The Role of Digital Media in the Everyday Lives of International Students
thesisposted on 15.06.2018, 14:42 by James Donald Booth
My research uses a systematic empirical case study at the University of Leicester to investigate international students’ digital practices before, during and in leaving United Kingdom Higher Education (UKHE) relative to personal, social, academic and professional lives. Rich empirical data centres on students’ voices of experience and by charting their everyday digital practices. I explore the differentiated experiences, emotions and identities of international study and students’ lives. Mixed methods employed an online survey (229 responses from 37 nationalities), six qualitative focus groups (27 students across 14 nationalities) and 18 individual interviews (15 students of 10 nationalities; three university administrators). I follow the student journey, examining digital practices during entrance into UKHE, uncovering the key role of prior place within international study futures. My geographical stance presents a spatially distributed view of digital networks. In Leicester, I chart students’ diverse, dynamic social/academic digital relationships, evidencing highly differentiated students, who can also act as digital agents. Neoliberal employment pressures shape digital practices as students exit UKHE, although digital networks present how international study also exists post-UKHE. I provide student views of what digitally networked UK international study feels like. Here, Facebook usage includes digital collective difference and digital belonging. Student networks, sustained by constant digital connection, involve a social/digital nexus which shapes emotionally/digitally saturated experiences, reducing the material effect of place. Digitally contagious emotional centres infect student subjectivities and identity positions. Student digital practices also reflect circumscribed agency involving pedagogy and language. I uncover how international study shapes dysfunctional digital practices. My findings evidence how international study is a complex, multiply-located phenomenon, which is being transformed by digital media, but it is also transforming digital media practices too. This recursive relationship permits a reconsideration of student mobility through their digital networks. My research generates nine bottom-up policy recommendations to improve student experiences.