My Proudest Achievement- Regional Winner at the Undergraduate Awards ’17

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Daragh Griffin recently graduated on the 18th November with a BSc in Marketing from the School of Marketing at DIT College of Business. Daragh was named as Regional Winner and Highly Commended in the Business category of The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2017 and was happy to share with us his experience.

The Undergraduate Awards (UA) is the world’s leading academic awards programme, identifying and connecting the top undergraduate researchers, writers and creators from around the world across the sciences, business, humanities and creative arts.

It is my proudest achievement in life to be named The Regional Winner in my category. My submission, which was a 5,000 word synopsis of my dissertation findings, and alongside the other highly commended papers, was recognised for unearthing unorthodox ideas and highlighting alternative arguments to some of the world’s biggest challenges. These challenges cover climate change, cancer research, digital technology and artificial intelligence, gender inequality, and global politics.

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My paper ‘An exploration of recurring visual images on Instagram to examine the impact of networked technology on social norms‘ highlights the impact of networked technology on social norms. Human-technological interactions fascinate me. I’ve always wondered, is it the structural design of a platform that makes us act in a certain way, or is it us, is it our own behaviour that is creating the need for such platforms.

Today, social networking is a visual experience. As users, we constantly visualise our daily experience, capture it as an image, and upload it to our profile. This led me to think about how we use images and how we perceive them. Within these images I believe there to be evidence of societal trends. Ultimately, these trends are shaped by human behaviour. Thus, our behaviours are traceable on platforms such as Instagram by analysing specific images. Time after time I would come to the same conclusion: this is a shift in culture, a culture where offline and online is becoming one.

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To bring this argument to life, I incorporated theoretical philosophical concepts from Gilles Deleuze’s masterpiece ‘The Fold’. Deleuze’s concept allowed him to think of the production of subjectivity, which in turn allowed me to think of how subjective meaning was produced within the most arbitrary of images on Instagram.

Only after using this trans-disciplinary approach, I realised that social norms began to emerge from the folds of Instagram: Our misconceptions and fears of technology, substituting creativity for mediocrity and efficiency, our inverse relationship with the corporation, and the emergence of visual language.

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Skip a few months and I find myself at the UA Global Summit, held here in Dublin. This is an all-expenses paid for event for Global Winners, and Regional Winners from Ireland. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity where you are hosted in some of the finest locations that Dublin has to offer.

From Smock Alley theatre which dates back to 1662, to the Lighthouse cinema where we take to the stage to present our research. Break-out sessions and talks are held in Farmleigh House, where Barack Obama stayed during his visit to Ireland, and Dublin City Hall to the Rotunda Pillar Room for the final Gala dinner. It was great to experience Dublin as a tourist and to be hosted in the generator hostel in Smithfield for three nights.

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But honestly, to be able to discuss my paper with like-minded graduates, academics and guest speakers for three days was one of the most uplifting and inspiring things I’ve ever been involved in. We had guest speakers facilitating talks that encouraged debate and discussion to some of the most poignant questions that the world faces today.

Speakers included Ailbhe Smyth who has been relentless in her battle for gender equality in Ireland. We also had Nelson Mendela’s former bodyguard Chris Lubbe deliver an amazing speech on activism and his people’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

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Leaving these talks inspired is an understatement. They had motivated me to pursue different pathways in my research, already thinking of fresh ideas in my approach. But it wasn’t always as studious as it sounds. Being one of the 11 Irish graduates there, I felt it was my honourable duty to showcase our city to my international counterparts. Purely for research reasons we sampled many pubs and even more pints of Guinness.

It is the social aspect that makes me think so fondly of my time at the Global Summit. Before it kicked off I was wondering whether or not I would have anything in common with the rest of the graduates. I absolutely, and unequivocally, will never assume such a thing about another human being for as long as I live. I feel so privileged to have been given the chance to speak with, laugh with, challenge and be challenged by these people who I can now call my friends. Thankfully it is so easy to remain in contact with each other, which I still do.

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To give you an insight into the diversity of the Summit, we had Camila the Venezualan-born, Chinese raised feminist studying at the University of Utrecht who researched indigenous tourism. There was Nora who studied Astrophysics at Sheffield University. Nora’s research involved locating the Comet 49P/Arend-Rigaux and following its rotation for two months.

Vivienne from National College of Art and Design, Dublin, focused her final year project on promoting the value of bees and the risks facing the species. She communicated this through textiles, weaving her passion into hand-made dresses made for the stage. And we had Clara from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore whose research focused on filtering out the biologically specialised group of leukaemia stem cells which cause relapse in many patients.

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When I look back on it, we were put together from all four corners of the world, all coming from different cultures, and had all studied disciplines that on paper are polar opposites of each other. Yet we all shared the same sense of knowingness. There wasn’t anyone who was made feel out-of-place, a characteristic that is beginning to define our generation.

We all knew the importance of this event, what it would mean for our futures, and this was made aware to us by the academics and speakers who attended. But this was not coming from an angle of superiority, but from an understanding of responsibility. We must not discount the role of luck in our successes. None of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, and we most definitely worked exceptionally hard to get there, but we are extremely privileged to be able to do so.

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We have been lucky enough to attend the finest technological institutions and universities around the world, an opportunity so many young adults are deprived of. The theme of the Global Summit was ‘Know Your Worth, Know Your Responsibility’. This is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Because when we are facing issues like we are today, those who find themselves in positions to bring about change bear an enormous responsibility. Whether it is through research, writing, or creating, we must all be aware of our responsibility in bringing good to the world.

Daragh Griffin graduated in 2017 with a BSc in Marketing,  DIT College of Business. He was awarded as Regional Winner and Highly Commended in the Business category of The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2017.

 

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