Experiences from the Visiting Professor Program

Read more about Visiting Professors experiences and contributions at the City Centre Campus of the University of Helsinki.
Barbara Pfetsch (Freie Universität Berlin)

An inspiring visit to Helsinki

HSSH Visiting Professor Program strengthens international cooperation by bringing internationally recognized scholars for visits at the City Center Campus of the University of Helsinki.

Barbara Pfetsch, Professor of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research at Freie Universität Berlin is a Visiting Professor at HSSH in 2022–2024. She has visited the University of Helsinki several times and has collaborated with many researchers on different projects and plans for future projects.

Professor Pfetsch’s research revolves around questions of political issue networks, public debate and mobilization on social media and other digital platforms.

“During my visits in 2022 and 2023 I gave talks about election campaigns of right wing parties in Europe, the constitution of solidarity in civil society, and the protest and digital mobilization in environmental conflicts,” Professor Pfetsch says.

“I used my stay to exchange with Juha Herkman, Emilia Palonen and Anu Kantola about ongoing projects and to initiate new collaborations with Risto Kunelius, Matti Pohjonen and Juho Pääkkönen. The new projects deal with coordinated (in)authentic behavior and scaling of social movement communication.”

The projects which have been planned are a part of an institutional liaison between HSSH and the Weizenbaum-Institute for the Networked Society Berlin. A workshop in Berlin next year is planned to continue and strengthen the collaboration. Professor Pfetsch feels that the collaboration has been rewarding.

“During my visits I attended the research seminars at HSSH and was introduced to the work of young researchers. The discussions were inspiring because I learned about the research agenda of Finnish scholars which is not known abroad. I also profited from the expertise and excellence in computational methods and data analysis which is present at the HSSH. Finally, thanks to the international exchange activities at UH I met other fellows from the US and Israel in Helsinki who presented their projects,” she says.

“I enjoy the open mindedness and the friendly atmosphere at HSSH, the multidisciplinary approach to research and the plurality of perspectives."

Ewan Jones (Downing College, Cambridge)

HSSH's Visiting Professor Programme strengthens international cooperation by bringing internationally recognized researchers to the City Centre Campus of the University of Helsinki. The program runs from 2022 to 2025, and with two previous application rounds 13 researchers from different parts of the world have visited Helsinki. The visits will continue during the fall semester, and at the same time the programme's third round of applications will begin.

Ewan Jones, Assistant Professor of English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge visited the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki during late March and early April. Jones' visit to Helsinki was coordinated by Senior University Lecturer in English Philology Merja Polvinen from the University of Helsinki.

The Visiting Professors' programme during their visits includes, for example, public lectures and participation in the activities of research groups on the City Centre Campus. During his visit, Ewan Jones gave a lecture on his latest research on attention and distraction in 18th and 19th-century science and culture.

"In his official program this was the presentation aimed more at those interested in the traditional study of literature and culture. In addition, we organized a workshop on the use of computational methods in the study of the history of ideas, language, and literature. There, Ewan discussed the work of Cambridge Concept Lab, and there the focus was more on the methods available for the analysis of large amounts of data," Merja Polvinen says.

In addition, Jones participated in a research seminar in the field of English literature and met with Doctoral Researchers. The collaboration took place in the Faculty of Arts between several research groups. The collaboration included the Instrumental Narratives project (iNARR), funded by the Academy of Finland, which focuses on the analysis of the narrative form and the consideration of its cognitive and social roles. VARIENG, The Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English, on the other hand, represented research in linguistics. This unit uses many corpus methods to map the properties of various texts, including fiction. Also central was the Digital Humanities unit, from which Professor Mikko Tolonen was the second host of the visit. The themes of the visit – literary research, corpus linguistics and history of ideologies – were based on these three research groups.

The visit was a positive experience overall, and all parties are open to doing another one in the future, even though there are currently no concrete plans. Discussions and cooperation will also continue remotely.

"During both the visiting lecture and the workshop, there was a lively discussion about how digital methods, close reading and consideration of the historical context can support each other. There are still plenty of challenges, because starting from one angle can easily make invisible some information that is central to other disciplines. However, the idea may not be to reach the end point of the process, but to build feedback loops between different results and methods. Such discussions with Ewan were particularly fruitful, as he is one of the few researchers who has a very keen eye for the traditional reading of texts, their historical contexts, as well as being an expert on what computational methods can do," Polvinen says.