Kerli’s Lectio Praecursoria

Capturing segregation through space and time: New insights from the activity space approach and big data

Lectio Praecursoria in the public examination of Kerli Müürisepp’s doctoral dissertation on 25 November 2023

Photo by Christoph Fink

The city of the twenty-first century is a site of diversity, connection, and opportunity.

Cities have never been as diverse as today in ethnic, socio-economic and demographic terms, nor with regard to attitudes, lifestyles and activities.

Much of that diversity is the outcome of the increasing mobility and migration of people, both within and across countries. The United Nations has estimated that over 280 million people live outside of their home country – this is more than half of the population of the European Union.

In Finland, the share of foreign-background people is still rather modest compared to its neighbours – Estonia and Sweden – and compared to many other European countries. Yet, roughly half of Finland’s foreign population live in the Helsinki region and the share is in rise. Undoubtedly, the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, has become a site of diversity.

Often, people move to cities with the hope for attaining better education, advancing in their career, and improving their quality of life. And they rightly do so – social diversity creates the values and the benefits of the contemporary city. By bringing different groups together and fostering connections between them, the socially diverse city ought to reduce prejudice and foster social cohesion; promote creativity, innovation, and economic performance. The socially diverse city ought to ensure social mobility – that is, provide equal opportunities to advance in life for all of us, regardless of our backgrounds.

What an ideal city it is.

But, the reality is far more complicated – the city is far from being ideal, is far from providing equal opportunities for all.

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Väiski’s Lectio Praecursoria

Tuomas Väisänen has defended his PhD “Diversity of places and people: Using big data to understand languages and activites across geographical space” successfully on Friday the 10th of November. His opponent was associate professor Grant McKenzie from McGill University, Canada. In case you missed the event and want to read the Lectio Praecursoria, you can find it below.

Cover of Väiski's PhD

Väiski’s Lectio Praecursoria:

Cities are home to over half of the human population. 

The number of people living in cities is increasing at an unprecedented scale due to accelerating growth of urbanization, international migration, and mobility. These global megatrends are further intensified by climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Today, 56 % of the world’s population lives in cities. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, this percentage has increased to 70 %. This will place immense pressure on cities to provide housing, employment, and services for a growing number of inhabitants. 

At the same time, the cities are not only becoming more populous, but the populations living in cities are becoming more diverse.  

More people of increasingly varied cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds are interacting in cities than ever before. Accordingly, researchers in the last 15 years have recognized that variables commonly used to describe population diversity in the past, such as countries of birth or origin, or ethnicities of the individuals, are not adequate for assessing the new patterns of diversity present in contemporary urban populations. 

Recent research has thus called for characterizing urban populations as being “super-diverse.” That is, the populations are diverse across multiple variables at the same time, such as ethnicities and countries of origin, but also religions, languages, gender, age, socio-economic and immigration statuses.  

As you might have observed from the title of my work, in my thesis I focus on exploring diversity from the perspectives of languages and activities. 

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Elias’ Lectio Praecursoria

Measuring sustainable accessibility: geospatial approaches toward integrating people and the environment

Lectio Praecursoria in the public examination of Elias Willberg doctoral dissertation on 2nd June 2023

Photo by Christoph Fink

Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Currently, we are compromising that ability. We have exceeded several planetary boundaries, which mark the safe limits for humanity. We are consuming environmental resources at a rate, which would require several planets to sustain. And we, are still on a path where our environmental burden continues to increase.

At the same time, our social challenges remain persistent. In a world of overconsumption, no country has been able to meet the basic social needs of its citizens at a sustainable level of resource use. Inequalities between people are increasing again and growing environmental stresses, like climate change and biodiversity loss only make it harder to achieve social goals.

What we ultimately want, is to reach that safe and just space in the middle, between the ecological ceiling and social foundation where we don’t consume more than what we have, but where we also leave no one behind. Guaranteeing a good life for everyone, without compromising the planet, represents the ultimate goal for our societies.

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New Travel Time Matrix 2023 and GREENTRAVEL project

Digital Geography Lab presented a new travel time matrix 2023 and a new big project GREENTRAVEL in a seminar held in Think Corner.

Helsinki region travel time matrix was published now for the fourth time. The matrix is an interactive open access dataset that allows investigation of travel times for different travel modes in Helsinki region. Professor Tuuli Toivonen gave an insight to the history of the matrix which was first published already ten years ago in 2013.

Since the first matrix was computed, the technology has improved and enabled the use of new methods. Christoph Fink explained how the new matrix was calculated and showed how it works.  Current accessibility prospects and changes in the regional structures of accessibility in Helsinki region were described by Elias Willberg. We also had two guest speekers, Miikka Haimila and Iiris Karvinen, from the city of Helsinki. Haimila reflected the importance of matrix for the city and its open data activities. Karvinen took the angle of a planner and demonstrated how the matrix has been serving the planning needs of the city.

In the end Tuuli Toivonen presented our new big project GREENTRAVEL which aims to explore the availability and quality of green urban travel environments and their impacts on wellbeing through the prism of urban informatics. We continued the discussions right after the seminar in a GREENTRAVEL workshop where we focused on the role of greenery in urban travel environments and how greenery can be better incorporated in current green infrastructure and travel and mobility planning.

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Uusi matka-aikamatriisi 2023 ja GREENTRAVEL-projekti (available in English as separate post)

Digital Geography Lab esitteli uuden pääkaupunkiseudun matka-aika-aineiston 2023 ja juuri käynnistyneen GREENTRAVEL-tutkimushankkeen Tidekulmassa järjestetyssä julkaisutapahtumassa.

Pääkaupunkiseudun matka-aikamatriisi julkaistiin nyt jo neljättä kertaa. Matriisi on avoin paikkatietoaineisto, joka mahdollistaa matka-aikojen vertailun eri kulkutavoilla pääkaupunkiseudulla. Professori Tuuli Toivonen kertoi matriisin historiaa valaisseessa puheenvuorossaan ensimmäisen matriisin julkaisusta kuluneen jo 10 vuotta.

Teknologian kehittyminen ensimmäisten matriisien tuottamisen jälkeen on mahdollistanut uusien menetelmien käytön laskennassa. Christoph Fink esitteli miten uusi matriisi on laskettu ja miten se toimii. Elias Willberg valotti pääkaupunkiseudun nykyistä saavutettavuusmaisemaa sekä muutoksia saavutettavuuden alueellisissa rakenteissa kuluneiden 10 vuoden aikana. Mukana olivat myös vierailevat puhujamme Miikka Haimila ja Iiris Karvinen Helsingin kaupungilta. Haimila kertoi matriisin merkityksestä kaupungille ja sen avoimen datan toiminnalle. Karvinen osoitti suunnittelijan näkökulmasta miten matriisi on palvellut kaupungin suunnittelutarpeita.

Lopuksi Tuuli Toivonen esitteli uuden viisivuotisen GREENTRAVEL-tutkimushankkeen, jossa selvitetään liikkumisympäristöjen laatuun ja vihreyteen liittyviä mieltymyksiä sekä niihin kytkeytyviä hyvinvointivaikutuksia ja näiden alueellista, vuodenaikaista ja yhdenvertaista saatavuutta. Jatkoimme keskustelua aiheesta seminaarin jälkeen pidetyssä GREENTRAVEL-työpajassa, jossa keskityimme vehreyden rooliin kaupunkien liikkumisympäristöissä sekä tapoihin tuoda vehreys näkyvämmin osaksi liikkumisympäristöjen suunnittelua.

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Vuokko’s lectio 9.12.2020

User-generated Geographic Information for Understanding Human Activities in Nature

Lectio Praecursoria, in the public examination of MSc Vuokko Heikinheimo’s doctoral dissertation
the 9th of December 2020


Nature contributes to human well-being in countless ways. Many of us enjoy spending time in nature, going for a walk or a picnic and observing species and seasons. Nature-based tourism and outdoor recreation are evident examples of direct benefits of nature to people.

National parks are protected areas that are dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and providing people the opportunity to enjoy nature.

Urban green spaces include the network of parks, forests and other green areas in the urban structure. Green spaces in cities offer opportunities for contact to nature in our everyday lives while protecting urban biodiversity.

We are also willing to travel far in order to experience and enjoy nature. In many places, visitors of protected areas – both domestic and international – are a significant source of income for park management and local communities. Information about protected area visitors is important for planning and management on regional, national and international scales.

The ongoing pandemic has emphasized the importance of access to green spaces in everyday life.

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Inaugural lecture by Professor Toivonen

Tuuli Toivonen is now a full professor in geoinformatics at the Faculty of Science!

Newly appointed  professors at the University of Helsinki are celebrated twice a year. As part of these celebrations, the professors hold an inaugural lecture.  This autumn, all festivities were (understandably) held online which allowed everyone interested to watch these lessons online.You can watch Tuuli’s lecture in here (Finnish audio, Finnish and English subtitles available):

Congrats once more to Tuuli!

Joelin lektio 27.11.2020

Alueiden suojeluarvottaminen kaupunki- ja maakuntatason maankäytön suunnittelun tueksi

FM Joel Jalkasen Lectio praecursoria -puhe 27.11.2020
Public defence of Joel Jalkanen's PhD thesis
The opponent (Professor Niina Käyhkö), the custos (Professor Tuuli Toivonen) and the doctoral candidate (MSc Joel Jalkanen) in Athena hall 107 on 27th of November 2020

Arvoisa kustos, arvoisa vastaväittäjä, hyvät kuulijat

Me ihmiset aiheutamme toimillamme paraikaa massasukupuuttoa, joka uhkaa suurta osaa maailman elämästä. Tällä hetkellä selkeästi suurin uhka maapallon lajistolle on se, että ihmiskuntamme tuhoaa elinympäristöjä omien tarpeidensa alta.

Eri lähteistä toistuva viesti on selkeä ja kiistaton: tapamme käyttää maata on kestämätön.

Kuvaamani ongelma kilpistyy hyvin oheiseen kuvaan. Luonto esiintyy paikassa, ja samoin ihmisten intressit esimerkiksi ruuantuotantoon tai kaupunkien rakentamiseen kohdistuvat usein paikkaan. Siellä, missä toinen haluaisi perustaa luonnon puolesta suojelualueen, näkee toinen hyvän paikan uudelle asuinalueelle.

Tätä ristiriitaa ratkotaan maankäytön suunnittelulla. Siinä sovitellaan erilaisia paikkoihin kohdistuvia tarpeita ja intressejä ja tarkastellaan, miten niitä voidaan saavuttaa rajallisen fyysisen tilan puitteissa.

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NoRSA 2019 Keynote: Tuuli Toivonen

We will also start sharing our presentations in the Digital Geography Lab blog!

To start out, we will share Tuuli’s Keynote presentation at NoRSA 2019 Conference Seinäjoki, Finland, 19th June 2019 that summarizes much of our ongoing work related to socio-spatial interactions and Big Data: