Urbaria Academics

Photo of Senate square


Wednesdays at 9.00-10.30

Join the multidisciplinary seminar community and bring your colleagues with you! 

Urbaria Academics is a new multidisciplinary research seminar organized by Urbaria Community. The seminar invites the University of Helsinki researchers and guests from Aalto University to discuss and debate topical urban and regional research from various fields. The aim of the seminar is to bring researchers together and increase the dialogue between different disciplines.

This seminar has originally been established and prepared among a multidisciplinary group of professors and university lecturers working as academic supervisors in Urbaria’s postdoc research city collaboration project. However, in this dialogue, we need you all!

The seminar will be held on Zoom until further notice.

Residential segregation, political representation and local public goods 

Hosted by Professor Tuukka Saarimaa 
Commentator Professor Anssi Joutsiniemi

Link to online seminar meeting 
Passcode: 005855

We study the link between geographic political representation and geographic distribution of public goods within local jurisdictions in an open-list proportional representation system with at-large elections. Our findings can be summarized as follows. First, we find that local politicians are geographically more concentrated than the electorate and that the neighborhoods with poorer and less-educated electorates are under-represented. Second, we ask whether this unequal geographic representation translates into unequal geographic distribution of local public goods by focusing on closures of elementary schools. We find that the probability of closing a school during an election term roughly halves from about 20% to 10% when a candidate close to the school is randomly elected in a within-party lottery. Finally, difference-in-differences analysis shows that high-income residents "vote with their feet" and move away from the neighborhoods that lose a local school. Taken together, our results point to a vicious circle where unequal geographic representation leads to unequal geographic distribution of local public goods which in turn may deepen residential segregation.


Communities and social life

Hosted by Professor Ilkka Arminen and Assistant professor Veikko Eranti
Commentator: Assistant professor Venla Bernelius

Join the seminar https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/67986723309

Professor Ilkka Arminen 

In this brief presentation, I discuss three different cases of social identity and group boundary work. The first concerns a whatsApp discussion, and shows how boundary objects are brought into a discussion to portray and distinguish participants’ social identities and values. Second, we will explore Erving Goffman’s notion of civil inattention concerning street gazes, according to which  “one gives to another enough visual notice to demonstrate that one appreciates that the other is present, …while at the next moment withdrawing one’s attention from him so as to express that he does not constitute a target of special curiosity or design”. Our video-taped empirical analysis of street gazes in Helsinki shows that curiosity tends to arise for those in one or another deviate from norms concerning self-presentation. Third, we analyze boundary making through which distinctions between ethnic and other groups are constructed in Helsinki. We will discuss the shape of boundaries between Christians, Somalis and Finnish Swedes and the majority Finns.

Assistant professor Veikko Eranti 

Total democracy is a situation where most aspects of public and private life are touched or governed by democratic institutions. In Finland, this describes the lived reality for millions of people. Education, housing, banking, religion, and even Burger King and funeral parlors are democratic in one way or another. This is due to Finland having record membership rates in co-ops and unions, democratic institutions in schools and universities, and a system of democratic housing governance. Membership in these parademocratic institutions is voluntary, but they represent the ideals of participatory democracy: they open everyday issues, such as grocery shopping, to democratic discussion and deliberation. Due to the abundance of such institutions in Finland, the country can be said to be in a state of total democracy. But is this totality a good thing for democracy? Does it actually increase participation and give power to the people—or is it rather one of the causes of broader democratic malaise?

A demographer's perspective to area effects’

Hosted by Professor Pekka Martikainen and postdoctoral researchers Lasse Tarkiainen and Heta Moustgaard
Commentator:  Professor Tuukka Saarimaa

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/63442338348

Urban demography studies the interactions between individuals and their physical and social environments – in particular as they relate to the demographic processes of fertility, mortality and migration. Demographic phenomena such as population structure and population processes define long-term sustainability of urban centres and affect urban policies, such as construction, transportation and provision of health and social services.


In this presentation we give a brief overview to the research in urban demography at the University of Helsinki. Our main focus is on the effects that residential areas such as neighbourhoods, municipalities and provinces have on the health of individuals, but we also assess educational outcomes and crime. We use register-based data on individuals nested in families, schools, and residential areas with individual- and contextual-level measurements across several decades.

These data enable both descriptive studies assessing the area clustering in health as well as studies disentangling the causal associations between neighbourhood characteristics and health.



 Platform urbanism: conceptualising algorithmic systems in cities

Hosted by Associate professor Minna Ruckenstein and Postdoctoral researcher  Yu-Shan Sheng
Commentator: Professor Mari Vaattovaara

Join the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/62654679227

Platform urbanism, a term that aims to capture the expanding usage of digital technologies in the everyday, has been mobilised to explore and theorise the dynamics between platforms and the urban. In this talk, we introduce the concept of platform urbanism to discuss technologically-mediated human agency in cities. Our examples range from algorithmic management of couriers in food delivery companies, such as Wolt and Foodora, in Helsinki, to algorithms that are used for guiding political participation, such as Decide Madrid and vTaiwan, in Madrid and Taipei. Together, the cases offer direction for thinking critically about how algorithmic systems affect and arrange everyday practice, at work and in political decision-making, and the wider society. We end the talk by evaluating on the usefulness of new digital-related concepts, such as platform urbanism, for capturing algorithmic organisation of city life.

 Going where you belong? - Identities, reputation and stigma in cities and urban neighborhoods

Hosted by Assistant professor Venla Bernelius and University lecturer Jani Vuolteenaho
Commentator: Postdoctoral  researcher Seona Candy


Meeting ID: 674 5790 9373

Venla Bernelius

"Notorious" schools of the "notorious" places? - Segregation, stigma and identities in schools and neighbourhoods

Ade Kearns and colleagues open their article Notorious places (2013) by remarking that "All places have identities, but some places also have reputations." Notoriety, or negative reputation, often seems to have some roots in local social disadvantage, but it is also reproduced and strengthened by public discource and media coverage of places. Public stigmatization may, in turn, lead to a negative circle of segregation through avoidance in residential decisions, and local residents are often painfully aware of the outsiders' negative views and its impact on their own identities. In our talk, we ask what this means to local schools in Helsinki. Finnish schools are well known for their high academic quality, but are they shielded from neighbourhood stigma? Can place reputations also seep into school reputations, and what does this mean to pupils' identities and school segregation? 


Jani Vuolteenaho

Reputation, stigma and belonging:  Inter- and intra-urban reflections 

Migration and urbanization are intricately interwoven phenomena. Migrants are essential for facilitating urban-centric growth policies, as graphically illustrated by how China has fast-forwarded to co-existing prosperity and inequality through rural-urban labour migration, or how European cities are aiming at selective intakes of high-skilled newcomers. In our globalizing and multiculturalizing societies, conceptually challenging, ethically significant and policy-relevant issues pivot around their integration and overcoming obstacles to it. Through international and Finnish examples, my presentation focuses on migration- and place promotion -related questions of reputation and stigma in cities and residential neighbourhoods.  


Density planning the sub-urban: density, proximity or other essential qualities 

Hosted by Professor Anssi Joutsiniemi
Commentator:  Associate professor Minna Ruckenstein

Join Zoom Meeting: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/64373531135
Meeting ID: 643 7353 1135

Density is said to be a key indicator of urban development. To some degree this holds true. Unfortunately, however, the simplicity of a measure makes it a slippery concept and an attempt to make it general purpose feature makes it both uninformative and confusing. In this talk I'll take density to its elementary features and open some basic, usually hidden assumptions behind the "densification" that are somewhat different from the early applications of the term 100+ years ago.

City as an idea and changing urban identities

Hosted by Professor Laura Kolbe and University lecturer Terhi Ainiala 
Commentator: Jani Vuolteenaho 

Join the seminar: 
Meeting ID: 626 2775 9248

Professor Laura Kolbe: City as a concept - European continuities and modifications

The city creates waves around it: feelings and hopes, thoughts, ideas and identities. Emphasizing the special features of cities has long roots and history. Urban and planning history examines how cities have been planned at different times and what kind of aspirations have been set for the planned city. The city can also be seen as a place of memory, where different urban spaces (streets, squares, parks) are condensed into spaces of private or shared memory, or as Michael Hebbert, an English scholar of architectural history, elegantly states, “The street is a locus of collective memory.” The city balances in the cross-pressure of many kinds of desires - the city always faces history, present and future. The lecture also reflects how the history of the Finnish city should be rewritten so that we can better understand the interpretations of urbanity flowing in our time.

University lecturer Terhi Ainiala: Slang names as a means of constructing urban identities: a case study of Vuokki

Unofficial names may be used as a means of constructing urban identities. In my talk, I will analyse the use of the name Vuokki which is a relatively new slang name for the neighbourhood Vuosaari in Eastern Helsinki, and it has been used only since 1990s. Vuokki is considered to be an unofficial and urban name among Helsinkian people, and because of this, it is an optimal resource for expressing urban identity as an inhabitant living in a modern suburb like Vuosaari (Ainiala, Lappalainen & Nyström 2016).



Power and politics of spatial development

Hosted by Postdoctoral researcher Özlem Celik
Commentator: Professor Sami Moisio 

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/64595985846

Power and politics of spatial development: The role of the state in housing financialisation’

The relationship between the state and housing financialisation has gotten into the attention of scholars since the 2007/8 global financial crisis. The state has taken an extended role beyond being a facilitator that create legislative and financial conditions for the global capital to invest in the built environment. A growing literature on the role of the local state in housing financialisation points out the changing role of the state as a direct and active agent like an entrepreneur in housing financialisation. I reckon on these arguments to put forward the direct role of the state in housing financialisation in Turkey by new financial tools, new legislations, urban regeneration projects and new institutions in the state.

Housing precariousness: Experiences & policy alternatives

Hosted by Postdoctoral researcher Mika Hyötyläinen and Daisy Charlesworth
Commentators: Postdoctoral researchers Isabel Ramos Lobato and Cristina Bratu

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/68674441595

International housing research has made it abundantly clear that the difficulty to access adequate and affordable housing is a cause of grave uncertainty for urban dwellers everywhere. In recent years, experiences of uncertainty in housing have been studied and discussed using the concept of ‘housing precarity’. Alongside concerns with rising housing precarity, or arguably in response to them, we are also seeing a (re)turn to the affordable and adequate housing question, and growing interest in alternative forms of collective tenure and organization such as co-operative housing. We link these two topics in a case study on Finland’s emerging co-operative social housing sector. The study sets out to address two key gaps in current scholarship on housing precarity, namely how it often neglects the structural dynamics of housing problems and rolls over responsibility onto individuals and communities. In addressing these gaps, our findings expose numerous contradictions, or ambiguities, in Finland’s housing policy related to topics of finance, social housing allocation, justifications for supply and demand subsidies, land policy, housing commodification, and the recidualization of public housing. We call these the precarities of housing policy.

Community resilience and its segregation in the neighborhoods of Helsinki   

Hosted by  Professor Henrietta Grönlund and Docent Pasi Mäenpää
Commentator: Professor Ilse Julkunen

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/65462653410

Community resilience is defined as the capability of local communities to face crises, act in them, and take care of the wellbeing of their members. Building community resilience is effective, when it is based on cross-sector partnerships between governments and different communities. For example, the role of third sector organizations, religious communities and other local communities has been central in effective action and recovery after natural disasters, terrorism, and the H1N1-pandemic.

Our research project 'Community resilience and its segregation in the neighborhoods of Helsinki' (2020-2022) examines community resilience in Helsinki during the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on the so called third and fourth sectors, referring to associations, non-governmental organizations, and religious communities and self-organized civic engagement and activism by local residents, respectively. Local businesses and the city organization are examined as partners of the third and fourth sectors.

In our presentation, we introduce the poject and preliminary findings from it, and discuss community resilience and cross-sectoral cooperation in Helsinki during the covid-19 pandemic.