Past Brown Bag Seminar events 2022-2023
Information about past Brown Bag Seminar events in 2022-2023.
23.5.2023 Xenia Zeiler

Researching Video Games and Gamevironments around the Globe

This talk introduces to the theoretical and methodical approach of gamevironments, a concept that literally merges the terms “games/gaming” – “environments” (Radde-Antweiler, Waltemathe and Zeiler 2014) and argues to broaden the study of video games, gaming and culture beyond media-centred approaches. Gamevironments research (which has methodical and theoretical implications) highlights recipient perspectives and actor-centred research that reaches beyond studying gamers only to include all persons who are influenced by games (e.g., persons producing or watching gaming videos).

Another important benefit of the concept is that it includes both the technical and the cultural environments of video games and gaming. That is, as much as the concept acknowledges the benefit of studying, e.g., game production as a technical environment it also acknowledges specific (partly regional defined) cultural and social contexts. Globally, regional cultural specifics play an increasing role in game development. Numerous award-winning games attest for this (e.g., Never Alone as a collaboration of game makers and Alaska Native Iñupiat storytellers and elders, or Raji which consciously implements aspects of Indian regional traditions, Hindu mythology and aesthetics).

Xenia Zeiler is Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Cultures, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki. Her research and teaching are situated at the intersection of digital media, culture, and society, specifically as related to India and global Indian communities. Her focus within this wider field of digital culture is video games and gaming research, in India and beyond. Closely related to and supporting this are her other major research areas: In order to understand how digital spaces such as social media or video games, and more traditional media formats such as film or TV, shape and are shaped by various actors, she researches and teaches digital religion, popular culture, cultural heritage, and mediatization processes.

16.5.2023 Elina Einiö

How to study families of same-sex couples using register data?

With gradually increasing social and legal recognition of same-sex couples and their right to family life, the number of female same-sex couples with children has steadily increased. In this talk, I will talk about how past and current relationships and family lives of the members of same-sex couples can and cannot be studied, using population registers from Finland. The talk aims to shed new light on the intersection between legal and social changes and their connections to developments in population registers.  

Elina Einiö is a university lecturer in demography with the Population Research Unit at the University of Helsinki with an interest in family demography and social epidemiology. She holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Helsinki and has a special interest in the history of administrative databases. Her current research focuses on changes in family diversity, especially in relationship to wellbeing of children and adults in same-sex parented families. She has published articles on topics related to family research in leading demographic, epidemiological, and family research journals, including the Journal of Marriage and Family, Population Studies, the American Journal of Epidemiology, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

9.5.2023 Jouni Tuominen, Petri Leskinen & Heikki Rantala

ParliamentSampo: Parliament of Finland on the Semantic Web

ParliamentSampo is a linked open data research infrastructure of Finnish parliamentary data based on some million speeches extracted from the minutes of the plenary sessions of the Parliament of Finland (PoF) 1907–2022. The speech data has been interlinked with a biographical knowledge graph about the Members of Parliament (MP) and other speakers in the plenary sessions of the PoF, and enriched by linking it to external data sources. Knowledge extraction techniques based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) were used for automatic semantic annotation and topical classification of the speeches (2015–2022).

In this talk, we outline the process of creating the ParliamentSampo dataset based on different data sources and present the portal and open data publication for enabling digital humanities research on political culture, language and activities of politicians in Finland.

Jouni Tuominen is a university researcher at the Methodological Unit at the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Helsinki, and a staff scientist at the Department of Computer Science, Aalto University.

Petri Leskinen is a doctoral researcher at the Department of Computer Science, Aalto University and at Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG), University of Helsinki.

Heikki Rantala is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Computer Science, Aalto University.

2.5.2023 Mladen Popović

The Dating Problem of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Using AI, Radiocarbon and Palaeography

I will briefly talk about a solution I sought for a basic problem in my field of studies, the dating problem of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient manuscripts bear no specific dates. In a general way there is agreement on their dating between the third century BCE and the second century CE but the specifics are more tricky. The direction for a solution I sought in combining different disciplines. For reliable time markers across the time-line, new radiocarbon dates. And then using the corresponding handwritten style features in those tested manuscripts for reverse date estimation for undated manuscripts from the collection by applying machine-learning-based writing style analysis. In addition to these two disciplines, radiocarbon and AI, there is also palaeography from the humanities that comes into play to interpet the outcomes. In my talk I will focus on the use of these three disciplines for tackling the dating problem of the scrolls.

Mladen Popović studied at the University of Groningen, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Yale University. He conducted archaeological research in Megiddo and Jerusalem. Popović is  head of the Qumran Institute of the University of Groningen, which has a leading role within the Netherlands in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As of September 2017, Popovic has been appointed as the dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies.

Popović is a Visiting Professor at HSSH in 2022 (visit postponed to 2023).

25.4.2023 Veikko Isotalo

Designing voting advice applications (VAAs)

Voting advice applications have become an integral part of election campaigns in many West-European countries. Finland is no exception in this regard, as VAAs are now used by half of the electorate. The usage is especially high among young voters, who paradoxically, are the least active voters. The expansion of the VAA userbase brings into question whether VAAs can successfully serve the informational needs of heterogenous groups of voters.  

YouthVAA research project attempts to increase our knowledge on how VAAs are used. We also aim to employ this knowledge and co-design a VAA with young people so it would be tailored with young voters’ needs in mind.  

In this talk, I will provide an overview of what is known about the effects of VAA usage and discuss our data collection regarding the 2023 Finnish parliamentary elections. 

Veikko Isotalo is a doctoral researcher in the faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. 

18.4.2023 Hannu Lahtinen

Educational tracking and the polygenic prediction of education

Although individuals’ genetic inheritance influences their educational attainment, our understanding how these influences vary across differing educational institutional contexts is still limited. In an educational system that does not separate pupils into different tracks early, individuals’ unique skills and interests may have more time to manifest, which potentially strengthens the genetic prediction of education. We test such a hypothesis exploiting the natural experiment of Finnish comprehensive school reform employed gradually and regionally across the country between 1972 and 1977, using genetically informed population-representative surveys linked to data from administrative registers.

We observed that the polygenic prediction increased after the reform by one-third among men and those coming from low-educated families. We observed no evidence for reform effect among women or those from high-educated families. The increase in genetic prediction was particularly pronounced among the first cohort experiencing the new system. From the perspective of genetic prediction, the reform to a more universalist curriculum was successful in promoting equality of opportunity. The results also highlight the potential of various turbulent circumstances – such as puberty or ongoing restructuration of institutional practices – in magnifying genetic effects.

Hannu Lahtinen is a post-doctoral researcher in the Population Research Unit of the University of Helsinki.

11.4.2023 Katarina Petterson

Studying microecological segregation in Helsinki – methodological challenges and possibilities

Social psychological research on group processes and intergroup relations has demonstrated the beneficial effects that positive intergroup contact can have, such as reducing levels of prejudice and racism and increasing positive and reducing negative emotions towards the outgroup. Nevertheless, existing research on formal segregation and contact has failed to account for why, in supposedly integrated settings, segregation prevails in people's everyday lives.

Seeking to fill this gap in the literature, the present project aims to provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary account of micro-level intergroup contact in the Nordic context. To this end, we deploy methodological triangulation – combining observational census, a survey study, experience sampling methodology (ESM), and walking interviews. We argue that a multimethodological approach is vital for examining and furthering our understanding of everyday patterns of contact and segregation in naturalistic settings.

Katarina Pettersson is assistant professor in social psychology at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include political discourse, intergroup relations and polarisation, social identities, and the social consequences of nationalist and anti-immigration political mobilisation.

4.4.2023 Minttu Tikka, Henna Paakki & Kaisla Kajava

Mixed Methods, Mixed Results? What Does it Take to Combine Qualitative and Computational Approaches?

In this seminar talk, we briefly present three on-going projects of the CRAI-CIS research group, which employ a mix of qualitative and computational research methods. Drawing on media studies, cognitive linguistics, and conversation analysis, these projects combine digital ethnography, conceptual metaphor identification, and close reading with various computational methods. Based on insights emerging from these projects investigating empirical research questions around crises and artificial intelligence, we reflect on three key themes around conducting mixed methods.

Firstly, we address the importance of acknowledging the differences in paradigmatic thinking between the scientific disciplines where these methods are rooted. Secondly, while interdisciplinary research is trending, bridging language gaps between these disciplines may be challenging and time-consuming, but necessary for achieving meaningful mixed-methods research outcomes. Finally, we discuss how the integration of these approaches is a process of alternation and adaptation, where their roles might change throughout different phases of research.

Dr. Minttu Tikka is a postdoctoral researcher with a background in Media and Communication Studies and Henna Paakki and Kaisla Kajava are doctoral researchers in Computational Linguistics. They are all researchers in CRAI-CIS research group at Aalto University: CRAI-CIS research group utilizes inter-disciplinary approaches to research the relationship between AI and society, and the societal impacts of AI-technologies on hybrid-media crisis narratives.

28.3.2023 Livia Holden

Mixed methods for cultural expertise: challenges and results

This talk will present the methodological design and choices of EURO-EXPERT, ERC funded project title Cultural Expertise in Europe: What is it useful for? The Principal Investigator of EURO-EXPERT will introduce the theoretical approach, and the methodological dilemmas of collecting data on cultural expertise as new theoretical framework that covers fragmented and diverse practices in court and out-of-court dispute resolution and processes of ascertainment of rights. The talk will then overview the results of the project and engage in considerations regarding the potential continuation and development beyond the life of EURO-EXPERT.

Livia Holden (PhD – School of Oriental and African Studies University of London) leads the following projects: Cultural Expertise in Europe: What is it useful for? (EURO-EXPERT) and CULTEXP Proof of Concept, both funded by the European Researc Council (ERC), and Cultural Expertise in South Asia and in Europe, funded by the ISRF. She is Director of Research at the CNRS and affiliated with the Institut de Sciences Juridique et Philosophique de la Sorbonne. She is also affiliated with CHAD Paris Nanterre. She regularly provides expert opinions for cases pertaining to immigration law, family law, and criminal law in the United Kingdom, United States and the Netherlands.

21.3.2023 Wesa Perttola & Satu Koivisto

Remember When There Was Only One Channel? Multichannel Ground Penetrating Radar Pilot and Archaeological Test Pitting at Karjaa, Lepinjärvi

The quintessential archaeological method – the excavation – is a destructive one: when we dig into the past, the cultural layers under study are inevitably destroyed in the process. However, it is possible to have a limited view of what is hidden underground in a non-destructive manner with geophysical methods such as ground penetrating radar (GPR), magnetometry, ground resistance, electromagnetic induction, gravimetry and in some cases even seismics. Especially in the UK and Central Europe archaeogeophysics has been part of the mainstream for decades, but in Finland adoption has so far been rather limited. In 2020, we conducted a multichannel GPR survey at an Iron Age hotspot of Lepinjärvi, Karjaa in co-operation with NTNU University Museum and COST Action SAGA (CA17131). During the four days of scanning, we collected GPR data from c. 5 ha, making it the largest and the most densely measured archaeological GPR study so far in Finland. Some of the possibly prehistoric features recognized from the data were test-pitted in 2022. In this presentation I will go through the basic operating principles of GPR, share our preliminary results from Karjaa and discuss why the wider adoption of the method is important in the future.

MA Wesa Perttola works normally as the university instructor of archaeology at the University of Helsinki. Currently he is writing his PhD dissertation in the ‘Ports and Harbours of Southeast Asia: Human-environment entanglements in Early Modern maritime trade networks’ -project.

Click here for the Zoom link and practical information on the Brown Bag Seminar events.

14.3.2023 Liisa Kuula

Sleeping and not sleeping: best ways to guess and measure

Sleep is known to have a huge impact on health and wellbeing, and even though our need for sleep is individual, there are some guidelines in what is considered sufficient sleep quantity and quality. There is huge variation in different sleep measures depending on age and development, and often it is difficult to know what actually is sufficient, or optimal. This is a question that most people have to ask themselves at one point or another, and it is also central to many research settings. For instance, metabolism, mood, hormones, memory, immunity, risk-taking, and cognitive performance rely heavily on our sleep patterns. But how should sleep be taken into consideration in our everyday lives and for research purposes? Should it be measured, and if so, how?

This seminar covers the current trends as well as some of the open questions in sleep research. A special emphasis is put on how sleep is measured for specific purposes.

Liisa Kuula is a postdoctoral researcher. She has worked in sleep research for 10 years in the University of Helsinki, and is currently working as a senior researcher in the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry in Turku.

7.3.2023 Simon Lindgren

“Data” in digital research

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 about how “data” can be approached from a more qualitative or interpretive standpoint. By extension, the talk provides an argument towards developing a critical science of data, by bringing together the interpretive theoretical and ethical sensibilities of social science with the predictive and prognostic powers of data science and computational methods.

Simon Lindgren is Professor of Sociology at Umeå University. His research is about the relationship between digital technologies and society. Lindgren studies the transformative role of digital communication technologies (internet and social media), and the consequences of datafication, algorithms and AI, with a particular focus on politics and power relations. He uses combinations of methods from computational social science and network science, and analytical frameworks from interpretive sociology and critical theory. Lindgren’s books include “Data Theory” (2020), “Digital Media and Society” (2017, 2Ed 2022), and “New Noise” (2013).  He is currently a visiting professor at HSSH, University of Helsinki.

28.2.2023 Ruth Ayaß

What qualifies as good qualitative research?

When we read, review, or write qualitative studies ourselves, we know fairly well whether we are dealing with a good study, a mediocre or even a poor one. At the same time, qualitative social research is struggling to agree on common quality criteria. This is not unproblematic, since numerous decisions are made based on quality criteria. These decisions are consequential: they lead to a good or bad grade, acceptance or rejection of an essay, and approval or denying of funding.

The talk discusses quality criteria for qualitative social research that (can) fulfill the claim to be valid for (most or) all qualitative methods.

Ruth Ayaß is professor for sociology at Bielefeld University. Her research focuses on sociology of everyday interaction, ethnomethodology, and interpretive sociology.

Click here for the Zoom link and practical information on the Brown Bag Seminar events.

21.2.2023 Tanja Säily: Quantifying variation and change in word types

Frequency of occurrence is an important way of assessing and comparing the prevalence of linguistic features across digitized texts. For instance, we might be interested in how a new feature like the noun-forming suffix -ity (as in productivity) spread in the English language throughout the centuries and whether it was men or women who tended to lead the change. To study this, we can divide our text corpus into subcorpora by gender and time period, count all instances of words containing the suffix in each subcorpus, and normalize the count by the number of running words in the subcorpus. We can easily compare these frequencies across subcorpora and use statistical testing to estimate the significance of the differences observed.

However, this is not enough. Consider two scenarios: (1) all the instances represent a single word type (e.g. productivity), or (2) all the instances represent different word types (ability, absurdity, acclivity, acidity, activity, …). In the latter case we can say that the suffix is more established in the language and is being used more productively. We therefore need to compare type frequencies across subcorpora. This is a much more difficult task than comparing numbers of instances: type frequencies grow nonlinearly with corpus size, which means that we cannot normalize them, and there is no obvious way of estimating the statistical significance of the differences. In this presentation I provide new solutions to this problem.

Tanja Säily is a tenure-track assistant professor in English language at the University of Helsinki.

14.2.2023 Special session: Introduction to Interlab

INTERLAB is a joint laboratory managed by HSSH, and dedicated to multimodal individual and interpersonal research in situ or in the field. Starting this spring in Metsätalo room C421, it is open for all researchers at the City Centre Campus. The equipment enables synchronous recording of up to 8 video streams and 16 audio channels with 360° capacity and includes two workstations with comprehensive software for editing, annotating and analysis of all acquired material. As part of the grand opening, we will present the lab infrastructure and demonstrate various use case scenarios, with focus on:

  • Static and portable multi camera setups
  • Editing and analysis
  • Conducting individual (e.g. IAT or rating tasks) or interpersonal experimental paradigms

Additional topics including but not limited to: integrating biosignals, remote streaming, VR setups and automatic transcription, facial behavior and kinetic analysis. The session is in Zoom only, presented by Pentti Henttonen (HSSH), Mariel Wuolio (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki) and Suvi Kaikkonen (Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, University of Helsinki). Please join us in learning about novel methodological opportunities!

7.2.2023 Juho Pääkkönen: Big data as career risk – The position of technical work in computational social research

In this presentation I discuss the technical work necessary for constructing large sets of digital text data into viable research resources in the social sciences. I study the experiences of a multidisciplinary group of researchers who were engaged in an effort to open and deploy a large social media dataset for research in Finland. Drawing on recent social scientific discussions around “big” data, and literature in the Science and Technology Studies on the role of technical work in science, I analyze how researchers conceived of credible approaches to using the novel data, and how they viewed the work needed to actually implement such approaches.

I focus on four facets of data work, namely, 1) database construction, 2) development of analysis tools, 3) contextualizing interrogations, and 4) preprocessing and enriching. Each of these were needed to implement credible approaches to data use; however each hinged on prolonged periods of techical work that researchers found risky, unmotivating, and often poorly recognized. Importantly, these experiences were shared by both social scientists and researchers with computational backgrounds. This places the efforts to deploy big data for social research in an ambivalent position, which I argue poses a career risk for researchers committed to working within substantive disciplinary specialisms. I conclude the talk by discussing this view vis-à-vis previous social scientific literature that frames the issue of credibility around big data as predominantly a methodological or epistemic problem.

Juho Pääkkönen (M.Soc.Sci) works as a project coordinator at the HSSH methodological unit, where he coordinates and develops methodology, practices and research infrastructure around new digital data. He is a sociologist of science with expertise in science and technology studies, philosophy of science, and computational social science. His PhD work examines how social scientists adapt and repurpose new digital data and analysis techniques into their research, with special focus on large-scale social media data and computational text analysis.

31.1.2023 Pärttyli Rinne: On love, neuroscience, and interdisciplinarity

Love is often acknowledged to be among the most significant human phenomena, both subjectively and for the continued survival of the species. The academic study of love has persisted arguably for over 2000 years, during which time only little consensus has emerged as to what love is or how it should be investigated. Philosophers sometimes divide love into various subtypes along psychological, social, and religious dimensions, whereas psychologists tend to view love as an emotion associated with pair-bonds and parental care, such that neural attachment systems serve as the biological substrate on which feelings of love supervene. In contrast, some claim in a quasi-mystical fashion that unlike many other phenomena, love is something so special (or perhaps vague) that it cannot even be measured. 

In this presentation I discuss our recent scientific work on love. I focus on the neuroscientific experiment we conducted at Aalto University in 2021-2022. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we measured the neural activity associated with feelings of love for six different types of objects: romantic partners, one’s own children, friends, strangers, non-human pets, and beautiful nature. Our results suggest that several distinct brain regions are involved in feelings of love. The feelings are differentially modulated by areas associated with reward and social processing, with neural activation varying according to the strength of the attachment relation and social/non-social context. I also consider my personal interdisciplinary experience as a philosopher collaborating with neuroscientists: the joy of co-operation and new insights has vastly outweighed the challenges.

Pärttyli Rinne is a philosopher (PhD), author, and scriptwriter-dramaturge. He works diversely at the intersections of academic philosophy, empirical science (psychology and cognitive neuroscience), and art. In recent years he has focused especially on forming a broad understanding of the concept and phenomenon of love. Rinne is a visiting postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering.

The presented research is a collaboration with Linda Henriksson, Juha Lahnakoski, Heini Saarimäki, Mikke Tavast and Mikko Sams.  

24.1.2023 Asta Zelenkauskaite: Creating chaos online – Methodological challenges to uncover the masked

With the prevalence of disinformation geared to instill doubt rather than clarity, Creating Chaos Online discusses the ways in which unmasking of disinformation circulation can be empirically analyzed. The focus of the talk is to provide a framework through which specific sociotechnical means relevant to online portals comments that allow to track manifestations of content circulation. Specifically, the talk focuses on social practices specific to analyzed online spaces. While the sociotechnical contexts change over time, the goal is to exemplify the ways one can analyze complex hybrid media ecosystems to trace micro and macro levels of content circulation online.

Dr. Zelenkauskaitė is an associate professor at Drexel University. Her research focuses on emergent practices in online spaces that are traceable through digital meta data and discourses. Her work encompasses computational social science approaches by employing interdisciplinary perspectives that intersect information science, discourse studies, and communication. She is affiliated with the Center for Science, Technology & Society and Information Science departments at Drexel University and with Vilnius Tech University (Lithuania). Her work has been published in New Media & Society, Social Media & Society, Convergence, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, and First Monday, among others. She is an author of Creating Chaos Online: Disinformation and Subverted Post-Publics (University of Michigan Press, 2022). Open Access link to the book:

13.12.2022 Amanda Lagerkvist: Why are we here?

In this self-reflexive presentation, I will discuss how my work in what I call “the slow field” of mourning and commemorating the dead online, forced me to slow down and wait, and produced a sense of practical wisdom at the same time. The project which began with failure, and was followed by interruptions and silences throughout, required and forged an existential ethics of care, which in turn informed my methodology. The talk offers a provocation to think differently about the role of pace within our research practices, faced as we are with a juggernaut culture of metrics and speed in the academy. What can we learn from the silent and idle ones in order to formulate a prudent idea about why we are here – what our raison d’être in the humanities and social sciences should be – in a time of crises?

Amanda Lagerkvist is Professor of Media and Communication Studies in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University. As Wallenberg Academy Fellow (2014-2018) she founded the field of existential media studies. Her current work explores the existential dimensions of media through lived experiences of biometrics and intersections of technology, disability and selfhood. In her monograph, Existential Media: A Media Theory of the Limit Situation (OUP, 2022) she introduces Karl Jaspers’ existential philosophy of limit situations for media theory, anchored in work on death in the digital age. Find out more:

29.11.2022 Eeva Luhtakallio & Vasileios Maltezos: Bridging Ethnography and AI – Combination and interchange of computer vision and empirical visual analysis methods to produce ethnographic insights

Since the emergence of AI, a growing trend is observed in social sciences: the adaptation of machine learning techniques to analyze data and yield research results. As new algorithms are developed and more sophisticated software is built, classification of images and videos, types of data which is more complex than numerical or textual, according to the social phenomena they depict has also been rendered possible and the scientific interest of utilizing such programs in social research is increasing. Nonetheless, the combination of such methodological approaches along with qualitative ones and the practices that would assure the efficiency of methodological combinations are less explored. How to develop techniques to bridge these methods in a way that the result of the one would be a valuable input for the other and vice versa? What kind of “best practices” can be created to combine fundamentally different methods of analyzing data so that valuable results without inconsistencies can be produced?

In this presentation, we draft responses to these questions by describing the methodological path we followed to combine a classification of images from a state-of-the-art deep neural network based on empirical ethnographic analysis of these images. The particular contribution and promise of our work is firstly, based on ethnographic fieldwork in four countries, during which were collected images that in the next phase formed a basis to creating a training set, and secondly, now, after several steps of refinement and back-and-forth between ethnographic understanding of image categories and the computational understanding of the same categorization, through a neural network that can classify hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of images according to a specific ethnography-based theoretical framework. In concrete, the methodological combination will be used to study e.g. the following questions: How do the visual features of political action change between national/cultural/political contexts, and what type of visualizations are prevalent in a given context? How does visual politicization change in time in different contexts, when juxtaposing current social media images and image archives?

Eeva Luhtakallio is Professor of Sociology at the University of Helsinki. She is specialized in political and visual sociology, as well as social theory and comparative research. Her work focuses on democracy and citizenship as mundane practices, including studies on activism, young people’s political engagements and political marginalization. Luhtakallio leads the Centre for Sociology of Democracy ( as well as the ERC funded project “Imagining Democracy: Young Europeans becoming citizens by visual participation” ( Her recent publications include “Snap-along ethnography: Studying visual politicization in the social media age” (co-authored with Taina Meriluoto, Ethnography, 2022).

Vasileios Maltezos is Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki specializing in Computational Social Science, as well as in Political Communication and Data Science. He is a project member of the ERC funded project “Imagining Democracy: Young Europeans becoming citizens by visual participation” ( Currently, his research focuses on developing and applying computational and data-driven visual analysis methods for social research. He recently published the article “Caught between Gender and Democracy: Pepe the Frog’s Visual Recurrence and Gender Deviations on the LIHKG Forum”, co-authored with Katrien Jacobs, Degel Cheung and Cecilia Wong from the University of Hong Kong (Journal of Digital Social Research, 2022).

22.11.2022 Lari Vainio: Sound-space symbolism – A novel paradigm to investigate sound symbolism in laboratory

Sound symbolism refers to associations between language sounds (i.e., phonemes) and perceptual and/or semantic properties of a referent. One example of sound symbolism is the sound-magnitude symbolism: an association between certain phonemes (e.g., /i/) and smallness, and others (e.g., /a/) and largeness. These kinds of sound-symbolic associations have been shown to exist in spoken languages using cross-linguistic paradigms. Our recent laboratory tasks have revealed novel sound-symbolic phenomena that are linked to spatial concepts such as front/back and up/down. The focus of this talk is on providing a general introduction to sound symbolism and discussing our findings of sound-space symbolism.

Bio: Since 2008, I have worked as a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Psychology and Logopedics of the University of Helsinki. Currently, I also work as a university researcher at the Department of Digital Humanities of the University of Helsinki. My research has focused on various topics of cognitive psychology such as perception, action, and language. In recent years, I have also investigated sound symbolism together with researchers from the phonetics research group of the University of Helsinki. In this talk, I will present some of our most recent investigations of sound symbolism. 

15.11.2022 Salla-Maaria Laaksonen: Materializing organizational communication – Applying computational methods to identify organizational routines in team communication

Together with the adoption of digital platforms as predominant tools for organizational communication, we are also faced with new opportunities and challenges in studying organizational phenomena and empirically understanding organizing. The combination of computational analyses and interpretative theorization is gaining popularity across social sciences and is developed, for example, as symphonic social science (Halford & Savage, 2018), data theory (Lindgren, 2020), and digital methods (Rogers, 2019). Sociologist John Mohr (e.g., Mohr et al., 2020) pioneered in applying computational methods in making sense of the complex concepts of meaning and culture in organization research. Mohr is touted for his ability to hack together code and tools (Rawlings & Childress, 2021) that allow not only accessing big data but applying computation to move from close reading to “thick reading” and eventually computational hermeneutics where “available text analysis tools can and should be drawn upon” to pursue making sense of data (Mohr et al., 2015).

This talk discusses an ongoing work where we explore organizational routines as a process of communication. The study explored a dataset of over 76,000 Slack messages from a journalistic team with a combination of computational text mining, network analysis, and qualitative inquiry to identify different beings that are materialized across the communication episodes, and organizational routines they constitute. By using this analysis as an example, we will critically discuss operationalizations and methodological approaches to computationally analyze digital conversation data guided by organization theories.

SODA is a research project that explores fluid organizations as constitutions built through communication, and the possibilities of computational matching in supporting communicative organizing. The project provides information on how data collected on an organization’s communication platforms can be used both to research and facilitate organizing. We analyze data from both enterprise social media as well as public social media data from self-organized knowledge-work platforms.

Salla-Maaria Laaksonen (D.Soc.Sc., Docent) is a senior researcher at the Centre for Consumer Society Research, University of Helsinki. Her research areas are technology, organizations, and new media, including social evaluation of organizations in the hybrid media system, the organization of online social movements, and the use of data and algorithms in organizations. She has also worked extensively with digital and computational research methods.

The presented work is a collaboration with Jukka Huhtamäki and Kaisa Laitinen.

8.11.2022 Sointu Leikas: Explaining gender gaps in education – Empirically constructed “boyishness” and “girlishness” as predictors of school performance

In most Global North countries, women and girls consistently outperform men and boys in educational outcomes: On average, girls receive better grades than boys, and women reach higher levels of education than men. Public discourse around this topic often focuses on schools not offering boys an environment where they can thrive, and on essentialist explanations about boys and girls as fundamentally different. By contrast, a large body of ethnographic and sociological work suggests that stereotypical gender roles and masculinity construals play an important role in the educational gender gaps.

In our study, we sought to connect this rich set of qualitative research with quantitative methods by asking whether having “boy-typical” personal values, personality, and cognitive performance conflicts with schoolwork. In a sample of Finnish 15-year-olds (N = 4074), gender-typicality variables were formed empirically via supervised machine learning techniques. These variables were used to predict 9th grade GPA derived from school registries. “Boy-typical” personal values and cognitive profiles were related to lower GPA, whereas “girl-typicality” in these domains was related to higher GPA. The results are in line with the idea, frequently presented in masculinities research, that normative masculinity is at odds with being a hardworking and conscientious student.

Sointu Leikas is a researcher in personality and social psychology. She works as a university researcher at the HSSH Methodological Unit. Her current work focuses on everyday life dynamics between persons, situations, and behaviors, affective consequences of different behaviors, as well as on microecological intergroup contact and segregation. She is interested in developing novel methods for capturing natural life behavior, and in improving transparency and methodological rigor in human and social sciences.

1.11.2022 Pentti Henttonen: Methodological approaches in quantifying the Finnish concept of “Sisu”

Certain non-cognitive personality characteristics, such as grit and resilience, are important factors in determining people’s stress tolerance, general well-being, and success in life. A related concept, sisu, is a Finnish cultural construct, traditionally used to describe the ability of individuals to overcome adversity, discomfort and challenge. While these qualities are helpful in many circumstances, too much persistence has been shown to have adverse consequences.

In the context of two research projects, we have developed and validated a questionnaire measuring the beneficial and harmful manifestations of fortitude. The underlying dual scale model predicts various outcome measures including general well-being, work stress and depressive symptoms.

In my talk, I will present an overview of the methods, challenges and solutions involved in transforming an “everyday” psychological concept into a quantitatively defined measure. I will draw upon a number of contemporary studies, supplementing psychometric scale development with behavioral and psychophysiological experimental paradigms, longitudinal ESM/ESA settings, cross-cultural validation and qualitative text analysis.

Pentti Henttonen works as a project coordinator at the methodological unit of Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities. His specialization is in multimethod research infrastructure and statistical analysis. His past research has focused on dyadic conversational interaction in natural and laboratory settings, during performance reviews in workplace context, and involving non-neurotypical participants. His current research topics include emotional responses to conversational ambivalence, the role of prosocial traits in interpersonal synchrony and psychometrics of narcissism and mental fortitude.

25.10.2022 Tuomo Hiippala: Computational Analysis of Communicative Artefacts in Multimodality Research and Digital Humanities

Multimodality research is an emerging discipline that studies how human communication naturally relies on intentional combinations of 'modes' of expressions. Theories of multimodality are now increasingly applied across disciplines concerned with human communication, such as linguistics, media studies and artificial intelligence research, to name just a few examples. However, key theoretical concepts in multimodality research are based on conjecture and remain without an empirical foundation, which is a shortcoming that may be traced back to the lack of large annotated corpora to support empirical research.

Recent research has called for the use computational methods from the fields of machine learning, computer vision and natural language processing to increase the scale of multimodal corpora. Similar proposals have been put forward in the digital humanities, where computational methods have been applied to large-scale analysis of communicative artefacts such as photographs, illustrated books and film. However, there have been increased calls for theoretical frameworks to contextualise the results of computational analyses in the field of digital humanities.

In this presentation, I discuss the converging methodological interests in both multimodality research and digital humanities, focusing on the application of computational methods, and seek to identify potential solutions for bridging the gap between 'close' and 'distant' analyses.

Tuomo Hiippala is Assistant Professor in English Language and Digital Humanities in the Department of Languages at the University of Helsinki since 2018. His main publications include The Structure of Multimodal Documents (2015, Routledge) and Multimodality: Foundations, Research and Analysis (2017, De Gruyter, with John A. Bateman and Janina Wildfeuer). He currently leads a research project that studies the use of paid crowdsourcing for creating large, reliable and reproducible multimodal corpora.

18.10.2022 Andrea Butcher & Kazimuddin Ahmed: Moving participatory methods online - innovation, autonomy and other stories from West Africa

The Covid pandemic has forced social science researchers to find alternative methods to conduct field research, trainings and collaborative work. One such methodology that witnessed alteration is participatory video (PV), a process that combines participatory methods with visual tools. PV methods were originally developed for community led social change, but are now increasingly used in research environments. They are usually conducted on site with groups of people working collectively, eliminating hierarchical relationships between the researcher and the researched or participants. This rewiring of the researcher-subject relationship that a PV based approach enables makes it one of the most ethical, democratic and robust social research tools.

The AMRIWA project of University of Helsinki incorporated this methodology to work with researchers in Benin and Burkina Faso (West Africa) to understand the social dimensions of antibiotic use. As the pandemic halted all plans for on-location workshops, the research team and PV practitioners designed a completely new curriculum for an online training. Methodologically this was a tremendous challenge as well as an opportunity for innovation. There are few organisations providing training in PV and those who have designed online trainings are next to none.

We anticipated many challenges with delivering an online training programme to a low-resource country. What we did not anticipate the extent to which the new online training methodology would challenge our assumptions of what ‘participatory’ and ‘collaborative working’ mean in different contexts. This seminar will report on methodological innovations that the research team carried out and will reflect on the key question of participant autonomy – how distance between trainer and participant in online PV training rejigs power and agency. It will discuss how this reorganization forced us to confront multiple realities of the practitioner-participant ‘hierarchy’.

Andrea Butcher is an anthropologist with expertise of examining antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the context of international development. She has over five years’ experience of working in multidisciplinary AMR research teams in South Asia and West Africa. In Helsinki, she has been Postdoctoral Researcher on the AMRIWA and SoSaMiRe projects under the Centre of the Social Study of Microbes (, and she will be joining the newly established Centre of Excellence in AMR Research as Senior Social Science Researcher.

Kazimuddin Ahmed is a doctoral researcher at Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki, and practitioner of participatory video for research and social change. He has designed and implemented PV curricula for village communities and researchers alike in South Asia, Finland, and West Africa. He has previously worked in the fields of environment and development, human rights, and media advocacy.

11.10.2022 Helen Eriksson: Studying the gender revolution using register data

Studying gendered behaviors using register data can be particularly challenging if one wishes to go beyond documenting a quantitative difference between the binary genders. Sociological gender theory can be helpful in posing new questions but is often tricky to operationalize into the behavioral measurements found in the data. In this talk, I will present some recent studies and a research project in which the aim is to use arguments from novel qualitative studies to pose a research question that can be empirically tested using register data.

Helen Eriksson is Researcher (Ph.D., 2018, Stockholm University) at the Department of Sociology, Demography Unit, Stockholm University. Her research interests lie in family demography, with a special focus on social policy and gender, and applied quantitative methods. She is the Principal Investigator of the research project ‘A family decision? Population studies of parental leave at the gendered workplace’ financed for years 2022-2025.

4.10.2022 Barbara Pfetsch: Physical locations and digital spaces – Approaches to tracing geolocations in digital data on Twitter

How can we identify and analyze spatial relations in digital data of social media? This question was at the core of a study that set out to explore translocal communication ties emerging from Twitter networks. Challenging the claim of “death of distance” diagnosed in the early days of the Internet the idea of the project was to map the spatial dimensions of the local Twittersphere of Berlin. The nature of big data however poses challenges to the analysis of spatial relations because of the volume, the velocity and the variety of digital traces. The talk will give an account on how we proceeded in the identification of spatial traces in digital data and ways to extract spatial information by applying inferential and automatized methods. I shall discuss the pros and cons of algorithmic geocoding and of a dictionary-based approach. In addition to the methodological challenges of studying spatial traces in digital data the research ethics of working with geocoded data shall be reflected.

Barbara Pfetsch is a Professor of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research of the Freie Universität Berlin and Principal Investigator at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin and HSSH Visiting Professor in 2022, hosted by Juha-Pekka Herkman.

27.9.2022 Mike Ananny: Platforms Meeting Publishers – Revisiting the Facebook Fact-Checking Partnership

What are media partnerships, how do they form through technologies, and why do these partnerships matter to public life? In this talk, I reflect on these questions through the lens of a partnership that Facebook established with US news and fact-checking organizations in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election. Drawing on interviews with key partners, I will tell the story of the partnership’s origins, dynamics, tensions, and its significance as an organizational relationship centered on sociotechnical infrastructure. I will also reflect on the methodological challenges of studying platforms and platform-press partnerships, using literature on case studies to explore what it is possible to know about such arrangements, why exactly a sociotechnical partnership is an object of study, and why it continues to be challenging to study platforms and their partners.

Mike Ananny is an Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism and Affiliated Faculty of Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He studies the public significance of digital news infrastructures and algorithmic systems, and co-directs the interdisciplinary USC collective MASTS (Media As SocioTechnical Systems) and the Sloan Foundation project Knowing Machines (with Kate Crawford and Jason Schultz). He is the author of Networked Press Freedom (MIT Press, 2018), co-editor (with Laura Forlano and Molly Wright Steenson) of Bauhaus Futures (MIT Press, 2019), and publishes in various interdisciplinary domains including Journalism Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and Critical Internet Studies. He holds a PhD from Stanford University, a Masters from the MIT Media Laboratory, and has written for popular press publications including The Atlantic, Wired Magazine, Harvard's Nieman Lab, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

20.9.2022 Lars-Erik Malmberg: Analysis of intensive longitudinal data: Emerging designs and models

There is large interest in intensive longitudinal data analysis in educational research. Datasets can include self-reports or multiple-reporter data (e.g., observed on-task behaviour, diaries, experience sampling, ecological momentary assessment), task-data (e.g., trace-data, executive functioning), real-time ambulatory data (e.g., accelerometer, electrodermal activity, eye-tracking), or mixtures of these. Researchers face at least three challenges in designing such studies, including (1) designing the multilevel structure data-collection, (2) combining multiple sources and formats of data, and (3) specifying appropriate statistical models. Time-series-based Dynamic Structural Equation Models (DSEM) are emerging, adding to the tool-box of existing techniques, e.g., Multilevel Structural Equation Models (MSEM) and Multilevel Models (MLM). In the talk, I will illustrate intensive longitudinal designs and models using on-going research in educational context, in order to highlight their relevance for understanding processes of learning and teaching. Overall, findings from process-studies can promote the conceptualization of individualized / personalized interventions.

Lars-Erik Malmberg is Professor of Quantitative Methods in Education, at the Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK. He has more than 75 publications (peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reports). He was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Learning and Instruction 2018-21. His current research interests are on intraindividual approaches to learning processes, and modelling of intensive longitudinal data. He has published on effects of education, child care and parenting on developmental and educational outcomes, and teacher development. He applies advanced quantitative models to the investigation of substantive research questions in education. Links between education phenomena and physiology were explored in the Emerging Field Group “The potential of biophysiology for understanding learning and teaching experiences”.

Click here to download the presentation slides.

13.9.2022 Ruth Ayaß: “Do not slam the door in the morning!” – Notes in public spaces as a communicative genre

My presentation deals with a specific form of texts that are very common in public space, but usually go more or less unnoticed: that is notes found on walls, windows and especially on doors. Unlike the metal signage of public space found on streets and intersections, or the bulletins in government agencies or offices that are machine-written and printed, these notes are self-made and often handwritten.

I will discuss these notes as a communicative genre. Using empirical examples, I show what outer and inner form these small texts have. Apart from the fact that they are all quite short, they have a number of things in common: they have a recognizable inner structure that ensures their comprehensibility (e.g. capital letters, imperatives or exclamation marks). They also convey a certain urgency. Often, they have a tone of annoyance and point out to the addressee a misconduct that should be remedied. It is a form of moral communication – it is a brief genre, so to speak.

These texts can be understood as a form of urban communication. They are found in the kind of places people only rush through and do not spend a lot of time. In the broadest sense, they target a mobile recipient – a passer-by – who reads them as s/he walks by or walks through.

Ruth Ayaß is professor of sociology at Bielefeld University. Her research focuses on sociology of everyday interaction, ethnomethodology, and interpretive sociology.

6.9.2022 Eetu Mäkelä: New methods for overcoming the challenges of data-centric qualitative and quantitative research

The Human Sciences–Computing Interaction research group seeks to figure out the technological, processual and theoretical underpinnings of successful data-centric research in the humanities and social sciences. To do this, the group has partnered with multiple projects across a variety of disciplines.

In this talk, I will go over many of the approaches we have developed: how to combine qualitative and quantitative research, how to overcome disciplinary barriers and build common understanding, and how to build efficiently toward workflows that accurately capture and divulge that which is of interest to the scholars in the humanities and social sciences.

In order to figure out which of three current and recent collaboration projects to focus on most heavily for examples during the talk, please go to and vote, well before the date of the talk!

Eetu Mäkelä is an associate professor in Human Sciences–Computing Interaction at the University of Helsinki, and a docent (adjunct professor) in computer science at Aalto University. Aside from leading the HSCI research group, he serves as a technological director at the DARIAH-FI national infrastructure for data-intensive humanities and social sciences and is one of three research programme directors in the datafication research program of the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities.