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Reflections on my Digital Good Network Summer School experience

Charlene Lee, who attended the 2023 Digital Good Network Summer School, talks about her research and her summer school experience. Published 13 July 2023.


Hello, my name is Charlene Lee, and I am a full-time Creative Writing PhD candidate from De Montfort University, and a part time research assistant on a digital creativity project. In the summer of 2023, I attended the ESRC Digital Good Network Summer School at The University of Sheffield.

My interest in the intersection between traditional and contemporary female narratives that interrogate community-based information sharing, has led to my research on old wives’ tales and their connection to modern counterparts, particularly ‘life hacks’ found on social media. 

In my practice-based PhD, I explore the historical mistreatment of women who shared health advice, old wives’ tales present position in our society, and their similarities to hacks: both utilise short-form narratives, and traditional oral storytelling, to share advice on similar topics. 

The results of my empirical research highlight the relationship between the two, supporting the idea that old wives’ tales lend themselves to emerging trends via social media, like  beauty ‘hacks’ and D.I.Y healthcare. 

The findings have also been embedded back into my creative work to update traditional storytelling methods. The creative element shows how old wives’ tales, in a world where they are all true, could be weaponised. I have written a collection of contemporary short stories, embedded within a novella that explores this. The plot for each short story is based upon an old wives’ tale. For instance, in ‘The Cookbook’ the character Sofia feeds her friend carrots so that she can see in the dark and spy on her cheating husband.

 I was concerned that my research topic may seem out of place at the summer school, but I was delighted to find that everyone’s project encompassed the digital theme from a unique standpoint with different methodologies. So, if you find yourself in the position I did, I highly recommend applying; everyone is in the same boat. 

In fact, this was the highlight of my experience: meeting peers from varying disciplines and learning about the digital good from their perspective. These conversations, along with the lecture from Łukasz Szulc, and the seminar on interdisciplinary research and collaboration from Dr Scott Hale, have been invaluable in encouraging me to reflect on how my research can be developed after the PhD into areas beyond my field. 

The session on public engagement, and input from the other researchers in my group, also helped me to consider how I can extend my work to help enhance wellbeing in digital communities through intergenerational storytelling and information-sharing. 

Since the end of the summer school, the group has remained in contact, sharing helpful information and support. I am incredibly grateful for this experience and look forward to being able to take the skills and knowledge I developed forward into my PhD and research career. 

About the author:

charlene lee

Charlene Lee is a full-time creative writing PhD student at De Montfort University. Her interest in the intersection between traditional and contemporary female narratives has led to her research on old wives’ tales and their modern counterparts. She is also currently working part-time as a research assistant on a digital creativity project. Charlene attended the 2023 Digital Good Network Summer School.