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!

A Website Makeover Overnight and Other Recent Events

So the Steps Helsinki website finally got a complete makeover this weekend!

Feel free to check the new site out at http://stepshelsinki.fi.

I am fairly happy with the resulting look and feel, as well as with the new design-related photos and colors that I used in the design.

Migrating the site over to a WordPress Business Plan as well as a complete redesign of the site was in my interests since the very beginning of this year – but I have been putting this project off for some time now, since my weekends seem to fill up with social events.

Last night, I also took the time to revamp the rest of the contents of the site, and will also shortly start writing a blog about marketing and service design and related topics in Finnish to spice up the website.

So stay tuned for that, dear readers!

Steps Helsinki now has 80 followers over in Twitter, and nearly as many followers as that in Facebook and LinkedIn combined.

Joining Twitter, finally, has been fruitful and rewarding. I still need to speed up and to boost my sales, as the two deals I was aiming for to get started with fell through before the end of the year. I am very much looking forward to closing some deals soon.

My agency will be moving in next month with Pentagon Design Oy. This is great news, as their premises are located conveniently enough in the hip Suvilahti area of Helsinki, and only a 10-15 minute walk away from my place in Kallio.

And who knows, perhaps there will be some joint efforts design projects coming up too.

The “Upea Ura!” -festival event is coming up soon. I have been planning the event as for the theme of strategic and creative thinking together with Riikka Pellikka. Our invited keynote speaker in the event as for this theme will be Anne Stenros, the Chief Design Officer of the City of Helsinki. Also, Maija Tanninen-Mattila, the Director of the Helsinki Art Museum, and Piritta Kantojärvi, the CEO of Grape People, as well as Marianne Tenhula, a Service Designer currently working at the design agency Palmu, will be giving talks.

I will be facilitating a few practical exercises during the event. Looking forward to the festival!

In other news, it seems my studies at the University of Helsinki are currently at a complete standstill since last autumn. I did give a presentation on the issue of street art and the Berlin Wall last year in an international summer school conference of the Nordic Summer University (NSU), however, my beloved master’s thesis is a work very much in progress right now.

I will just have to see if this upcoming summer may offer me a chance to work on that.

I am mentoring a group of four students and my peers this semester. Most of them are currently looking for a job. It seems to me like my university background has always come second to my studies in the university of applied sciences when it comes to getting employed and my next career moves.

I hope, nevertheless, that I can inspire this group of students to get to know their strengths in the current job market and to find an intriguing position. I think university background gives a huge advantage for many vacancies.

Like many in the academia here, I am worried that we will shortly be facing tuition fees in universities and other arrangements that will greatly affect the equality of access to higher education.

I think it goes almost without saying that a university-level education certainly gives a substantially stronger background for getting employed in many fields besides studying in a polytechnic institute. The current budget cuts in the university world of Finland may come at a cost in the long run, because we do need workforce with higher education in Finland, to boost the economy and the startup-spirit.

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.