Brown Bag Seminar

Brown Bag Seminar meetings every Tuesday.

The Methodological Unit organizes a weekly Brown Bag Seminar to highlight novel methodological approaches in humanities and social sciences. The idea of the meetings is to introduce methodological innovations and cutting-edge research in various disciplines in an easily accessible manner and have an interdisciplinary discussion in an easy-going atmosphere over lunch. Bring your own lunch, we bring fresh methodological topics!

Every Tuesday at 12.15.

You are welcome to join us at seminar room (access via Vuorikatu 3 courtyard, take elevator or stairs from Café Portaali to floor B5, room 524 is on the right after a glass door) or online via Zoom.

The Idea

There will be a 20-minute introduction to the methodological theme, followed by an open discussion of 40 minutes. The seminars are open to everybody. We expect a multidisciplinary and methodologically curious audience from different faculties and units of the central campus. The language of the meetings can be Finnish or English.

The most important prerequisite for participation is not methodological expertise, but an open mind towards new methodological innovations and discussion across methodological and disciplinary boundaries.

The Program

Scroll down for the upcoming program of Brown Bag Seminars. To get notified on updates sign up for our mailing list or follow us on social media. Click here for more information.

Click here for more information on past Brown Bag Seminar and Brown Bag Lunch events.

12.12.2023 Ilkka Arminen & Mika Simonen
Synthetic data on the edge of uncanny valley

Synthetic data as an object and a tool of research is a project that explores the possibilities to use synthetic data for research. Synthetic data is generated using the Artificial Intelligence technique of deep generative learning, e.g., deep fakes. The possibilities of synthetic data for research are worth exploration. Our test scenario concerns the reception of pitches: how recipients (students) rate the pitches they see online. The pitches were extended elevator pitches (no augmentations, just a talking head). We did two modified versions of both pitches: A) beautified – with a TikTok filter; and B) Final cut version, an edited version, where cuts merged as if there had not been cuts; version could be called as Wizard of Oz version.

The original and modified pitches were shown to students online. The informants were either interviewed or filled a survey. In our experiment, we managed to manipulate the male pitcher’s video so that the rate of talk pace improved, but anyhow the overall grade fall. It seems that this result can be accounted with the uncanny valley phenomenon, which here was further accelerated by our use of AI tools through which we half-successfully hided the manipulation – half-hidden manipulation increases the challenge to categorize object. With the female pitcher we were not successful in improving the talk pace; we did remove filler words (erm, uh, huh) but according to audio perception the talk pace fall. This shows that “filler words” have a rhythmic function for the speech reception; the observation invites further studies on the issue.

The experiment also showed that reception of (talking head) videos tends to be holistic and imaginary. Holistic in the sense that features of an object are interpreted on basis of a gestalt, and details of a phenomenon are then seen as its documentary evidence. The imaginary nature of perceptions was nicely demonstrated by the finding that beautify filter affected to the perception of talk pace. Equally interesting is that beautify filter improved the pitchers’ grading clearly in the interviews but not in survey: is this showing that interviews are more other-directed (socially valued impression of beauty gaining a higher significance), and surveys are more inner-directed.

Ilkka Arminen, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, has worked as a director of a network on innovation research. He is also an adjunct professor of technology studies in Aalto University. He has published extensively on methodology of sociology, ethnomethodology, and conversation analysis as well as on media and technologies in interaction, i.e., mobile media usage, internet communities and transforming spheres of intimacy. His project ‘Know your Neighbour?’ addressed ethnic group relationships in Finland and Estonia, and in/visible migrants. His most recent research projects have concerned remote peer support, crossroads of Finnish addiction politics, and synthetic data.

PhD Mika Simonen defended his sociological dissertation on interview interaction in 2017. His current research projects include experimental sociology and human-animal interaction. He has organized more than 25 imitation game experiments in international cooperation; this year, six addiction policy experiments. Simonen has recently co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Pragmatics, which deals with the use of language and interaction in human and animal activities, encounters and narratives. He is also co-editing the research topic Animals and Social Interaction for Frontiers in Sociology.

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