The NSU Summer Gathering Proceedings

So I am currently participating in the Nordic Summer University conference – organized this year in the astoundingly beautiful Saulkrasti, near Riga, in Latvia. The place is a tiny and peaceful coastal town with stunning views of the Baltic Sea. This year’s gathering has around 170 participants from various countries around Europe and elsewhere, with emphasis on the Nordic academia as usual.

Many students are joining in from the Baltic countries as well this year, with also a few from Russia.

The Nordic Summer University, or NSU for short, is a nomadic network for interdisciplinary research, operating in the Nordic and Baltic region.

The summer conferences have been organized ever since the 1950’s, and this organization is the oldest academic, independent co-operation body in the Nordic countries.

The summer conference kicked off already earlier this week. I arrived here yesterday myself after spending a few days by myself in Vilnius first, so I have not yet had the chance to hear more than just a few presentations at my study circle. I am very much looking forward to hearing many more excellent ones still during the following days.

I am taking part in the ongoing study circle “Appearances of the Political”, curated by Carsten Friberg and Raine Vasquez. This year, we are focusing in-depth on the theme of “Action and Activism”.

Here is how the theme was described by the organizers of the conference in the original CFP:

Since the 1960s the active forms of the political have been manifold, from marches, demonstrations interventions, and happenings, to more radical forms such as occupations – and even violent forms such as terrorism.

In recent years, we have witnessed a revitalisation of mass movements through use of internet and social media, including the creation of new movements like Occupy and Indignados, and new activities like the hacktivism of Anonymous. In relation to the environment, we find guerrilla gardening along with local protests against corporate use of natural resources, engaging people across traditional political groupings.

Many forms of activism also face political resistance defining – or redefining – the political space that is threatening democratic rights with agendas of terrorism, challenging or reshaping the space for political activism.

I have had an excellent time here! I think many people who have a vested interested in these topics would benefit from taking part in an NSU Session at some point of their academic careers. The NSU is a very special organization in the sense that it forms an independent, nomadic body of academics.

We need institutions like these now more than ever, as many Nordic and Baltic countries are facing substantial cuts in the budgets of the historically preceding, established academic organizations.

My own presentation will take place next Monday afternoon. The upcoming presentation is entitled “On Contemporary Infrastructure and Activism – Extrastatecraft and The Fate of Art in the Age of Terror”. Below is a link to the published presentation – just in case you are interested in reading it.

https://www.academia.edu/34071366/On_Contemporary_Infrastructure_and_Activism_Extrastatecraft_and_The_Fate_of_Art_in_the_Age_of_Terror

Find out more about the Nordic Summer University by visiting http://nordic.university/ and join in for the next upcoming session by ordering the newsletter!

Happy Independence Day 2017 Finland!

With the unique Slush 2016 tech event of last week now behind us here in Helsinki, Finland sets out to celebrate a hundred years of independence in 2017.

Independence day celebration being about history and looking back on our accomplishments, 100 is a very nice round figure for not only reflection on the past – but also to contemplate where we want to go next.

It goes without saying that there is a major cultural paradigm shift going on for our country, and as for the rest of the world, perhaps too. Over the next one hundred years, Finnish companies, like others, will have to make services and products that put the needs of the customers first, without compromises.

The global stage, especially the digital, is a very competitive one.

Finland has a long tradition of approaching product and service design from a technological standpoint. Perhaps this is a key element in what originally placed Nokia cellphones, as well as many other innovations, firmly on the global market. But equally importantly, we tend to base our design on the needs of our customers, as well as to approach industrial design and IT from a Nordic aesthetic standpoint.

Take the Iittala products, spatial design by Alvar Aalto, Visit Finland’s brand, and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as prime examples.

For me, this year’s independence day celebration incorporates mixed emotions, as our current government seems to emphasize values that differ from many things that I most value in Finnish culture.

Finland is currently facing heavy cuts of budget on the overall education and cultural sector, and the startup spirit of the Slush event seems to have not hindered our decision makers from reducing the education budgets in Finland to the bare minimum.

However, without our education system and most Finns in the field of IT and design being professionals with a polytechnic institute or university level background, we would hardly be able to host such amazing events as Slush and we would certainly not have witnessed the success of Finnish design and technology globally.

Independence day celebration here in Finland also being largely about fighting the Russians during the Second World War it is a very curious fact that in the ongoing crisis in Middle-East – caused chiefly by the absurd and offensive politics of the United States – is a cause of little or no concern for many Finns – even so much so, that a small minority of us Finns would present racist attitudes towards refugees fleeing from war.

With that being said – I am very happy about being born a Finn and here, as there are still many heavy issues to tackle in many other places in the world.

Finnish women won the right to vote a hundred years ago, and Finland, in fact, was the very first country in Europe to grant women that right.

Equality between the sexes and equality among people from different backgrounds being a key element in how our parents built this country, I wish we as Finns could promote these kinds of values more, both in our own country as well as globally.