Investigating relationships between ways of thinking and social practices
Colleague spotlight | Dr Christopher Till
Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with School of Social Sciences
While studying for a BA Sociology at Nottingham Trent University, I realised I was spending almost all of my time thinking, reading and writing about sociology, and I didn’t want this to stop. So, I applied for funding to support me to continue studying for an MA in Social Research and then a PhD in Sociology at the University of Leeds.
Being deeply immersed in a research and academic community made me feel like I was at home and even more confident that I wanted this to continue. During this time, I also started teaching undergraduate sociology classes and quickly found that teaching is equally stimulating and inseparable from research. This time I knew I wanted to explore ideas, evidence and debates with students, and that helping them to develop would always be a part of my life. After my PhD I worked on short-term contracts at the University of Leeds and University of Sheffield, teaching sociology and public health before going to Leeds Beckett and finding a place that was dedicated to supporting students and expanding their horizons.
What makes you passionate about your work around sociology and why is it important?
My work is driven by a desire to understand how technologies affect how we live, and the relationship between social relations and health (and often these two interests come together). Much of my work is focused on investigating relationships between ‘ways of thinking’ and social practices. I think it is vital that we know how our lives are shaped by (often hidden) ideas and assumptions which are built into social structures, technologies and organisations. I believe that we can only improve society, and make our lives better, by understanding how these things influence us. This has led me to investigate research topics such as the impact of exercise tracking devices on how we understand health, the use of digital corporate wellness programmes in workplaces and how social media platforms are implicated in the spreading of misinformation and disinformation.
How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?
I see both teaching and research as inherently collaborative practices. I have learned so much from colleagues about how to engage with students, and many of my best teaching experiences have been with one or more other lecturers in the room.
My teaching practice is built on fostering a collaborative environment with students through approaching sociological issues as intellectual problems to be worked on together. I also believe collaborative research is essential for bringing together researchers with different skills, knowledge and backgrounds.
I am currently working on research into CrossFit communities with a colleague from the Sociology group and a study into health inequalities with colleagues in the School of Sport at Leeds Beckett and the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. Both of these have opened my thinking up to experiences, theories and methods I had not previously considered. I am confident both will, in different ways, help us to better understand how people’s health is influenced by their social environments and contexts, and how they manage this.
What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in School of Social Sciences
I am most proud of seeing the impact that learning has on students. This includes the small things such as the ‘aha’ or ‘penny drop’ moments when I can see on their face that things have really fallen into place for the student, and they understand theory or have found a way through a problem. Even better is sharing in the excitement (and sometimes relief!) of students at graduation and feeling pride in their achievements.