University of Calgary

Visiting Scholar prepares to leave

UToday HomeMay 10, 2012

By Caitlyn Spencer

Sally Wyatt, 2010 Killam Visiting Scholar winner, is preparing to return to the Netherlands, where she works at Maastricht University and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Wyatt, who spent the Winter 2012 semester in the Department of Communications and Culture, says the opportunity to focus on her academic work without the administrative demands of her home institutions was a boon.

“I have had a wonderful time at the University of Calgary,” she says.

Wyatt taught a graduate course on Web 2.0, web features that enable collaborative information sharing, such as blogs, wikis, and social networking sites.

“Each week we looked at a different area where Web 2.0 was making a difference,” says Wyatt. “Teaching the course was the highlight of my time in Calgary. The students were very motivated and engaged.

Wyatt also did guest lectures in other courses on her own work, and introduced a ‘dissertation day,’ in which communication and culture PhD students were invited to submit pieces of works-in-progress. The submissions were circulated to all participants, and each piece was discussed for 35 minutes.

“It’s a great way for people to learn about writing, giving and receiving feedback, and to learn more about what others are working on,” she explains.

Wyatt grew up in Canada, and appreciated the return to a multicultural environment. “In the Netherlands and many other European countries, attitudes towards foreigners are hardening,” she says, citing the rise of the right-wing, racist Party for Freedom in the Dutch government. “The cultural diversity here enriches the educational experience.”

Ethical concerns have been a theme through much of Wyatt’s work, and she cautions against losing sight of the potential for the internet to exacerbate social exclusion and inequality. “Internet literacy is not simply being able to upload a photo onto Facebook,” she explains. “Do you understand the privacy settings? There remain important structural differences between different groups of users, and between users and the major corporations that provide the hardware and software that structure our digital experiences.”

During her time in Calgary, Wyatt completed a chapter for a book on how new media technologies affect research ethics, and is completing an edited book called Virtual Knowledge: Experimenting in the Social Sciences and the Humanities. She is also working on a SSHRC application with the department’s Professor Maria Bakardjieva, to hold a 2012 workshop in Calgary with the theme, ‘digital media and everyday knowledge.’