AHRC-funded doctoral student, Lynda Clark, talked to us about how her experiences as a Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership doctoral student and how her participation in the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF)-funded Innovation Placement scheme helped her career.
In 2015, Dr Lynda Clark began her AHRC-funded doctoral studies at Nottingham Trent University. Five years on, she now works as a Narrative and Play Research Fellow at InGAME – an £11.5m research and development centre in Dundee working to deliver innovative research to support the video games industry in Dundee and beyond.
Lynda’s PhD set her up well for a role working in video games research and crucially for research into the video games industry. Her thesis explored the effect of the relationship between consumers and creators of literature and video game narrative. Lynda chose to apply for AHRC funding because of the unique opportunity it provided to those wishing to undertake creative practice. The funding available for training, conference attendance and research-related travel were further incentives.
During her PhD, Lynda used this funding to present at a specialist international conference in Madeira where she met several academics and creative practitioners with whom she has maintained contact. Lynda notes that “presenting to my peers was always something I found challenging, but I think the number of events I was able to attend, and the training I received on both standard and poster presentations really helped”.
Alongside her PhD, Lynda also wrote and published numerous short stories. Her thesis included ‘Writers Are Not Strangers’, an interactive novella. Due to the complexity in making significant plot or character changes to this type of writing, Lynda worked through ideas about character and story by writing exploratory (non-interactive) short stories. One of those pieces, ‘Ghillie's Mum’, about an unusual relationship between a mother and child, won the Europe & Canada Commonwealth Prize, and was shortlisted for both the BBC Short Story Award and the Tom-Gallon Award.
After submitting her thesis, Lynda undertook an NPIF-funded Innovation Placement – a programme to enable doctoral graduates to work with partners from the Creative Industries, facilitating knowledge exchange and providing transferable skills to aid in the transition from Higher Education to employment.
During her placement, Lynda partnered with the British Library to explore the feasibility of existing web archiving tools for collecting web-based interactive fiction. Building on the work of the British Library’s Emerging Formats project, Lynda identified and categorised more than 200 potential interactive works. One element of the project, The Memory Archivist - a piece of playable fiction which embodies the collection as a whole, while reflecting on the collection’s creation - won the acclaimed British Library Labs Artistic Award in 2019 for best use of the library’s digital collections in a creative work and was shortlisted for the New Media Writing Prize.
Asked why she applied for the Innovation Placement scheme, Lynda explained: “I was looking for an opportunity which would help me transition from the tail-end of my PhD towards a research role, and the Innovation Placement scheme seemed like the ideal fit”. Lynda considers her placement to have been invaluable in helping her secure her current position as a Research and Development Fellow because it gave her the practical experience of working as an independent researcher within an organisation.
As well as specific subject knowledge, Lynda’s current role requires her to utilise transferable skills she gained from the PhD and Innovation Placement. Of the many skills she developed, Lynda believes independent working and the development of research projects are her two most valuable skills. In addition, she noted: “Long-term preservation of my digital work is not something I had really given sufficient thought to prior to my placement, but it’s now at the forefront of my mind with every piece of work I create”.
Asked what advice she would offer other PhD students considering working with the Creative Industries, Lynda explains that this kind of collaboration provides an opportunity to “gain so many transferable skills and unique experiences it will definitely be worthwhile”. As a creative practitioner, she found that while she “did publish a little in journals, it was more networking with other practitioners to learn new approaches and submitting creative work to competitions and publications” that was most useful.
Lynda also emphasises that it is important for PhD students to “publicise every success, however small it may feel to you, as that can lead to people getting in touch with further opportunities. If you're not in a field with prizes and journals, then I think a good website with a few interesting blog posts can really help - I was able to think through some of my thesis ideas via blog posts”.