each involving numerous social, cognitive and technological tactics for self-determination, including disconnection. I conclude that networks function both as Technologies of the Self and as Technologies of Power. For some disabled students, the network supports ‘normal’ status. For others, it must be resisted as a form of social domination.

Importantly, in each instance, the network propels students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability and the possibility of disability invisible. Consequently, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network.

I have a huge list of people to thank for insight and support over the course of my doctoral study – I also have a substantial bibliography (although I’m sure this can only get larger). Danah Boyd already maintains a substantial bibliography of social networking research, and there are significant accessibility reading lists freely available through several institutions – however, I will be developing a ‘disability’ and ‘network’ specific library here at 32 Days over the coming weeks, as this is a literature I’ve received a lot of requests about and I’m sure it will serve other researchers developing the field. I’m currently looking into the best ways to share my work whilst observing copyright obligations for the publications I have in train. Once again, more on that later.

Page Numbering for Your Thesis

Tips for thesis-making: the first in an occasional series.

Your university or department will supply specific guidance on page formatting and the presentation of the thesis, but in my experience (and the experience of PhD students around me) finding the information on how to achieve correct presentation of a thesis using Word is surprisingly difficult, as is remembering the process once you’ve worked it out. In particular, issues of page numbering (sounds simple: it isn’t) and combining separate chapter documents whilst maintaining/generating Endnote references without duplication (sounds complicated: it is) can add hours to tight submission timescales. In this first post I address page numbering. This is not a beginners guide to Word. This is aimed at people with reasonable proficiency.

I know what you want to do. You have combined all of your chapters and additional appendices, abstract etc into one document. You have saved the thesis file. You have backed up the file, diligently, in a million different places. You now need a Title page without numbering, the following pages (your acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, table of figures) require Roman Numerals, your thesis then begins on what needs to be Page 1, the first page of your first chapter and run throughout the remainder of this substantial document. Of course you know what you want do to. Now we just have to get Word to do your bidding.

First, remove any pre-standing page numbers from your document. Next, on the Home menu, go to the Paragraph section and select Show/Hide Formatting button (to ‘show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols’). This will allow us to see the formatting interventions we are about to make. 

A Word Menu is shown with the Show Formatting button highlighed
A Word Menu is shown with the Show Formatting button highlighed

The next step is to insert a Section Break between the early pages of your thesis and what will be Chapter 1 Page 1. The Section Break is the key. In Word 2007 (my current edition) the section break is found on the Page Layout menu as ‘Breaks’. Firstly, make sure you have selected the area where you wish the page numbers to be differentiated (the page before Chapter1). Now, go to Page Layout > Breaks. It has a sub menu (pictured) containing Page Break options and Section Break options. Select “Next Page: Insert a section break and start the new section on the next page”. The Section Break may alter formatting around it. Keep the section break and make whatever changes need to be made to keep everything else in its place.

Page Layout menu shown with Breaks submenu and Section Break option
Page Layout menu shown with Breaks submenu and Section Break option

 Now we add the numbers. Above the Section Break, select the Insert menu. From there, click next to Page Number to access the Page Number Menu. Select “Format Page Number”. In the box marked “Page Number Format” select your preferred numbering for the opening pages of your thesis.

Next, with your cursor still in the opening section of your thesis, insert page numbers in the usual way. This should give you your desired numbering for the opening sections of the thesis.

To add usual numbering to the main part of the document you need to return to the Page Numbering menu. Select “Format Page Number”. In the box marked “Page Number Format” select your preferred numbering for the remaining pages of your thesis.
Move your cursor to a section of the thesis after your Section Break (where usual numbering is intended). Now insert page numbers in the usual way. At this point you should have number i, ii, iii, iv, through to 1, 2, 3, 4, for the whole document.

But what about your title page? This is currently page i, and it doesn’t look great. Click your mouse in the footer of the first page. A new Design menu is activated at the top of the Word window (pictured). In the Design menu, go to the Options sub menu, and tick the box marked “different first page”. This will remove the number from your title page.

The Design menu is shown with the
The Design menu is shown under the Header and Footer Tools tab. From here the Different First Page can be selected.

Congratulations, you’re done! If you have an automatically generated Table of Contents, update it now to see the results.