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.

The seminar will be held on Zoom until further notice.

Presented by Postdoctoral researcher Isabel Ramos Lobato & Senior researcher Heike Han­hör­ster

Commentator: Professor Niku Määttänen 

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/61018604737

Housing markets play a decisive role in the spatial distribution of populations and the integration of immigrants. Looking specifically at Germany, shortages of low-rent housing in many cities are proving to be an open door for discrimination. Our project focused on the influence institutional housing providers have on migrants’ access to housing. Based on 76 qualitative interviews with housing experts, politicians, local government officials, civil society and academics, the internal routines of housing companies are examined for the first time in a German context, looking at what effect they have on producing socio-spatial inequality. Using Lipsky’s (1980) ‘street-level bureaucracy’ as our conceptual framework, we argue that the barriers denying migrants access to the rental housing market are attributable to two factors: the organisational culture, whether in the form of official guidelines (’policy as written’) or of day-to-day activities in the front-line context (‘policy as performed’), and the huge gap between the two. Corporate policies, the resultant allocation policies, staff training and housing company involvement in local governance structures play a decisive role in determining migrants’ access to housing. The goal of achieving the right social mix and the lack of guidelines for housing company staff in deciding who gets an apartment – turning their discretionary power into a certain kind of ‘forced discretion’ – in many cases arbitrarily restrict access to housing in Germany.

Presentation by Postdoctoral researcher Tuomas Aivelo

Discussant: Postdoctoral researcher Heikki Sirviö

Link to the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/64217399935                      

There are rare urban species that can have a profound effect on human infrastructure, public health policies, control of pest species and human everyday experience as rats do. Huge amounts of resources are put into rodent control, either directly through rodenticides and traps or indirectly through rodent-resistant infrastructures. Rat is a self-evident study species as it is widely present wherever humans are – in our own backyards, in the slums of Global South and in the streets of Upper East Side in New York. Nevertheless, urban rats are definitely an understudied species. Within our multidisciplinary Helsinki Urban Rat Project we are leveraging the wide interest on rats to bring together an ambitious group of researchers, stakeholders and citizens to understand rats. I will showcase the type of data and analysis that we are doing about and with urban rats, ranging from population and disease ecology to educational sciences, environmental policy research and even visual arts. Our preliminary results show that rats are elusive targets of ecological research, but more than willing to reflect on the structure, bureaucracy and inner workings of human societies.


Presentation by Arttu Lahti, Doctoral student Carlos Lamuela and Associate professor Michiru Nagatsu

Discussant: Professor Mari Vaattovaara

Join the seminar: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/62947890611

The need to develop and expand urban areas is increasing in most countries, but urbanization also increases the threat for global biodiversity. Some cities have acknowledged this challenge and formed strategies and action plans for biodiversity preservation. But how can we ensure that such strategies realized in city planning? Negotiations are a crucial part of urban planning,  and therefore can be a leverage point of intervention to effectively implement strategies to protect biodiversity. However, little is known about the dynamics of the actual negotiation process in city planning.

We applied a game theoretic approach to study how information availability influences the success and efficiency of negotiations. A role-playing game was used to simulate a negotiation on specific measures to preserve biodiversity in a residential building project. Eleven urban development specialists played the game with different sets of information. In addition to the direct outcomes of the negotiation, we analysed the post hoc discussion and arguments used to gain insights on perceptions of biodiversity-related negotiations in urban planning.

Results indicate that information availability can increase the efficiency of negotiations. Participants favor principled and integrative negotiation, but incomplete information seems to push them to take a more positional stance. The post hoc discussion also reveals some issues relevant to the design of urban planning process for biodiversity. The overall results suggest that a simple game-theoretic framework, implemented in (a) game-like simulation with quasi-experimental control and (b) qualitative analysis of discussions, holds potential for both understanding (i) how decision makers frame and resolve the negotiation with conflicting interests and (ii) how to design efficient administrative processes taking into account not only the participants’ preferences but also wider public interests, such as biodiversity preservation.

Presentation by Doctoral student David Flood

Discussant: Research director Petteri Repo

Experiences of the city and its exploration are constantly mediated through digital visualising technologies, such as smartphones, advertising screens and surveillance cameras. Social media plays a significant part in these experiences and apps, such as Instagram, now make it easier to quantify citizens’ visual experiences of urban space. The importance of examining data from Instagram is underlined by a marked increase in both the use of and interaction with ‘#kalasatama’, for instance, in 2015 there were 2 281 image posts with ‘#kalasatama’ in comparison with 7 137 in 2020. The research takes inspiration from and builds on, postphenomenology and the philosophy of technology, which examines how technology shapes our experiences of the world and how it shapes us within that world. Inside that framework, the research explores how the screen acts as a virtual window into the world, creating a coherent reality for us to experience. We embody the experience of viewing urban space through the smartphone, leading us to believe we have transparent access to it via images. Therefore, analysing how Helsinkians perceive and use their urban spaces through the visual data captured in social media can lead to more novel urban solutions regarding how we think about place and identity.

Equal­ity in sub­urban phys­ical activ­ity en­vir­on­ment by University lecturer Petteri Muukkonen

Cycling for health - can it be compared to walking?  by Professor Mikael Fogelholm