Current research projects:

Mediatized Religious Populism (MERELPO) brings study of religion, populism and media into an interdisciplinary, theoretical and empirical interplay with each other, producing knowledge on the workings and impact of religious populism in the contemporary, pluralist society saturated by hybrid media. MERELPO has three objectives: 1) to provide empirical knowledge on religious populism as a manifold phenomenon in the hybrid media environment, 2) to develop the theory and concept of religious populism in the context of the hybrid media environment; 3) to advance public understanding of the societal, cultural and political impact of the different faces of religious populism in contemporary pluralist society saturated by hybrid media. Special emphasis is given to the analysis of institution-driven religious populism (emphasis on Christianity), and ‘the underbrush’ of new religious constellations on the internet.

MERELPO is funded by the Academy of Finland (1 Sept. 2021 – 31 Aug. 2025).

Associate Professor Valaskivi, Katja (Project manager) University of Helsinki
Associate Professor Sumiala, Johanna (CoPI) University of Helsinki

Hybrid Terrorizing: Developing a New Model for the Study of Global Media Events of Terrorist Violence (HYTE)
HYTE research consortium develops innovative research model for the theoretical, methodological and empirical study of global hybrid media events of terrorist violence. The multidisciplinary research project brings together media and communication studies, computational social sciences and international politics and security studies into a fruitful scholarly dialogue with each other. The consortium combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyse different types of media data, interviews and fieldwork material. HYTE establishes an international research network that produces new knowledge on hybrid terrorizing and creates a new platform for dialogue between academics, experts and policy makers.

Research consortium: HYTE is directed by Research Director, Docent Katja Valaskivi, University of Tampere (COMET). 
The subproject leaders are Docent Johanna Sumiala, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, media and communication research, and Professor Aki-Mauri Huhtinen, National Defense University, Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy.

Duration: 1.9.2017–31.8.2021
Funding: Academy of Finland
Facebook: Hybrid Media and Violence

Digital Youth in Media City (DiMe) (2016-) research project produces a new, international, cross-disciplinary (media studies, sociology, youth research, urban studies) knowledge about urban digital life trends, confrontations, and control in everyday life of young people. Research is conducted in Helsinki and Saint Petersburg.

The project team:
Johanna Sumiala – project leader, PhD, University of Helsinki, Department of Social Sciences
Päivi Honkatukia –  PhD, University of Tampere, School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Yana Krupets – PhD/Kandidat nauk,  The St. Petersburg National Research University Higher School of Economics, the Center for Youth Studies
Heta Mulari – PhD, Finnish Youth Research Society
Elena Omelchenko – FT, Pietarin National Research University High School of Economics, the Centre for Youth Studies
Leena Suurpää -PhD, Finnish Youth Research Society
Arseniy Svynarenko – PhD/Kandidat nauk, University of Tampere, School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Je suis Charlie – The Symbolic battle and struggle over attention (2015-2017)
In January 2015 a terror attack to the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine in Paris, activated a symbolic battle and a struggle over attention in the transnational media. The symbolic battle was fought over the values of the freedom of expression and religious sensitivity. This project examines how this event was created, experienced and circulated in a multiple media platforms, and how it united and/or polarized different kinds of imagined communities emerging around those symbolic battles. The project applies theoretical framework of a disruptive media event and combines digital ethnography and social network analysis for collecting and analyzing the events in the media.

This two year project is carried out at the University of Tampere,
Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication
(COMET) and is funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

The project team:
Research director Katja Valaskivi (University of Tampere)
Principal investigator Johanna Sumiala (University of Tampere)
Researcher Minttu Tikka (University of Tampere)
Researcher Jukka Huhtamäki (Tampere University of Technology)

Past research projects:

Youth Street Politics in the Media Age: Helsinki and London Compared (2012-2014). The aim of the ‘Youth Street Politics in the Media Age’ project is to study the construction of youth-related social problems in contemporary societies where the media plays an increasing role in constructing and maintaining social and spatial reality. This interdisciplinary project examines how public narratives – classically called as “moral panics” – over suburban youth in Helsinki and London are constructed in the media and how the youth themselves use urban space – the ‘street’ – to confirm and/or subvert these media representations. The project will also explore how the street is used to give voice to the experiences of social and spatial inequality in a broader sense, and how what we call ‘youth street politics’ – more or less organised youth action – is used to challenge these experiences.

Researchers: Titus Hjelm (UCL), Minttu Tikka (University of Helsinki), Leena Suurpää (The Finnish Youth Research Society), Johanna Sumiala (University of Helsinki) in cooperation with the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, The British Council, and The Finnish Institute in London.

Covering Religion: Challenge of globalization in the Finnish newspapers research project (2011-2013). The aim of this research project is to increase awareness about the changes in the social and cultural role of religion and the possible outcomes of these changes in Finnish newspapers in the age of globalization. The research provides fresh knowledge about the coverage of religion in the Finnish newspapers and thus offers possibilities to develop the journalistic profession in this area. This research project is carried out in collaboration with the University of Tampere and the University of Helsinki. The research team also works in co-opetation with Teemu Taira, Postdoctoral Researcher of Finnish Academy and his project Discourse on Religion and the Secular in the Finnish Media.

Project leaders: Katja Valaskivi and Johanna Sumiala. Researcher: Jenni Hokka Research assistant: Suvi Laakso. The research project is funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

Circulation – Theoretical and empirical implications for understanding media society research project (2011-2013). The rise of the internet and mobile media have challenged media and communication scholars as well as cultural and social theorists to develop new ways of theorizing communication more apt to grasp the mobile and cyclical nature of the web based media society (see e.g. Castells 2009; Urry 2008; Peters 2002; Appadurai 1997; Latour 2005). This project sets out to explore circulation. The empirical case focuses on the discourse on innovations and the innovation system as a contemporary belief system in three developed societies: the US, Japan and Finland. The project is part of the Fluid World Programme funded by the University of Tampere.

Charlie Bit My Finger! What the News Media Can Learn from YouTube? research project (2010-2011) aims at offering new knowledge about the use of visual communication media and how YouTube establishes communality and a sense of belonging in today’s media-saturated society. The project is carried out by the Communication Research Centre at the Department of Communication, University of Helsinki. The project is funded by Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

Crisis and Communication: A Comparative Study research project (2007-2009) was carried out by the Communication Research Centre at the Department of Communication, the University of Helsinki. The aim of the project was to analyse the social and cultural implications of different types of crises from Nokia town water crisis to the Jokela and Kauhajoki school shooting. The project was funded funded by Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.