Last autumn I started to teach myself how to draw and paint. I wanted to know how to draw because I often have ideas for illustrations or comics, and I wanted to be able to realise them in some way. Alongside my sketchbook, I started to keep an ideas notebook or ‘commonplace book’. It’s a simple passport sized notebook with dotted pages (from Muji) where I jot down illustration and comic strip ideas, my favourite quotes from books I read, and thoughts and observations from my everyday life.
I can’t remember the first time I used the internet, but it would have been at some point in 1998 or 1999 on dial-up. In those early days in my early teens, almost everyone I conversed with online used an alias, be they a friend from school or a stranger on Napster or LimeWire. It was seen as entirely normal to mask your identity online and to hide behind an alias for better or for worse. I didn’t publicly share my age, my location, my gender or any of my other personal attributes, because the early days of the internet were marked by distrust. It was a different way of thinking back then. So much has changed over the course of the last fifteen to twenty years.
On Sunday 6th March 2011, I stood on the end of the wooden pier in Sopot,
northern Poland, and looked out over the ice covered Bay of Gdańsk.
I was on the second of what would be many research trips to the Tricity for my
PhD, and I was feeling quite lonely. I didn’t speak anywhere near enough
Polish, having spent the previous year in formal Russian for Social Science lessons*
rather than Polish, and although I had been introduced to a wonderful team at
the University of Gdańsk who helped me to
make contact with my research participants and conduct interviews out in the
tiny villages surrounding Lake Żarnowiec, I was
feeling pretty lost.