Student research

During their studies, the GPC students have a large degree of freedom to pursue topics of their own research interest. Here are some examples of their work.
Student Research Papers 2022

In the autumn of 2022, a lecture course “Theories of Politics and Communication in the Information Age (GPC-312)” was organized by Dr Docent S. M. Amadae at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Helsinki. The course critically examined the contemporary challenges to democracy, posed by the digitalisation of the basic spheres of society. Artificial intelligence, algorithms, social media and the rapidly developing modern digital technology were among the issues dealt with at the course. The effects of the new digital technologies on the basic institutions of democracy such as public rational discussion and the formation of political opinions were also discussed.

One of the fundaments of democracy is that citizens form their opinions by talking with each other and by following public debates where arguments are tested. How will this basic pattern succeed if artificial intelligence and algorithmic logic are growingly involved in the arenas of democracy, for example by herding people into like-minded groups, or by intensifying black-and- white thinking? Digitalization and the logic of algorithms were observed on the course as phenomena that often make the actualization of the basic principles of democracy difficult. These principles include equality, justice, access to relevant information, the rule of law, and the ability of citizens to control the exercise of power.

Students of this year’s course were especially interested in the problems related to the violations of citizen’s privacy and surveillance on the citizens by digital technology.The students attending the course analysed these developments by doing their own research in groups of five members. This publication presents research papers from three groups. They shed light on some of the most pressing challenges on democratic society posed by new forms of digital technology. 

Dr., Docent Sari Roman-Lagerspetz, editor

Contact-Tracing Mobile Applications as Health Governance: Issues and Implications for the Future

Venla Ailasmäki, Juho Majanen, Milla Pirttilahti, Jessica Pyöriä, Megan Rollerson

With the increased digitalisation of our data and the rise of e-governance, much of our interactions with and information held by public services has moved online, including our private health records. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world launched and employed digital applications and systems to aid in contact tracing and predicting infections. The pandemic served as a useful mechanism to bring to public attention the interests of governments to control or steer citizens’ health, particularly as it pertained to infectious diseases, via digital means. In this paper, we look at the application and implications of digital health governance at the national level. We address this by providing a theoretical background with Foucault’s conception of biopower and addressing several themes related to these applications: privacy, ethics, and information security; perceptions and efficacy of health governance via digital apps; contemporary examples of applications; and the question of legitimacy. By examining current literature, this research paper aims to take a critical look at the benefits of government digitalisation of citizens' health, but also at the challenges it poses for democracy.

 Keywords: biopower, contact-tracing, mobile apps, COVID-19, public health




Surveillance Society as a Threat to Liberal Democracy in the European Union

Heta Heikkilä, Noora Honkola, Milla Huunonen, Kati Makkonen, Emma Pesu

This study discusses surveillance society as a threat to liberal deliberative democracy in the context of the European Union (EU), using Hungary as a case example. The research examines the EU laws and programs regulating citizens' surveillance and reviews how their use has been legitimised. The study analyses the narrowing privacy of the citizens as a result of targeted surveillance and the dimension of digital society in relation to surveillance, taking into account the developments and new forms of surveillance that have emerged during the information age. The study shows that the regulation of surveillance at the EU level is in its infancy, and the Union's power to intervene in the surveillance of citizens is limited.

Keywords: surveillance society, liberal democracy, European union, Hungary, algorithms, surveillance capitalism

“Your period starts in two days” Risks of period-tracking post Roe v. Wade

Sini-Marja Ant-Wuorinen, Maria Knaapi, Heli Koskela, Emma Lindberg, Anni Lintula, Linda Palenius

The future of period-tracking applications, or Femtech, is currently under fire after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court of the United States in June 2022. In this changing landscape of reproductive rights, questions are being raised about the need for more regulation and ethical standards. Period-tracking apps, which usually help users make decisions about their reproductive health, are now a potential threat to women’s bodily autonomy and the right to privacy, as well as a means of control, surveillance, and even prosecution by authorities. In this paper, we aim to map out the various risks relating to this progress post Roe v. Wade and raise questions about the future. Is sharing health data with period-tracking apps at all safe with the unknowns of machine learning? What could be done to protect users, and what precautions can users themselves take to protect their data and themselves?

Keywords: Femtech, period-tracking apps, surveillance, privacy rights, machine learning

Student Research Papers 2021
Research papers from the Theories of Politics and Communication in the Information Age

In the autumn of 2021, a lecture-course “Theories of Politics and Communication in the Information Age (GPC-312)” was organized by Dr. S. M. Amadae at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Helsinki. The course examined critically the challenges posed by the digitalisation , artificial intelligence, algorithms, and modern technology to democracy and the possibility of public, rational communication. Public, discursive rationality was considered the primary way in which people can engage in democratic politics, learn to understand each other’s way of thinking, solve problems, control how the power is used by those in power, and find shared meanings on things that have public importance. The course examined the differences between discursive rationality and strategic or instrumental rationality in relation to the basic principles of democracy such as equality, justice, the rule of law and the ability of citizens to control the exercise of power. Digitalization and the logic of algorithms were observed as functions that often make the actualization of the basic principles of democracy difficult. The students attending the course analyzed these developments by doing their own researches in groups of five members. This publication presents research papers from five groups. They shed light on the challenges posed by digitalization and provide theoretical-practical tools for discussion.

Dr., Docent Sari Roman-Lagerspetz, editor of the publication

Voting advice applications - supplementing or jeopardizing parliamentary democracy in the digital age?

Amos Wallgren, Erik Räsänen, Anssi Kerttula, Maija Harju, Mari Sahlberg

Voting advice applications are among the most widely used digital applications in Finland as well as in other countries. They are also directly linked to power, politics and democracy as they assist people to use power and make political decisions. They are usually thought of as if they were completely politically neutral and thus able to give objective assistance in political matters. However, it can be asked whether they are politically neutral or not, and what kind of goals they further. This paper asks these questions and analyses the potential risks involved in outsourcing parts of pre-electoral, political decision-making process to voting advice applications.

Key words: Voting advice applications (VAAs), digital democracy, deliberative democracy, strategic rationality, communicative rationality, Habermas, Smart vote

Datan objektiivisuusharha – sukupuolittuneen datan vaikutukset terveysteknologian kehityksessä naisten sydänsairauksien näkökulmasta – voiko tekoäly tuottaa tasa-arvoa?

Hanna Catani, Anna Lappalainen, Tiina Tennosmaa, Wilhelmiina Viinikka

Digitalisaatio on ihmisten luoma ilmiö ja se kantaa mukanaan ihmisille ja ihmisyhteisöille tyypillisiä piirteitä kuten seksismiä, rasismia, joidenkin ryhmien marginalisaatiota ja vähättelyä jne. Digitaalista vähäosaisuutta tuottaa esimerkiksi se, että syrjäytyneillä ja köyhillä ihmisillä on vähemmän mahdollisuuksia hankkia ja oppia käyttämään tehokkaita ja kalliita älylaitteita ja sovelluksia. Tekoäly operoi sukupuolittuneiden tietojärjestelmien ja datan kanssa muun muassa terveydenhuollossa. Lääketieteellinen tutkimus on jo pitkään keskittynyt tutkimaan etenkin miehiä. Tällä on vakavia seurauksia naisten terveydelle, esimerkiksi sydäntautien kohdalla. Tekoälyn lääketieteelliset sovellukset käyttävät sitä tutkimusmateriaalia mitä ihminen tuottaa, mutta tästä ei seuraa, että tekoäly välttämättä saisi vaarantaa naisten terveyttä. Tekoälyn kautta voisi myös korjata niitä riskejä joita eettisesti ongelmallinen terveysdata aiheuttaa. Tämä tutkimuspaperi tarkastelee terveysteknologian, tekoälyn ja sukupuolen mutkikkaita suhteita.

Avainsanat: data, sukupuoli, terveydenhuolto


A critical assessment of the strong authentication system using bank credentials

Weronika Krupa, Minna Parkkonen, Katja Stempel, Nazli Baglan, Veronica Kontopoulou

Strong authentication system via bank credentials has become an everyday method for citizens to identify themselves for the electronic services of banks, organizations, on-line stores etc. However, very little research has been done on the potential risks of these services. This paper seeks to help fill this research gap. It focuses on some central problems, asking, for example, how those people who cannot obtain bank credentials, or who must wait for long periods of time to obtain them, can cope with everyday life. How can non-EU/EEA-residents, coming to Finland for example as exchange-students, cope without proper IDs? Waiting to gain bank credentials can take very long. Another potential problem is that it is unclear how much banks can gather data for profiling purposes.

Keywords: strong authentication, bank credentials, digitisation, eIDAS, PSD2, TUPAS, Finnish Trust Network, inequality, discrimination, data privacy, digital footprint

Biden's doctrine and technological decoupling: the return of Cold War rhetoric as a driver of technological division between China and the West

Markku Haavisto, Tomi Kristeri, Miikka Pynnönen, Ilmari Reunamäki, Janne Suutarinen

This paper argues that a process of both technological and rhetorical detachment takes place in U.S.-China relations. These intertwined logics are part of the increasing competition between the two nations. One important aspect of this decoupling is the rhetoric used by the president Joe Biden. The authors of the paper argue that there are essential parallels between the Cold War and the present developments.

Keywords: US, China, decoupling, trade war, technological competition, great power politics, semiconductors, Cold War rhetoric, political communication, strategic communication

Decisions made by the police during the Elokapina demonstration in Finland in October 2020 and the consequent damage to their reputation and efforts to restore confidence

Julia Hallberg, Essi Kiiski, Min Young Lee, Kia Toivonen, Katariina Issakainen

Authorities are​ facing new challenges in the digital age, for example due to demonstrations by environmental movements. One example of this is the international Elokapina-liike (Extinction Rebellion movement) and its demonstrations. Digitalisation and social media pose new layers of  challenges for the authorities, for example when the police have to control public order in tense and even dangerous situations. At the same, the police ought to communicate safety, trustworthiness and peacefulness - and remember that people are taking video all the time. This paper examines the communication challenges that police faces when trying to maintain its public reliability.

Key words: Extinction Rebellion (XR), public security, police of Finland, police communication, the reputation of the police, social media, blog