The Quarantine Question

How has the past year's quarantine affected your professional life?

As a junior scholar, quarantine has added responsibilities to my already overflowing graduate-school plate. In March 2020, I became not only a PhD candidate in charge of my own dissertation, publications, online teaching, and job applications, but saw it as part of my role in this crisis to care for my students, share information with (and nag) my family, and support my friends. 

In my research on digital media, I had been accustomed to the fast pace in which internet culture shifts, but at this time when many were confined to their homes and using the internet to combat injustice and misinformation, I began to see creativity move at an even faster pace. Participants known for content like fashion and humor merged platforms with activists to spread political awareness to tens of thousands of people across the world. I participated too.

For me, spending most of the ongoing quarantine in my 350-square-foot studio apartment in Los Angeles meant a blurring of lines. The place where I wrote my dissertation was the same place where I taught class, exercised, socialized, and organized. These blurred lines ultimately crystalized the importance (and interconnectedness) of health and well-being and justice values in my academic and personal realms. As we continue to face the ebbs and flows of the pandemic and wrestle with world politics that affect us personally, I begin my assistant professorship knowing I have these as guiding principles.

SULAFA ZIDANI, media scholar and assistant professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology