The Gender and Sexualities Research Centre

City, University of London

From offline to online: An unplanned virtual viva experience

Yvonne Ehrstein of the GSRC has passed her viva in April and reflects on the experience of having a viva in post/Corona times.

Examined by Professor Shani Orgad from LSE and Dr Jilly Kay from Leicester, I found my recent viva a deeply inspiring and rewarding way of concluding my PhD journey. My thesis is entitled ‘The reconciliation challenge: Working mothers’ negotiations of equality, gender and work on Mumsnet and beyond’, but the main challenge that day was the Coronavirus. What felt like an acute reminder of the unsettling feelings that were certainly widespread during the peak times of the pandemic, the sticky virus had a grave impact on the mode of my viva. Due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test result in the morning of the extraordinary and well thought-out day, the initial plan to have an in-person viva had to be abandoned and an online viva was arranged hastily. Needless to say that this sudden need to transition to the digital space bore an interesting yet rather dissuasive relation to my thesis where, inter alia, I look at the manner in which digital affordances and (parenting) media more broadly structure our modalities of talk and communicative practices, prising open some of the detrimental components of the ‘digital vacuum’ that parenting networks such as Mumsnet can be. But my viva did not take place in a ‘digital vacuum’. Once it had started, my nerves quickly settled, and I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual exchange with the two other scholars who were not my supervisors and had read and profoundly engaged with what felt (pre-viva) a bit like an unruly monster document. While I greatly regret that I could not express my sincere thanks to my supervisors and the supportive community at City in person that day, the memory of my online viva remains an exhilarating one.

sbrp126 • June 10, 2022

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