Where computers fall short: five questions of social science research and how computational methods address them

Laura-Elena Sibinescu

The migration of computational methods from technical fields into social sciences has done more than simply expand the ways we look at old questions. It has made it possible to ask entirely new ones, and thus had a profound impact on social science research. In this paper I look briefly at five essential questions anchored in traditional methodological approaches and examine how computational methods have (failed to) address them. Firstly, in the study of causality, are computational methods subject to the same rigors as traditional methods, or does use of big data, an invaluable resource for social science research, change the way we look at causal relations? Secondly, do case selection algorithms in computational methods have a deeper real-world impact compared to traditional methods – in other words, what potential social or political effects can ‘cleaning up the noise’ in big data have? Thirdly, computational methods can make the results of academic research more accessible and appealing to much wider audiences beyond direct stakeholders. What are the risks of exposing results to such (often uninformed) audiences when it is difficult to control their dissemination? Fourthly, computational methods have greatly increased our ability to make quick predictions with immediate real-world significance, such as who will win an electoral race. Can the presence and dissemination of such predictions through the media influence the process’ real outcome? And finally, since algorithms cannot make value judgements, they are not themselves biased, but they often produce results that feed our own biases and, by extension, limit our understanding. To what extent can the potential for generating such results be reduced in the early stages of the research? In the paper I examine these questions critically by looking at concrete examples from existing research that uses computational methods.

KEYWORDS: computational methods, machine learning, causality, case selection, bias

Towards zero – Social media data revealing “the other side” of vanishing popularity

Ylisiuria Marjoriikka

A known error in scientific process, survivor bias is the tendency to concentrate on phenomena that have emerged successful from some initiation phase. Despite of awareness of the problem, researchers often cannot remedy it: How can you study something that did not leave much trace in people’s minds? Moreover, why would it be interesting to study the sound of a tree that fell in a forest with no one around to hear it? Different disciplines have traditionally given different answers to questions above. For example, in social movement studies demobilization is traditionally less studied than movement mobilization (Tarrow, 2011, p. 190), but in consumer studies the question of popularity and abandonment is obviously of core importance (Berger & Le Mens, 2009).

An upside to continual digital tracking is that online datasets cover phenomena that died in infancy, decayed before maturity, as well as perished in ripe age. While many studies on online temporal processes concern single keywords or countable interactions between individuals (Backstrom, Huttenlocher, Kleinberg, & Lan, 2006; Kwak, Lee, Park, & Moon, 2010), also the community-level temporal change is increasingly studied (Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, West, Jurafsky, Leskovec, & Potts, 2013).

Just as more methods become available for the computational social scientist, so opens the opportunity to better understand popularity and rising interest by taking a more symmetrical view and studying the “other side” of vanishing interest. In addition to tools and research practices (DiMaggio, 2015), natural sciences offer useful theoretical metaphors. Instead of “death” and irreversible loss, many ideas or entities enter hibernation, or go through a transformation. Recognizing the possibility of reversal, such changes are called phase transitions (Solé, 2011). In this paper, I will present a few potentially useful categorizations lending from complexity science, and discuss their power to take forward computational research on vanishing popularity in social media.

keywords: popularity, social media, computational social science, complexity, phase transitions

Performing the future by participating in future creation and values attached lexical choices

Tuomas Soila

The history of future creation has had an enormous impact on the realised future. Consider the hype cycle attached to “New economy” and the dot com crash that followed. Or if one examines earlier cases such as the change in terminology from wage slavery to wage labour and how this changed the whole idea of economic evolution in the nineteenth century. Currently we are in the midst of many different paths of economic future creation. We are offered futures such as green economy, sharing economy, platform economy, sustainable economy, participatory economy, competition economy, data economy, circular economy. What are the underlying values attached to these different forms of future of the global economy and how can we examine these. This paper will introduce the important “future words” of economy based on previous research and examine the underlying values attached to each word. Then value clusters will be created based on analysis.

The study will be conducted by utilising a mixture of methods. First, I will read the abstracts of economy related articles on Web of Science database. From these the important words will be gathered. Based on the list I will query abstracts of related articles and produce keywords. I will also conduct a explorative study of using Wikipedia articles as networks to try to study interconnectedness of the words.

Keywords: Digital methods, future creation, values, networks, political economy


Let the cat out of the bag – Limitations and opportunities of methods with bag-of-words presupposition.

Juha Koljonen

Computational methods offer in the social sciences many possibilities for researchers to examine large masses of textual data in new ways. Topic modelling and ideological scaling are two such methods both of which have been used in political science, for instance. Some widely used applications of these methods rely on the so-called bag-of-words presupposition. This presupposition means that the order of words in a document is disregarded, and a document is represented as a set of its words.

In this paper I will examine the bag-of-words presupposition in more depth. I will first briefly present the field of computational methods as it concerns the social sciences, and the specific methods with bag-of-words presupposition. Then I will go deeper into the consequences of this presupposition, and consider ways that are available to mitigate the limitations arising from the presupposition. Next I will discuss what information methods which building on the presupposition generate and what these methods conceal, using examples from inquiry upon Finnish political party manifestos in the longer term. Next, I will deepen upon the utilization of these methods, which kind of research are they good for. Finally, I will discuss briefly what our results indicate in the larger context of quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Key words: Computational methods, Topic modelling, ideological scaling, bag-of-words



“It was an unplanned pregnancy”: Narratives on becoming a foster parent

Anna Klimova, University of Helsinki

In the presentation, I would like to share some reflections on fieldwork data obtained recently within my doctoral research on foster care in Russia (March — May 2018). As interviews show, independent foster parents in Russia tend to conceptualise their relations with children in care as kinship. In the conference paper, I am going to analyse stories on entering substitute family care told by foster caregivers and models of care and family relations that underlie these narratives.

Power and global governing: Supranational environmental management through the lens of critical discourse analysis with thematic analysis as a tool.

Jaana Helminen

This paper discusses the use of critical discourse analysis (CDA) in a research focusing on the sustainability management of one of the most powerful non-governmental organisations in the world, namely the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The role of the IOC is influential. As a supranational global governor, the IOC influences the formation and use of key concepts such as environmental sustainability and, in a broader context, sustainable development as a whole.

This paper discusses using CDA both as a method and a theory. As a method, CDA is used as a qualitative analysis tool when searching for underlying power relations and possible cultural standardisations. In Norman Fairclough’s words: societal power relations are established and reinforced through language use.

As contributory methods, thematic analysis and coding are used as supplementary tools. Thematic analysis is not just a method for counting certain phrases or words in a text, but a tool to organize research data, to identify implicit and explicit ideas within the research data. It also enables comparisons between different research data sets. When employing thematic analysis, the research data is read and re-read through with specific attention to patterns that occur. While reading, the researcher generates codes and combines codes into overarching themes which are then defined and named.

As a theoretical frame, discourse is a particular way of talking or writing about phenomena or concepts. In a wider meaning, discourse is a way of understanding and constructing the world. As many researchers have pointed out, knowledge is created through social interaction in which we construct links to social processes and actions. We build a notion of common truths and act upon our understanding of the world.

Keywords: Critical discourse analysis, discourse analysis, thematic analysis, environmental management, power relations

Emergence and Professionalisation of Psychotherapy in Albania

Aurora Guxholli
Doctoral student
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Helsinki

Professionalisation of psychotherapy started at the turn of the twentieth century (Pols, 2018). The European history of psychotherapy was dramatically affected by the socio-political turmoil of the 20th century, and in particular by the establishment of authoritarian dictatorships in the Eastern bloc countries (Zajicek, 2009). In Albania, the communist dictatorship established after the WWII propagated the Marxist-Leninist ideology of materialism, with psychology remaining a marginalised and underdeveloped science, with reference mainly to Pavlovian principles of work therapy, while Freudian psychoanalytic views were considered as ‘bourgeois’ and consequently forbidden (Bodinaku, 2014). This paper examines the emergence and development of psychotherapy in Albania at the turn of the 21st century, shortly after the fall of communism, using semi-structured interviews with psychotherapists. There were three main findings. First, psychotherapy emerged as a joint effort of a group of individuals in pursuit of growth and, despite (and in part because of) a hostile and stigmatizing environment, they survived through group effort. Second, the development trajectory of psychotherapy took a significant turn towards a more individualistic and pragmatic choice of psychotherapy as a profitable profession. Third, while the lack of legal regulatory framework for the practice of psychotherapy has so far been managed through self-regulation, the growing body of psychotherapeutic modalities and practitioners gives rise to a discourse dominated by themes of quality of training, standards of work, and professional responsibility and cautiousness. As external threats decrease and institutionalisation of the practice is on its way, the community is faced with new internal contests which put at risk the professional solidarity that facilitated the emergence and survival of psychotherapy in Albania.

The Populist Radical Right in the Czech Republic: Summing Up the Situation So Far

Ilana Seelinger

When it comes to research on the populist radical right (PRR) in the Czech Republic, work done on the subject has been fairly limited. The most likely reason for this is that aside from a short period in the 1990s, the Czech Republic has not seen a party representing the PRR have any significant electoral success. In the 2017 election, however, the party representing the PRR, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), managed to almost double the success of the previous PRR Party, Dawn of Direct Democracy. As we begin to deal with the question of why SPD was so successful, it’s necessary to sum up what we already know about Czech right wing populism.

This paper will take the form of a literature review on the subject of the populist radical right in the Czech Republic, taking into account work from Sean Hanley at UCL, several Czech scholars at Masaryk University, including Vlastimil Havlík, Věra Stojanová, Miroslav Mareš, Petr Voda, and Werner Binder, plus any other important texts. It will summarize and offer criticisms of the existing work and also discuss the areas that further research on the Czech PRR should investigate in the future.

Key words: Czech Republic, populist radical right, post-communist, Central Europe



Negotiating insider/outsider status in ethnographic fieldwork

Daria Krivonos, University of Helsinki

The paper discusses the insider/outsider research position in the context of multi-sitedness in ethnographic fieldwork. In migration research, researcher’s ethnicity and migration history are often privileged and taken as a basis for ‘insiderness’ status. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography of young Russian-speakers’ lives in Helsinki, I show that the positions of insiderness are not given – instead, different positions, ascriptions and categorisations are produced during fieldwork. While common background between me and research participants in terms of language, age and nationality has certainly facilitated my entrance to the field, the points of connection between a researcher and research participants are not pre-established and guaranteed by the commonalities of ethnicity and migration history, but rather they are worked for. I describe how my positionality and multiplicity of positions in the field were produced in various ways in my fieldwork. The fact that I might have been identitified in similar terms provoked interest in me as a person with a similar background rather than an academic researcher studying migration. However, rather than claiming an ‘insider’ status based on my own migration history, age and nationality, I unpack the conditions and instances under which difference and proximity were constituted. During my fieldwork, it became clear to me that there was no single site I would need to get access to – I had to enter the field several times and negotiate relations with different people again and again. Our shared backgrounds did not prevent my research participants from positioning me as an ‘outsider’ to their already established networks of friendship. It was not a single group, access to which I had to negotiate – these were multiple networks of friendship, often not connected with each other. The fact that I was interested in them had little significance until the people I researched were interested in me. These instances suggest that any attempt to reduce young Russian- speaking migrants to the ‘researched’ or dominant ‘migrant’ categories was problematic and was faced with resistance as my research participants were redrawing the boundaries of my own presence and inclusion to the field.


Establishing rapport through Instagram: reflections on ethnographic fieldwork with liberal Hungarian youth

Annastiina Kallius, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki

Digital communications presents an ambiguous challenge to ethnographers, whose primary data collection method is participant observation. On one hand, the ‘field’ as a site of interaction has been revolutionized as ethnographic deep hanging out extends to messenger chats and Instagram stories across time and space. The same holds true for informants, in this case self-titled Hungarian “Orbán-generation” teenagers who have a special chat for Obama GIFs. The context of global digital communications shapes their worldviews and choices in life, and is thus crucial for the ethnographer to understand: for instance, the Obama-chat juxtaposes illiberalism and liberalism on a global rather than local axis. Research among youth who do not see online and offline communications as two separate spheres provides the ethnographer with rich data but also poses fundamental challenges of ethics, positionality and writing. How does the build-up of rapport, i.e. the proximity and trust between the ethnographer and her informants, look like in the digital age? How does one write ethnography of situations and conversations that happened online – “my fingers were freezing as I was running after the bus typing a hasty response to Kriszti’s desperate lament on the opposition parties”? What kind of challenges can generational gaps between digital literacy of the informants and ethnographer pose? Finally, when informants explicitly ask the ethnographer to tag them on Instagram posts, what questions of ethics and anonymity arise? This paper considers the above questions by reflecting on methodological questions that have arisen during one year of ethnographic fieldwork (2017- 2018) on the ways in which Hungarian young adults’ relate to the establishment of an illiberal regime in the country.

Keywords: ethnography, youth, ethics, social media

Talking about difference and the risk of othering. Doing qualitative research on/with migrants.

Paula Merikoski, University of Helsinki

Research on various aspects of migration has an essential role in preventing the social construction of migrants into ‘others’ by introducing researched knowledge into the discourses and debates around migration. However, it is also very easy for a researcher to accidentally essentialise and reinforce stereotypes when talking about differences and cultures. This can happen in the interview situation with participants as well as when writing the analysis. Planning the research design so that it does not produce otherness or create unwanted results for the group studied is a question of research ethics, and especially important when researching vulnerable groups with little or no power in the society. Through the example of my research on home accommodation of asylum seekers in Finland, I consider in this paper the possible pitfalls of othering that can occur in different stages of qualitative research process and suggest reflexivity as a practical tool in avoiding othering. This entails being conscious about intersectional positionalities of all research participants as well as about power structures relevant to the research topic.

Keywords: Migration research, qualitative research, reflexivity, positionality, othering, ethics

Photovoice – Participatory Photography for research                   

Attila Paksi, University of Helsinki

Photovoice is a Participatory Photography method consisting of multiple processes by which participants can identify, capture and reflect on specific topics within their community (Wang and Burris, 1997). The method allows participants to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm while actively participating in the process. The photovoice method is conducted for various reasons, including monitoring and evaluation, needs assessment, context analysis, advocacy and research.

As part of my PhD research with the Khwe San people in Namibia, I have conducted Photovoice sessions in three villages involving 24 local participants to identify the constituents of local well-being. A photovoice session consisted of a full-day basic photography training, four days of photo capturing by the Khwe participants on the research topic, followed by individual semi-structured interviews with the photographers and a focus group discussion with the broader community. The visual data and the transcribed interviews were thematically analysed.

Researchers and practitioners highlight the method’s overall flexibility and adjustability to local settings. However, it poses additional ethical challenges and is more time-consuming compared to other methods. Castleden and Garvin (2008) emphasized the importance of trust between the local community and the researchers alongside with the iteration of photovoice sessions to accommodate even indigenous worldviews within a Photovoice project. Hergenrather et al (2009) identified ten necessary steps that constitute Photovoice research projects, and emphasized the original goal of Photovoice, namely, reaching policymakers and promoting critical dialogue about community issues.



The Assumptions Which Must Be Named: Studying complex systems in the post-replication crisis era of social science

Matti Heino

Introduction: During the 2010s, a crisis of confidence in research findings was sparked by failed replications of studies including but, not limited to, psychology, medicine, economics and ecology. A methodological reform has followed, but has yet not been taken to its logical conclusion.

Methods: Psychological network analysis was used to supplement quantitative measures of complexity, with transparent communication of results. These methods draw from recent advances from complex systems theory, and must be combined with qualitative approaches.

Results: To uncover critical transformations within individuals, sufficienty long time series must be analysed along with interview data. Hidden methodological assumptions uncover the need for skepticism toward inferences from results spanning from commonly used statistical methods involving p-values.

Discussion: A crucial assumption for making individual-level conclusions from between- individual data, ergodicity, is well-known in the physical sciences but only recently considered in the context of social science. A transformation from ritualistic use of statistics to strong inference is not optional for researchers, who seek societal impact.

Keywords: Complexity science, replication crisis, modelling, systems theory

Precious n-of-1 trial: how repeated within-person measurements are necessary for understanding the relationship of daily physical activity and its psychological determinants

Author(s) details: Johanna Nurmi; University of Helsinki, Finland. Keegan Knittle; University of Helsinki, Finland.Felix Naughton; University of East Anglia, UK. Stephen Sutton; University of Cambridge, UK. Todor Ginchev; Aalto University, Finland. Fida Khattak; Aalto University, Finland. Ari Haukkala; University of Helsinki, Finland.

Background: Several social psychological theories suggest that our physical activity is shaped by psychological variables, such as motivation, self-efficacy, and perceived barriers. Majority of studies on these associations have been conducted by comparing an intervention group to a control group over only few measurements. To understand how these relationships shape over time, we need repeated, daily observations of the same participants.

The Precious smartphone app was designed to collect both self-reported and objective data while delivering repeated, randomised interventions with elements from motivational interviewing and biofeedback (Firstbeat) to explore how the fluctuation of psychological determinants affect daily physical activity.

Method: Fifteen healthy adults answered daily questions on the Precious app on motivation, self-efficacy, perceived barriers, and happiness during a six-week factorial n-of-1 trial (440 aggregated observation days). The app also gathered data on the intervention engagement, and activity bracelets collected objective physical activity data. The association between psychological determinants and intervention effects on daily steps were analysed using multilevel modelling (level 1: daily observations, level 2: participants).

Findings: Individuals’ motivation and activity profiles differed significantly, justifying multilevel modelling. Aggregated scores of self-efficacy and motivation were the strongest predictors of daily activity. Pain, illness, and perceived barriers were only weakly associated with activity. Neither motivation nor daily steps were higher on the days the intervention elements were available than on non-intervention days. Participants’ adherence was high: no one dropped out of the study and most of them answered 95-97% of the daily questions.

Discussion: Twice-a-day smartphone questions combined with activity tracking is a feasible and well- accepted intervention strategy. Within individuals, motivational constructs predicted daily steps over and above pain, illness, and perceived barriers. Findings on the association of motivational constructs and physical activity, measured daily within individuals, have value in confirming the predictive nature of these constructs, central to behavioural theory.

Knowledge beyond the digital, cultural, and quantitative method

Merja Kiiskinen

Scientific information is a dominating source of knowledge in modern civilization. In a way our official and as a result the highest truth is constructed, maintained, and privileged by institutions of knowledge production such as universities and other authoritative research institutes. In a same time officially accepted knowledge and information are restricted by scientific qualitative methods and principals. It seems that there is no real knowledge beyond these restrictions to be used and accepted over the official standpoint.

Cultural and cross-cultural studies has their restrictions ruled by universities of Western tradition, quantitative methods are restricted by principals of constructional and functional equivalence, and data collecting with help of digital platforms form by itself the information acquired when researcher decides desirable form of questions and alternatives for answers.

In this presentation I will give an empirical example from the cross-cultural study with results done by qualified questionnaire, carried out and interpreted with respect of principals of good scientific methods and quality. I will also show the knowledge behind the formal questionnaire that can be revealed with open questions and discussion with interviewees. Study is designed to cover both exploratory function to increase the understanding of cross-cultural similarities and differences, and testing further the hypothesis concerning well-being in a community with different living environment, religion, and knowledge tradition.

Unattainable Data: An Ethnography of Abortion Numbers and Failure in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Mari Valdur

Much of governance and policy is informed by charts and country comparisons, for which aim data is produced as a representation of reality if not reality itself. However, not all numbers are the same. Statistical data and figures tend to be involved in various politics and possess agentive qualities beyond the aforementioned arena. Through the story of how I failed to retrieve data from Ulaanbaatar City Health Department and eventually got ghosted, I discuss some of those politics of seniority and disciplinary divisions surrounding the access to data that is viewed as a resource in itself. From available materials, it is apparent that abortion numbers in Ulaanbaatar as well as allocation of these to public and private facilities vary vastly. Like many women seeking an abortion, it became obvious that during my 14-month fieldwork I had to rely on my friends and long-term contacts to access people and places involved in informal abortion services to understand how and why many abortions in Ulaanbaatar remain unreported. Both in doing so and continuing my collaboration with various institutions, I was often exposed to navigating unfamiliar informalities. Viewing the numerical as one of the abortion spaces, I look at the interplays of official abortion statistics in relation to the sourcing of the topic on the public and state level beyond the quantifactual.

Keywords: numerical data, ethnography, abortion, informality



Anna Heikkinen, University of Helsinki

Previous research has shown that the interlinkages between socio-environmental conflicts and human security include complex dynamics between climate change, socio-political structures, power, governance and globalized markets. In the Andean region, historical tensions between different groups, political instability and poor water governance have led to water conflicts in the past and it is projected that as water supply declines due to climate change, risk for conflicts further increases. Recent studies suggest, however, that rather than global warming the root causes of resource conflicts are an outcome of multi-spatial socio-political processes and power relations that require deeper, multi-dimensional examination. This paper introduces a doctoral research project applying a mixed- method design to analyze links between diverse actors and factors at multiple scales in shaping escalation of water conflicts in Peru and Chile, drawing on theoretical approaches of political ecology, vulnerability and human security. The main objectives of the study are: to analyze the distribution of power on decisions over water use and access between heterogeneous users; the quantity and quality of water different actors at different scales have access to and the income opportunities and constrains related to access to water. The study combines both, qualitative and quantitative methods: semi- structured interviews and policy document analysis complemented with statistical regression analysis. Mixed-methods have been rarely applied in previous studies on resource conflicts or vulnerability. Recently, scholars from related fields have, however, highlighted the importance of using multiple methods. Qualitative research is considered advantageous to capture people’s experiences of socio-ecological and political processes whereas quantitative approach brings more robust data on access to resources, livelihood outcomes and physical changes in the environment. It is expected that the study will contribute to further develop means to better investigate and understand complex resource conflict and human-security dynamics in Latin America as other areas with similar struggles.

Doing research in the context of – and about – a political and economic conflict in Cambodia

Anna Salmivaara

This paper reflects on the process of production of data that my PhD research is based on, particularly the intersubjective aspects of my fieldwork. In my dissertation I study Cambodian garment workers’ struggles – to improve their situation in the workplace and in society – and I am interested in the meanings and uses given to labour rights, law and regulation in labour’s and other actors’ strategies. I draw on methodologies of ethnography and history, and spent 13 months in Cambodia in 2016-17, conducting what I’ve been calling “ethnographically oriented fieldwork”.

In this paper, I reflect on some of the complexities of my methodological process. First, I reflect on how my earlier training –  not as an anthropologist but as a historian – and my professional experience in development cooperation influenced the research process, my methodological thinking and choices. Second, I reflect on how the way my research participants saw me and my role affected the research; methods, data and results. Here, I refer particularly to how the heavy foreign development engagement and the dependence of the Cambodian movements (that I was studying) on foreign supporters, affected the way the intersubjective process developed.

A third, and final aspect that I consider in this paper, is concerned with the issue of “taking sides”: how my own political thinking and the emotions linked to political tensions that the people I was studying were facing, impacted the process. My research is essentially about a (political and economic) conflict, and I felt much greater sympathy towards some of my research participants than others, which certainly affected the way I navigated the research process and the field.

Performing Identities: Using Participatory Video to Understand Complex Conflicts in India

Kazimuddin Ahmed, Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki

Shirley A White, one of the foremost names in academic literature on participatory video (PV), equates a PV process as a kaleidoscope. “It changes shape and colour at the will of the hand in which it is held,” she says. While PV has seen increased academic engagement in the past ten years as a process and a tool for social change, these are still largely based on projects within frameworks of funding, impact and change – language associated with the international aid and development establishment.

Having its roots in promoting bottom up development agendas where unheard voices could be given a powerful medium be visible, PV has enormous potential for research into complex dynamics of a range of subjects, conflict being one of them. Do we however, in the spirit of its kaleidoscopic character, need to go beyond a project oriented approach to realise its full potential?

My doctoral research started as an examination of PV in one of its less explored contexts – complex and protracted conflicts around ethnic identities – without a logical framework and adequate funds. With the progress of my field research in India, it is becoming increasingly clear that while PV may not bring a measurable change in a particular polity, a participatory visual process can help in unearthing complexities that may be useful for both research and peacebuilding interventions in these contexts.

This paper discusses the observations from my first phase of field research in India in the light of some existing key literature and case studies on PV across the globe. It aims to illustrate that the very nature of engagement with a PV process among a group of people can give us insights into important social and political dynamics in sensitive areas where a change oriented full scale PV project may not be possible.

Methodologies stuck between constructionist and realist models

Thomas Slätis, Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences

In the context of a violent conflicts mainstream media are not traditionally recognised by conflict transformation theory. I argue that they should, and that they can be construed as conflict actors. By means of mediatisation, this role can be both direct as an institution and indirect through the logic of the functioning of other social institutions (Hjarvard 2008). The use of sources, the presentation of content and decisions about publication or broadcast are factors that are likely to have an impact both on the perception of the conflict and on its other actors, hence changing the course of the conflict. But how exactly does such a role materialise? This paper examines the work of journalists and editors at the interface between social media, user generated content and citizen journalism, and their own mainstream media outlets in the context of the war in eastern Ukraine. Using semi- structured interviews it zooms in on both how these media professionals carry out their work and their relation to it. The interviewees will be selected through ‘representative purposeful sampling’ by using secondary, statistical data to identify a variety of mainstream news media to serve as sample for this research. The interview data is analysed by examining interviewees’ subject positions as classifications, viewpoints and focalisations, which allows the discovery of regularities, such as identification and categorisation of elements and the exploration of their connections (Törrönen 2013). In this study the analysis of identities of those subject positions takes place on a societal level, which connects it to the theoretical framework of conflict transformation (Miall 2004). From a methodological perspective, however, how can it be ensured that the knowledge thus generated will explain the consequences that the immaterial, ephemeral, social (constructionist) worlds of the media come to bear upon the concrete, lasting (critical) realist world of conflicts?

Keywords: qualitative research, semi-structured interviews, narratology, validity



Whose voice is speaking? Limitations of the interview data collected among the residents of the mixed housing company                   

Jutta Juvenius, University of Helsinki

In my article I observe how are the social relations among the residents of the mixed housing companies. Mixed housing company means that there are both municipal rental apartments and owner occupied apartments in the same housing buildings. Caused by the ongoing problem of segregation of Helsinki, there has been a lively discussion on the best social mixing practices, which is why it is important to study residents’ experiences.

As a data I use interviews that I have gathered among the residents of mixed housing companies. I recruited the interviewees using various different channels, but still my data is quite unbalanced. The most notable thing is that the majority of my interviewees are owners. Another notable factor is that all the interviews are collected among a single housing company even that is the biggest mixed housing company with over 120 apartments. I made this decision to focus on only one company mostly for methodological reasons as I wanted to be able track the social networks of the residents. However, now when analyzing my data, I do not know how to handle these limitations. How should I formulate my interpretations? What kind of things I am able to state based on the interview data and whose voice is speaking in the paper?

‘Why are you still interested in this rubbish?’ or to be a researcher vs. to be normal

Roman Urbanowicz

In my presentation, I would like to discuss possible issues related to the negotiation of the researcher’s agenda with the rapport established with the people he or she studies. The presentation is based on my previous research experience in Belarusian-Lithuanian borderland, but the topic seems to be no less relevant for the current doctoral project.

Back in 2016, I did a 3-months long research in Lithuanian town Žagarai, studying local politics and political exploitation of ethnicity (the locality is mostly Polish-populated). Since then, I communicated from time to time with some people from there, trying to follow their lives and, in some cases, perhaps developing research interest into a friendship.

When I came to the place in the summer 2018 to observe some local political event, a group of guys of my age, whom I met earlier that day, asked me the question from the title. Although aware of my occupation and interest (and being very helpful back in 2016, when they felt some empathy to my ‘need to do a research in order to complete my MA’), they were scarcely able to make sense why do I need it now, after more than a year of communication on a normal basis.

Sundry questions lurk behind this single conversation, such as constant negotiation of interpersonal intimacies (and assumptions about these intimacies), researcher’s agenda and its perception. Another problem is relations between matters of trust, mutual notions of normality and ‘denormalising’ flavour of the research practices. Finally, ethical dilemmas of relational and political aspects of ethnographic writing are very much at place. These are the topics I will try to bring to the discussion in my presentation.

Limits for evidence: negotiating prohibitive affinity in research on rural Mapuche religiosity

Aleksis Toro

During my field research with rural Mapuche indigenous people in southern Chile, I encountered unexpected limits to my ability to participate in and observe religious rituals. These derived from an emerging rift between two local religious formations that my main informants found to be mutually exclusive and incommensurable. Rather than discuss the wide-ranging implications of this cosmological- political division for social relations in my study region, I will present two ethnographic vignettes of conversations with local religious practitioners to show how a certain “prohibitive affinity” curtailed my access to ritual participation, and highlighted ethical and existential ambiguities of becoming implicated in a local shamanism/witchcraft complex. My goal here is to suggest the kinds of ethnographic evidence potentially generated by this particular methodological problem. I will do this with reference to: comparative evidence from an Amazonian societyon intentional ignorance about shamanism and its implications for the anthropological pursuit of knowledge (High 2015); how certain emotions during fieldwork may have cultural relevance and serve as ethnographic data (Luhrmann 2010); and the ontological implications of existential participation in local witchcraft doubts (Kyriakides 2016).

Keywords: ethnography, ethics, evidence, belief, participation

Fieldwork drawing: a new hype in anthropology in the contemporary competitive, under- funded research environment or a relevant form of knowledge production?

Korhonen Salla , University of Helsinki

During my 11-month long fieldwork among the local aid workers and volunteers of Al-Farouq Welfare Society for the Orphans in a Palestinian refugee camp in Irbid, Jordan, I complemented the methods of participant-observation and semi-structured interviews with fieldwork drawing. In this paper, I will reflect on the social and political life of drawing as a method by discussing relevant anthropological literature as well as my own experiences of field drawing. Although aesthetic, graphic, and visual anthropologists among others celebrate drawing as a method that increases self-criticism and subverts the top-down model of imposing a singular authorial voice,1 I am cautious towards uncritically embracing drawing as the new hype in anthropology.2 In the contemporary highly competitive, under-funded research environment in which researchers are increasingly expected to appear as creative, pioneering, and bold, to keep current, and incessantly introduce new ‘innovative’ research topics, methods, and formats, the pressing academic concerns is how forms of experimental inquiry such as drawing may create new, relevant knowledge? Like the discipline of anthropology, drawing is a way of seeing as well as way of knowing the world.3 While I strived to capture the look, sound, and the atmosphere in the field and to bring my own experiences and experiences of others into the ethnography, drawing emerged as a fluid way of taking notes that led to different, unexpected discoveries, intimacies, and imaginaries. As a different way of obtaining knowledge – a process of looking – drawing can generate qualitatively different data, draw researcher’s attention to mundane yet relevant details, and produce unintended social outcomes.

[Key words: drawing; experimental inquiry; aesthetic approach; graphic anthropology; sensorial turn; senses; imagination]

Abstract for the conference

Pirkko Haapanen

Until recently the Defensor pacis (DP) of Marsiglio (Marsilius) of Padua (b.c. 1275-80–1342/3) has commonly been understood as the most fully-fledged medieval example of a populist or republican theory of government. Yet some have begun to question that interpretation, seeing the writer rather as an imperialist. At one extreme, Marsiglio is claimed to have written the Defensor pacis with an imperial framework in mind, a stand that is supported not only by his works, if properly read, but also by his activities for the imperial cause. Even to a greater extent than with Tolomeo, the interpretations of Marsiglio’s preferences have been influenced by different emphases on his historical context. Was he primarily a faithful helper of Ludwig of Bavaria in the struggle with the pope? Or was he a loyal Paduan whose theoretical work incorporated features of the traditional Paduan communal government and podestà literature? The advanced historical analyses suggest that Marsiglio was deeply involved with the ghibellines in northern Italy in 1318-1319 already, that is, at the time when in his Padua, in a guelph city, Consiglio Maggiore transferred the powers of the people and the commune to a signore.

My review focuses on providing an outline of the crucial points connected with Marsiglio’s understanding of various political forms and extent of participation. Sophisticated scholars, increasingly in recent decades have paid much attention to the problems related to the issues. My discussion will, first, to illustrate Marsiglio’s approach to the issue of the best constitution and, second, to focus on those aspects often discussed that are directly related to his understanding of the political role of the people.

Key words: Marsiglio of Padua; medieval political thought; best constitution; political role of the people.



The aim of this session is to present findings from two projects that work with large social media datasets, with a particular emphasis on the conference theme – the social and political life of methods. Citizen Mindscapes takes advantage of the discussion forum Suomi24 (“Finland24”) data, opened for research purposes in 2015. The data covers a time period of more than fifteen years and consists of tens of millions online messages in topics such as local affairs, health, food, religion, and celebrity gossip. Its sister project, Smarter Social Media Analytics, studied and developed methods to identify trends and phenomena using a database of one billion Finnish social media messages from various platforms. We bring together scholars with disciplinary backgrounds ranging from statistics and machine learning to sociology and media studies with the aim of demonstrating the consequences that methodological choices have for exploring large digital datasets and subsequent knowledge production. We will show how methods enable us to “see” what is in the social media data by revealing the particular nature and quality of social media discussion data. We emphasize how important it is not to lose sight of the ways in which and by whom the data has been produced. While we present our findings regarding particular datasets, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of digital methods and demonstrate how by comparing methods and using them alongside each other, we can highlight the different epistemologies and economic and political aims that research on large datasets promotes.

Auli Harju: “Peer support and colliding views: Online survey of Suomi24 discussion forum users”

Jussi Pakkasvirta: “How to analyze nationalist stereotypes from social media data – from quantitative to qualitative”

Laura Savolainen: “The messiness of online forum data as its definitive feature: Trash talk and hyperbole in Suomi24’s discussions on binge eating disorder”

Juha Alho: “Missing data from the perspective of statistical science”

Mika Pantzar: “Crawling in big data: Unifying and dividing methodological aims in Citizen Mindscapes”

Minna Ruckenstein: “Mixed methods and unintended research findings”

Mikko Jauho, Salla-Maaria Laaksonen & Juho Pääkkönen: “The social life of visualiza-tions in data-intensive social research”