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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Gareth Beeston

Gareth Beeston
Gareth Beeston

Gareth was awarded his PhD in 2018 and is the Director of Other World Escapes. He says 'the CDT allowed me the fantastic opportunity to research an area that I was most interested in, but also provided me with the financial support to develop my research skills'. Find out more about his experiences below.

What was your academic and professional background before you joined the CDT?

I had previously studied for a undergraduate degree in Media Studies and Entertainment Technology and completed a masters in Marketing (Digital Media), getting a 2:1 and distinction respectively. I had also worked in various marketing and communications roles across the University of Portsmouth including my role as Web Communications Officer.

Why did you choose to study Web Science?

Web Science is a fascinating new area of study that allows you to see the impacts of the Web on innovation, business collaboration and creativity. I was particularly interested in studying how the Web impacted entrepreneurs and innovators, and the expansion of new products and services that are afforded to these people by the Web.

What was you PhD research topic?

My PhD research was a study of the impacts of the Web on innovation for charities, and how such charities and NPOs could leverage the Web’s connective capabilities to develop sustainable solutions to the challenges they are aiming to solve. Developing an innovation ecosystem of innovators and entrepreneurs from all across the world supports the development of a stronger set of implementable ideas and innovations that actively provide solutions to complex social challenges.

The research involved working with innovators, innovation managers and creative to support the analysis of online and offline versions of innovation against social challenges. I was seeking to answer whether the Web does provide a better platform for social innovation, or whether it is assumed to be true. Most literature seemed to determine that the Web was a stronger place for innovation, but never seemed to demonstrate whether it actually was. Therefore, it was understood that studies in questioning this assumption were necessary. I hope that my PhD will support charities and NPOs in developing stronger online and offline innovation ecosystems for better solutions for their social challenges.

What training did you receive?

I presented at the World Open Innovation Conference, The Web Science Conference and various other smaller events and as an entrepreneurial activity, I set up my own local digital marketing agency. I also collaborated on a range of projects with Tsinghua University, The National University of Singapore, and KAIST. 

What were the benefits of being part of the CDT?

In addition to the financial support and training opportunities, the most beneficial part of being part of a DTC is exposure to different disciplines and ways of working. Web Science does not teach you to be an expert in every discipline; rather, it introduces you to different disciplinary conventions and world-views. This is valuable in the real world, as cross-functional working is an everyday reality of working life. Web Science equips you with the vocabulary to have productive conversations with people with different forms of expertise.

How did the CDT experience influence your subsequent career?

It enabled me to learn processes of creativity and innovation and supported me in developing new ways of coming up with ideas for our escape rooms. It also provided me with teaching experience, which led to me being chosen as the Course Leader at The University of the West Indies, Barbados. I love both of these roles I am now in, and I owe a lot to the course for supporting me in obtaining these roles.

Any advice to prospective Web Scientists?

A PhD can be a stressful and rather lonely experience. You must reach out to your peers and mentors to support you when times become tough. You will have tough times, but once you are on the other side, you will feel a much stronger and rounder person.

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