Faculty Research

The research focus of the Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication (GPC) is especially on democracy, governance, organizations and communication, media and communication and political economy.

Below you can find some research projects of the academic staff of the GPC programme. For further details about publications, networks etc please see research profiles of our academic staff.

Big Tech and the EU

The power of big tech firms (e.g., Google and Amazon) has emerged as a major policy issue in the EU. Yet we know little about how big tech shapes the regulatory capacity of the EU and even less about the effectiveness of such efforts. The situation hampers our understanding of democratic governance in the EU. Led by Matti Ylönen, the project tackles these challenges by producing important research on big tech’s multi-channel lobbying efforts and their effectiveness in the EU. The project runs in 2023–2025 and is funded by the Helsingin Sanomat foundation.

The new mediators of politics? The rise of public affairs agencies in Finland in the 2010s

The 2010s saw a significant growth of communications agencies in Finland. These agencies provide a range of services from traditional media work to sprawling publicity campaigns. One of the least understood aspects of their rise has related to Public Affairs services, which are more commonly known as lobbying. Commencing in 2019, this broad-ranging study grew from a post-doctoral grant of Matti Ylönen, which was transformed into a full-fledged research project. It included significant contributions from researcher and docent Mona Mannevuo (University of Turku), connected to her work with the BIBU project; and from Niina Kari (University of Helsinki), who conducted most of the interviews. In Finland, the most visible outcome of the project is the peer-reviewed book Viestintätoimistojen valta: Politiikan uudet pelurit (Vastapaino, August 2022). The project has been funded by the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Strategic Research Council and the Finnish Employee Foundation.


ATARCA Food Futures

ATARCA is a 2.75 M EUR ERC Horizon 2020 grant for research and innovation.  Currently GPC Programme Director S.M. Amadae is the Co-Principal Investigator of this grant hosted at Aalto University, and part of a five-member European consortium including Demos Helsinki, Streamr, Novact, and Qbit.  The overall aim of ATARCA is to develop anti-rival distributed ledger blockchain accounting systems to facilitate data sharing, and to foster the proliferation of positive sum benefits within communities.  Food Futures is a pilot use case of ATARCA in which an app is creates a virtual community of informed users who are empowered to make more sustainable meal choices.  This a pioneering method to build community-based polycentric governance structures to manage common pool resources drawing inspiration from the Nobel Laurate political economist Elinor Ostrom.  The initial pilot experiment was held in partnership with UniCafe Kaivopiha in March-May of 2022.  Dr. Amadae recruited participants in the Global Politics and Communications work life study course devoted to Sustainable Consumption.  This initiative may develop into a University of Helsinki MOOC which contribute to promoting sustainability and to lifelong learning.

You can find further information about the ATARCA project here.

Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON)

Why do some countries enact more ambitious climate change policies than others? The United Nations has strived to create global norms to reduce emissions, but we do not know enough about why countries vary so widely in their adherence to these norms.

Macro level economic and political structures, such as the economic weight of fossil fuel industries, play an important role in shaping national policies. But the process by which such macro-structural factors translate into political power and national climate change policies can be analyzed through focussing on meso level policy networks. The COMPON project studies climate change policy networks and media discourse networks in twenty countries.

Research focussing on meso-level policy networks sheds light on what organizations exert influence on policymaking, what beliefs they carry, what kind of coalitions these organizations form to push for their agenda, how they are connected to state organizations and how their opponents are organized. Identifying these actor constellations makes it possible to assess the prospects of change towards less carbon intensive societies.

You can find further information about the COMPON project here.

Media platforms and social accountability: Dynamics, practices and discourses (MAPS)

Media platforms and social accountability: Dynamics, practices and discourses MAPS is a research project at the University of HelsinkiMAPS examines digital media platforms as crucial sites for accountability processes and debates across a range of global contexts. As discussions about the role of social media platforms in both facilitating and threatening democratic processes have intensified globally, social accountability is becoming an increasingly prominent demand and ideal in the current media environment. MAPS examines digital media platforms as crucial sites for accountability processes and debates across a range of global contexts. The primary question motivating the project is: How is accountability is produced, enacted and articulated in the contemporary media environment?

You can find further information about the MAPS project here.

The Helsinki Centre for Global Political Economy

The Helsinki Centre for Global Political Economy (Helsinki-GPE) was founded in April 2020. The purpose of the Centre is to revitalize political economy – the oldest social science – and to foster trans-disciplinary research and teaching. The Helsinki approach to global political economy combines economic theories and the study of world politics in a novel way. The Centre's premise is that critical pluralism of economic theories and approaches to global political economy is vital for rational and emancipatory enquiry in these fields. Also, philosophically and methodologically, acceptance of diversity is the best starting point for cognitive and pragmatic progress. Helsinki-GPE focuses on large-scale processes – including those often studied under the rubrics of macroeconomy, macrohistory and global studies – while at the same also considering everyday life and single actors such as multinational corporations as expressions and carriers of such processes. The Centre brings together, coordinates and further develops trans-disciplinary research on political economy within and beyond the University of Helsinki.

You can find further information about Helsinki-GPE here.

The Computational Transformation of the Public Sphere

The Computational Transformation of the Public Sphere:  How Information Technologies Transform Democracy, Markets, and Interpersonal Relationships is a book written by the MA students of Global Politics and Communication and edited by university lecturer S.M. Amadae. This edited collection of MA student articles from Global Politics and Communication celebrates the 75th anniversary of University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Social Sciences.  It offers timely explorations into the impact of digital technologies on government, civil society, and social relationships.  Participating in team research conducted in the fall 2019 course Philosophy of Politics and Communication, these MA students excelled in posing challenging questions addressing how the public sphere, markets, and interpersonal relations are transformed by information and communication technologies. 

You can find further information about the Computational Transformation of the Public Sphere here.

Read it here

Tackling Biases and Bubbles in Participation

BIBU – Tackling Biases and Bubbles in Participation – is a research project that explores how the global flux of economic restructuring, urbanisation, and migration, changes citizens’ political capacities, interests, and emotions, and how the political system responds to these changes. The interdisciplinary consortium is composed of researchers from the fields of politics, psychology, social policy, sociology, economics, and communications.

You can find further information about BIBU here.

Communication Rights in the Digital Age

Communication Rights in the Age of Digital Disruption (CORDI) is a research consortium funded by the Academy of Finland. It is based on collaboration between media and communication studies and legal scholarship at the universities of Tampere and Helsinki. The research consortium looks at the digital disruption from the point of view of citizens’ communication rights, with an aim of developing a rights-based approach to communication conceptually and in terms of its practical, legal, and regulatory implications.

The “digital disruption” of media and society has fundamentally changed citizens’ opportunities to access information and participate in public debates and democracy. The role of digital platforms in the exploitation of personal data, spread of disinformation, and other “disorders” of the public sphere have raised fears about the future of democracy, free expression, and our fundamental rights to privacy, dignity, and non-discrimination.

The project clarifies conceptually the debate on communication rights, maps different actors’ understanding of the current situation, and produces concrete policy solutions and suggestions that can be implemented in legal and administrative regulation of the new digital media environment.

You can find further information about the CORDI research here.

Whirl of Knowledge: Cultural Populism and Polarisation in European Politics and Societies

Interdisciplinary WhiKnow research project (WhiKnow, 2019-22), funded by the Academy of Finland in #mediasoc research programme. It explores the ways in which meaning-making takes place in hybrid media systems, investigating different actors (journalists, politicians and academics) and mechanisms of emotional appeal. In its first phase it has gathered social media data from the European Parliament elections 2019 from all EU member states. It theorizes hegemony for a the current social media dominated era.

You can find further information about the WhiKnow research here.

Mainstreaming Populism in the Twenty-First Century

The MAPO research consortium (MAPO 2017-21) based in the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Turku in collaboration between media and communication studies, as well as political science and political theory. The project will analyse how populist parties have become part of the mainstream, how other parties have coloured their policies increasingly with a populist streak and how different mainstreaming forms of populism have transformed public debate, the media and democracy in various polities.

You can find further information about the MAPO research here.

Digital Hu­man­it­ies of Pub­lic Policy-mak­ing

In 2015–17 Professor Pertti Ahonen directs a project funded by a private-sector Kone Foundation to utilize digital methods to examine public policy-making. In the project, computational methods are used to analyze political party programs, government political programs, public policy evaluation reports, and politically oriented social media contents with special reference to enhancing political deliberation.

You can find further information about the Digital Humanities of Public Policy-making project here.

Digital Youth in Me­dia City

Professor Johanna Sumiala is the leader of Digital Youth in Media City (DiMe) (2016-) research project. The project produces a new, international, cross-disciplinary (media studies, sociology, youth research, urban studies) knowledge about urban digital life trends, confrontations, and control in everyday life of young people. Research is conducted in Helsinki and Saint Petersburg.

Three main themes that guide the project’s practical research work are following:

  • Everyday metro experiences, metro life and metro sociability
  • Metro and metro stations as arenas for youth culture phenomenons
  • Institutional changes of urban spaces, participation of youth and social control.

Further information: DiMe project

Polit­ics and Num­bers: Global Governance and Policy In­stru­ments

Politics and Numbers: Global Governance and Policy Instruments is an ongoing research venture headed by Associate Professor Tero Erkkilä at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki. The project explores numerical objectification and its political implications in European and global governance.

The project sets out to examine different types of numbers and measurement methods; the producers, their roles, resources, motives and bases of authority; the various ways in which the governance function is played out; the political implications and regulative institutionalisation of numerical assessments.

As a result, the team members will be able not only to precisely describe the processes of production and use of global indices and rankings but also to review – with robust empirical backing – the practice’s political significance in Europe and the world more generally.

You can find further information about the Politics and Numbers: Global Governance and Policy Instruments here.

Ra­cisms and pub­lic com­mu­nic­a­tions in the hy­brid me­dia en­vir­on­ment

In 2016–2019 Professor Mervi Pantti participates in the project Racisms and public communications in the hybrid media environment, funded by the Academy of Finland. The research project aims to analyse the public understanding, practices and experiences of racism in the hybrid, digital media environment. The consortium is developing a method path from online dataset to qualitative research with rich combinations of methods from rhetoric analysis to multimodal semiotic analysis.