Past Brown Bag Lunch events

Information about past Brown Bag Lunch events held in 2020-2021.
7.12.2021 Martti Vainio: The Evolution of Human Communication as a Co-Operative Tool

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.

23.11.2021 Ted Chen: Activism and Contestations over Climate Politics in Online Space

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.


9.11.2021 Matti Pohjonen: Researching global conspiracies during the COVID-19 infodemic

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.

26.10.2021 Kirsi Pyhältö: The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on University of Helsinki’s PhD candidates’ study progress and study wellbeing

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.

12.10.2021 Risto Saarinen: Recognition and Religion

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.

28.9.2021 Ville-Pekka Sorsa: Enhancing interdisciplinary research through organizational means

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.


18.5.2021 Åsa von Schoultz: The study of political and social behavior, expanding possibilities for data and approaches

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-).


4.5.2021 Matti Nelimarkka: Just errors? Towards reflective use of computers in social science

Matti Nelimarkka is a researcher at the Centre for Social Data Science and visiting researcher at Aalto University, Department of Computer Science and Futurice.

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."


20.4.2021 National Library of Finland: The National Library of Finland as a partner in the research

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.

6.4.2021 Petri Ylikoski: Data lit­er­acy for re­spons­ible de­cision-mak­ing

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.”

23.3.2021 Esa Väliverronen: Aca­demic free­dom and re­search­ers’ free­dom of ex­pres­sion un­der threat

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. ”

9.3.2021 Eva Heiskanen: To­wards crit­ical research on the en­ergy trans­ition: mul­tidiscip­lin­ar­ity and mul­tivoc­al­ity

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."


23.2.2021 Sarah Green: On the language of maps and map­ping – a mul­tidiscip­lin­ary de­bate

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.

9.2.2021 Eetu Mäkelä: How to do trust­worthy data-cent­ric research in the hu­man­it­ies and so­cial sciences?

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

  1.  inherent in non-standard big data, and
  2. in the actual practice of interdisciplinary research, and how the research group have sought to develop tools, processes and theoretical foundations to tackle them.

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."

26.1.2021 Risto Kunelius: On “datafic­a­tion”: thoughts un­der con­struc­tion

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

  1. situating “datafication” to a longer narrative of my own research field (communication, media, in particular), drafting a narrative about the interplay of research and society – and emphasizing the need to look at this evolving intellectual and ideological landscape with at least a relatively long perspective,
  2. reflecting on this narrative with some remarks on broader strands of social theory, their interplay and limits, and
  3. drafting some questions for the SSH academic research today.
15.12.2020 Niilo Kauppi & Kim Zilliacus: From Infor­mation Society to Datafic­a­tion - Con­cep­tu­al­ising Polit­ical and Tech­no­lo­gical Change

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."


1.12.2020 Katja Valaskivi: Meth­od­o­lo­gical chal­lenges in study­ing vi­ol­ent me­dia events

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."


17.11.2020 Jaakko Kuorikoski: Data, evid­ence and mixed meth­ods research

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."


3.11.2020 Pirjo Aunio: Mul­tidiscip­lin­ary approach to young chil­dren’s learning and learning dif­fi­culties

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.

20.10.2020 Riikka Koulu: Auto­mated de­cision mak­ing - the legal sys­tem mak­ing sense of algorithms

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."

6.10.2020 Minna Ruckenstein: What can be ex­trac­ted from big data qual­it­at­ively?

Minna Ruckenstein works as an associate professor in The Centre for Consumer Society Research and HELDIG. @minruc

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.

29.9.2020 Mikko Tolonen: How can his­tor­ical ma­ter­ial be stud­ied and util­ized us­ing digital meth­ods?

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.