Framing difference positively, appreciating diversit

Why is difference so often framed negatively, and presented as dangerous and suspicious? Why are new methods and practices frequently opposed instead of welcomed with enthusiasm and seen to contribute and complement the old ones? Why are developing one’s knowledge and acquiring new skills literally “not nice” in the Finnish (linguistic) context, meaning at the “discomfort zone” (Finnish “epämukavuusalue”) instead of the English equivalent “learning zone”? Why do people often think that “us” is somehow better than “them”? What about migration – how could foreign citizens be considered more as an opportunity than as a threat?

Difference and diversity should be seen in a more positive light. There is extensive research on the favorable consequences of diversity and multiculturality in the workplace and in the society at large. For example, increased diversity has influenced positively the performance of companies by increasing productivity, driving innovation, boosting internationalization, building global networks, and promoting learning through access to new knowledge and technologies. Foreign citizens, migrants, have linguistic and socio-cultural skills as well as understanding of many cultures – and thus abilities to smoothly co-operate and build trust in transnational contexts. (Li, 2020). Nevertheless, diversity as such is not enough to create desirable outcomes if not implemented holistically and based on values. The management and the authorities should respect and recognize the important contribution and special skills of their diverse employees and residents, and thus build feeling of belonging, being included. (Mor Barak, 2015). The concept of inclusion is often linked with diversity to describe how organizations, societies and their members connect and interact with people representing all types of differences (Deane & Ferdman, 2014). Smooth and successful integration is crucial both for the migrants and the receiving societies.

Studying in the international Master’s Programme in Intercultural Encounters has been extremely valuable, eye-opening and pleasant experience. Being surrounded by such amazing fellow students, with diverse backgrounds from different parts of the world, has enabled countless inspiring discussions in the classroom (before the pandemic) and enriching group case studies. Without this unique intercultural context, we would have missed an integral part of the purpose of our studies.

Cultures and subcultures, in-groups and out-groups, are formed everywhere, and thus intercultural encounters, synergies, and ideological clashes may well happen between regional communities, parents and their children, different socio-economical classes, majority-minority groups, political parties, religious affiliations, hobby-related circles and even between academic disciplines. In this light, if diversity is to be found anywhere and all of us construct unique identities, also migration could be seen more as an opportunity to learn something new than as a threat to protect oneself against.

This blog post wanted to focus on the positive aspects of diversity as well as on the possibilities enabled by migration. While it is evident that challenges do exist on many levels, and several issues could still be improved, it is important to start from attitudes and foster tolerance, respect, equality, and empathy.


Deane, B., & Ferdman, B. (2014). Diversity at work : the practice of inclusion. Jossey-Bass.

Li, H. (2020). How to Retain Global Talent? Economic and Social Integration of Chinese Students in Finland. Sustainability, 12(4161), 1-19. DOI: 10.3390/su12104161

Mor Barak, M. E. (2015). Inclusion is the Key to Diversity Management, but What is Inclusion? Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(2), 83–88. DOI: 10.1080/23303131.2015.1035599

Author is a student at the University of Helsinki


Is population decline opening the doors for new immigration policies in Japan

When discussing immigration policies, Japan is known for its rather apprehensive policies in the acceptance of immigrants other than high skilled labourers, and even for those the percentage in comparison to the local “homogenous” population, is low. It is also known that from the year 2008 Japan has had an increase in the number of citizens over the age of 65, or the so-called ageing population increase, that overpasses the birth-rate metrics of the country. Due to the uncertainty of how these population changes will affect or even collapse the security social system and pensions, Japan has seen an increase in the discussions of immigration policies and the acceptance of foreigners as a possible proxy to delay the imminent possible threat to their economy.

It is known that Japan has about 2% of registered foreigners as of 2017, and of that percentage, most of the foreign citizens come from other Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Vietnam. With the hosting of the Olympics, Japan increased in great numbers the amount of construction workers in the country. Unfortunately, due to absent policies and organizations that can satisfy decent working condition, the rise of low skilled construction workers has led to numerous cases of overworking related deaths.

Other initiatives have opened the path for Nikkei to enter Japan, but unfortunately, this limits greatly the possibilities for other communities to be part of the working force. Recent policy changes like the 2010 enactment of a refugee program initiative for third-country resettlements with the UN and the surge of work visas for foreign nurses and caretakers in accordance with EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement, 2007) has sparked a debate between policymakers and the public, on whether Japan should enable an open-door immigration policy.

New systems for medium-skilled workers are facilitating migration to Japan, in the form of working visas, traineeships and accreditation for workers who graduated from Japanese Universities who also possess language skills, but more importantly is the discussion surrounding not only a more accepting Japan in terms of bureaucratic procedures but also a social shift in the idea that “Japan is homogenous and poses one culture and one language.” This cultural shift may be the trigger to open the door for new immigration policies in the future.

The debates surrounding the social consequences of an influx of foreign workers often touch upon topics of belonging and meaning of Japan, Japaneseness and common rhetoric of homogenous Japan. I believe that this last aspect of homogeneity is an important piece in the puzzle for the discussions surrounding immigration, as Japan has never been a fully homogenous society but one with oppressed minorities as the native (アィヌ) Ainu in Hokkaido and the (琉球民族) Ryūkyū minzoku in Okinawa. The extensive history that precedes the current inhabitants of Japan should be a point of convergence to discuss immigration policies and their relationship with other policies that deal with cultural diversity, safety, and integration.

Posted on behalf of the euthor who is a student at the University of Helsinki

Cross-border commuting to Luxembour

Short background on Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a small country with a population of 626 100 of which 47,4% are foreigners. 88% of these foreigners are European, the largest foreign populations coming from Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium and Germany. Luxembourg is a wealthy country with a minimum wage of (qualified) 2570euros/month and a GDP per capita of EUR 92,600 (Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg, 2020; EACEA, 2020; STATEC, 2020).

Cross-border commuting

Workers from France, Belgium and Germany come to work in Luxembourg, most of them commute more than 40 minutes each way to work. These border workers account to 45% of salaried employments in Luxembourg (Chambre de Commerce, 2019). This area is called the ‘Greater Region’ and these governments have joint agreements where the border workers pay taxes in Luxembourg, benefit from higher income and enjoy Luxembourgish benefits (Finck, 2015). This kind of cross-border movement can be considered spatial integration as the individual’s workplace is in a different country to their place of residence, but it is also social integration as they have hobbies, social networks and attitudes toward the visiting country. Further it is also economic migration, where workers seek better employment opportunities elsewhere (Drevon, Gerber, Klein, & Enaux, 2018; Fromentin, 2021). One of the reasons there is such a phenomenon is due to the high housing prices in Luxembourg (Clevers, Mathä, Pulina, Strásky, Woloszko, & Ziegelmeyer, 2020).

My own experience

Having been born and raised in Luxembourg, and later on raised in Belgium, my family was also crossing the border daily to work in Luxembourg and my siblings and I for school. For nine years we used to live just by the border of Luxembourg, my siblings and I have always attended the same school in Luxembourg irrespective of where we lived and my parents always worked in Luxembourg. The experiences of my family align with the findings of Drevon et al., as our family often did a trip of home-work/school-home. Drevon et al. found that 54% of cross-border workers did a trip of home-work/school-home. Further my family would fall under the ‘Integrated’ cross-border worker of Drevon et al.’s study. These families were living close to the border, performed most of their activities like shopping, hobbies in Luxembourg and a few activates in their country of residence. Oftentimes, we did activities in Luxembourg during the weekends such as going shopping, swimming or meeting up with friends. Our house was in Belgium, but our friends, hobbies, activities were in Luxembourg and we spent more time in Luxembourg than Belgium, and that’s why I felt very attached to Luxembourg, and my siblings felt the same way. When we moved back to Luxembourg, life got easier as commuting time shortened and the stress of traffic and planning were practically diminished. It felt like we were moving back home. Thus, I did not feel integrated into Belgium, I was very much attached to Luxembourg and saw that as my home.

Author is a student at the University of helsinki


Chambre de Commerce Luxembourg. (2019).

Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg. (2020)., G.,

Mathä, T. Y., Pulina, G., Stráský, J., Woloszko, N., & Ziegelmeyer, M. (2020). Housing and inequality: The case of Luxembourg and its cross-border workers. OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 1608, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Drevon, G., Gerber, P., Klein, O., & Enaux, C. (2018). Measuring functional integration by identifying the trip chains and the profiles of cross-border workers: Empirical evidences from Luxembourg. Journal of Borderlands Studies, 33(4), 549 568, doi: 10.1080/08865655.2016.1257362

EACEA. (2020).

Finck, M. (2015). Towards an Ever Closer Union Between Residents and Citizens? European Constitutional Law Review, 11(1), 78–98.

Fromentin, V. (2021) Cross-border workers in the Greater Region of Luxembourg and financial instability: a non-linear approach. Applied Economics, doi: 10.1080/00036846.2021.1877251

STATEC. (2020).

Migration and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030

Migration is affecting those people who move but also the societies they leave, arrive and transit. Also, it affects both population and planetary health and should be taken into account while planning, implementing, and evaluating actions for sustainable development.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a major and relatively new framework with 17 wider goals which are measured by 169 targets and indicators. Since it has a broad political acceptance in different countries of the world it can be used as a framework for policy-making for sustainable development.

Since SDG are broad topics there is not an unanimous consensus on which of those 17 SDGs are specifically related to migration. Here are some SDGs to be considered: Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Reduced inequalities (SDG 10), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Climate action (SDG 13), Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). Under these SDGs are the targets and indicators related to migration. Some of the targets are directly and explicitly linked to migration. Some others may be linked, but the relationship may be implicit.

When it comes to reducing poverty, migration has had a major effect on both the migrants, but also their families, and their wider communities. It can be considered that some areas are of the world are overpopulated which may cause environmental problems related to pollution, clean water, and so on. While some people are emigrating from overpopulated areas to less populated this alleviates the environmental strain on the country of origin.

While considering migration as a phenomenon and its effect on people and countries then these SDGs could be focused further to alleviate potential sustainability and other problems caused by migration. Migration affects both countries of origin and new host countries of migrants. It overlaps with different policy-making areas within societies including labor, education, infrastructure, health care.

However, migration is not necessarily the root cause but an outcome, and therefore the additional focus should be put on those identified root causes and action is taken to alleviate them. One approach is to identify relevant indicators for each migration-related SDG and then determine what measures should be taken to affect those particular indicators.

Historically migration has taken place for hundreds of years. There is no reason why it would end. However, climate change and other environmental causes may increase migration. This will affect both individuals but also societies. Migration does not only relate to moving between countries but also within countries. Leaders of those societies should take action to take into account the sustainability aspects of migration. In this UN’s SDGs provide a good basis to take into account various aspects of migration and its consequences.

On political discussion, migration-related rhetorics have often a negative tone. However, it could be also considered that on a global level migration contributes to positive sustainable development and economic growth. It has its micro and macro-level challenges, but SDGs and related indicators are a viable approach to manage this complex and multi-faceted phenomenon while taking into account sustainability aspects.


Adger, W. N., Boyd, E., Fábos, A., Fransen, S., Jolivet, D., Neville, G., … & Vijge, M. J. (2019). Migration transforms the conditions for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Lancet Planetary Health, 3(11), e440-e442.

Foresti, M. & Hagen-Zanker, J. (2017). Migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Executive summary. Overseas Development Institute.

United Nations. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

United Nations. Their own goals – migration driving sustainable development.

Posted on behalf of the author, who is a student at the University of Helsinki

Would we be able to utilize digital profiles within migration?

Would we be able to utilize digital profiles within migration?


When talking about migration it becomes clear that there are many aspects to be considered within the phenomenon. One individualistic aspect is identity, which is important for immigrants. If we look at how many people globally lack legal identity, we find that the amount is as high as one-fifth of the global population. This is a big problem. If the migrant does not have legal identity, he/she will be denied access to basic needs such as work opportunities, an apartment, bank account, phone etc. (Cheesman, 2016). This means that there are many who are excluded from the basic needs, due to the fact that they have lost or never received legal identity. How is this fare? That just because of a paper you will not receive service. How would it be possible to tackle this problem?


We who participate in a MOOC course online at the University of Helsinki might not think much of it. Everything within the course can be done online with the help of different platforms. How then could we consider the correlation between technology, identity and migration? What if I said that with a digital profile it would be possible to create a safety net for people in conflict or natural hazard areas, or why not for people traveling a lot. It might be problematic if your identity is dependent on a piece of paper or passport. What happens if they are lost? How are you able to cross borders and prove your identity?


Not only would digital identity work as a safety net, but it could also enable an easier migration process. Currently many countries require a paper birth certificate for identifying the person. Why could this not become more utilized with digital means? Furthermore, from the intercultural encounters perspective it could help integrate the individual faster in the society and lessen the exclusion, since bureaucratic work takes a long time. It is impossible today to cross borders if you do not have any form of identification methods. With the profile, you would be able to keep information such as personal identification, health and bank information, educational background, travel information as such. This information would you yourself be able to choose who to share it with, for example the travel information with the border control and immigration service. When you have arrived in the country you could easily with your digital identity profile start adapting to the local life.

Sure, currently it is not possible to create a unified global profile system for all due to countries having different approaches and the risks it brings on, but it could be an alternative in the future. With the help of digital identity and a unified system, it would be possible to make the integration process smoother and more efficient. The world is moving towards a more technological development. I do not argue that travel should become digitalized completely, it is still a necessary safety precaution to have a passport and other identification methods aside from one single profile.

Posted on behalf of the author

This blogpost was written based on the writer’s own knowledge of digital identity received from participating in Demola Global Oy’s innovative research challenge Digital Identity at Work. The research was done with Sibell, Akther, Yao and Bizhanova (2021).




Cheesman, M. (2016). “Global digital identity – goodbye to national passports? The new geography of human rights.” Open Migration.


Sibell, S., Akther, S., Nyberg, S., Yao, A., Bizhanova, A. (2021). Digital Identity at Work. Demola Global Oy. (Unpublished report).

Picture 1: Nyberg, S. (2021). Picture created in Canva.

The real “migration crisis”: the depopulation of Italian villages

There is a phenomenon that brings together north and south Italy: small towns are emptying out. Students prefer urban centres to the outskirts and rural areas; some enrol in university, others move for work, other both at the same time. It is a democratic migration, there is no class distinction and everyone leaving their hometown does so not to come back again. In the small village, therefore, the inhabitants are most often only elderly people. In Italy only 22% of those who remain in rural town is younger than 24, and the percentage rises only to 24% in bigger rural towns. In Italy today “ghost towns” are around a thousand and according to Istat (National Institute for Statistics) the number goes up to 6000 when counting folds and alpine pastures. There are different reasons for this, ranging from economic migration to natural calamities (landslides, earthquakes and floods have made certain locations inaccessible), but a falling birth rate is also responsible for these numbers. Oftentimes these villages lack services, there are no supermarkets, no banks or pharmacies, no schools or public transport connections and the closes hospital is one hour away. Most importantly, though, they lack job opportunities. Young people have no real reason to seclude him- or herself in a village disconnected from the outside society, offering no perspectives for work or studies. It should not surprise, then, if this demographic leaves.


According to a report published by the department of social and economic affairs of the United Nations, 68% of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050. At the moment we are stalling at 55%, which is nonetheless a percentage that has grown exponentially in the last decades. This is, of course, not a recent phenomenon, but simply the evolution of urbanisation that has characterised various historical periods, especially during industrial revolutions. We live in a time where smart working is vastly diffused and in the upcoming years it will take the place of traditional working life. However, this will not be possible in more remote areas, where digital innovation is practically absent. In Italy many areas are still disconnected to the internet, forcing remote working people to move to find a better internet connection. Thanks to community financing, the 2022 Open Fiber project should bring high speed internet to 90% of the country, hopefully minimising such depopulation.


Additionally, Italian politics is not encouraging young talent to stay and is not implementing public transportation or digital connection, in an attempt to minimise the sense of isolation that seems to be an integral part of the life in more or less remote villages. This, alongside other issues faced by young Italians, spurs them to move abroad as there seems to be no prospects for the future in Italy, especially when the State is not actively promoting any initiative to make staying in the country endearing. This, however, is a global issue and cannot be overlooked forever.

Posted on behalf of the author, who is a student at the University of Helsinki

Filming for the course videos is underway

After careful planning, we have finally begun filming for the Im/migration and Intercultural Encounters course. Lockdown during last spring and the summer break at the university, caused filming to be pushed back to this Fall.

Our goal is to have more than half of our videos filmed before the holiday season and the rest are planned for the beginning of next year. We are exited to be working with Unigrafia on the production of our videos. Our teachers featured in the videos are in good hands.

The construction of the course site is also underway and we are working hard to have the assignments and materials up on the site during December and January.


COVID-19 has brought on many changes to the classroom, the most concrete of which is the shift from the physical classroom, to the virtual classroom. The scramble to move classes online has led to an increasing need for resources that discuss digital pedagogy. The need for discussion on topics that relate to digital pedagogy has never been as current as it is now. In this blog we will discuss on Digital Pedagogy, online courses, online teaching particularly in the field of Humanities.  


Tiina Airaksinen is Senior Lecturer in Asian Studies. She is trying to understand how to create feasible solutions in online teaching and is very interested in research on digital pedagogy particularly within cultural studies. 

 Anna-Leena Korpijärvi is a Doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies with a passion for developing tailored digital learning activities for theArts and digital pedagogical solutions that support these activities.

 What  is digital pedagogy and how does it differ from pedagogy for contact teaching? 

Digital pedagogy is often defined as the study and use of contemporary digital technologies in teaching and learning. This can refer to teaching conducted via Zoom, a MOOC course and anything in between. These types of teaching environments can appear distant and removed from teacher student contact, however online and hybrid teaching environments can and do include interactions between teachers and students as well as between students, it is somewhat different than traditional classroom interactions. 

Digital Pedagogy may be applied to online, hybrid, and face-to-face learning environments. Different types of teaching technologies used in university level teaching that increases every year. COVID-19 and the resulting distanced teaching has only accelerated the amount of online teaching available at university level. 

Digital technologies are relied upon to provide resources and support practices as well as learning platforms for class. Despite this, most teachers using digital teaching platforms and other tools, they are not necessarily knowledgeable on Digital Pedagogy.  

It can be difficult to figure out things like what are the best pedagogical solutions for a course or what types of learning objectives and activities are the most suitable for an individual teacher’s needs. 

One solution is that when planning your online course you begin to think what study objectives (of your course) are feasible or suitable in the online course. Then just choose a digital platform that you are most familiar with (moodle, mooc,, zoom, teams etc.). According to our research* the most used digital platform at the Faculty of Arts is the moodle.  

*Questionnaire: Digital Pedagogy and Intended Learning Outcomes in online teaching in Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, spring 2020, Airaksinen Tiina ja Anna-Leena Korpijärvi 

The Durga Puja Mystery: An Educational Video Game about Indian Culture

We are excited to announce the release of our educational video game on the Indian festival Durga Puja. It was developed to target mainly (beginner and intermediary level) students in (South) Asian Studies and Religious Studies but can be used in any other context, as well, as it is easy to play also for persons who don’t usually play video games. The Durga Puja Mystery is a collaborative effort of the University of Helsinki, South Asian Studies, Xenia Zeiler, and the Kolkata (India) based award-winning game development studio Flying Robots Studio, Satyajit Chakraborty. It was funded by the Future Development Fund, Faculty of Arts, and the Digileap Initiative of the University of Helsinki. It is open access and we invite everyone to play. Enjoy!
Please find the press release at:

The player is subjected to educational tasks and investigative puzzles gradually informing about Indian festival culture, taking the example of the arguably most popular festival Durga Puja. During the game, the player will collect various items, including reference books, texts, images and objects, that can help with the investigation and play a key part in winning the game. Simultaneously and as characteristic for educational games, these items introduce to various key themes related to Durga Puja, and support the player in their educational and academic quest. They are selected with the aim to transmit information about and inspire further interest in Indian culture at large.

Please find the game and related info and material (a game trailer, many visuals such as HD wallpapers and screenshots, and context info on Durga Puja, such as current negotiations and debates around the festival) at:

We have been selected as a finalist for Hacking Higher Education Finland 2020!
The final event, with a video pitch from us, is streamed from a studio in Helsinki, Finland on the 16th of September 2020 at 2pm EET (GMT+3).
Social media channels:
Instagram: @daretolearnfin
Facebook event:
Official hashtags: #HHEFinland2020 #HackingHigherEducation

Official slogan: “Changing the way we think about higher education”
Voting for the winner will open one week in advance on the 9th of September. Voting is open for everyone, and the final winner will be chosen entirely by the audience. More information about voting will follow here soon.
If you like the game, this is your chance to vote :)!

A Short update on the DICE MOOC

The MOOC course on Im/migration will be held in the fourth period in the spring term 2021.

The course is available via the University of Helsinki and the Open University for ICE students and also for people working in fields related to Im/migration (MIGRI, Customs, City of Helsinki, schools, day care centres, service sector, private sector etc.).

It is a  part of the University of Helsinki’s Continuing Education –strategy.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, we have chosen to alter the contents of the course somewhat. Despite this, the course will include video material, student discussion and participation, as well as assignments that focus on immigration and emigration issues.

Gamefied Experience

The course will iclude a gamified learning experience on Transcultural Encounters + Diaspora Identity. It supports smart digital learning environments on a macro level. It is a joint collaboration of ICE teachers and award winning game developers. It builds on previous collaboration with the game studio which resulted in an educational video game for the University of Helsinki already – The Durga Puja Mystery.

The planned content is related to transcultural encounters during jointly celebrated festivals (taking the Indian festival Durgapuja in Helsinki as an example), highlighting issues of identity, globalization and diaspora communities. The game presents gamified experiences of theoretical and methodical aspects of migration and transcultural identity via in-game inserted books, texts and other material that need to be used during play. It introduces students to the fast-developing concept and experiences of game-based learning and utilizing game-based environments for teaching.

The game and the course are intended for students in all thematic ICE modules on transcultural processes, globalization and identity.

The course will be available to ICE students online through the MOOC portal.

Everything is open access.