Q&A with Svetlana Smirnova

Investigating the motivations behind self-tracking data and the actions people take.

Svetlana is studying for a PhD in the Department of Media and Communications

After spending years at European and North American universities, I believe that the support available to researchers at LSE is second to none.
Svetlana Smirnova | LSE research
Svetlana Smirnova

What are you currently researching?

My research focuses on the role of self-tracked data in shaping our sense of self. During my fieldwork I spoke with different groups of people including those who self-track casually, people living with chronic health conditions, medical professionals, and professional athletes. 

Why did you choose this area of study?

For me, the main interest in working on data-related issues is the novelty, dynamism and diversity of data studies. I seized a unique opportunity to make a contribution to a field that has not yet fully matured. It motivates me to work very hard and also makes me welcome constructive criticism as I work among the pioneers in this field.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?

I hope that my research provides a critical take on more celebratory discourses around self-tracking data and highlights some of the potential implications of tracking on us as a society and as individuals. 

What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?

I have never imagined any other career but an academic one. I am passionate about both teaching and research and I cannot imagine my life without these. I would consider combining an academic job with that of a TV series critic, but Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker has set the bar so high that I am staying an amateur Netflix-er.

Can you provide any advice to prospective students about the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

Only imperfectionists survive! As academic wisdom goes, a bad draft is better than no draft; one hour of actual work a day is better than a perfect plan to get it all done tomorrow. The best piece of advice I can give – show up every day. Consistency and self-permission to be imperfect goes a long way (don't worry, your supervisors will always tell you where to work further.)

What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers?

After spending years at European and North American universities, I believe that the support available to researchers at LSE is second to none.

Fancy presenting evidence to Parliament or influencing policy development? The Public Affairs team is there to help you be noticed. In need of inspiration? A lunchtime concert at the magnificent Shaw Library is a cure for any writer’s block.

Looking for an intellectual challenge? There are at least three public lectures to choose from every evening. Need bespoke advice on any topic? The PhD Academy team is there to help. Not to mention our stellar librarians, career advisers and mental wellbeing team. You just need to ask!

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

The best thing about studying at LSE is the people. As a young researcher you never feel looked down upon by more senior students or the faculty. Indeed, in my experience, they do their best to lift you up and to produce the best quality research possible.

The main privilege of being a #PartofLSE for me is sharing the intellectual space with my limitlessly curious, relentless, reading-obsessed, yet social, colleagues.