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 website. The 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 website. The 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 Schoultz, Janne 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 Kurhila, Jaakko 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.
Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It contains more than 50 million articles across 300 language editions. However, more than half of these articles are unillustrated. But why is it so important to have images on Wikipedia and, more broadly, in free knowledge ecosystems? Anecdotal evidence tells us that images should be a very important part of encyclopedic knowledge. If we could have an image for every entry in the encyclopedia, the amount of free visual knowledge, of pictures that people can use to understand, share and create knowledge, would be immense. But what is science telling us about the importance of images, and how can we quantify the value of images for knowledge understanding, taking into account the diversity of readers around the world? In this session, we will see some early results on our research on how readers engage with images on Wikipedia, and talk about challenges and opportunities of using computational methods to learn about the role of images in knowledge spaces
Miriam Redi is a Research Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation and Visiting Research Fellow at King's College London. Formerly, she worked as a Research Scientist at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona and Nokia Bell Labs in Cambridge. She received her PhD from EURECOM, Sophia Antipolis. She conducts research in social multimedia computing, working on fair, interpretable, multimodal machine learning solutions to improve knowledge equity.
How to transform abstract knowledge into imagines, and to embed art in the work of an interdisciplinary research group working at the intersection of law, human computer interaction and social studies? University of Helsinki Legal Tech Lab works together with a comic artist Annukka Mäkijärvi to produce research based comics and experiment with novel ways of co-producing content in legal and social sciences, LexComics.
Generally LexComics has two goals: to communicate Lab’s research ways that are more open to those not familiar with legal or scientific language and use visual approaches of communication, and to develop ways to open up law for arts as a way to play, renew methodology and interact with scholars from different disciplines. LexComics experiment builds on research performed by existing research groups under the auspices of Legal Teach Lab and is composed of two parts, a workshops and co-creative artwork. The experiment has been running since 2020 and has resulted in both concrete art works and practical and methodological experience for the members of the project.
In the Brown Bag Seminar -presentation two members of the LexComics project group, doctoral researchers Hanne Hirvonen and Sofia Söderholm, explain more closely what, why and how Legal Tech Lab does in LexComics.
The University of Helsinki Legal Tech Lab is an interdisciplinary and international research hub located at the Faculty of Law. We examine the intersections of law, technology, and society. We believe that these areas of life develop hand-in-hand and co-produce each other. We study law and digitalisation broadly, examining technology as object of research, but also as tools of analysis. We believe that challenges raised by technological development (computational turn, increase of algorithmic governance) require new knowledge and new ways of doing things, especially interdisciplinary research collaboration and research methodology.
Legal Tech Lab belongs to the global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers, other members of which include Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin. In addition to in-depth academic research, we value societal awareness raising and knowledge mobilisation. Hence, we also aim to combine our expertise and efforts with relevant stakeholders so that our understanding on law, society and technology contributes to a better society.
In China, deepfakes are commonly known as huanlian, which literally means “changing faces.” Huanlian content, including face-swapped images and video reenactments, has been circulating in China since at least 2018, at first through amateur users experimenting with machine learning models and then through the popularization of audiovisual synthesis technologies offered by digital platforms. This talk presents the design, process and results of a research project seeking to understand how a new genre of synthetic media becomes part of popular culture through the domestication of machine learning and computational tools. Informed by a wealth of interdisciplinary research on media manipulation, I historicize, contextualize, and disaggregate huanlian through a digital ethnographic approach that goes beyond observation and experiments with ways of participating in the creation and circulation of synthetic media. The methodological possibilities offered by ‘messing around’ with technologies of media synthesis, I argue, point to a new and promising domain of ethnographic inquiry into artificial intelligence and machine learning at large.
Gabriele de Seta is, technically, a sociologist. He holds a Ph.D. from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Academia Sinica Institute of Ethnology in Taipei. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bergen as part of the ERC-funded project Machine Vision in Everyday Life. His research work, grounded on ethnographic engagement across multiple sites, focuses on digital media practices and vernacular creativity in China. He is also interested in experimental music, internet art, and collaborative intersections between anthropology and art practice.
Images and visual material have become an increasingly important source of data for researchers interested in new media environments. However, due to the scale of material, visual content analysis with traditional qualitative approaches are limited. One may use automated image recognition services to conduct content analysis, however, this opens up new methodological challenges.We examine the reliability of automatic image recognition services by conducting a cross-comparison across three popular image recognition services: Google Vision AI, Microsoft Azure Computer Vision and AWS Rekognition. We use eight image datasets to examine if the image production quality or thematic coherence impacts the outcomes of the process, and how such outcomes impact social science analysis.Our results show that there can be a lot of variation between services, and that computer vision does not always detect the context of images in an optimal way. We therefore suggest that researchers using image data should pay particular attention to the methods and services they use to avoid potentially biased results.
Matti Nelimarkka leads the Helsinki Social Computing Group, an interdisciplinary group examining both computers and society. They explore digital democracy and politics in the digital era as well as computational techniques in social sciences, especially workflows and connections between social science theories and code. He is affiliated with the Faculty of Social Science, University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science, Aalto University and Futurice, a Finnish software consultancy.
Anton Berg is a doctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Helsinki
Right-wing extremists have long used digital communication to produce virtual communities where users can safely transgress normative injunctions against hate, racism, and white supremacy. Using word and document embedding on the widely-studied white supremacist forum Stormfront.org, this paper studies on the role of transgression on the site’s various subforums. The paper observes how Stormfront users express their identities through the lens of an embedding space based on a dataset covering the years 2000-2015 and approximately 1.7 million posts. Through this distant reading of transgressive practices on the forum, this paper argues that its virtual community reproduces not only fascism as an ideology, but also as a libidinal economy. Through their expressions on the forum, members of Stormfront’s white supremacist community find themselves a unique site to find ‘freedom’ from their lives, stifled by ‘political correctness’ and ‘Jewish power’. Looking back at this decade and a half of Stormfront activity that precedes the ‘mainstreaming’ of white supremacist, reactionary, and racist ideas in the networked publics that cut across social media platforms, this paper illustrates a set of transgressive repertoires that sustain and reproduce white supremacist virtual communities and remain crucial as white supremacist digital cultures migrate to ‘alt-tech’ platforms.
Bharath Ganesh is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Groningen. His research explores technology, governance, and dignity, and currently focuses on the intersections between platforms and racism, hate speech, and extremism. He studies how extremist networks of users exploit social media platforms as well as how platform companies have responded to this challenge. His recent publications explore the cultures of far right publics online, political communication, disinformation, and platform governance. His recent work can be found in Cultural Studies and Journal of European Integration.
The Acoustics of Sacred Sites project explores the acoustic properties of prehistoric rock art sites in the Boreal forest zone, drawing conclusions about sound rituals associated with these sites. The approach is to conduct a series of acoustic measurements at select painted rocks in Finland, Russia and Canada, to process the material using spectrum analysis, auralization and digital VR reconstructions, and to interpret the results with ethnographic accounts of hunter-gatherer ritual practices. The work is carried out in collaboration with archaeologists, ethnomusicologists, cognitive scientists and artists.
Riitta Rainio is a musicologist specializing in archaeoacoustics and sound archaeology. She is currently working at the University of Helsinki as a principal investigator of the project “Acoustics and Auditory Culture at Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art Sites in Northern Europe, Siberia and North America” funded by the Academy of Finland (2018 - 2023).
The Historically Informed Audiovisual Synthesis project explores vintage electronic instruments from the 1960s and 1970s used in Sweden at the Royal College of Music (KMH), Elektronmusikstudion (EMS), Swedish national radio (SR) and television (SVT), and in the private studios of composers such as Ralph Lundsten and Leo Nilsson. Specific examples of these technological artifacts have been archived by the Swedish Performing Arts Agency (Statens Musikverket) and the Performing Arts Museum (Scenkonstmuseet). A number of these instruments are unique specimens which represent visionary, idiosyncratic, and often commercially unsuccessful attempts to reinvent production methods of creative media according to specific visions of the future. Their uniqueness as heritage objects under conservation has also restricted public access to many of them.
We propose that, if the original instruments no longer exist or cannot be maintained in usable conditions for artists and designers to work with, then contemporary re-enactments of these instruments can be produced. Through an iterative design process involving artists and designers, we aim to create instruments which renew historical creative visions and transcend the technical obsolescence into which many of them fell.
Derek Holzer (USA 1972) is an audiovisual artist, researcher, lecturer, and electronic instrument creator based in Stockholm. He has performed live, taught workshops and created scores of unique instruments and installations since 2002 across Europe, North and South America, and New Zealand. He is currently a PhD researcher in Media & Interaction Design at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, focusing on historically informed audiovisual synthesis.
Predicting an algebraic difference between two variables is a common malpractice in psychology and related fields. Although a difference score prediction is merely a test of continuous by binary interaction, this fundamental feature is ignored in the studies using this approach. Instead, researchers seem to wish to predict something otherwise unmeasurable content in an algebraic difference or this approach is used as a questionable research practice to find “favorable” results. Either way, because it only provides ambiguous tests of hypotheses, it is uninformative regarding the studied phenomena.
As an exemplary research line in which predicting differences is extremely prevalent, my presentation focuses on studies on the “gender-equality paradox”. Using direct difference score predictions, many studies have shown that differences between men and women (or boys and girls) are larger, not smaller, in more gender equal countries. This finding has been interpreted so that higher gender equality allows for more freedom in gender-specific ambitions and desires and therefore leads to larger differences. With a formal reanalysis of three large-scale cross-cultural datasets (50-87 countries and 80.000-850.000 individuals in each dataset), I find no support for this interpretation. I propose a new set of analytical functions in R environment (multid package) that focus on the difference score components to avoid misinterpretations following direct predictions of difference scores.
Ville Ilmarinen works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki. He is interested in individual differences in psychological characteristics and statistical methods.
The presentation introduces the project Movie Making Finland (MoMaF), a consortium of researchers from Aalto University and the University of Turku. It concentrates on Finnish fiction films, which comprise 1,300 titles, released in a movie theatre in Finland from 1907 onwards. Some of the films have not been preserved, but the majority of the material is available and digitised by the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI). The project is interested in the ways, through which cinema imagined and interpreted Finnish modernisation and its discontents. Methodologically, the project explores how speech recognition, image analysis and natural language processing can be combined in developing a toolbox for the study of historical change in audiovisual cultural heritage, in this case Finnish fiction films, and how these findings can be incorporated into a film historical and cultural historical content analysis. The project applies, adapts, and further develops state-of-the-art methods for speech recognition and video content analysis.
Tamás Grósz received a PhD degree in speech recognition from the University of Szeged, in 2018. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics, Aalto University. His current research focuses on automatic speech recognition, deep learning, and computational paralinguistics.
Harri Kiiskinen (PhD 2013, cultural history, University of Turku) is a research data management specialist focusing on digital humanities. He has worked for several research project within and outside Academia. He specializes in semantic data and research data process automation.
Mikko Kurimo (Dr. Tech. 1997 Helsinki University of Technology) is professor in speech and language processing and the head of the automatic speech recognition group at Aalto University. His research interests include machine learning and deep neural networks in speech and language processing and technology. His work is internationally best known for the pioneering work in computational modeling of morphologically rich languages such as Finnish, Estonian and Arabic.
Jorma Laaksonen (Dr. Tech. 1997 Helsinki University of Technology) is a Senior University lecturer at the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University, Espoo, Finland, specializing in machine learning, neural networks, computer vision and multimodal media analysis, description and indexing. Dr. Laaksonen is a former Associate Editor of Pattern Recognition Letters, IEEE senior member, and a founding member of the SOM and LVQ Programming Teams and the PicSOM Development Group.
Hannu Salmi is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Turku. His research interests focus on the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, media history and the digital humanities. He has been the responsible leader of several research projects on digital history, including "Movie Making Finland: Finnish fiction films as audiovisual big data, 1907–2017” (MoMaF).
Mixed method approaches combine qualitative and quantitative research methods and data. In an ideal situation, a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods and data allows one to take advantage of the best of both approaches. Quantitative approaches give us a statistical picture of the phenomenon, while qualitative approaches can provide rich details about people's experiences that survey data cannot fully express. Mixed methods is often used in multidisciplinary settings and seen as especially useful in addressing sensitive and complex issues. The objective of my presentation is to open the discussion on how to conduct mixed methods research in practice. I present examples of different types of mixed methods research design and discuss advantages and disadvantages of combining several data sources and methods in a research project or an article. I hope to spur discussion about mixed method research designs, the possibilities of integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches, and how to create a genuine dialogue between different types of data.
Laura Kemppainen currently works as a University researcher in the Centre of Excellence in Ageing and Care and in the DigiIN consortium. She is also a Principal Investigator in the TransHealth project (UH Three Year Research Grants). Her research interests include mixed methods approaches to migration, ageing and transnationalism studies, social and digital inequalities and Russian studies.
Computer-mediated communication has played a significant role in shaping the current discourses on gender and sexuality by bringing together often dispersed minorities and providing an anonymous space to consider questions related to identities. To explore the link between these recent social developments and language practices, we investigate linguistic constructions of self-identification among sexual and gender minorities on the discussion forum Reddit.
Through analysis of lexico-grammatical patterns, we investigate in what ways and to what extent linguistic constructions of self-identification such as identify as X, be X and as a X are employed in online discourse. Our preliminary findings suggest that such constructions are productive as rhetorical means for claiming a specific identity and positioning oneself in discourse (e.g., I identify as non-binary most days). At the same time, these constructions are often used for labelling others, together with meta-discussion on the appropriate demarcation of these categories.
Utilizing the Pushshift repository, we have compiled The Reddit LGBTQ+ Corpus (c. 44 million words), which includes texts from various LGBTQ+ subforums on Reddit (e.g., r/lgbt, r/nonbinary). The corpus covers the period from 2010 to 2021, containing approximately 600 submissions per month with subsequent comments. In the presentation, we describe the corpus and its compilation, and present our preliminary analysis, discussing and contextualizing online self-identification practices within the broader discourse on gender and sexuality.
Minna Palander-Collin (PI) is Professor of English Language and currently Vice-Dean for Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki. Since 2009, she has been PI of several funded research projects focusing on changing language practices and societal change in the history of English. Her most recent project deals with Democratization, Mediatization and Language Practices (DEMLANG). Her main research interests include historical sociolinguistics, historical pragmatics, language change, corpus linguistics, and she is one of the compilers of the Corpus of Early English Correspondence. She is a member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.
Turo Hiltunen, PhD, Docent, is University Lecturer at the Department of Languages, University of Helsinki, where he teaches corpus linguistics and other digital approaches to the study of English. His main interests are corpus linguistics, grammar, phraseology and register analysis. Hiltunen has extensive experience of corpus development and has worked in such corpus projects as Early and Late Modern English Medical Writing (Benjamins 2011, 2019). He has (co-)authored over 30 studies, and edited research volumes and special issues, most recently for John Benjamins Publishing Company and the journals Language Sciences and Journal of English Linguistics.
Laura Hekanaho, PhD, is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Jyväskylä. Her PhD dissertation Generic and Non-binary Pronouns (University of Helsinki, 2020), which was accepted with distinction, investigated attitudes towards generic and nonbinary 3rd person singular pronouns, including an exploration of how nonbinary pronouns are employed in identity building. She received a PhD award for feminist research. Her main research interests include language and gender research, identity and language, mixed methods research, statistical modelling, corpus linguistics and qualitative analysis.
Helmiina Hotti has a BA in Linguistics (Language Technology) from the University of Helsinki. She is currently working on her MA thesis on Language Technology in the MA programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities, University of Helsinki.
Immersive virtual reality enables social scientists to create controllable experimental scenarios without compromising ecological validity. People can be immersed in emotionally engaging social situations to investigate social information processing, decision-making, and emotional responses in real-world scenarios. We can learn how social psychological processes unfold moment-by-moment in nonverbal behaviors, verbal utterances, and nervous system activity. In the presentation, I will use my experimental research work on nonverbal communication and empathy-related processes to demonstrate the power of combining virtual reality simulations and electrophysiological measures in social psychological research. I will outline novel approaches using immersive media experiences to study basic processes of social information processing as well as more complex societal phenome such as intergroup relations and prejudice.
Dr. Ville Harjunen is a technology-oriented social neuroscientist working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki. Harjunen's research is related to the psychophysiology of non-verbal communication of emotions, social cognition, and decision-making. His methodological expertise includes EEG, MEG, autonomic nervous system measures, and virtual reality (VR) simulations. The majority of his research focuses on interpersonal touch and nonverbal communication of emotions in VR-based interactions.
Nordic countries have well institutionalised practises of gathering health data from their citizens. The establishment of population registers coincided with the building of welfare state institutions and relied on a social contract of solidarity. During the last decade, health databases have become sources of economic value. Recent policies expect registers and biobanks to attract international investments, making Nordic countries world-leaders in the global health data economy. In this presentation, we question the conditions and boundaries of solidarity in the emerging data-driven health economy. We argue that the logics of welfare state and data-driven economy create a paradox – the data economy is not possible without the welfare state data regime, but the logic of data-driven health economy contradicts the value bases of the welfare state and therefore the justifications for data gathering and use become questionable.
Heta Tarkkala is a sociologist and does research in the field of science & technology studies. She has worked on topics such as biobanks, health data and biomedical research populations. Currently she works at Data Literacy for Responsible Decision Making (DataLit) project asking how public authorities could use data in socially sustainable ways.
Karoliina Snell is university lecturer in sociology and interaction coordinator of DataLit where she busts data myths. Her research interests are related to different uses, ethics and legitimation of health data and genomic information. She is particularly interested in the question – what the heck is meant with human centric data economy?
I propose a simple tool for translating correlations to their implications for individual people by trisecting and cross-tabulating (TACT) variables. This makes correlations intuitively interpretable even without background knowledge. For example, knowing an individual's conscientiousness (lowest, medium or highest third among other people) improves the accuracy of predicting their health by 1.4 percentage points, their child's conscientiousness by 4.2 percentage points, and their job performance by 7.2 percentage points, compared to the random-guess accuracy of 33.3 %. Moreover, there is about 50 % probability that their partner rates their conscientiousness similarly and a 65 % probability that they will score similarly in six years. As a rule of thumb for typical correlations, around 40 % of individuals with a low or high value in one variable have a similar value in the other variable, so statements like "someone high in x is likely to be high in y" are usually incorrect and best avoided.
René Mõttus is an individual differences researcher, working at the Department of Psychology of the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in general patterns in the measurement, development and life-course consequences of personality traits. He also serves as the Editor of the European Journal of Personality and a co-host of the Personality Psychology Podcast.
Our dynamic society is shaped by interactions between people, and between people and their surrounding environment. The mobility of people is a key proxy for indicating socio-spatial and people-nature interactions. Novel data sources, complemented with traditional data, facilitate the analysis of these interactions and how these change in time. Data collected by mobile phones reveal the population level mobility flows of people at different temporal and spatial scales. Content rich social media data may provide more knowledge on the nature of these interactions, and appreciations and preferences of people. In my presentation, I will examine the possibilities of Mobile Big Data to study the mobility of people and their interactions with each other and their environment, drawing from the ongoing research at the Digital Geography Lab.
Tuuli Toivonen is geographer and professor of geoinformatics at the Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki. She leads the transdisciplinary research group Digital Geography Lab. The lab hosts some 15 researchers working together with spatial big data analytics on a human scale for fair and sustainable societies. Her research focuses on understanding dynamics of people and places, in both urban and natural areas, mostly using open/big data, spatial analytics and machine learning approaches. Much of the work examines the mobility and accessibility of people from different perspectives and in different environments, using user-generated data (social media, mobile phone, sports apps, etc.) combined with traditional data sources. Her contributes to urban and human geography, land use and transport planning, sustainability science and conservation geography.
Multilingualism is no new development in human history, but it is and has been a prevalent characteristic of the world's language communities. It is well-known that multilingualism leads to linguistic changes, most notably to borrowed vocabulary but also to grammatical changes, such as changes in word order. Research on language contact has become increasingly popular in the language sciences, but it has been mostly focused on the end results of contact on linguistic structure. Less attention has been given to the social ecology of multilingualism; a state-of-affairs that has also been increasingly noted.
In this talk, I present a new comparative approach to researching language contact that factors in the social ecology of multilingualism. I present the main parts of our research design and show how its different parts (e.g., sampling, variable design, data sources, approach to comparison) have been tailored to fit to each other. My hope is to inspire fresh thoughts on how complex research questions may be approached in an interdisciplinary way.
Kaius Sinnemäki is Associate Professor in Quantitative and Comparative Linguistics at the University of Helsinki and the director of the ERC-funded project "Linguistic Adaptation". He is working mostly on language comparison, language variation and universals, and language complexity by using data from tens or hundreds of languages at the same time. His current research focuses on how the sociolinguistic ecology in which languages are learned and used may affect the way languages change over time. In addition, he has researched the interaction of nationalism, language, and religion, and the theoretical and methodological foundations of language comparison.
The session is a joint event with the Aalto HELDIG DH Pizza.
Conspiracy theories and their global circulation is not a new phenomenon, neither is the fact that the need for explanations and meaning at the time of crisis increases religiosity as well as interest in conspiratorial narratives. It is then not surprising that during the Covid-19 pandemic different types of conspiracy theories have circulated in the global media environment. During the first year of the pandemic conspiracy theories become topical also in Finland and circulating narratives were localized in different ways into our national contexts and sub-cultures.
This talk describes a collaborative sub-study of the research project Politics of Conspiracy Theories (SAPO) which focused on the political utilization of conspiracy theories and the consequences this for media and political life. In the sub-study the Finnish networks and imaginaries of conspiracy theories were studied with a multi-method approach combining virtual ethnography and computational methods (network analysis). Data was collected on Twitter, Telegram and two conservative Christian fringe media outlets. The talk explains the core findings while also exploring some of the methodologic complexities at play in the study.
Associate Professor Katja Valaskivi is one of the research programme directors at HSSH and also heads the new interfaculty Helsinki Research Hub on Religion, Media and Social Change (Heremes). Her research focuses on the circulation of belief systems, worldviews and ideologies from the perspectives of media research and sociology of religion. She is currently the PI in research projects on mediatized religious populism, politics of conspiracy theories as well as the circulation of extremism in the dark web and beyond. Her recent co-authored articles deal with the circulation of hate speech in 4chan after terror attacks (First Monday 2021), the news desk as an attention apparatus in terrorism news coverage (Journalism Practice 2020), the epistemic modes of terrorism news reporting (Journalism 2021) and the countermedia as an integral part of the hybrid media environment (New Media and Society, 2021). coming soon.
One key objective of the population health sciences is to understand why one social group has different levels of health and well-being compared with another. Several methods exist to answer these type of questions, but only recently a method has anchored decompositions within causal inference theory. In this paper, we demonstrate how to implement the causal decomposition using Monte Carlo integration and the parametric g-formula.
Causal decomposition can help to identify the sources of differences across populations and provide researchers with a way to move beyond estimating inequalities to explaining them and determining what can be done to reduce health disparities. Our implementation approach can easily and flexibly be applied for different types of outcome and explanatory variables without having to derive decomposition equations. Ultimately, we outline how to implement a very general decomposition algorithm that is grounded in counterfactual theory but still easy to apply to a wide range of situations.
Maarten J. Bijlsma is assistant professor of precision drug therapy and real world evidence at the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy, University of Groningen (the Netherlands), and former deputy head at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany). Maarten is an applied statistician and epidemiologist with a strong interest in the counterfactual causal inference framework, with a focus on the g-formula to study processes that are interdependent over time.
In the past decade, scientific and public understandings of microbes have undergone considerable changes. Microbes, hitherto predominantly considered as harmful and largely ignored by social scientists, are abundant and now seen to have vital, life sustaining functions within various ecological niches in and outside the body. Simultaneously, increasing antibiotic drug resistance means that common infections and everyday surgical operations are much harder to treat. The changes in microbiological thinking and practices present social sciences opportunities to explore microbiological paradigm shifts and how new futures with microbes can be built.
Studying microbes, however, is not merely about magpie-ing trendy case studies or mapping the zeitgeist. The enquiry brings to light and is confronted by profound limitations in social theory and methodology to address what is at stake. This talk explores the limitations and describes how the Centre of the Social Study of Microbes makes attempts to overcome these with interdisciplinarity, collaboration and experiments in methodology.
Salla Sariola is the Director of the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes at University of Helsinki and a Finnish Academy Research Fellow in sociology. Her current research on the social study of microbes includes exploring changing scientific practices on environmental microbes and antimicrobial resistance as well as developing fermentation as an experimental research method. She is the author of 4 books and her fieldwork has taken her to feminist, queer and HIV activist movements in India and Kenya, hospitals of Sri Lanka, and rural laboratories in Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as fermentation enthusiasts in Finland the Northeast of India.
Martti Vainio is the professor of phonetics and the head of department of the Department of Digital Humanities at the University of Helsinki.
The Evolution of Human Communication as a Co-Operative Tool
Natural language emerged through our ability to speak as a symbolic means for co-operation between individuals. It is based on truthfulness and transparency and it forms the foundation for modern human societies and culture. What speech is and how it relates to the construction of meaning, as well as our shared environment, is not well known. What we know is that speaking links abstract meanings with signifying physical action.
Speech science, thus potentially presents a possibility to link the study of individual and social behaviour with theories arising from natural science. The epistemic links revealed by our communicative behaviour form an epistemic chain from physics and biology to aesthetics and ethics. As such it provides a principled framework for studying how language is related to many societal problems we are currently facing.
In my talk I will present the main events in the natural history of language and discuss how they relate to our speaking as modern humans.
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 unequal outcomes. He also has a methodological focus in developing computational and network approaches for studying complexity in political phenomena.
Activism and Contestations over Climate Politics in Online Space
As social and political behaviour increasingly moves online, social science and humanities researchers are presented with new opportunities to understand the drivers and consequences of behaviour, whatever their topic of interest. At the same time, online platforms present a new set of challenges for research, both in terms of how we conceptualize online behaviour (either in relation to offline behaviour or by itself) and the methodological choices that we must make given the rich but messy data.
Drawing on three studies that look at contestations over climate politics in Twitter space – one of which was recently published in Global Environmental Change, and the others in progress – I demonstrate these opportunities and challenges.
How the research culture of social sciences and humanities should be reformed?
To ensure interdisciplinarity in research, we need concrete incentives that reward interdisciplinary work, especially in terms of hiring and promotion practices. As is, early career researchers are dissuaded from pursuing cross-disciplinary collaboration because on the most critical matters they are still evaluated within disciplinary bounds.
Matti Pohjonen works as a University Researcher at the Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, at the University of Helsinki. He works at the intersection of digital anthropology, philosophy, and data science.
Seeing things, the other way around? Researching global conspiracies during the COVID-19 infodemic
Global concerns around the COVID-19 “infodemic” have resulted in remarkable progress in especially research methods that use large-scale data to map the spread of mis/disinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories online. This presentation discusses research recently published in Social Media + Society that explored how popular conspiracy theories – the 5G conspiracy and the Bill Gates conspiracy – intersected with long-term discourses and political projects in two important sub-Saharan Africa countries: Nigeria and South Africa. Our research suggests that such popular data-driven research approaches, in fact, may have limited explanatory potential once we move to “the rest of the world.” The presentation thus raises theoretical and methodological questions relevant to understanding the COVID-19 “infodemic.” Can research produced primarily in one part of the world sufficiently explain what happens in another part of the world? If not, can we talk about theory in the first place without first trying to situate it somewhere – geographically, culturally, and historically?
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?Anthropologist David Graeber once remarked that anthropologists have historically played the nagging role of gadflies. This is because, he noted, every time “some ambitious European and American theorist appears to make some grandiose generalizations about how human beings go about organizing political, economic, or family life, it’s always the anthropologist who shows up to point out that there are people in Samoa or Tierra del Fuego or Burundi who do things exactly the other way around.” Decolonial philosophy rebels against the idea that knowledge derived from regional examples in usually the US or Europe can be applied to other parts of the world without at least some critical negotiation involved. While in no way advocating anthropology as the preferred method for social sciences and humanities, I would like to nonetheless suggest that social sciences and humanities research culture could also benefit from the philosophical/decolonial debates dealing with this relationship between theory, methods and research in a global context.
Kirsi Pyhältö is professor of higher education at the Center for University Teaching and Learning, and director of Humanities and Social Sciences Doctoral School, at University of Helsinki. She is also an extraordinary professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South-Africa.
The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on University of Helsinki’s PhD candidates’ study progress and study wellbeing
Research and researchers have played a key role in defeating the crises posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provide a core resource for societal recovery after the pandemic and building the means to face such threats in the future. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had its impact on research and researchers, and hence potentially on the future of academia. A few position papers and reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on researchers have been published, but empirical research on the topic is still scarce. Based on the very limited empirical evidence it seems that the futures of particularly early career researchers might be at stake due to the pandemic. This presentation explores the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on UH’s PhD candidates’ progress and wellbeing. Such understanding is key in providing well-fitted support for the PhD candidates to cope with and overcome challenges set by the pandemic.
Risto Saarinen is a Professor of Ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. He has also worked as a Visiting Professor in Aarhus, Strasbourg and Leuven.
Recognition and Religion
In his Brown Bag Lunch talk Professor Saarinen will tell his experiences in a multidisciplinary project. From 2014 to 2019, he was leading an Academy of Finland multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence. The group investigated the mechanisms of inclusion, exclusion, toleration and agreement in religious groups. They also connected with the global scholarship of recognition procedures in philosophy and political science. Some results of this venture are presented in his Brown Bag Lunch.
Professor Saarinen's recent books include Recognition and Religion (Oxford 2016) and the Finnish trilogy Oppi rakkaudesta, luottamuksesta, toivosta (Gaudeamus 2015-2020).
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
“Intensive group work is extremely important, especially after the pandemic isolation. The big data and numerical SSH work still needs to convince the "Humboldtian" branches of humanities of the added value of the datafication taking place in our fields”, says Professor Saarinen.
Ville-Pekka Sorsa is the Director of the UHealth – Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Well-being research profile-building area and the Principal Investigator of the AoF SRC funded project Safeguarding welfare in times of pandemics: towards collaborative governance of syndemics (WELGO).
Enhancing interdisciplinary research through organizational means
The research environment for health and well-being research is becoming increasingly challenging for universities. Gaining access to vital data sources has become costly and new legal barriers to research have emerged. The projectification of research produces collaboration gaps that prevent long-term commitment to research. Few fields of research enjoy high levels of access to research in real-life contexts. Yet, the demands for real-world relevance, applicability and impact are increasing in numerous fields.
Sorsa’s talk discusses the opportunities for tackling the new challenges of changing research environments through organizational means. The focus of the discussion is on the rationale and early experiences of the UHealth profile-building area.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"We need to align the organizational practices and resources of the university better with researchers’ needs. While genuinely new research ideas tend to emerge slowly, our research environments tend to change rapidly. Matching the needs of our researchers and our organizational capacities for engaging with research collaboration with different types of partners require is thus challenging. At UHealth, we explore different ways for organizing the improvement of our matching abilities", says Research Director Ville-Pekka Sorsa.
Professor Åsa von Schoultz holds the Swedish chair in Political Science at University of Helsinki since 2017.
The study of political and social behavior, expanding possibilities for data and approaches
From the perspective of a political scientist the study of political behaviors of citizens and political elites is core. It allows us to analyses and to enrich our understanding of democratic systems and the world we live in, with the citizens providing the input to political life and electing our political representatives, and the political elites making the actual decisions that decides on the future direction of our societies. But the study of behavioral research at large is of course of much broader relevance to researchers in the social sciences.
Over the last two decades the methodological tools and perhaps in particular the availability of data used for analyzing the behaviors (including attitudes, values and actual behaviors) of citizens as well as political elites has developed rapidly. Traditional forms of survey research has moved from national programs to internationally coordinated efforts with increasing possibilities for comparative research. Online panels in combination with survey experimental approaches allows for longitudinal studies of opinion change, and provides stronger basis for causal claims.
New, rich sources of data such as Voting Advice Applications gives intriguing insights into parties’ internal diversity. There seems to be endless possibilities for a richer understanding of what drives behaviors and opinions; possibilities that craves methodological expertise, building of “soft” infrastructures and interdisciplinary collaborations.
In this talk Professor von Schoultz will discuss the development in the field of political behavior from a data (and methods) oriented perspective, and the possibilities it entails for behavioral research more broadly. She will also present an initiative for a social science infrastructure designed for behavioral research.
Professor von Schoultz specializes in research on the political behavior of political elites and voters, primarily focusing on perceptions on democratic processes and competition within parties. von Schoultz is newly elected Director of the Finnish National Election Study (FNES) and is the PI of the Finnish Parliamentary Candidates Study (2011-).
Just errors? Towards reflective use of computers in social science
Social scientists are increasingly applying machine learning approaches to analyse data. However, machine learning process require making procedural choices. Researchers have shown that these processes are sensitive to made choices. In the worst case, scholars may accept or reject an hypothesis due to procedural choices, not due to a phenomena existing in the data.
Nelimarkka´s talk opens up this can of worms and highlights how our scholarly practices require more methodological research but also increasing reflexivity on our research practices. What can machine learning methods learn from the decades of discussion and development which has supported other social science research methods?
Matti Nelimarkka leads the Helsinki Social Computing Group, and interdiciplinary group focused on computers in social science. Their research focuses on digital democracy and computational techniques in social sciences, especially workflows and questions related to validity and reliability of research outcomes.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"I think we need to slow down and focus more on building social capital than crunch out new papers. Discovering new ideas is time consuming and often meeting new people and engaging with them helps in this process. At the same time, we need to carefully think how to build our own competences to do as good research as possible: digitalisation and datafication have already changed the society and we need to keep up with the change."
The National Library of Finland as a partner in the research
The National Library of Finland provides a wide selection of research data for researchers – from medieval fragments to the latest tweets. The most extensive and most used digital collection is digitized newspapers available from the past 250 years.
In their Brown Bag Lunch presentation specialists Liisa Näpärä and Juha Rautiainen will briefly tell about the digital collections of National Library of Finland. In addition, they will talk about the research services under development.
Data produced by the National Library of Finland, such as ontologies and metadata from collections, are freely available to all. The aim is to make the digitized material from the collections as widely available as possible. Materials in limited use, such as the web archive and electronic legal deposits, can be examined at the local libraries.
The aim of the research services under development in National Library of Finland is a new research culture in which researchers and cultural heritage organizations work together to develop the use and quality of materials.
Liisa Näpärä works as a planning officer in the Digital Open Memory (DAM/DOM) project founded by the European Regional Development Fund. The aim of the project is to enhance the usability of digital materials and the renewal of research services from the perspective of developing data services.
Juha Rautiainen works as an information systems specialist at the National Library of Finland. He specializes in research data services, digitalized materials and related licensing solutions.
Petri Ylikoski is Professor of Science and Technology Studies and the Vice-Dean for Research at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Data literacy for responsible decision-making
Data literacy for responsible decision-making (DATALIT) is a project funded by Strategic Research Council that start from the idea that data literacy is a precondition for responsible and evidence-based decision-making.
Data literacy consists of understanding data and epistemic, ethical, legal, and technical questions related to it. It is founded on a grasp of the processes of collecting, processing, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data. This provides a basis for understanding how data, and the models built on it, can serve as evidence and the inferences they allow.
In his speech, professor Ylikoski will discuss the relevance of the project for the SSH-fields, focusing especially on possibilities of developing philosophy of data that does not respect disciplinary boundaries. The project involves researchers in computer science, sociology, law, cognitive science and philosophy.
"It provides a basis for understanding both the limitations and opportunities of data. Improved data literacy means better decision-making, more realistic expectations about the possibilities of data analytics, and sharper critical discourse on future dangers", describes professor Ylikoski the importance of data literacy in an interview of University of Helsinki.
Professor Ylikoski´s research has covered scientific understanding, the relations between biological and human sciences, and basic questions in sociological theory. Currently he has been interested in institutional epistemology, the use of computational methods in the social sciences, and the challenges of causal complexity in understanding socio-ecological phenomena.
How the research culture of SSH-fields should be renewed?
“The self-understanding of humanities and social sciences is too much based on a contrast to outdated image of natural sciences. For the future, it would be important to pay attention to the actual diversity of disciplines and finding more commonalities. Science studies can be a great help in this.”
Esa Väliverronen is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Helsinki. He is interested in the role of science in society and culture.
Academic freedom and researchers’ freedom of expression under threat
Problems with academic freedom and researchers’ freedom of expression have emerged in several countries over the past decade. Although in a democratic society science is rarely subject to direct censorship, various latent mechanisms limit academic and the freedom of expression. These problems relate, on the one hand, to the increasing political and economic instrumentalization of research and, on the other hand, to intimidating and silencing researchers in public arenas. I seek to open up these mechanisms and practices.
Recently, Väliverronen has studied the role of science in changing media landscape, academic freedom and researchers’ freedom of expression ,and the expansion expertise in public discourses on health, vaccinations and the Covid-19 epidemic. He leads the research group Mediating Expertise.
The collection of articles by Professor Väliverronen and researcher Kai Ekholm, Tieteen vapaus ja tutkijan sananvapaus (pdf, Finnish) was recently awarded the Science Book of the Year 2021 Prize. The award was given by The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The chapters of the book have been written by 17 researchers from different disciplines: from natural sciences and social sciences to humanities and technology research.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
”It may be a good idea to throw yourself outside your comfort zone and join public discussions or media interviews on topics that you have not yet actually researched. There you may come across researchers from different fields with whom you create joint writing or research projects. ”
Eva Heiskanen serves as a professor at the Centre for Consumer Society Research at the University of Helsinki. Her research has focused on the societal adoption of new technology, in particular new energy technologies, with an emphasis on social organization, local learning and user and citizen involvement from the perspectives of STS, innovation studies and practice theory.
Towards critical research on the energy transition: multidisciplinarity and multivocality
The energy transition refers to a growing share of intermittent, fossil-free power production in the energy system, which is integrated increasingly with transport, buildings, storage and flexible demand, thus highlighting the role of energy users.
Until now, most of the energy transition research has been techno-economic, but the social impacts are gaining increasing attention, including issues of fairness. In ongoing research, professor Heiskanen attempts to combine both discursive and material connections between everyday life and the energy transition using Noortje Marres’ concept of “attachments”. Through this, she reflects on prospects for multidisciplinarity in energy-related HSS.
Professor Eva Heiskanen has been WP leader in the Strategic Research project Smart Energy Transition, and several other related projects on e.g. everyday practices and intermediaries. Her current Academy-funded project, Citizens, Everyday Life and Tensions in the Energy Transition attempts to provide a new perspective on current discussions on resistance to transitions, ownership of the energy transition and energy justice by zooming into tensions that are common to particular everyday life situations rather than locations.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"It would be nice to collaborate more with colleagues within the UH. There isn’t really any practical context for this since external funding promotes consortia with external partners."
Sarah Green is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki. She is a specialist on borders, spatial relations, gender and sexuality, and information and communications technologies.
On the language of maps and mapping: a multidisciplinary debate
Maps are everywhere these days, to the extent that we hardly even notice them: anyone who uses digital technologies for just about anything will be used to seeing maps. During the Covid-19 pandemic, maps appeared everywhere, showing how densely the virus had spread into which parts of the world; during the height of the Mediterranean migration emergency, maps constantly appeared in the media to show the flows of migration - all kinds of arrows stretching across the map, giving the impression of a forceful wave overwhelming huge areas of the planet.
The experience of looking up locations on mapping apps on smartphones and other digital devices has become almost second nature. Yet few people question maps in the same way that many have learned to critically question texts or pictures.
In her talk Green describes the encounter between two disciplinary approaches: the anthropology of space, place, location, environment and borders, and the geographical expertise of cartography, to open a conversation about the language of maps and mapping, and how different disciplines might critically examine that.
Professor Green has been researching issues related to the anthropology of borders, location, space, place and environment, especially in the Balkans and the Mediterranean regions, for most of her career, though she has also worked on the anthropology of gender and sexuality, as well as digital technologies. Throughout, she has worked with multi-disciplinary research teams, particularly with those specializing on space and environment: geographers, geologists, palaeobotanists, archaeologists, GIS specialists, etc.
She is currently the PI of an ERC Advanced Grant called Crosslocations. Her approach towards multi-disciplinary research can be broadly described as the promotion of collaboration among experts: we need disciplinary expertise in order to effectively work .
Image: Covid-19 map from Johns Hopkins University.
Eetu Mäkelä is an associate professor in Human Sciences–Computing Interaction (HSCI) in HELDIG at the University of Helsinki. Take a closer look into Mäkelä´s research career and interests on his website.
How to do trustworthy data-centric research in the humanities and social sciences?
Led by associate professor Eetu Mäkelä, the HSCI research group seeks to figure out the technological, processual and theoretical underpinnings of successful data-centric research in the humanities and social sciences. In doing so, the group develops technical tools, algorithms and workflows, but also studies ways to better structure the research process overall. The HSCI research group also work on the theoretical level, for example evaluating the epistemological soundness of different ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative modes of research.
The group’s primary approach in doing this has been to partner simultaneously with multiple projects in the humanities and social sciences. Through working with projects that operate in different subfields, but still have commonalities in either data or analysis needs, the group have been able to see past individual scenarios, identifying instead needs and problems common to all data-centric SSH research.
In his talk, Mäkelä will shortly present the common problems The HSCI research group have identified
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"The field would benefit from being able to better relate to each other the different options of conducting research, from the lone scholar to large interdisciplinary, integrated-methods research groups. Through a better understanding of the benefits and limitations of each approach, and also how they can be integrated, researchers would then be able to make more informed choices in planning their research.
However, our understanding of how the different methodological approaches relate to each other is not a matter conclusively solved in itself. Thus, to attain this, targeted research would be needed into both the practice as well as the epistemological foundations of how to integrate different modes of research."
Professor Risto Kunelius leads the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities. He specializes in research on the relationship between the media and politics, as well as communication related to climate change. He started as a professor of communication at the University of Helsinki in 2019.
On “datafication”: thoughts under construction
“Datafication” is a neologism that has invaded both academic and popular debates recently. It refers simultaneously to developments in the field of research (what kind of data becomes available and what kind of analyses data flows enable) and to infrastructural changes in communication patterns of institutional and social order (consumption, mobility of goods, political participation, etc.).
These closely and intensively interlinked aspects of datafication pose (to put it mildly) a timely and complex challenge to social science and humanities. The new Academy of Finland profiling action grant for Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities promises to gather our efforts to make sense of this.
In this talk I will start to develop three arguments/questions, by
Niilo Kauppi is a political sociologist and Visiting professor at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. He is also Directeur de recherche at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg. Currently he is on leave from that position.
Kim Zilliacus is a political scientist and University lecturer at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki.
From Information Society to Datafication - Conceptualising Political and Technological Change
This presentation focuses on the relationship between political and technological change from the perspective of how this dynamic relationship has been conceptualised in broad social scientific analyses of contemporary societies with a point of departure in political sociology.
The massive growth of ICTs constitutes a key factor in defining this transformation of societies, which has been theorised in terms of a succession of various versions of society starting from the Information society, Post-industrial society and Postmodern society to the Network society. As the explosion of digital communication is growing increasingly personalised and algorithmatised, its shock waves are mounting into more and more sophisticated and versatile new forms of power and influence (e.g. GAFA).
This rising dependence and utilisation of data and digital technologies have become major determinants of any political activity, highlighting some of the key political and societal dilemmas of datafication in need of rigorous conceptual and empirical inquiries.
Kauppi´s areas of interest include French politics and culture, European integration, higher education and research policies. He has collaborated on numerous research projects in Europe and was recently awarded the Mattei Dogan Foundation Prize as a key influence in European Political Sociology.
Zilliacus´ research interests include comparative politics, public opinion, political communication, value change and online politics. He has been visiting researcher and lecturer at Australian, New Zealand and Swedish universities as partner of comparative research projects and coordinator of education projects on international curricula and digital learning environments.
How the research culture of social sciences and humanities should be reformed?
"Research in SHS would profit from a concerted effort by the HSSH and the scholarly community to demonstrate the social relevance of its research to the funders and the general public. This relevance is especially clear with respect to the current covid-19 crisis, as the outcome of scientific innovations and the management of the crisis are dependent on the knowledge governance of public institutions and the corresponding perceptions and competence of the public.
More broadly, this refocus on public health knowledge highlights the key role of the ‘dataficated’ interaction between political leaders/experts and the citizens. There is a need for current SHS research of datafication to provide some clues to solving the serious challenges of transforming public data into public knowledge that this major global crisis has exposed to such a comparatively revealing extent."
Katja Valaskivi is Associate Professor of Religion and the Digital World in the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities and Faculty of Theology. Valaskivi specializes in research of media, religion and societal change and is currently studying terrorism, conspiracism and extremism the contemporary digital media environment. In three current research projects she develops mixed method approaches with multidisciplinary teams.
Methodological challenges in studying violent media events
When a terror attack, natural disaster or a systemic failure takes place, we get information about it though different media channels and outlets. The collective process of figuring out of what happened, and understanding the significance of what has taken place, begins immediately after the event. What becomes meaningful, in which contexts depends on the actors taking part and the affordances or socio-technical practices of the media environment that contribute to the circulation and accumulation of attention in the aftermath.
Drawing on experiences in several past and ongoing research initiatives this talk addresses some of the challenges encountered in different stages of research in studying violent, disruptive media events: from building a multi-disciplinary team, to collecting natively digital data on the go, mixed method analysis and publishing multidisciplinary work.
Before her current position Valaskivi worked as the Director for Tampere Research Centre of Journalism, Media and Communication (COMET) at University of Tampere. Her recent authored and co-authored books include Cool Nations. Media and the Social Imaginary of the Branded Country (2016, Routledge), Traces of Fukushima. Global Events, Networked Media and Circulating Emotions and Hybrid Media Events (2019, Palgrave McMillan) and The Charlie Hebdo Attacks and the Global Circulation of Terrorist Violence (2018, Emerald).
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"Multidisciplinarity is often recognized as something that takes place between SSH and STEM research. There are, however, many untapped possibilities for different fields of humanities and social sciences to learn from each other. Both can benefit from the collaboration now initiated by HSSH through sharing best practices, methodological innovations and practical solutions. Developing sustainable ways for remote collaborative work is one of the biggest challenges all fields of research face right now."
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.
Data, evidence and mixed methods research
Mixed methods research is becoming increasingly popular in the social sciences – especially in political science - with its own dedicated journal and a number of alternative frameworks providing guidelines for conducting research combining multiple methodologies and kinds of data (usually quantitative and qualitative). The value-added of mixed methods is contested, however, as there is disagreement on the rationale and practicability of combining different methodologies with different epistemological and ontological presuppositions.
I argue that mixed methods frameworks presuppose that kinds of data, method, and results always go hand in hand and that this is a mistake. In order to clarify the rationale of mixed methods, I present a distinction between kinds of data and kinds of evidence, and between three distinct ways in which having a variety of evidence can be epistemically valuable: triangulation, integration and security.
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.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"My personal ambition is to build and teach methodologies for a more explanatory and solution oriented social science. This scientific agenda falls broadly within the methodological school of analytical sociology in emphasizing the importance of mechanism-based middle-range theorizing and research heuristics, experimentation and causal inference - without forgetting the necessity of interpretive methods."
Pirjo Aunio is a professor in Special Education at the University of Helsinki.
Multidisciplinary approach to young children’s learning and learning difficulties
Professor Aunio describes how her research group´s approach has been taking steps towards true multidisciplinary research. She leads the Active Numeracy –research group, which employs researchers from special education, psychology and sport science as well as experts in laser and sensor technology. Aunio will also share some of future ideas to use sensors and other technology to detect children’s learning behaviour related to the learning environment.
Professor Aunio specializes in researching the development and learning of mathematical skills, as well as the difficulties associated with them. Her central aim is to find ways to identify and support children who have difficulty learning mathematical skills.
Dr. Riikka Koulu is an assistant professor (Social and Legal Implications of AI) at the Faculties of Social Sciences and Law.
Automated decision making: the legal system making sense of algorithms
Koulu's informal presentation sheds light to the on-going legislative reform in Finland, which aims to regulate automated decision making in public administration. Koulu addresses the proposal as an example of the different ways in which the legal system hopes to capture changes in everyday practices caused by algorithmisation of society.
Since 2016, she is also the director of University of Helsinki Legal Tech Lab an interdisciplinary research hub that examines the interrelationships between law, technology and society. Her current research interests include proceduralisation, datafication and automation of legal decision making and socio-legal conceptualisations of the computational turn.
How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?
"In my opinion, robust interdisciplinary research culture starts with open dialogue and willingness to learn from one another. At times it is scary to admit one does not understand what the other person is saying and why it is important. But by asking the deceptively simple questions and taking the time to explain the complexity behind one's reasoning takes us forward and opens up new lines of thought."
What can be extracted from big data qualitatively?
Damaged and residual media forms tend to become sidelined, or are treated as marginal phenomena, as primacy in research is assigned to processes of novelty and progress. Broken world thinking moves these neglected phenomena to the center of the inquiry, calling for analytical and methodological renewal and imagination. Ruckenstein’s presentation discusses a study that used the Suomi24 dataset, organized to expose the topical structure of anonymous online conversations, in the exploration of the patterned nature of conversational breakages.
The presentation argues for circumventing the limitations of qualitative and quantitative methods and learning how to mix them with care to cross-fertilize research that is comfortable examining the studied phenomenon with both large data sets and qualitative inquiry. If broken and messy aspects of anonymous conversations are cleaned away from the data analysis, we are offered a purified perspective onto media engagements. With a detailed understanding of the breakages, emerging from the repetitive and asocial aspects of current discussion culture, we can broaden the research agenda, but also think of whether and how anonymous conversations could be repaired.
Ruckenstein researches digitization / dataification from the perspective of everyday life, communities and society. Ongoing projects explore everyday algorithm concepts, the division of labor between man and machine, and the ethical and political dimensions of the use of artificial intelligence. In addition, research related to the humanization of automatic decision-making is underway.
Mikko Tolonen is an associate professor (tenure track) in digital humanities at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki.
How can historical material be studied and utilized using digital methods?
With the spread of digitization and computer-assisted methods, there has also been a shift in the humanities from the work done by individual researchers towards multidisciplinary research teams. One example of this is the Computational History Research Group (COMHIS). The presentation introduces the latest research and the operating philosophy of the group. Tolonen will speak in English.
The presentation discusses how integrated multidisciplinary can be implemented in the social sciences and humanities. Tolonen introduces that substance know-how must be anchored in the “traditional” research tradition in order to be relevant and effective. Tolonen is historian, but the presentation concerns the humanistic and social science research field more generally.
Mikko Tolonen is a pioneer in digital humanities. For him, the digital humanities means the use of modern data processing methods in the study of fundamental questions in human sciences using extensive digital research materials. He strongly believes in the potential of interdisciplinarity. In his career, Tolonen has even been frustrated by how much, after all, the introduction of very simple digital methods is lagging behind in humanities research.