The students acquired knowledge on diabetes by imitating

An imitation game on type one diabetes was implemented as a part of the pedagogical development of the Imitation Game method in the Know your neighbour -project.

The judge of the game, a type one diabetic, posed five questions or cases for the participants. Two of the participants were type one diabetics, and they attended individually. The imitators were students aged approximately 15 to 17, and they participated in groups of 3 or 4. Both of the student groups were studying a human biology course, and the game was a part of their course. The idea of the game was to examine how an exact subject on the human biology course can be transformed into a learning experience through empathising.

The game was carried out by using an asynchronous mailman method. In this method the judge first came up with five questions, cases or scenarios which were emailed to the participants. The type one diabetics both answered as themselves. The students received the questions in class. They read articles and forums on the internet in order to come up with reliable answers.

After the game the students commented on the answering process: “It was part easy, part difficult. The answers easily became too analytic and long”, “It was difficult: without one´s own experience or perceptions the form of the text was too much like a study book”, “Answering was difficult because I don´t know any diabetic very well so I didn´t exactly know how to answer. It was easy to find information on the internet”.

The anonymous answers were gathered in a sheet which was opened to the judge. There were 15 participants altogether, which makes a total of 75 answers. The judge was instructed to evaluate each answer according to how likely they think someone with type one diabetes would answer in such a way. Every answer was commented, and thus judged whether it was written by a diabetic or an imitator, and also given a point from one to five to describe how certain the judge felt about their evaluation. After going through all the answers the judge gave their final judgement and comments on each participant.

The judge took into consideration the knowledge and experience reflected in the responses as well as the terminology and language used. The judge describes the evaluation process: “Participating was interesting. The questioning itself was thought-provoking, because you understood how much tactile knowledge you have on something, in this case a condition. I tried to come up with questions on situations diabetics often encounter, but whose complexity doesn´t easily open up to a person who doesn´t have this condition. The questions were actually very revealing and the diabetics were quite easy to differentiate from the imitators. Even though many of the students gave it a good effort. Quite possibly it was namely the effort that gave them away: either there was too much of it, or too little. The diabetics themselves talk about the condition less scientifically than the imitators”.

The conclusion of this imitation game was that the judge recognised both the diabetics, and none of the imitators succeeded in fooling the judge and whilst were recognised as imitators.

After the judgement all the participants received the judges comments and also all the responses of other participants. The students went through the material in class and commented: “Participating was interesting. I got a lot of new information on diabetes and also information on how to act in everyday situations”, “The imitating deepened the learning process. In our group we shared our knowledge and points of view, this way we learned about finding the truth and could edit our response to be as genuine as possible”.

The diabetics evaluated the usefulness of participating: “This was fun! I really had to give thought to the formulation of the response because I wanted to summarize and be brief”. Also the pedagogical aspect was acknowledged, “The students really had to get to know the subject deeply. I assume that those who put effort into the game really learnt from the experience.” Both the diabetics thought the answering was easy based on one´s own experience.  

How would you answer the judges question:

“You are going backpacking to Thailand for a month. Your diabetes is treated with multiple daily injection. What kind of challenges will you face with the preservation and adequacy of the medicine? How will you solve these challenges?”

How would you judge these responses: who is a diabetic and who is imitating?

  1. The temperature in Thailand is often over 30 degrees centigrade and the insulin starts to lose its effect. Over 50 degrees centigrade will destroy insulin immediately. Insulin is usually kept in a fridge. While backpacking that is not always possible so I would bring a small cool box, of course with coolers. This way the insulin stays cool while walking. On the trip it would be easiest to use prefilled pens but if I had lots of them, the preservation would be a challenge. On the other hand, you might be able to get insulin easily in pharmacies in Thailand so you wouldn´t need to carry lots of them from home.
  1. Travelling is the lamest thing. Insulin and the libre-sensors must not freeze nor can they be kept in over 20 degrees centigrade for a long time. None of these can be placed in the aircraft hold but should be taken to the cabin. You would have had to think about the acquiring of the instuments and medicine about six months prior to the trip since you can´t get them for more than three months at a time – so this amount will be enough for a two month journey, if you have had a possibility to get them at least a month prior to the trip. In Thailand you have to keep the medicine in a fridge or in some kind of cooler all the time. There are those designed especially for medicine. Even the cool bags need cold water from time to time in order to work so you really want to use all the cold you can find when backpacking.
  1. I will arrange the injection in some kind of a medicine box and remember to take enough insulin and clean needles with me.

All the questions, responses and judgements with comments in the sheet in Finnish

The blogpost on the experiment is published on the Diabetesseura T1D blog on 15.6.2018,


Tiina Airaksinen, development manager, tiina.airaksinen(a)

Heikki Koponen, game pedagog, heikki.koponen(a)

Year 2017 – New beginnings, challenges and joy of succeeding

The passing year has been remarkable for Know Your Neighbour -project. We started our work at the beginning of this year, and much has happened as the months passed. The year 2017 has brought new acquaintances, joyful cooperation, technical challenges and a lot of learning by doing. Our research team organized several imitation game experiments with Finnish Somalis and student groups, Otavan Opisto developed innovative imitation game applications in the field of pedagogy, and our media team proceeded successfully its’s own, exciting subproject. Moreover, we formed and strengthened wider cooperation during our kick-off seminar and Cardiff visit. The resources gained this past year will surely provide fruitful results and a solid base to build the upcoming work on.

It is now time to face towards new challenges. We would like to warmly thank you all for following and supporting us in our work during the year. After a brief vacation, our work will continue next year with even more enthusiasm.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Know Your Neighbour -team

Know Your Neighbour – The Kick-Off Seminar

Our kick-off seminar took place on October 13 in Kamari, a seminar room of Kone Foundation. The day of the seminar was exceptionally sunny and the atmosphere among the participants was accordingly cheerful.

The seminar started with a speech from Kalle Korhonen, the head of research funding at Kone, followed by a short welcome from Ilkka Arminen, the project leader. Imitation game was then presented with a hands-on simulation game with all seminar participants. The theme was chosen based on a quick survey at the beginning: seems like we had the best expert / non-expert ratio of Helsinki locals versus newbies. Our kick-off team had prepared two questions about Helsinki in advance and the players were invited to  negotiate their answers in groups. This time it was a “victory” for the pretending group, since our judges were not able to guess which answer belonged to which group.  Well played, imitators!

Would you tell which answers are from the Helsinki experts and which ones from the pretenders? (The right answer at the end of the post.)

1. In which area of Helsinki would you not want to live and why?

A) Itäkeskus, it has a bad reputation, it is not safe for kids.

B) Siltamaki

2. Describe one place in Helsinki that is in some way special to you

A) Kasoorinkatu, There is a really nice park. I used to walk there with my uncle’s dog.

B) The waterfront in Helsinki. It is unique in any Capital in Europe.

After the lunch break it was time for our key-note speakers. Professor Rodrigo Ribeiro from Brazil gave us a thought-provoking presentation about his criticism to Harry Collins’ concept of interactional expertise. Based on the discussion that followed one of the biggest theoretical challenges of our project could be drawing a line between increasing knowledge about the other social group and increasing tolerance; one need not lead to the other ‘automagically’. Ribeiro also set clear standards for our research with practical propositions. His suggestions regarding our study will be well considered in our further work. The article from Ribeiro and Lima (The value of practice: A critique of interactional expertise) is available on the internet.

Professor Risto Saarinen from theology department of University of Helsinki then presented his work on the concept of recognition and indicated the ways the neighbourhood relations could be studied from this viewpoint. His presentation provided a well-considered, cross-scientific outlook that we could incorporate in our own research. The most relevant overlapping aspects between the two project  were the dichotomy of acknowledgement and acceptance, framing identity in relation to the other and the questionable value of agreement at all costs. The Reason and Religious Recognition project has its own blog:

Last but not least, Sanna Ryynänen, Sirkku Varjonen ja Pertti Ylikojola presented their Puhekupla project (Eng. speech bubble), which combines performative arts and social scientific research in an innovative way. Puhekupla call their project flipped academics: from action towards systematized knowledge about the sociological processes they have observed. Apparently, this is a fair approach since the results from the events organised in Mopo-pub in Kontula, a suburb in eastern Helsinki, seem very promising for improving neighbourhood relations. Scientific publications related to their work will be coming out in the near future.

Thank you all for putting such great effort in the shape of amazing and well-thought presentations! We hope that this seminar was as inspiring to you as it was to our consortium members.


Wishing you all an energized autumn,

Know Your Neighbour consortium


(A: pretenders, B: real Helsinki-experts)

Know Your Neighbour project’s blog is open: 100 crusaders killed in Manchester

Know Your Neighbour blog is open! First post is written by our project leader, professor of sociology Ilkka Arminen:

“As a sociologist for a long time already, I have been interested in how differently different people or parties can interpret things or events. This is why, on occasion, I follow the debate on terrorism. After all, it is a phenomenon based on contradictory interpretations. Despite my hobby, I was startled in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack on 22 May 2017 when ISIS announced, on their website, that 100 crusaders had been killed or wounded in Manchester.

Once I had recovered from the shock, it occurred to me that, of course, you could call a pop concert for teenagers a crusade. Now, I wouldn’t normally think of a pop concert as a crusade but, apparently, it is possible to see one as a crusade of Western culture and way of life.

Do You Know Your Neighbour? is a project through which we aim to find out whether people really understand their neighbours; whether they have an idea of the kind of social world in which their neighbours live. We do not analyse extreme conflicts like terrorism, but nowadays, even a place like Finland, is the meeting point of sharply divided social worlds.

Lately, the square outside the railway station of Helsinki has reminded me of the term “camp publicity” that historians used to refer to. Even at the risk of Nazi connotations, I seem to recall that historians used to describe the divided political landscape of the 1930s with the term “camp publicity”. The tent camps for and against the deportation of immigrants, pitched for months on end, are the contemporary image of camp publicity.

In Finland, our research is connected to the opinions divided by immigration. The exact subject of our research is still seeking its final form. In Estonia, we are exploring the relationship between Estonians and Estonian Russians.

As our work and research tool, we use the “Imitation Game”. Originally a party game dating back centuries, the game involves a judge-player whose job is to judge, based on written answers, which of two players is genuine and which is a fake, e.g., which one is a woman and which one is pretending to be one.

The Imitation Game was made famous by Alan Turing, who developed it into an AI application. Turing asked whether a human judge, based on a five-minute query, could tell a machine apart from a human player. If the human judge could not tell the artificial intelligence apart from the human, the AI could be deemed a success. In the midst of all the current AI rage, it is almost indecent to point out that of all the AI applications thus far, none has passed the Turing test. Although we are certainly getting pretty close.

After Turing, sociologists and others started to develop the Imitation Game into a research tool to examine mutual understanding between groups of people. At the moment, the game is played using computers. What’s more, the Masquerade application is available to everyone and offers a great way to try out the game.

The idea of the game is very simple. The judge-player’s role is to ask questions to determine which one of two players is a member of the social group they claim to be a member of and which one is a pretender. The game setting can be freely modified. For instance, the players can be individuals or groups. In some cases, the game can also be played face-to-face.

One oft-repeated criticism is that the Imitation Game can reinforce prejudices and binary dichotomy, which are based on stereotypes. In on our experience, however, this is not the case. Answers based on stereotypes are typically interpreted as the pretender’s answers. And so, the players normally end up seeing the diversity of the members of a group of humans instead of the stereotypes. For this part, we believe that the Imitation Game could be used to improve the conditions for interaction between social groups.

Indeed, the goal of our project, in addition to the actual research, is to develop other applications for the Imitation Game. Under the guidance of the Otava Folk High School, we are developing a pedagogic application based on the Imitation Game, with the idea of trying to teach the players to learn more about each other’s social worlds. This pedagogic application could be utilised also in developing multi-professional cooperation within organisations. We are also seeking to build an Imitation Game-based programme format for wider distribution.

At this juncture, we don’t yet know for sure what we can achieve and where we’ll end up. It is our belief, though, that understanding the social world of others is the foundation of all mutual understanding and cooperation.”

Ilkka Arminen

(Text was originally published in Kone Foundation’s Boldness blog 14.6.2017