An academic in cyberia



I am not one of those people who looks down on technology in general, or the internet in particular, because of what it has taken away from us, like enjoying nature, being with family and friends, and reading actual books. I still try to do these “natural” things (as opposed to the artificial cyber world) that are part of life, but I must admit that I love technology. I acknowledge that using technologies has now become an essential part of life as well.

I got my first computer in 1997 when I was a senior at the University. Previously, I was truly afraid of computers; I thought I would do something wrong and crash them. I bought the computer because I had to write a Graduation Project (a sort of thesis) to graduate from college, and I needed a PC to write it. Soon after I bought my computer, I also subscribed to a dial-up connection to get on the internet. During the same time period, I was getting ready to compete in Concours Pictet (a simulation and pleadings contest in international humanitarian law) to be held in Malta and I spent my first days on the internet chatting with people in a chatroom called Pentagon on Geocities about different things I was reading on international humanitarian law. I also had to get the internet to do better research on my graduation project. My acquaintance with the cyber world was based on academic grounds and motivations.

Today I live in the cyber world on a part-time basis, and I think it has brought many good things to my life. Yes, of course it takes a lot of my time; however, I feel that if it were not for the internet, I would never be able to keep myself up to date with the current issues in the world (which is vital for me, given the fact that I work in the field of International relations), and also maintain my international friendships and networks, and that alone is enough for me to like this technology. Of course there is still the “conventional” me inside as well, as I was not born into the world of technology. I still prefer to read things from a printed, hard-copy version rather than from the page of a screen. Or when I email, I still write long and structured, mostly letter-like emails, but I think that strikes quite a good balance.

The internet provides me good opportunities to improve myself in my own profession. Not only I read the news in several different languages from different parts of the world, but I also watch videos and documentaries that add to my knowledge of the issues I am interested in. Internet and electronic databases provide good resources for my research and my teaching as well. I try to improve my foreign languages through online language learning websites.

As for the many tools on the internet to keep contact with people, I use my Gmail and its chat features for instant messaging, I use Skype for conference calls and my Facebook account the most. Although I firstly and mostly used Facebook to find old friends and catch up with them, now, more and more, I use it for learning new things as well. For example, ever since I started teaching Science, Technology and International Relations, I have been exploring pages on basic science and sharing those with friends, which must kind of look awkward on the page of a social scientist. Facebook also allows me to follow trends, looking at what people post and what the community pages I like, and post as well. I do the same when I read newspapers online, because I not only read the news but also the comments made about the news, which reflects at least a part of the public opinion on a topic.

Of course, ever since I started writing blogs 3 years ago (wow, it has been 3 years!!!), I also use the internet to share my academic experiences with a wider audience. The blogging experience has made me think more about my experiences in academia, because now I have to write about them. It also has allowed me to read extensively about the experiences of other people.

Last November, I was elected as the President of the European Peace Research Association (EuPRA) during the general conference of International Peace Research Association (IPRA). My first task as EuPRA President will be to establish a credible website for the organization. This will be my next challenge on the internet as an academic.

Author Bio:Itır is originally from Edremit, a large town on the Aegean Coast in Turkey. After leaving her hometown for her studies, she has lived in both cities of the world which have land both in Asia and Europe: Çanakkale and Istanbul.