Professor Minna Autio: Is there a need for living rooms in homes any more?

A professor in home economics is interested in how homes and the economy are intertwined, for example, how telecommuting at home is seen in the ways homes are changing.

The term home economics may remind you of school lessons, where you cooked and cleaned up a bit. Only a few minutes with the new professor in home economics, Minna Autio, is enough to wipe that image from the mind.

Autio’s speech teems with terms such as sustainable development, material flows, information society and money.

“For example, the relationship of home and paid employment is interesting. Increasing numbers of people work partly at home. How is this manifested in practice at homes and the use of space? How should this change be taken into account and especially how should it be studied?” asks Autio.

Do we really need the same kinds of living rooms as thirty years ago?

Another corresponding development is that homes are becoming increasingly private.

“People in towns no longer visit each other as they used to; instead they meet in cafés and restaurants. This begs the question: Do we really need the same kinds of living rooms as thirty years ago?”

As the name of the discipline suggests, the topic is homes, resources and the economy. Autio leaves the cooking of herring casserole to her colleagues.

Autio’s background is that of a consumer researcher at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. One of her main interests is sustainable living, in other words, wood construction from the perspective of the residents. Autio is a member of the Taste of Wooden Living - KäPy research group dedicated to the topic.

“When someone moves into a new wooden house, the building looks quite a bit like a typical new building. Consequently, the resident assumes it is the same as a prefabricated house but, of course, this is not the case,” says Autio.

“Wood is organic matter, it creaks and even bangs. This has clearly come as a surprise to some residents.”

Autio thinks it is worthwhile asking whether wood should be made more visible in new buildings.

“As it is, wooden houses are difficult to distinguish from prefabricated houses, but should the role of the wood be more prominent? Would it bring people’s preconceptions closer to the reality of living?”

Autio will continue to work in the KäPy research group even in her new position. Still, changing the faculty and the campus also means that Autio has had to readjust her perspective a bit.

“Students here are future teachers. My aim is to examine with them what is relevant about home economics to young people."

“Home is not only about living but also money, shopping, cleanliness, rest, hobbies and work. We should reflect on what we are teaching to young people.”