Past Brown Bag Seminar events 2023-2024

Information about past Brown Bag Seminar events in 2023-2024.
9.4.2024 Elina Seye & Nina Öhman

Challenges in academic publication practices

As an initiative of the research project “World Wide Women – Female Musicians Crossing Borders and Building Futures” we made plans for a peer-reviewed multimedia publication that also received a Catalyst grant from HSSH. The idea was to compile a collection of articles that would not necessarily rely primarily on text but could include and/or combine different formats: text, images, audio and video. With the use of multimedia, we aimed at promoting cooperation and multifaceted production of knowledge between researchers and various actors in the field of music. In written articles, the voices and artistic practices of the people concerned are typically represented through the words and conceptualizations of the researcher, whereas in an audiovisual or multimedia format they can be conveyed more directly. Therefore, through the use of such “alternative” formats, the artists or other collaborators, who may not be familiar with the conventions of academic writing, will also gain more agency in the process of knowledge production and publication. 

However, finding an academic publisher for the kind of publication that we conceptualized, turned out to be impossible. Also building this kind of publication on the platforms that the University of Helsinki offers for research teams, seemed very difficult, or the University IT department could not guarantee that the publication would stay online in the long-term. This led us to question the rigid formats and conventions of academic publishing. Furthermore, we realized that there is a need to think how we may work with academic publishers, who are currently not capable of publishing in a variety of online formats, to make strides towards meeting the evolving needs of contemporary scholarship.

Elina Seye (PhD, Title of Docent) is an ethnomusicologist and dance researcher with a specialization in West African music and dance traditions. Her long-term research interest is the sabar dance and music tradition in Senegal but she has also studied the activities of African musicians in Finland, as well as women musicians in Senegal and Mali as part of the project “World Wide Women” that she also led. Currently she works as a researcher in the project “Diversity of Music Heritage in Finland”, where her focus is on the transmission of African music and dance in Finland. She is also the current chairperson of the Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology.

Nina Öhman (PhD, M.B.A) is an ethnomusicologist studying women’s roles in music cultures, the singing voice, and American popular music. While situated broadly in musicology, her work incorporates varied branches of knowledge including, inter alia, economic ethnomusicology, gender studies, postcolonial studies, religious studies, anthropology, and sociology. She currently works as a Core Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at the University of Helsinki. She is the editor-in-chief of Musiikin suunta journal. She serves as the vice-chair of the Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology (SES) and as the President of the board of the Finnish American Studies Association (FASA).

2.4.2024 Essi Pöyry & Salla-Maaria Laaksonen

POST-API: How to Collect Social Media Data without API Access – The Case of Finnish Presidential Election 2024

Accessing social media data has turned increasingly difficult during the past years as many platforms have limited researchers’ access to data through APIs. This project maps out the state of the art methods for collecting social media data using presidential elections as a case on which data was collected. The platforms covered by the project are: Facebook, Instagram, X/Twitter, Tiktok, Youtube and online news comments. In addition, the project creates a benchmark for storing social media data for wider academic audiences and later uses.

Essi Pöyry works as a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Consumer Society Research in University of Helsinki. She holds the Title of Docent in marketing. Her research concerns the role of social media and new technologies in the consumer society, and has studied, among other things, influencer marketing and political marketing.

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. She is also  an expert in digital/computational research methods and research ethics of digital data.

26.3.2024 Dušica Ristivojević

Multimethod research on global China: Reflections on the use of ethnography, digital ethnography and autoethnography in analyzing China's presence in Europe

What kinds of multiple disciplinary, methodological and ethical considerations may inform and direct exploration of contemporary global China? What kind of data about the ongoing expansion of China's interests and presence globally may (not) be collected, analyzed, and theorized? How to address a researcher’s positionality in this research field of particularly high political and ideological stakes?

This talk will reflect on these questions by referring to the speaker’s ongoing research on China’s engagements in gold and copper mining in Eastern Europe.

Dušica Ristivojević is a multidisciplinary China studies researcher affiliated with the China Studies team at the University of Helsinki and the Central European Institute of Asian Studies, Bratislava. Dušica specializes in a longue durée dynamics of China’s global interactions, print and digital media, and social organizing in and out of China. She is finalizing her book manuscript on transnational links of China’s political movements and is observing China’s presence at Europe's Eastern peripheries in the fields of dirty industry and digital technology.

19.3.2024 Daria Gritsenko

Researching heuristics ‘in the wild’ 

How do people make evaluative judgments? The theory of bounded rationality suggests that people often use heuristics, colloquially ‘rules of thumb,’ to reduce complex evaluation to simple context-bound judgments. Yet, researching heuristics ‘in the wild’ is an unsolved methodological challenge. Since heuristics are usually intuitive and unreflective, when asked directly most people cannot easily explain what they are. Indirect studies can reveal whether people are using certain heuristics but cannot explore actual thinking processes. There are no established methodologies for eliciting heuristics, and benefits and shortcomings of existing approaches have never been evaluated systematically. Our work aims at assessing what different methods can bring in the study of heuristics ‘in the wild’. Ultimately, we want to establish a robust mixed-method protocol for eliciting heuristics.

Dr. Daria Gritsenko is an Associate professor in Digital Social Science at the Center for Social Data Science at University of Helsinki (Finland). She holds a PhD in Political Science (2014) and a title of Docent in Environmental Policy (2018), both from the University of Helsinki. She is an expert in mixed methods research, in particular combining computational social science and qualitative approaches. Her most recent research explores the digital transformation of the state and society in the light of broader sustainability concerns. Gritsenko’s research has been funded among others by the Research Council of Finland, The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS), the Fulbright Foundation, the Kone Foundation, and the European Research Council (ERC). In 2021, Daria Gritsenko was awarded Nils Klim Prize “for her outstanding research contributions in the intersection between political science, environmental studies and digital humanities”.

12.3.2024 Tiina Pitkäjärvi

Understanding affect as discursive and beyond: modeling feeling, intensity, embodiment

The affective turn (Clough & Halley 2007) in academia represents a shift in scholarly attention towards recognizing the importance of affect in understanding human experience and social dynamics. According to Massumi (2002), affect is essential in comprehending our current information and image-based capitalist culture, where traditional overarching narratives have lost their relevance.

In affect theory, there are two major strands of scholarship. One sees affect as part of discourse and meaning-making (e.g. Ahmed, Ngai and Wetherell), while the other claims that affect happens beyond and outside of discourse (e.g. Brennan, Massumi and Thrift), hitting the body before cognition.

This presentation aims to expand the toolbox for analyzing affect with the help of Peirce's triadic system (firstness, secondness, thirdness). I will show why the question of affect as discursive vs. non-discursive is redundant, and why affect should be well-defined in order to have analytical value and escape the risk of being used as a mere buzzword.

Tiina Pitkäjärvi (PhD Scandinavian Languages, Uppsala University) is currently a visiting research fellow at The Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies, Freie Universität, Berlin. She is a junior researcher at the Department of Semiotics, Tartu University. Her academic interests are affect studies, semiotics, autoethnographic methods and writing-as-method.

5.3.2024 Tuomo Hiippala

Towards a foundation for empirical multimodality research

This presentation discusses my upcoming ERC Consolidator Grant project, which launches in May 2024. The project is situated within the emerging field of multimodality research, which studies the way human communication naturally relies on combinations of multiple 'modes' of expression. The project seeks to lay a foundation for empirically-motivated theories of multimodal communication in the domain of everyday media by developing new methods for building and analysing large multimodal corpora, which can be used to critically examine current theories of multimodal communication.

To scale up the size of multimodal corpora, the project uses crowdsourced non-expert workers to annotate the data. These crowdsourced annotations are then compiled into graph-based representations, which are enhanced with output from natural language processing and computer vision models. In this way, the resulting graphs combine insights from both humans and algorithms, which are then processed further using graph neural networks. The resulting corpora, which include e.g. school textbooks, user-generated educational videos and news broadcasts, can be used to model multimodal communication statistically.

Tuomo Hiippala is Associate Professor in English Language and Digital Humanities in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki, where he leads the Multimodality Research Group. His current research interests include multimodal corpora, diagrammatic representations and the use of computational methods in multimodality research.

UH Research Portal: https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/persons/tuomo-hiippala 
Research Group: https://www.helsinki.fi/multimodality 
Personal website: http://www.helsinki.fi/~thiippal 

27.2.2024 Jaska Uimonen

Hybrid Content Analysis Method for Free Text Questionnaires - Case Study with Professional Violin Players' Test Practices

Professional violin players were asked about testing practices when choosing or testing new violins. This study analyzes the players’ responses gathered through a questionnaire featuring both multiple-choice and open ended questions on the subject. Overall, the study aims to uncover insights into the players’ testing practices and reveal the aspects they think are crucial in the process.

Free-text answers were analyzed with a hybrid method combining classic content analysis and a computational model. Classic content analysis means, in practice, actually reading the answers and coming up with code sentences. The computational method used here is called Structural Topic Model (STM), but in this case, it is used without covariates, thus reducing it to Latent Dirichlet Allocation. In its plain form, the method works by ranking the created code sentences against a computer-generated topic model.

Jaska Uimonen is a PhD student in the Faculty of Arts (Musicology, UHMRL). He has specialized in computational musicology and has taught acoustics-related courses at the University of Helsinki for over 20 years. Additionally, he has worked in the software industry for over 20 years as a software developer. He is currently employed at FIMM (Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland ) as a scientific cloud administrator.

13.2.2024 Niko Pyrhönen & Gwenaëlle Bauvois

From Conspiratory Microcosms to Mainstream Conspiracy Culture? Compiling a body of spontaneously occurring conspiracy talk in life course interviews

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, affluent Western democracies experienced a surge in popularized fiction centered around a "masterplot" of a Grand Conspiracy. Blockbuster franchises like X-Files and Matrix contributed to a widely shared conspiracy imagery, portraying hidden governmental agendas, elite cabals, and powerful forces manipulating reality itself. This exposure in pop culture laid the groundwork for the emergence of larger audiences taking conspiracy theories seriously, contributing to a cultural shift.

As mainstream audiences became fluent in the language of conspiracy, they could follow and participate in public discussion making use of such vocabulary. The landscape of conspiracy culture is commonly regarded as splintering into diverse subcultures and communities. Voter Fraud conspiracy theories explicitly invite people to engage with party politics, while Flat Earth theories have very few political implications. The Great Replacement primarily attracts audiences of young men affiliated to the radical right, while Pink and Pastel QAnon were purposefully tailored for female audiences.

While there is a rapidly expanding body of research focusing on conspiratory microcosms and conspiratorial figures in political arenas, there are very few analyses that address how conspiracy culture at large is experienced by ‘ordinary people’. One reason for this lacuna is related to limited availability of suitable data. Including people in studies and surveys comes with a distinct risk of self-selection, oversampling people who are keen to talk about conspiracy theories. The same applies to big data approaches: scraping online spaces for conspiracy talk would likewise yield bodies of text generated by people actively involved in conspiracy theories.

Using computational and manual approaches, we have operationalized a large body (n=1613) of 2,5 hours long, semi-structured life course interviews (collected by the American Voices Project led by Stanford University) where the respondents are NOT asked anything about conspiracy theories into a smaller sample of interview transcripts containing (passages of) conspiracy talk. This allows us to examine how ordinary people experience conspiracy culture in their daily lives, what parts of their lives are affected by conspiracy theories, and how these experiences corroborate or challenge the state-of-the-art understanding of conspiracy culture.

Niko Pyrhönen is a university researcher in the Faculty of Theology. His areas of expertise include radical right mobilization (DSocSc, 2015), hybrid mediation of stigmazed knowledge claims, conceptualizations of “the post-truth era”, and digital ethnography of conspiracy culture(s). He is the Principal Invesgator in the HSSH funded project Conspiracy Talk in the Lives of Ordinary Americans (CONSPOA, 2023–2024), and is currently working in the Academy project Mediazed Religious Populism (MERELPO, 2021–2025).

Gwenaëlle Bauvois holds a PhD in Sociology and works as a researcher in the Aleksanteri institute. She has conducted research in diverse projects on conspiracies, post-truth polics, radical right movements, hybrid media, and right-wing populism, in different national contexts. As a vising scholar at Stanford University for the CONSPOA project, she studies conspiracy theories in the USA as part of the ‘American Voices project’. She is currently working in the Horizon project ‘Analysis and Responses to Extremist Narraves’ (ARENAS).

6.2.2024 Antti Honkela

Differential privacy and anonymising data

Differential privacy has recently emerged as the standard approach for strong anonymisation. In my talk I will give a brief introduction to differential privacy and outline how it can and how it cannot be used to help preserve anonymity of personal data while maintaining its usefulness. I will also discuss the potential of private synthetic data.

Antti Honkela is a Professor a Data Science (Machine Learning and AI) at the Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki. He is the coordinating professor of Research Programme in Privacy-preserving and Secure AI at the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI), a flagship of research excellence appointed by the Academy of Finland, and leader of the Privacy and infrastructures work package in European Lighthouse in Secure and Safe AI (ELSA), a European network of excellence in secure and safe AI. He serves in multiple advisory positions for the Finnish government in privacy of health data.

30.1.2024 Eljas Oksanen

Semantic Computing and Citizen Science Solutions for Opening Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Data

Over the last several years the interdisciplinary and intersectoral research projects DigiNUMA: Digital Solutions for European Numismatic Heritage and SuALT: Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tietokanta have investigated challenges and solutions in data management and dissemination of Finnish and European archaeological object finds material with a specific citizen science focus. The research projects have developed the semantic web applications FindSampo (launched in 2021) and CoinSampo (to be launched early in 2024) for opening Finnish archaeological object finds made by members public, as well as investigating technical solution for transnational data management and dissemination. Most archaeological and numismatic data services allow objects to be examined only in the traditional catalogue format (i.e. record by record), meaning that larger patterns and structures in the finds data are accessible only to professional researchers with experience in data analytical software. As a response, the Sampo frameworks incorporate LOD solutions and fast and easy analytical and data visualization tools as a part of an integrated search-and-analysis feedback process, opening up the possibilities for anyone without technical training to engage in creating new information and in learning about the past. The goal of these projects has been to lower barriers for people of engage with ‘big data’ about past material cultures, democratizing access to our shared cultural heritage. Moreover, they serve as a case study in the challenges involved with working on “characterful” (complex and often messy) cultural datasets, which themselves can be considered as artefacts born from various long-term institutional, political, cultural and social priorities in recording the past. Read more about the projects here.

Eljas Oksanen is a university researcher at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki with a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. His dissertation on the political, social and economic exchanges in north-western Europe during the Middle Ages was published as 'Flanders and the Anglo-Norman World, 1066-1216' in 2012 by Cambridge University Press. His current interests lie in digital humanities-led work on medieval and prehistoric material culture, including GIS-led research on travel and communications through archaeological and historical sources, exploring the potential of citizen science to advance archaeological knowledge of the past, and developing Open Data services for disseminating cultural heritage data. He is currently engaged in several interdisciplinary Finnish and international projects on these themes at Helsinki (HISCOM) or in collaboration with Aalto University (DigiNUMA), the Finnish Heritage Agency (DeepFIN) and the University of Reading with the British Museum (MeRit).

23.1.2024 Marja-Leena Sorjonen & Katariina Harjunpää
Cross-linguistic and comparative studies on social interaction in everyday settings and shop encounters 

In this talk, we discuss conversation analysis as a method for examining social interaction, with a focus on how it has been used for cross-linguistic and comparative study of interactional practices. We discuss some issues in the use of coding and quantifying as well as introduce an example of a qualitative cross-linguistic and multimodal study of interactional practices from the recently published collected volume Encounters at the Counter. The Organization of Shop Interactions, edited by Fox, Mondada and Sorjonen.

Marja-Leena Sorjonen (PhD) is professor emerita of Finnish language, University of Helsinki. She acted as the Director of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research on Intersubjectivity in Interaction in 2012-2017 (University of Helsinki, Academy of Finland). She has co-edited several volumes examining interactional practices in a range of different languages. 

Katariina Harjunpää (PhD) is an Academy Research Fellow at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her current project Unpacking Speakership in Mediation (2023–2027) examines social interaction in mediation services for criminal and civil cases. She has contributed to several research projects and publications using a cross-linguistic approach.

16.1.2024 Åsa von Schoultz
The University of Helsinki Citizen Barometer: A new infrastructure for online surveys and experiments

Åsa von Schoultz is Professor of Political Science at the University of Helsinki since 2017. Her research revolves around political behavior and public opinion, and she has extensive experience of survey research among citizens and political elites. She currently serves as director of the Finnish National Election Study (FNES) and she was recently elected as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Social Survey (ESS).

Over the last year and a half, she has together with her team in political science and HSSH worked to establish an online panel with Finnish citizens, which will function as an infrastructure for surveys and survey experimental designs for researchers at the University of Helsinki. The panel is now up and running and will soon open a first call for question proposals, or proposals for short surveys.

12.12.2023 Ilkka Arminen & Mika Simonen
Synthetic data on the edge of uncanny valley

Synthetic data as an object and a tool of research is a project that explores the possibilities to use synthetic data for research. Synthetic data is generated using the Artificial Intelligence technique of deep generative learning, e.g., deep fakes. The possibilities of synthetic data for research are worth exploration. Our test scenario concerns the reception of pitches: how recipients (students) rate the pitches they see online. The pitches were extended elevator pitches (no augmentations, just a talking head). We did two modified versions of both pitches: A) beautified – with a TikTok filter; and B) Final cut version, an edited version, where cuts merged as if there had not been cuts; version could be called as Wizard of Oz version.

The original and modified pitches were shown to students online. The informants were either interviewed or filled a survey. In our experiment, we managed to manipulate the male pitcher’s video so that the rate of talk pace improved, but anyhow the overall grade fall. It seems that this result can be accounted with the uncanny valley phenomenon, which here was further accelerated by our use of AI tools through which we half-successfully hided the manipulation – half-hidden manipulation increases the challenge to categorize object. With the female pitcher we were not successful in improving the talk pace; we did remove filler words (erm, uh, huh) but according to audio perception the talk pace fall. This shows that “filler words” have a rhythmic function for the speech reception; the observation invites further studies on the issue.

The experiment also showed that reception of (talking head) videos tends to be holistic and imaginary. Holistic in the sense that features of an object are interpreted on basis of a gestalt, and details of a phenomenon are then seen as its documentary evidence. The imaginary nature of perceptions was nicely demonstrated by the finding that beautify filter affected to the perception of talk pace. Equally interesting is that beautify filter improved the pitchers’ grading clearly in the interviews but not in survey: is this showing that interviews are more other-directed (socially valued impression of beauty gaining a higher significance), and surveys are more inner-directed.

Ilkka Arminen, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, has worked as a director of a network on innovation research. He is also an adjunct professor of technology studies in Aalto University. He has published extensively on methodology of sociology, ethnomethodology, and conversation analysis as well as on media and technologies in interaction, i.e., mobile media usage, internet communities and transforming spheres of intimacy. His project ‘Know your Neighbour?’ addressed ethnic group relationships in Finland and Estonia, and in/visible migrants. His most recent research projects have concerned remote peer support, crossroads of Finnish addiction politics, and synthetic data.

PhD Mika Simonen defended his sociological dissertation on interview interaction in 2017. His current research projects include experimental sociology and human-animal interaction. He has organized more than 25 imitation game experiments in international cooperation; this year, six addiction policy experiments. Simonen has recently co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Pragmatics, which deals with the use of language and interaction in human and animal activities, encounters and narratives. He is also co-editing the research topic Animals and Social Interaction for Frontiers in Sociology.

5.12.2023 Risto Kunelius, Juho Pääkkönen & Matti Pohjonen
Cloud-C: A transnational network for studying mediated climate politics in social media

The presentation introduces Cloud-C,  a transnational network and infrastructure developed to study mediated climate politics in social media. This network consists of a team of over 20 from around the world collectively working on the same dataset collected from Twitter about two pivotal events: Cop26 and Cop27 environmental summits.

Our work is driven by three premises.  First, climate change as a globally constitutive problem for current social and political structures offers an exceptional example to study and theorize about the dynamics of social media infrastructures. Understanding the complexity of the data about climate change politics also  demands a rich array of local knowledge around the world, which is why an international research network is needed. Second, this allows researchers to work with a shared dataset to collectively develop, test, and compare methodological approaches, tools, and interpretations. We come to know what a “social climate sphere” is only through complex, computational methods and capacities. The choices of tools, choices of which parts/points of data to pick (and so on) shape the findings for our interpretations. The project will help us join forces and think about how our research and data analysis methods operationalize our questions and challenge our different theoretical concepts. Third, the scale of these challenges (making sense of the crisis, understanding, and monitoring social media, and assessing the paradigm shift in our fields) are connected to the emerging imperatives of making scientific inquiry more open. This is a strategically crucial aim for researchers, as the platformed communication infrastructures and their reach and influence is becoming increasingly global. Any informed and evidence-based knowledge and assessment on their effects and discussion about their accountability demands scholarly work that operates more seamlessly across different borders (nations, universities, disciplines).

The presentation will discuss the benefits and rewards of such a collaborative, open, transnational and transdisciplinary inquiry. It will also discuss some of the key questions and obstacles emerging in the global, networked study of social media data. These challenges relate to all/most phases of research: data gathering, data sharing, developing tools, practices and infrastructures for transnational projects cutting across different legal regimes. The highly dispersed collaboration around new computational tools and infrastructures presents problems for the coordination and understanding of research processes that seem new from the perspective of more traditional social scientific inquiry.

Risto Kunelius (D.Sc.S) is a Professor of Communication and the director of Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities. He has run several comparative research networks on a range of global transnational public crises and controversies.  He is co-director of MediaClimate network 2008  (https://mediaclimate.net/).

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.

Matti Pohjonen is a Senior Researcher (yliopistotutkija) at the Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH), University of Helsinki. He previously worked as a researcher for the University of Oxford and the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, and as a Lecturer in Global Digital Media at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He has widely published on topics related to global digital communication and online extreme speech for journals such as International Journal of Communication, Popular Communication and Social Media + Society.

28.11.2023 Emmi Koskinen
The interactional practices and emotional responses of narcissistic individuals in conversation: recent findings

Sociologist Erving Goffman (1955) has famously argued that the threat of losing one’s face is an omni-relevant concern in social interaction and that participants seem to be equally sensitive to the loss of their own face as they are to the loss of their co-participant’s face. As individuals with narcissistic personality traits have a heightened preoccupation with the self (Kernberg, 1984), narcissism can offer a special ‘window’ into the processes of losing and maintaining face in interaction. In the seminar I will present recent preliminary results of three studies relating to narcissism, face, and social interaction. The studies utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods, combining conversation analytical observations to self-reports and psychophysiological measurements. The studies are a collaborative effort of several researchers in the in the Academy of Finland funded project ‘Facing Narcissism’ (PI: Anssi Peräkylä).

Emmi Koskinen is a PhD in sociology. She defended her qualitative dissertation on story reception and affiliation in interactions with neurotypical and Asperger participants in Spring 2022. After that she has investigated similar phenomena in relation to narcissistic personality traits. Currently she is a post-doctoral researcher in the EnTiTy project investigating the manifestations and variation of engagement in interaction (PI: Ville Harjunen). Koskinen has experience in several interdisciplinary projects combining conversation analytic observations to physiological measures.

21.11.2023 Anna von Zansen & Raili Hilden
Automatic assessment of spoken interaction in second language

Traditionally, assessment of spoken interaction in the context of second language (L2) learning has neither included visual nor prosodic features; although we know, that they are central to the interaction between people. Therefore, more research is needed on verbal and nonverbal features of interaction in L2 Finnish dialogues.

In this talk, we will briefly present two research projects, DigiTala and Aasis, that combine expertise in speech and language processing, language education, and phonetics at the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and the University of Jyväskylä. The Aasis project (Research Council of Finland 2023–2027) focuses on automatic assessment of spoken interaction in L2 Finnish. Aasis builds on lessons learned in our previous project, DigiTala (Research Council of Finland 2019–2023).

In DigiTala, we developed an ASR-based (automatic speech recognition) online tool for assessing L2 Swedish and Finnish learners’ speech automatically and providing automated feedback to the language learners. In addition to the already measurable features of speech in monologue tasks (e.g. task completion, pronunciation, fluency, range and accuracy), the research interests of the Aasis project include sounds and visuals (prosodic and nonverbal cues, e.g. facial expressions, gestures, head movements, silences, overlapping speech, turn-taking). Furthermore, the main data collected in AASIS will be videoed, as we focus on spoken interaction in dialogue speaking tasks.

Anna von Zansen works as a Postdoctoral Researcher working for the Aasis project at the Faculty of Education, University of Helsinki. Her research interests include educational technology, language assessment, multimodality, L2 listening and speaking.

Raili Hilden is the leader of the AASIS consortium, Associate Professor of Language Didactics at the Faculty of Education, University of Helsinki. Her main research interests focus on language assessment and its function as a feedback tool at multiple levels of decision-making.

14.11.2023 Dayei Oh
Deliberative Qualities of Online Abortion Discourse: Incivility and Intolerance in the American and Irish Abortion Discussions on Twitter

This paper provides a big data–scale assessment of the deliberative qualities of online abortion discussions on Twitter in the United States (2020) and Ireland (2018) by specifically focusing on two standards: civility and tolerance for constructive disagreements. Using diverse computational methods (lexicon-based classification, census data based automatic gender recognition, ideology classification, measuring coordination dynamics), our regression analysis provides mixed evaluations. We find that incivility and intolerance are uncommon behaviours in American and Irish abortion discourse on Twitter, but we also find that these anti-deliberative behaviours (a) generate more engagements and thereby distort the overall discussion atmosphere; (b) largely come from the pro-life tweets; (c) are dominated by a small set of hyperactive participants; and (d) tend to be communicated by intolerant users within homogeneous echo chambers. Our results indicate that it is crucial for online deliberation to curtail the capabilities of these superparticipants in distorting and radicalising the overall online political discourse. By studying two national contexts, our results provide comparability of our findings and insights that can improve our understanding of other contentious and polarised issues more broadly.

Oh, D. & Elayan, S. & Sykora, M., (2023) “Deliberative Qualities of Online Abortion Discourse: Incivility and Intolerance in the American and Irish Abortion Discussions on Twitter”, Journal of Deliberative Democracy 19(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.16997/jdd.1413

Dayei Oh is a postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences & Humanities, working for the Datafication Unit in the Institute. She is also affiliated with the Helsinki Emotion, Populism, and Polarisation research group at Political Science Unit. Her research interests include the intersections of media/communication technologies, public spheres, and discourse (abortion and feminist discourse in particular).

7.11.2023 Samuel Olaniran & Matti Pohjonen
Clones and zombies: rethinking conspiracy theories and the digital public sphere through a (post)-colonial perspective

This talk explores methodological and theoretical questions that are raised when researching conspiracy theories in a global comparative context. Building on two comparative analyses of conspiracy theories in South Africa and Nigeria, the research explores especially questions related the use of digital methods and large-scale social media data to understand digital politics from the perspective of countries in the Global South. Contributing to conversations around ‘decolonising the internet,’ the talk shows how alternative theoretical frameworks can help us understand the role and implications of conspiracy theorising for communicative and political practices in different societies globally.

Samuel Olaniran is a digital media scholar and computational social scientist who works at the intersection of technology and politics. His research interests revolve around the development of critical approaches to understanding how technology is impacting internet cultures in the Global South, which are changing politics. The idea that elections are controlled by a small group of professional campaigners, consultants, and tech giants who often write the frame is a central focus of his work. His research extends to the influence of social and political contexts on the interpretation of critical phenomena such as technology, democracy, mis/disinformation, and digital authoritarianism, which are distinct from global framings.  He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, a researcher with Media Cloud, and is visiting researcher at HSSH as part of The Africa Early Career Mobility Programme at the University of Helsinki in 2023-2024.

Matti Pohjonen is a Senior Researcher (yliopistotutkija) at the Helsinki Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH), University of Helsinki. He previously worked as a researcher for the University of Oxford and the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, and as a Lecturer in Global Digital Culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He has widely published on topics related to global digital communication and online extreme speech for journals such as International Journal of Communication, Popular Communication and Social Media + Society.

31.10.2023 Gerardo Iñiguez

Universal patterns in egocentric communication networks

Tie strengths in social networks are heterogeneous, with strong and weak ties playing different roles at the network and individual levels. Egocentric networks, networks of relationships around an individual, exhibit few strong ties and more weaker ties, as evidenced by electronic communication records. Mobile phone data has also revealed persistent individual differences within this pattern. However, the generality and driving mechanisms of social tie strength heterogeneity remain unclear. Here, we study tie strengths in egocentric networks across multiple datasets of interactions between millions of people during months to years. We find universality in tie strength distributions and their individual-level variation across communication modes, even in channels not reflecting offline social relationships. Via a simple model of egocentric network evolution, we show that the observed universality arises from the competition between cumulative advantage and random choice, two tie reinforcement mechanisms whose balance determines the diversity of tie strengths. Our results provide insight into the driving mechanisms of tie strength heterogeneity in social networks and have implications for the understanding of social network structure and individual behavior.

Gerardo Iñiguez is an associate professor in complex systems at Tampere University (Finland), visiting professor at Central European University (Austria), Aalto University (Finland) and UNAM (Mexico), and co-founder at Predify (Mexico). His research covers complex systems, networks, computational social science, and data science.  He is also the Associate Editor in Complex Networks and Review Editor in Complex Physical Systems at Frontiers, and member of the European Humane AI Net project.

24.10.2023 Sergio Sauer
Politically engaged research: land and environment or the eco-agrarian issue in Brazil today

Climate change changed everything, increasing the urgency for solutions and expanding the demands for effective measures to face the environmental crisis. The historical popular struggles for land, territory and nature conservation are the fundamental basis for critically discussing the measures underway in Brazil and the proposed solutions, especially the measures taken by rural populations in confronting the socio-environmental crisis.

Sérgio Sauer was a visiting researcher at the Global Development Studies of the University of Helsinki in 2022. He is PhD in Sociology and professor of the University of Brasília (UnB), in the Centre for Sustainable Development (CDS) and in the Graduate Program for Environment and Rural Development. Engaged with agrarian social movements since 1980s, he is mainly researching on agrarian and environmental issues (changes in land use, expansion of agricultural frontiers) and their social and political aspects (social conflicts over land and nature, deforestation, gas emissions, and so on) in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado biomes.

17.10.2023 Andrea Ganna
Deep learning approaches to estimate disease risk from nationwide health, socio-economic and genetic data

At the data science and genetic epidemiology lab we are interested in finding new ways to early identify common preventable diseases. To do that we develop statistical and deep learning approaches and apply them to millions of health information from electronic health record/national health registries. We integrate registry-based information with genetic information from large biobank-based studies to help identify groups of individuals that can most benefit from existing pharmacological interventions. In this talk, I will illustrate how deep learning can be used to effectively leverage longitudinal multi-modal nationwide information to accurately predict 1-year mortality risk and discuss the algorithmic fairness of such approach. I will also show how a nation-wide pedigree spanning 4 generations across 7 millions individuals can be used to improve prediction of cardiovascular disease and the application of graph neural networks to pedigree data.

Andrea Ganna is an Associate Professor at Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), HiLIFE anda research associate at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Andrea's research interests lie at the intersection between epidemiology, genetics, and statistics. He leads a diverse group of 18 researchers including biologists, mathematicians, and medical doctors. He is a winner of an ERC starting grant and the Leena Peltonen Prize for Excellence in Human Genetics. He is co-leading two major international consortia: the COVID-19 host genetic initiative, the largest human genetic study of COVID-19, and the INTERVENE consortium, which aims to integrate AI and human genetics tools for disease prevention and diagnosis across biobanks in Europe. He has also initiated the FinRegistry project, one of the most comprehensive registry-based health studies in the world. His research vision is to integrate genetic data and electronic health records to enhance the early detection of common diseases and improve public health interventions.

10.10.2023 Christopher Chagnon
Data is the new copper: Data extractivism and alternatives in Zambia

The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in the 21st century has seen massive changes to human societies and the global economy; the rise of data-driven tech companies, the proliferation of “smart” devices, fundamental shifts in how we communicate with each other, the advancement of AI, and many others. While previous industrial revolutions were driven by the remnants of life long dead (coal, oil), this one is driven by a resource extracted from the living – our thoughts, feelings, and movements in the form of personal data. Critical research into the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the 4IR has proliferated in recent years. While much of this research has focused on contexts in the global North, there has been a growing body of work focusing on contexts in the global South. This makes sense, in that contexts in the global North are often more saturated with internet and the latest technologies, while contexts in the global South represent the biggest frontiers for growth of internet penetration and platform usage. This presentation reflects on the concepts of data extractivism, data colonialism, and alternative approaches to technology in the context of Zambia, as well as methodologies for researching these areas.

Christopher Chagnon is a PhD researcher in Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, focusing on data extractivism, data colonialism, and alternative approaches to technology in Zambia. He is a member of the Extractivisms and Alternatives (EXALT) Initiative at the University of Helsinki and co-host of the monthly EXALT Podcast. He is also a core member helping to design and implement the project “New Directions in Development Studies and Sustainability” (NDDS) along with colleagues from University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), University of Dodoma (Tanzania), University of Jyväskylä, and University of Zambia.

3.10.2023 Riikka Rossi
Culture-Specific Emotions and Literature: New Methods and Methodological Challenges

This presentation investigates methods and methodological challenges in the study of literary texts and emotions in the light of Finnish literature. I illustrate how computational methods of sentiment analysis can be used as support-tools for studying textual tones and moods in conjunction with traditional literary analyses. I then examine how empirical reader response studies can be developed to explore literature and the intersubjective nature of emotions, and how reading group studies can help understanding the cultural impact of literary texts in emotional communities.

Riikka Rossi is professor of Finnish literature at the University of Helsinki. Her research centers on history of Finnish literature and literature and emotions from an interdisciplinary perspective. She is currently leading the project “Culture-specific Emotions and Literature: Conceptual Modelling and New Methods in the light of Literature of the North” funded by the Finnish Research Council (2023-2027), and the project “Arctic Hysteria. Strange Northern Emotions” funded by the Kone foundation (2020-2024).

26.9.2023 Michael Lewis, Tuuli Kurisoo & Ville Rohiola
Recording Archaeological Finds Made by the Public in England, Estonia and Finland: opportunities provided by citizen science and new digital technology

England, Estonia and Finland (as across much of Europe) have experienced an expediential increase in the numbers of people metal-detecting for archaeological finds. This provides both opportunities (to add to archaeological knowledge) but also challenges (in how to record large and increasing numbers of finds). For many reasons (predominately driven by legislation, but also cultural and historical), different countries have various approaches to dealing with these finds, not least how they are processed and how the data collated is shared. This paper, and the following discussion, will examine the situation in England, Estonia and Finland (as good examples of differing approaches to recording metal-detected finds), and explore the opportunities provided by citizen science and new digital technology.

Michael Lewis is Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum, London, and Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and the University of Helsinki. Tuuli Kurisoo is a researcher at the University of Tallinn, where she has led the ‘MetDect’ project (to digitise detector finds data) and ‘From Theory to Practice: archaeological finds and the semantic web’. Ville Rohiola is Curator of Archaeological Collections at the Finnish Heritage Agency and is managing the ‘Arkeologia 2.0’ project dealing with archaeological data and digital research infrastructure. All three are very experienced in recording finds made by the public.

19.9.2023 Adrienne Russell
Rethinking how we investigate power dynamics in the information environment

Researching the connection between our information environment and wicked problems in our social and environmental landscape demands that we rethink the questions we ask, the methods we use, and the relationship between the two. In the field of communication studies, we used to consider power as residing in the hands of some combination of owners, producers and audiences, but today the forces vying for influence and control are much more complex and, in some cases, much less visible. This talk is about the methods I used to explore power dynamics in our contemporary information landscape—from corporate sponsored disinformation campaigns to expertly crafted activist media strategies—in attempt to address the question What role does our media and info landscape play in our unwillingness or inability to take decisive, coordinated, successful climate action. It’s also a talk about the lessons I learned on the benefits and challenges of asking questions first—no matter how difficult they are—and then sorting out the methods necessary to move toward answers.

Adrienne Russell is Mary Laird Wood Professor and co-director of the Center for Media, Journalism and Democracy in the Department of Communication, University of Washington, Seattle. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of journalism, emerging technologies and pressing social problems. Her most recent book, The Mediated Climate (Columbia 2023), examines the overlapping climate and information crises. She is also co-editor of the recent volume Rethinking Media Research for Changing Societies (Cambridge 2021).

12.9.2023 Sakari Saaritsa & Jarmo Peltola
“A scarred people”: Analyzing the imprint of crises on population health and livelihoods in early 20th century Finland

This talk describes the data, methods and related challenges of a new Academy project, “A scarred people: The imprint of crises on population health and livelihoods in early 20th century Finland”. The project uses individual level data to study the long-run impact of economic and social crises on population health, livelihoods, and capabilities. Our project starts with individual level health data on generations of newborn and older children in the major Finnish cities of Helsinki and Tampere living through some of the most severe crises of the early 20th century. We link this with information on their later life outcomes, such as age and cause of death, occupation, and quality of residence. We include rare data on individual participation in civil conflict on different sides. We redescribe the experience and heritage of the civil war of 1918, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and WWII through metrics like birth weights, heights, maternal health, mobility and mortality.

The underlying “scarring” literature can be divided up by outcome metrics as much as by the causes and mechanisms of damage to human capital investigated. Wars will cause bereavement, displacement and lost production, sometimes including deliberate sieges, sanctions and forms of economic violence. There is a particularly rich literature using anthropometrics to capture their effects; and there is a growing field using sex differences in mortality to infer the impact of conflict on gender systems, like reinforcing patriarchy. Epidemics, particularly the Spanish Flu, have been subjected to extensive analysis identifying later life and long-term effects with metrics like mortality, economic and educational outcomes. Pathogens differ: some, like Typhoid, are prone to leave extensive damage to the organism and potentially cause co-morbidity, while others are not associated with scarring. There are also important gendered differences in mortality from infectious disease, both during and outside epidemics. While male frailty is typically prevalent, historical excess female mortality has been associated with greater susceptibility to one or more pathogens, albeit the reasons for this are contested. Individual level data on e.g., the heights of female and male children can shed light on gendered resource allocation within households during crises, including potential discrimination. Scarring can show up in metrics from fertility to infant mortality. Infectious disease has been shown to be more consequential to later life and intergenerational outcomes than purely economic shocks. Economic crises in modern societies can still cause severe damage reflected in stunting.

Sakari Saaritsa (PhD, European University Institute) is Professor of Social History at the University of Helsinki. His research interests include the quantitative history of human development (particularly health, education and physiological capital), social inequality, historical indicators of well-being, and relationships between economic and human development over time. He is working with several historical datasets on Finland with local population and individual level data on demographics, anthropometrics, health and education. His research has been published in journals including the European Review of Economic History, Social Science History, The History of the Family and Cliometrica.

Jarmo Peltola (PhD, Tampere University) is Senior Researcher in Economic and Social History at the University of Helsinki with deep expertise in the economic, social and demographic history of crises, particularly the Great Depression, urban history, particularly of the city of Tampere, and in the development of pioneering economic, social and demographic individual level data unparalleled in Finland. Peltola has published major monographic works and international research articles on e.g., the total history of the Great Depression in Tampere, the demographic and economic history of the city and the development of health and welfare both locally and nationally.

5.9.2023 Urška Šadl

Route 66: The metamorphosis of the internal market through the prism of citation networks

The talk rethinks the mutation of the internal market, charting its metamorphosis from a free trade area to a maze of common policies. It examines the case law of the European Court of Justice from a novel, structural perspective which uses community detection techniques to shed new light on this amply theorized process. The analysis reveals an irreversible shift in the method of integration, from a de-regulatory removal of national rules obstructing free movement (liberalization) to a re-regulatory adoption of common rules and standards promoting free movement (harmonization). The shift, which occurred between 2007 and 2010, signals a new rationale of integration and a reprioritization of the European Union’s economic and non-economic objectives. Finally, the talk questions whether said shift calls for a new authorization of Europe to regulate.

Urska Sadl's primary research interests include the empirical studies of European courts and their jurisprudence, the language of courts, the theory and practice of judicial precedents as well as topics in European constitutional law more generally. She is joining the EUI after working at iCourts centre of Excellence for International Courts at the Faculty of Law in Copenhagen. She obtained her BA and Master degree in law from the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana. Urška also holds a LL.M. degree in Legal Studies from the College of Europe in Brugge and a PhD degree from the University of Copenhagen. She has completed research stays at King's College, London, Institute of European and Comparative Law at the University of Oxford and most recently visited the University of Michigan as Michigan Grotius Research Scholar. Her research appears i.a. in the European Law Journal, the European Law Review, the European Journal of Legal Studies and the European Constitutional Law Review.