Past events
Information about past events including links to recordings.
Past New Research Culture lectures

Dr Alison Powell is Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE, where she was inaugural Programme Director for the MSc Media and Communications (Data and Society). She researches how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how technological systems in turn change the way we work and live together.

JUST AI is a humanities-led practice-based research community that identifies existing and emerging issues within the AI ethics field to then intervene by including underrepresented perspectives. JUST AI aims to foreground notions of social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in AI ethics through its unique network and capacity building methodology. Through network building work, the JUST AI network examines AI ethics through bibliometric analysis and reflection tools to identify existing and emerging issues in the field. As part of capacity building, the network’s commissions and convenings expand AI ethics by enabling the intervention of alternative perspectives. Through the creation and support of JUST AI Fellows on Racial Justice, and by convening regular working groups on Deep Sustainability and Rights, Access and Refusal, JUST AI models interventions that stimulate interdisciplinary encounter. These include using multiple methods including creative and participatory methods, and collaboration structures that sustain energy and provide space for disagreement and growth.

In this lecture, JUST AI’s Principal Investigator, Dr Alison Powell of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) describes the necessity, significance and impact of interdisciplinary and creative research into emerging ethical issues of technology.

After the keynote address by Powell, the discussion will continue with a commentator, Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, University Researcher at the Centre for Consumer Society Research and Adjunct Professor in Media & Communication studies. She is a communication and technology researcher who also works in the areas of organizational studies, critical data studies, and computational social sciences.

The recorded video is available on the UniTube websiteThe length of the video is 1 h 14 minutes.

Mirko Schäfer is Associate Professor at Utrecht University's research area Governing the Digital Society. He is co-founder and project leader of the Utrecht Data School. Schäfer's research interest revolves around the socio-political impact of (media) technology. With the Utrecht Data School and the Datafied Society research platform, he investigates the impact of data practices and algorithms on public management, public media and public space.

The Utrecht Data School (UDS) is a research and teaching platform at Utrecht University committed to investigating how datafication and algorithmization transform citizenship and democracy. This talk introduces their distinct methods of conducting socially engaged research, and presents findings about how data practices affect (local) government organisations and citizens. Schäfer argues for transdisciplinary and applied research, and publicly engaged humanities as essential for effective knowledge transfer and social impact.

After the keynote address by Schäfer, the discussion will continue with a commentator, Professor Kaarina Nikunen.

Kaarina Nikunen is a Professor of Media and Communication Research at Tampere University. Nikunen’s research explores the ways in which media construct understanding of the world and possibilities of participation: social justice and solidarity are important concepts in her work. Her current research focuses on questions data and inequalities that she explores in two projects: Fair Data and IDA (Intimacy in Data Driven Culture). She is the author of Media Solidarities: Emotions, Power and Justice in the Digital Age (Sage, 2019). 

The recorded video is available on the UniTube websiteThe length of the video is 1 h 22 minutes.

Jan-Werner Müller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University.  His books include What is Populism? (2016) and Democracy Rules (2021).  He is currently writing a book on democracy and architecture.

Everyone knows that democracy is in trouble, but do we know what democracy actually is? Democracy is founded not just on liberty and equality, but also on uncertainty. The latter will sound unattractive at a time when the pandemic has created unbearable uncertainty for so many. But it is crucial for ensuring democracy’s dynamic and creative character, which remains one of its signal advantages over authoritarian alternatives that seek to render politics (and individual citizens) completely predictable.

We need to re-invigorate the intermediary institutions that have been deemed essential for democracy’s success ever since the nineteenth century: political parties and free media. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these are not spent forces in a supposed age of post-party populist leadership and post-truth. How democracy’s critical infrastructure of intermediary institutions could be renovated, re-empowering citizens while also preserving a place for professionals such as journalists and judges? These institutions are also indispensable for negotiating a democratic social contract that reverses the secession of plutocrats and the poorest from a common political world.

After the keynote address by Müller, the discussion will continue with commentators, professor of political history Juhana Aunesluoma, and associate professor Johanna Rainio-Niemi.

Juhana Aunesluoma is professor of political history at the University of Helsinki. In 2010–2020 he was the Director of the Centre for European Studies at the University of Helsinki. In his research he has explored the role of small states in the Cold War international system, international economic relations and trade diplomacy in the 20th century and the history of European integration after WWII. He is currently leading a Finnish Academy funded research project on the changing security conceptions and practices in the Baltic Sea region after the Cold War. He is also working on a book on contemporary European history from the 1970s to the present.

Johanna Rainio-Niemi is an Associate Professor of Political History at the University of Helsinki and, currently, a senior visiting researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History, Södertörn University, Sweden. She is vice-leader of the reserach consortium Just Recovery from Covid-19. Basic Rights, Legitimate Governance and Lessons Learned (JuRe, Strategic Research Council, Academy of Finland) and a member of Helsinki Inequality Initiative research profiling action. Rainio-Niemi specialises in histories of modern democracy and on small, modern welfare states with particular interest in state-society relations in comparative historical and transboundary perspectives.

Unfortunately the recorded video is not available due to technical issues.

Zizi Papacharissi is Professor and Head of the Communication Department, Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and University Scholar at the University of Illinois System. Her work focuses on the social and political consequences of online media. She has published ten books, over 70 journal articles and book chapters, and serves on the editorial board of fifteen journals. Zizi is the founding and current Editor of the open access journal Social Media & Society. She has collaborated with Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Oculus and has participated in closed consultations with the Obama 2012 election campaign. She sits on the Committee on the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults, funded by the National Academies of Science, the National Research Council, and the Institute of Medicine in the US, and has been invited to lecture about her work on social media in several Universities and Research Institutes in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Her work has been translated in Greek, German, Korean, Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Turkish, and Persian. Her latest book, titled After Democracy: Imagining our Political Future, is out now, from Yale University Press.

Democracy has long been considered an ideal state of governance. What if it’s not? Perhaps it is not the end goal but, rather, a transition stage to something better. In her new book, drawing on original interviews conducted with citizens of more than thirty countries, Zizi Papacharissi explores what democracy is, what it means to be a citizen, and what can be done to enhance governance.

As she explores how governments can better serve their citizens, and evolve in positive ways, Papacharissi gives a voice to everyday people, whose ideas and experiences of capitalism, media, and education can help shape future governing practices. She expands on the well-known difficulties of realizing the intimacy of democracy in a global world—the “democratic paradox”—and presents a concrete vision of how communications technologies can be harnessed to implement representative equality, information equality, and civic literacy.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with commentators, Georg Boldt and Emilia Palonen:

Georg Boldt is a sociologist currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. His ethnographic research focuses democratic practices and political culture. In his dissertation, Boldt did an ethnographic study on institutional youth participation in Finland. Currently he is working on a study on the politization of contentious issues at the Concilium of the Evangelical-Lutheran church of Finland.

Emilia Palonen is a Senior Researcher in Political Science at the University of Helsinki, who leads the Helsinki Hub on Emotions, Populism and Polarisation (HEPP) research group with three related externally funded research projects. She has been interested in the logic of political dividing lines, democracy, and cultural aspects of politics. She took her MA and PhD in Ideology and Discourse Analysis at the University of Essex. She currently works on Europe, particularly cases in Finland and Hungary, and develops theoretical and methodological tools to understand workings of hegemony in the hybrid media era. She also chairs the Finnish Political Science Association and is a member of the International Political Science Association's Executive Committee.

The recorded video is available on the UniTube website. The length of the video is 1 h 39 minutes.

Simon Lindgren is Professor of Sociology at Umeå University in Sweden. He is interested in the relationship between digital technologies and society.

The ongoing and intensifying datafication of our societies poses huge challenges as well as opportunities for social science to rethink core elements of its research enterprise. Prominently, there is a pressing need to move beyond the long-standing qualitative/quantitative divide.

This talk is an argument towards developing a critical science of data, by bringing together the interpretive theoretical sensibilities of social science with the predictive and prognostic powers of data science and computational methods.

Professor Simon Lindgren argues that the renegotiation of theories and research methods that must be made in order for them to be more relevant and useful, can be fruitfully understood through the metaphor of hacking social science: developing creative ways of exploiting existing tools in alternative and unexpected ways to solve problems.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo, Ted Hsuan Yun Chen and director of HSSH professor Risto Kunelius.

Professor Lindgren is director of Centre for Digital Social Research (DIGSUM), an interdisciplinary academic research centre studying the social dimensions of digital technology, and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Digital Social Research.

He studies the transformative role of digital communication technologies (internet and social media), and the consequences of datafication and algorithms, with a particular focus on politics and power relations.

Professor Lindgren uses combinations of methods from computational social science and network science, together with analytical frameworks from interpretive sociology and critical theory.

Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo is Professor of Public Law at the University of Helsinki. In her current research, she focuses on EU privacy law and the regulation of digitalization. She has published extensively in international legal journals on Legal Theory, EU law and Privacy Law. She is the author of Private Selves - Legal Personhood in European Privacy Protection (CUP Forthcoming 2021).

Ted Hsuan Yun Chen is a Postdoctoral Researcher jointly appointed in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki and the Department of Computer Science, Aalto University. His primary research agenda focuses on the social and political consequences of climate change, and efforts to stem these negative and often conflictual outcomes. Methodologically, he is interested in developing computational and network approaches for studying sociopolitical phenomena as complex systems.

Unfortunately the recorded video is not available due to technical issues.

Frank Trentmann is Professor of History at Birkbeck College at the University of London.

Interdisciplinarity has been the mantra of the last generation of academic research. But what is involved in actual collaboration between researchers from the humanities and social sciences?

In his talk, professor Trentmann will look at the “doing” of interdisciplinary dialogue, with practical examples from past collaboration, particular experiments and lessons on what works well (and less well). The example will range from large networks, such as the Cultures of Consumption research programme (UK – ESRC/AHRC) which involved over fifty researchers from across the humanities and social sciences; workshops that were designed to produce joint publications; as well as smaller, more heterodox activities that combined intellectual exchange with fun and sociability.

The aim is to introduce a discussion of interdisciplinary collaboration as a process and to identify the participants, resources and competences needed for a creative and effective pursuit.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Katalin Miklóssy, Johan Munck af Rosenschöld, and director of HSSH professor Risto Kunelius.

Katalin Miklóssy is Head of Eastern European studies and works at the Aleksanteri institute, University of Helsinki. She focuses on systemic change and the evolution of the rule of law from comparative political history perspective, with special interest on regional development and East-West interaction. Miklossy was elected as the founding member of the Teachers’ Academy at the University of Helsinki as recognition of excellency of teaching and pedagogical scholarship.

Her recent publications include the co-authored and co-edited Strategic Culture in Russia’s Neighborhood (Lexington 2019), The Politics of East European Area Studies (Routledge 2016, 2019).

Johan Munck af Rosenschöld is a postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) at University of Helsinki. His current research focuses on science-policy interfaces, projectification of environmental policy, and inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration from organizational and institutional perspectives.

Frank Trentmann is a historian of modern and contemporary societies. He works as a professor of History at Birkbeck College at the University of London. Trentmann is also a part-time professor of Moral History and Consumption at the University of Helsinki and an Associate at The Centre for Consumer Society Research.

Trentmann Trentmann has also published on consumption, materiality, political culture and everyday life. He was a Director of the large interdisciplinary research programme Cultures of Consumption. He is currently working on a new project about changes in moral values and practices in the twentieth century.

His publications include: Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (Penguin)

The recorded video is available on the UniTube website. The length of the video is 1 h 26 minutes.

Åse Gornitzka is a Vice-Rector of the University of Oslo and Head of the Research Committee. Her main research interest are public policy and public administration, organization theory and institutional theory, EU governance and decision making, public reforms and organizational change.

The idea that scientific knowledge plays a fundamental role in good government has been an enduring tenet in political thought and historically a supporting argument for establishing universities in order to “secure the republic”, to quote James Madison.

Yet, studies have paid little systematic attention to the role of universities in liberal democratic systems – what is the democratic value of scientific knowledge and higher education in present day political orders? How does it manifest itself? How does political organization influence the relative weight and authority of scientific expertise in public policy?

The mix of decision-making concerns we see also changes over time and across systems. This is evident in the current response to the Covid-crisis, as the world has turned into a brutal experiment in the use of scientific knowledge in public policy making. We are now starting to see the effects of different “knowledge regimes”.

Taking the Nordic countries as the empirical reference, we see the panoply of different practices in giving and accepting policy advice and in mixing scientific, economic, social and political decision-making premises. The variety of responses to the acute crisis also gives us grounds for reflecting on deeper and possibly paradoxical trends: “scientization” of political orders, on the one hand, and, and, on the other, an increasing contestation of scientization that challenges the value of science and higher education.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Åsa von SchoultzJanne Varjo and director of HSSH professor Risto Kunelius.

Åse Gornitzka is Professor at the Department of Political Science and, since 2017, Vice-Rector for Research and Internationalisation at the University of Oslo. Gornitzka holds a doctoral degree in Public Administration from the University of Twente.

She has studied reform and change in higher education, organisational change within universities and the interface between expertise, public administration and governance in the EU and at the national level. This work includes research on the role and composition of the numerous expert groups in European Union policy-making.

Gornitzka’s most recent contributions deal with reputation management in public sector organisations, such as Universities as Agencies: Reputation and Professionalization (Palgrave – Macmillan, 2019), a book she edited together with Christensen and Ramirez.

Professor Åsa von Schoultz holds the Swedish Chair in Political Science at the University of Helsinki since 2017. Her research currently focuses on electoral competition within parties and citizens’ and elites’ perceptions on democratic processes. Other fields of interest are voting behavior, political participation and political behavior of minorities.

Janne Varjo is an associate professor (tenure track; education, society and culture) at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, and more particularly in the Research Unit focusing on the Sociology and Politics of Education (KUPOLI).

After his doctoral thesis Drafting Education Legislation for the Competitive State – The Parliament of Finland and the 1990s Change in Education Policy (2007) Varjo has worked in six research projects altogether. All of these projects are closely connected to issues of educational equality and governance of education – the range of objects of inquiry varying from nation states to social classes, and from municipalities to ethnic groups. He is also the editor-in-chief of Kasvatus (Finnish Journal of Education).

A recorded video of the event is available on the Think Corner´s website. The length of the video is 1 h 33 minutes.

The second keynote speaker is Bernd Kortmann. He is professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

In his video speech, Kortmann shares his insights on how interdisciplinarity should be promoted both in the field of SSH and between the SSH field and natural sciences.

Kortmann has a lot say about the topic, because he directs the multidisciplinary FRIAS institute (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies) which combines the humanities and social sciences, medicine, the natural, and life sciences, and engineering.

The basic idea of this talk is to share some insights concerning the interplay of top-down and bottom-up processes in generating or strengthening collaborative research, both disciplinary and interdisciplinary, among the humanities and social sciences, and between the SSH and STEMM disciplines.

These insights are the results of having served as the Director of a university-based Institute for Advanced Studies (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies) for 7 years now, and as a close observer of relevant efforts (and successes) in the world of Institutes for Advanced Studies as well as among the SSH faculties of the LERU universities (League of European Research Universities).

The aim of this talk is to offer perspectives how HSSH may develop into an incubator creating a new collaborative research culture (and infrastructure) at the University of Helsinki, and thus generating a significant added value for the relevant departments and faculties.

Kortmann’s main research interest are the grammar of non-standard varieties of English especially from a typological perspective. He has published on semantics, grammaticalization, language complexity, history of linguistics, and English grammar.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Salla KurhilaJaakko Kuorikoski, and director of HSSH professor Risto Kunelius.

Salla Kurhila is a professor in Interactional Linguistics. Her research interest includes second language interaction, ways of dealing with problems of understanding, and language learning in interaction. At the moment, she leads a 4-year-project on plurilingual practices in workplace interaction (funded by Kone Foundation). Kurhila says that she is inspired by the feeling that scientific knowledge is being appreciated again (despite all the alternative facts).

Jaakko Kuorikoski is an associate professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. His main research interests are explanation, causality, mechanisms, statistical causal modelling, rational choice theory and simulation. Kuorikoski’s main areas of specializations are philosophy of economics and philosophy of social sciences and he has published widely on scientific explanation, modeling, simulation and causal reasoning. Before returning to Helsinki, Kuorikoski worked as an associate professor in New Social Research at Tampere University.

A recorded video of the event is available on the Think Corner’s website. The length of the video is 1 h 30 minutes.

The first keynote speaker will be Kirsten Drotner, professor of media studies at the University of Southern Denmark. Drotner has led several crossdisciplinary research projects and is one of Europe’s leading specialists in the SSH field. Her research topics have included media audiences, digital learning and museum communication. For further information on Drotner’s research, please see the research portal.

In her video speech, Drotner challenges stereotypical notions of the humanities and social sciences. Three myths about SSH research: it´s individual, cheap and discipline-based with few partnerships. Drotner challenge the audience to think what we can learn about re-imagining the alternative.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Sarah Green, professor of social and cultural anthropology at the University of Helsinki, Risto Saarinen, professor of systematic theology at the University of Helsinki, and Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean at the Faculty of Law.

Professor Sarah Green is a specialist on borders, spatial relations, gender and sexuality, and information and communications technologies. Professor Green’s major conceptual interest lies consistently in the notion of location; throughout her diverse fieldwork projects, she has been exploring, in both literal and metaphorical senses, how people locate themselves in the world and in relation to themselves and others.

Professor Risto Saarinen’s core expertise lies in historical and contemporary religious studies from philosophical and systematic perspective, and he has written extensively on early modern theology and philosophy.

Dean Pia Letto-Vanamo is a legal historian and comparative lawyer specialized in European legal history, history of European integration, Nordic legal cultures and transnational law. Professor Letto-Vanamo has published extensively in the fields of the history of law, the history of the legal profession, the Nordic legal tradition with, a strong emphasis on the specific position of Finland.

A recorded video of the event is available on Think Corner´s website. The length of the video is 1 h 28 minutes.