HSSH Brown Bag Lunch

HSSH organizes Brown Bag Lunch meetings every other Tuesday to discuss interdisciplinarity in the humanities and social sciences. The idea of the meetings is to introduce current research in various disciplines and have an interdisciplinary discussion in an easy-going atmosphere over lunch. Bring your own lunch, we bring interesting lunch conversations!

Brown Bag Lunch tunnuskuva, jossa lukee Brow Bag Lunch. Tausta on paperipussin näköinen. Somisteena kasveja oikeassa alareunassa.

There will be a 20-minute introduction to the interdisciplinary theme, followed by open discussion of 40-60 minutes. BB lunches are open for everybody. We hope multidisciplinary audience from different faculties and units of the central campus. The language of the meetings can be Finnish or English.

The most important prerequisite for participation is not an academic career, but an interest in interdisciplinary collaboration and research. We at HSSH believe that an extensive view is needed to understand and solve the great challenges facing humanity!

Until otherwise informed the meetings will be online on Zoom.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Mikko Tolonen is an associate professor (tenure track) in digital humanities at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki.

How can historical material be studied and utilized using digital methods?

With the spread of digitization and computer-assisted methods, there has also been a shift in the humanities from the work done by individual researchers towards multidisciplinary research teams. One example of this is the Computational History Research Group (COMHIS). The presentation introduces the latest research and the operating philosophy of the group. Tolonen will speak in English.

The presentation discusses how integrated multidisciplinary can be implemented in the social sciences and humanities. Tolonen introduces that substance know-how must be anchored in the “traditional” research tradition in order to be relevant and effective. Tolonen is historian, but the presentation concerns the humanistic and social science research field more generally.

Mikko Tolonen is a pioneer in digital humanities. For him, the digital humanities means the use of modern data processing methods in the study of fundamental questions in human sciences using extensive digital research materials. He strongly believes in the potential of interdisciplinarity. In his career, Tolonen has even been frustrated by how much, after all, the introduction of very simple digital methods is lagging behind in humanities research.

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Zoom.

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

What can be extracted from big data qualitatively?

Damaged and residual media forms tend to become sidelined, or are treated as marginal phenomena, as primacy in research is assigned to processes of novelty and progress. Broken world thinking moves these neglected phenomena to the center of the inquiry, calling for analytical and methodological renewal and imagination. Ruckenstein’s presentation discusses a study that used the Suomi24 dataset, organized to expose the topical structure of anonymous online conversations, in the exploration of the patterned nature of conversational breakages.

The presentation argues for circumventing the limitations of qualitative and quantitative methods and learning how to mix them with care to cross-fertilize research that is comfortable examining the studied phenomenon with both large data sets and qualitative inquiry. If broken and messy aspects of anonymous conversations are cleaned away from the data analysis, we are offered a purified perspective onto media engagements. With a detailed understanding of the breakages, emerging from the repetitive and asocial aspects of current discussion culture, we can broaden the research agenda, but also think of whether and how anonymous conversations could be repaired.

Ruckenstein researches digitization / dataification from the perspective of everyday life, communities and society. Ongoing projects explore everyday algorithm concepts, the division of labor between man and machine, and the ethical and political dimensions of the use of artificial intelligence. In addition, research related to the humanization of automatic decision-making is underway.

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Zoom, at 12:15 p.m.!

Dr. Riikka Koulu is an assistant professor (Social and Legal Implications of AI) at the Faculties of Social Sciences and Law.

Automated decision making: the legal system making sense of algorithms

Koulu's informal presentation sheds light to the on-going legislative reform in Finland, which aims to regulate automated decision making in public administration. Koulu addresses the proposal as an example of the different ways in which the legal system hopes to capture changes in everyday practices caused by algorithmisation of society.
Since 2016, she is also the director of University of Helsinki Legal Tech Lab an interdisciplinary research hub that examines the interrelationships between law, technology and society. Her current research interests include proceduralisation, datafication and automation of legal decision making and socio-legal conceptualisations of the computational turn.

How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?

"In my opinion, robust interdisciplinary research culture starts with open dialogue and willingness to learn from one another. At times it is scary to admit one does not understand what the other person is saying and why it is important. But by asking the deceptively simple questions and taking the time to explain the complexity behind one's reasoning takes us forward and opens up new lines of thought."

Welcome to the Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Zoom on Tuesday 20.10. at 12.15 p.m.

Pirjo Aunio is a professor in Special Education at the University of Helsinki.

Multidisciplinary approach to young children’s learning and learning difficulties

Professor Aunio describes how her research group´s approach has been taking steps towards true multidisciplinary research. She leads the Active Numeracy –research group, which employs researchers from special education, psychology and sport science as well as experts in laser and sensor technology. Aunio will also share some of future ideas to use sensors and other technology to detect children’s learning behaviour related to the learning environment.

Professor Aunio specializes in researching the development and learning of mathematical skills, as well as the difficulties associated with them. Her central aim is to find ways to identify and support children who have difficulty learning mathematical skills.

 Welcome to the Brown Bag meeting on Tuesday 3.11. at 12.15!

Jaakko Kuorikoski is an associate professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. His main research interests are explanation, causality, mechanisms, statistical causal modelling, rational choice theory and simulation.

Data, evidence and mixed methods research 

Mixed methods research is becoming increasingly popular in the social sciences – especially in political science - with its own dedicated journal and a number of alternative frameworks providing guidelines for conducting research combining multiple methodologies and kinds of data (usually quantitative and qualitative). The value-added of mixed methods is contested, however, as there is disagreement on the rationale and practicability of combining different methodologies with different epistemological and ontological presuppositions.

I argue that mixed methods frameworks presuppose that kinds of data, method, and results always go hand in hand and that this is a mistake. In order to clarify the rationale of mixed methods, I present a distinction between kinds of data and kinds of evidence, and between three distinct ways in which having a variety of evidence can be epistemically valuable: triangulation, integration and security.

Kuorikoski´s main areas of specializations are philosophy of economics and philosophy of social sciences and he has published widely on scientific explanation, modeling, simulation and causal reasoning. Before returning to Helsinki, Kuorikoski worked as an associate professor in New Social Research at Tampere University.

How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?

"My personal ambition is to build and teach methodologies for a more explanatory and solution oriented social science. This scientific agenda falls broadly within the methodological school of analytical sociology in emphasizing the importance of mechanism-based middle-range theorizing and research heuristics, experimentation and causal inference - without forgetting the necessity of interpretive methods."

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Tuesday 17.11. at 12.15.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Katja Valaskivi is Associate Professor of Religion and the Digital World in the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities and Faculty of Theology. Valaskivi specializes in research of media, religion and societal change and is currently studying terrorism, conspiracism and extremism the contemporary digital media environment. In three current research projects she develops mixed method approaches with multidisciplinary teams.

Methodological challenges in studying violent media events

When a terror attack, natural disaster or a systemic failure takes place, we get information about it though different media channels and outlets. The collective process of figuring out of what happened, and understanding the significance of what has taken place, begins immediately after the event. What becomes meaningful, in which contexts depends on the actors taking part and the affordances or socio-technical practices of the media environment that contribute to the circulation and accumulation of attention in the aftermath.

Drawing on experiences in several past and ongoing research initiatives this talk addresses some of the challenges encountered in different stages of research in studying violent, disruptive media events:  from building a multi-disciplinary team, to collecting natively digital data on the go, mixed method analysis and publishing multidisciplinary work.

Before her current position Valaskivi worked as the Director for Tampere Research Centre of Journalism, Media and Communication (COMET) at University of Tampere. Her recent authored and co-authored books include Cool Nations. Media and the Social Imaginary of the Branded Country (2016, Routledge), Traces of Fukushima. Global Events, Networked Media and Circulating Emotions and Hybrid Media Events (2019, Palgrave McMillan) and The Charlie Hebdo Attacks and the Global Circulation of Terrorist Violence (2018, Emerald).

How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?

"Multidisciplinarity is often recognized as something that takes place between SSH and STEM research. There are, however, many untapped possibilities for different fields of humanities and social sciences to learn from each other. Both can benefit from the collaboration now initiated by HSSH through sharing best practices, methodological innovations and practical solutions. Developing sustainable ways for remote collaborative work is one of the biggest challenges all fields of research face right now."

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Niilo Kauppi is a political sociologist and Visiting professor at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. He is also Directeur de recherche at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg. Currently he is on leave from that position.

Kim Zilliacus is a political scientist and University lecturer at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki.

From Information Society to Datafication - Conceptualising Political and Technological Change

This presentation focuses on the relationship between political and technological change from the perspective of how this dynamic relationship has been conceptualised in broad social scientific analyses of contemporary societies with a point of departure in political sociology.

The massive growth of ICTs constitutes a key factor in defining this transformation of societies, which has been theorised in terms of a succession of various versions of society starting from the Information society, Post-industrial society and Postmodern society to the Network society. As the explosion of digital communication is growing increasingly personalised and algorithmatised, its shock waves are mounting into more and more sophisticated and versatile new forms of power and influence (e.g. GAFA).

This rising dependence and utilisation of data and digital technologies have become major determinants of any political activity, highlighting some of the key political and societal dilemmas of datafication in need of rigorous conceptual and empirical inquiries.

Kauppi´s areas of interest include French politics and culture, European integration, higher education and research policies. He has collaborated on numerous research projects in Europe and was recently awarded the Mattei Dogan Foundation Prize as a key influence in European Political Sociology.

Zilliacus´ research interests include comparative politics, public opinion, political communication, value change and online politics. He has been visiting researcher and lecturer at Australian, New Zealand and Swedish universities as partner of comparative research projects and coordinator of education projects on international curricula and digital learning environments.

How the research culture of social sciences and humanities should be reformed?   

"Research in SHS would profit from a concerted effort by the HSSH and the scholarly community to demonstrate the social relevance of its research to the funders and the general public. This relevance is especially clear with respect to the current covid-19 crisis, as the outcome of scientific innovations and the management of the crisis are dependent on the knowledge governance of public institutions and the corresponding perceptions and competence of the public.

More broadly, this refocus on public health knowledge highlights the key role of the ‘dataficated’ interaction between political leaders/experts and the citizens. There is a need for current SHS research of datafication to provide some clues to solving the serious challenges of transforming public data into public knowledge that this major global crisis has exposed to such a comparatively revealing extent."

Welcome to the Brown Bag Lunch on Tuesday 15.12. at 12:15!

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924


Professor Risto Kunelius leads the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities. He specializes in research on the relationship between the media and politics, as well as communication related to climate change. He started as a professor of communication at the University of Helsinki in 2019.

On “datafication”: thoughts under construction

“Datafication” is a neologism that has invaded both academic and popular debates recently. It refers simultaneously to developments in the field of research (what kind of data becomes available and what kind of analyses data flows enable) and to infrastructural changes in communication patterns of institutional and social order (consumption, mobility of goods, political participation, etc.).

These closely and intensively interlinked aspects of datafication pose (to put it mildly) a timely and complex challenge to social science and humanities. The new Academy of Finland profiling action grant for Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities promises to gather our efforts to make sense of this.

In this talk I will start to develop three arguments/questions, by

  1. situating “datafication” to a longer narrative of my own research field (communication, media, in particular), drafting a narrative about the interplay of research and society – and emphasizing the need to look at this evolving intellectual and ideological landscape with at least a relatively long perspective,
  2. reflecting on this narrative with some remarks on broader strands of social theory, their interplay and limits, and
  3. drafting some questions for the SSH academic research today.

Welcome to HSSH Brown Bag Lunch on Tuesday 26.1.2021 at 12:15.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Eetu Mäkelä  is an associate professor in Human Sciences–Computing Interaction (HSCI) in HELDIG at the University of Helsinki. Take a closer look into Mäkelä´s research career and interests on his website.

How to do trustworthy data-centric research in the humanities and social sciences?

Led by associate professor Eetu Mäkelä, the HSCI research group seeks to figure out the technological, processual and theoretical underpinnings of successful data-centric research in the humanities and social sciences. In doing so, the group develops technical tools, algorithms and workflows, but also studies ways to better structure the research process overall. The HSCI research group also work on the theoretical level, for example evaluating the epistemological soundness of different ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative modes of research.

The group’s primary approach in doing this has been to partner simultaneously with multiple projects in the humanities and social sciences. Through working with projects that operate in different subfields, but still have commonalities in either data or analysis needs, the group have been able to see past individual scenarios, identifying instead needs and problems common to all data-centric SSH research.

In his talk, Mäkelä will shortly present the common problems The HSCI research group have identified

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

How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?

"The field would benefit from being able to better relate to each other the different options of conducting research, from the lone scholar to large interdisciplinary, integrated-methods research groups. Through a better understanding of the benefits and limitations of each approach, and also how they can be integrated, researchers would then be able to make more informed choices in planning their research.

However, our understanding of how the different methodological approaches relate to each other is not a matter conclusively solved in itself. Thus, to attain this, targeted research would be needed into both the practice as well as the epistemological foundations of how to integrate different modes of research."

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch on Tuesday 9.2. at 12:15.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Sarah Green is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki. She is a specialist on borders, spatial relations, gender and sexuality, and information and communications technologies.

On the language of maps and mapping: a multidisciplinary debate

Maps are everywhere these days, to the extent that we hardly even notice them: anyone who uses digital technologies for just about anything will be used to seeing maps. During the Covid-19 pandemic, maps appeared everywhere, showing how densely the virus had spread into which parts of the world; during the height of the Mediterranean migration emergency, maps constantly appeared in the media to show the flows of migration - all kinds of arrows stretching across the map, giving the impression of a forceful wave overwhelming huge areas of the planet.

The experience of looking up locations on mapping apps on smartphones and other digital devices has become almost second nature. Yet few people question maps in the same way that many have learned to critically question texts or pictures.

In her talk Green describes the encounter between two disciplinary approaches: the anthropology of space, place, location, environment and borders, and the geographical expertise of cartography, to open a conversation about the language of maps and mapping, and how different disciplines might critically examine that.

A map of Europe, Asia and North Africa depicting covid situation.

 Covid-19 map from Johns Hopkins University.

Professor Green has been researching issues related to the anthropology of borders, location, space, place and environment, especially in the Balkans and the Mediterranean regions, for most of her career, though she has also worked on the anthropology of gender and sexuality, as well as digital technologies. Throughout, she has worked with multi-disciplinary research teams, particularly with those specializing on space and environment: geographers, geologists, palaeobotanists, archaeologists, GIS specialists, etc.

She is currently the PI of an ERC Advanced Grant called Crosslocations. Her approach towards multi-disciplinary research can be broadly described as the promotion of collaboration among experts: we need disciplinary expertise in order to effectively work together across disciplines.

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Tuesday 23.2. at 12:15.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924

Eva Heiskanen serves as a professor at the Centre for Consumer Society Research at the University of Helsinki. Her research has focused on the societal adoption of new technology, in particular new energy technologies, with an emphasis on social organization, local learning and user and citizen involvement from the perspectives of STS, innovation studies and practice theory.

Toward critical research on the energy transition: multidisciplinarity and multivocality

The energy transition refers to a growing share of intermittent, fossil-free power production in the energy system, which is integrated increasingly with transport, buildings, storage and flexible demand, thus highlighting the role of energy users.

Until now, most of the energy transition research has been techno-economic, but the social impacts are gaining increasing attention, including issues of fairness. In ongoing research, professor Heiskanen attempts to combine both discursive and material connections between everyday life and the energy transition using Noortje Marres’ concept of “attachments”. Through this, she reflects on prospects for multidisciplinarity in energy-related HSS.

Professor Eva Heiskanen has been WP leader in the Strategic Research project Smart Energy Transition, and several other related projects on e.g. everyday practices and intermediaries. Her current Academy-funded project, Citizens, Everyday Life and Tensions in the Energy Transition attempts to provide a new perspective on current discussions on resistance to transitions, ownership of the energy transition and energy justice by zooming into tensions that are common to particular everyday life situations rather than locations.

How should the research culture of social sciences and humanities be reformed?

"It would be nice to collaborate more with colleagues within the UH. There isn’t really any practical context for this since external funding promotes consortia with external partners."

Welcome to Brown Bag Lunch meeting on Tuesday 9th of March at 12:15.

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Meeting ID: 622 9438 6517
Passcode: 741924