Criminology and Cybercrime student, Alfred, tells how the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic module led to a placement experience on Project ORPHEUS.
Being a Criminology and Cybercrime undergraduate student at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice has been a very exciting and intriguing experience.
As a second-year student during a global pandemic, I have faced various challenges, as have all students. However, my course was adapted and revised swiftly to best suit our needs. The lectures were delivered online with an interactive approach and provision has been ongoing and extremely supportive.
Getting first-hand clinic experience
Second year students within the Criminology and Cybercrime course have the option to choose a module whereby they can gain applied and practical experience during a placement that complements their degree and personal interests. Consequently, I enrolled on the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic module.
This module gave me hands-on experience in terms of joining the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic and learning its operational processes and taking part in its research and public engagement activities. I became familiarised with the modus operandi of the clinic as an organisation and had the opportunity to join one of the ongoing projects within the Clinic or help the Clinic team develop new ones. Projects involve public engagement activities and relevant materials to be developed or the conducting of cybercrime-related research in the local community.
Joining project ORPHEUS
Having enrolled on this module, my placement was secured with the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic’s partnership with the Offline and Online Radicalisation Prevention Holding back Extremism and Upholding Security (ORPHEUS) research project. My role was as an assistant to the research associates, Dr Annie Kirby and Shakiba Moghadam.
ORPHEUS is a project involving eight partners from Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK. This opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in disinformation and its potential to be used as a tool of radicalising young people. My placement consisted of a broad set of tasks, from creative to analytical. Each week left me feeling fulfilled and eager to develop skills that I don’t always exercise, for example, my coursework does not always allow me to take initiative with creative tasks.
One week during my placement, I was tasked with creating memes to accompany some of the examples of fake news in the training manual developed; this particularly pushed me to think creatively and outside the box. Having reviewed the draft of the training manual for Online Critical Literacy, I produced a plethora of support material in the form of summative articles reviews as well as memes to accompany diverse resources for the project’s social media channels.
Thereafter, I became familiar with relative forms of Dutch, Flemish and French examples of both misinformation and disinformation via the contribution of the fake news library developed by the research associates.
For my final week, I was asked to produce alternative proposals for alter-narrative videos. Using the memes as inspiration, the ideas I conjured appeared to have been approved by my colleagues as the feedback I received was very positive and encouraging. Although, like every other placement during the Covid pandemic, my time with ORPHEUS was exclusively remote, retrospectively, I am very impressed by the interactive nature of my work experience and the skills I’ve learned and developed in a short space of time. I am extremely grateful for those who have mentored me during this process and for the opportunities that I’ve gained as a result.
To make the most out of your time at University, you must accumulate experience that goes further than developing future professional skills and attributes. Exploring opportunities that correlate with your current interests and future aspirations will help you become more informed as an individual, an aspect that future employers are continuing to value exponentially.
Aspiring to create positive change
This placement appealed to me as an excellent opportunity to contribute to a bigger initiative, in line with my current endeavours, such as my dissertation topic concerning the role of social media in adolescent drug dealing.
I have previously worked at a Youth Delinquency Centre for children and adolescents in South Africa, where much of my time was spent with young people that insistently forwarded dangerous alter-narratives that pose a threat to themselves and those around them. This ignited my passion to combat the source of infamous ideas that may threaten society, which in turn sparked the notion of my dissertation topic. My dissertation focuses on the extent to which direct-to-consumer advertising affects the use of illicit paraphernalia on encrypted social media. Therefore, I could have not asked for a more appropriate and related placement.
Benefits of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic
I feel I must advocate the value of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic module. This module has developed my specialisation skills, and my self-awareness when collaborating with colleagues and the initiative required to produce original and creative content individually. Completing a placement as a second-year undergraduate student offers a chance for all students to become more valuable to potential employers and help prepare them for the rigorous third year ahead. The Cybercrime Awareness Clinic offers a range of internal placements for students that eliminates the usual challenge of finding relevant external placements and directly relates to students’ courses.
To make the most out of your time at University, you must accumulate experience that goes further than developing future professional skills and attributes. Exploring opportunities that correlate with your current interests and future aspirations will help you become more informed as an individual, an aspect that future employers are continuing to value exponentially. In my case, the University’s Cybercrime Awareness Clinic provided a placement that directly influenced the scope of my dissertation. As a student, I feel more grounded and prepared for my future studies and upcoming projects.