Hi Charlie, congratulations on passing your viva! How does it feel?!
Thanks! Now that it’s had time to sink in, it feels really rewarding and gratifying. At the time of the viva when the decision was communicated I was still full of adrenaline which then quickly turned into being full of sauvignon blanc so I didn’t really process it straight away, but now looking back on it I feel a tremendous amount of fulfilment at achieving what I’ve known I’ve wanted to do since being an undergraduate. And of course, I feel a huge sense of gratitude towards my supervisory team John Mercer, Cüneyt Çakirlar, and Mark McGlashan, who were (and continue to be) the most brilliant and supportive people to work with.
What was your PhD title?
Masc4Masc: Masculinity, Gay Men, and the Cultures of Online Cruising
Can you explain in a couple of sentences what your PhD was about?
Sure; it was an ethnographic research project into gay men who describe themselves as ‘straight-acting’ in their profiles on hook-up apps, and through a series of interviews it explored how their identities are informed by, and inform, cultures of masculinity both on- and offline. I also placed a focus on the digital platforms themselves and the ways in which aspects of them become utilised towards creating an environment that is predisposed towards masculinity; I provided a methodological framework through which to analyse hook-up apps as performative spaces – employing dramaturgical concepts of props, background items, and so forth.
Can you sum up your PhD experience in three words?
Over too soon.
What was the viva like?
It was so much fun! (And I should note to other trenchant cynics like me: I read some of these interviews before my viva and thought “yeah right” to anyone who said that, but it actually, genuinely was!) It was really relaxed, conversational, and just an enjoyable 50 minutes in which I got to talk about nothing but my research with 2 supportive and – most importantly – interested people. We covered Snapchat filters, leathermen, Ariana Grande… all the good stuff.
What are your top tips to someone preparing for their viva?
I can only speak to people who work like me, so this might not be universal but what really helped me were: 1) having a mock viva – that really helped me focus and also gave me an opportunity to practice keeping calm. 2) Re-reading my thesis a few times in conjunction with re-reading some of the key works I was citing. You’ll be so much more intellectually capable from when you first read those texts; by re-reading them, you’re equipped with an even greater and more specialist language to talk about your thesis in the viva. 3) Remember you can take notes and your thesis (with annotations) into the viva. Alongside my thesis, I took in a list of my aims, my objectives, my contributions to knowledge, and some bullet points to answer the anticipated ‘what is the thesis?’/‘why this research?’/‘why now?’ questions and having those makes you feel so much more assured.
Any advice you’d tell your earlier PhD self now you’ve made it to the other side?
Don’t feel so guilty for taking days off when things just aren’t going right and buy yourself a bougie dressing gown because you’ll do a lot of your writing in it.
What are you up to now and any exciting plans for the future?
I have been incredibly fortunate and have secured a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Assistant at BCU. I’m spending a couple of days a week working on developing my PhD thesis into a monograph and developing an external funding bid for another research project, and the rest of the time assisting in writing the Environment statement for Media’s REF2021 submission. I’m surrounded by a really supportive team of colleagues and am really pleased to still be embedded within the research culture at BCU.
Thanks so much for your time Charlie, we wish you all the best for the future!