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The Centre for Sociology of Democracy studies democracy in modern societies. Our projects deal with democracy from different perspectives and with different methods.

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Suomalaisissa USA-vaalianalyyseissa unohdetaan kansalaisyhteiskunta

Demokratia ei ole yksilölaji, vaikka kaikilla äänestäjillä onkin vain yksi ääni. Yhdysvaltain presidentinvaalien tulokseen iso vaikutus oli myös kansalaistoiminnalla, kuten Black Lives Matter -mielenosoituksilla ja vapaaehtoisilla, jotka auttoivat ihmisiä rekisteröitymään äänestäjiksi.

The actions of Extinction Rebellion Finland showcase new visual forms of politicisation

Images play an increasingly large role in social participation. Protests, demands and even entire processes of politicisation may take a purely visual form. In this text, we analyse paired photographs that went viral immediately after the civil disobedience actions of Extinction Rebellion Finland as a form of politicisation. Images are a powerful means of communication – indeed, it is revealing that the social commentary in Finland has revolved intensely around a handful of smartphone snapshots.

Eeva Luhtakallio on visual politics at Politiikkaradio

ImagiDem’s PI Professor Eeva Luhtakallio discussed images as tools of political participation and topical environmental activism in Finland yesterday in YLE Politiikkaradio podcast’s episode “Instagram is a very political instrument” (in Finnish).

ImagiDem members and advisors at kick-off

ImagiDem mini kick-off: Visual participation of young Europeans – snapshots from France, Finland and Portugal

On 24 September 2020 ImagiDem’s kick-off seminar discussed how the increasing emphasis on visual forms of communication affects young people’s societal participation and the way in which they construct democracy. The seminar featured short presentations of visual participation from three European countries: France, Finland and Portugal. The event was streamed online.

POSTPONED: Visual Studies Lab Masterclass: How to study the visual in social media?

The planned Masterclass on visual analysis at the University of Helsinki has been postponed.

TAPAHTUMA SIIRTYY: Tämä pitää nähdä! – kuva yhteiskunnallisen vaikuttamisen välineenä

Tapahtuma siirtyy järjestettäväksi myöhemmin.

POSTPONED: Visual participation of young Europeans – snapshots from France, Finland and Portugal

The event has been postponed. The new date and venue will be announced later.

Politicization of migration in the countermedia style

Countermedia are partisan media that oppose conventional media and the establishment.

Lähiökylä – Tutkimus yhteisöllisyydestä ja eriarvoisuudesta

Tutkija-kirjailija Lotta Junnilaisen kirjassa kuvataan kahden vuokratalolähiön arkea. Teos on tutkimus suomalaisen yhteiskunnan eriarvoistumisesta ja kaupunkien eriytymisestä. Se on kuvaus niukkuudesta, epävarmuudesta ja turhautumisesta, mutta myös yhteisöllisyydestä ja solidaarisuudesta.

Group formation, styles, and grammars of commonality in local activism

In her article, published in the British Journal of Sociology in 2018, Eeva Luhtakallio argues that in order to analyse democracy as a pattern constantly processed in a given society, it is useful to look at activist groups’ agenda setting and recruitment principles, group bonds and boundaries, and how these actions direct and influence ways of creating the common. Based on an ethnographic study on bicycle activism in Helsinki, Finland, the article describes a local critical mass movement that was successful in promoting a bicycle friendly and sustainable city, yet dissolved due to lack of people involved, and the bicycle demonstrations stopped at a moment of high public interest.

ImagiDem mini kick-off: Visual participation of young Europeans – snapshots from France, Finland and Portugal

On 24 September 2020 ImagiDem’s kick-off seminar discussed how the increasing emphasis on visual forms of communication affects young people’s societal participation and the way in which they construct democracy. The seminar featured short presentations of visual participation from three European countries: France, Finland and Portugal. The event was streamed online.

ImagiDem members and advisors at kick-off

Eeva Luhtakallio: Imagi(ni)ng Democracy: European youth becoming citizens by visual participation (Presentation PDF)

Today the process of politicization often takes an exclusively visual form: snapping, posting, sharing and commenting images is commonplace as well as arguing, justifying and expressing emotions with and through them. ImagiDem strives to understand the intersection of changing democratic patterns and practices of politicization that rely on images. To achieve this, we build on a methodological tripod of ethnographic and computational analyses applied to a comparative research approach.

Ethnographic “snap-along” analyses from four countries, several localities and political settings provide thick descriptions of democratic practices induced by visual politicization, while a neural network based analysis will reveal general patterns of visual politicization. With all this ImagiDem aims to not only develop novel methodology and pragmatist theory to better include the visual dimension, but also to provide an overarching analysis of the future of European democracy.

Carla Malafaia (University of Porto: The visual dimension of participation among climate activists in Portugal: an ethnography with student strikers and civil disobedience groups (Presentation PDF)

The presentation explores the visual dimension of participation among climate activists in Portugal. Based on ethnographic fieldwork (combining online and offline observations and interviews), I try to understand the meanings ascribed and negotiations involved in the activists’ use and crafting of images, which take different shapes and formats on social media. By analyzing the visual dimension as a constitutive fabric of the activists’ political practices, I begin to uncover the potential of visual practices as ways of mobilizing audiences, of creating and contesting meanings, of resisting and reclaiming power, of anchoring political discussions, of making claims across public/private spheres and of taking political stands within the movement. Moreover, the complex layers of the activists’ social media practices emerge as a contentious realm, requiring a skillful and strategic management of visuality towards a politicized communication of climate crisis.

Karine Clement (CNRS, Paris): Visual dimension of the Yellow vests mobilization (Presentation PDF)

The yellow vest movement in France is rich in visual materials. But we have to distinguish between two kinds of visuality: a virtual and mediatized one (photos and videos), and a material and concrete visuality – embodied in vests, bodies, faces, objects, which are often not the same and can even contradict each other. The second kind of images is often devaluated in the public sphere, where visibility is focused on the most spectacular features. Against this bias, the analysis must study the common places (suburban roundabouts), objects (especially the high-visibility vest) and bodies through which visibility claims are made. In the field of mediatized images, the research would gain in studying the battle of images that unfolds in the public sphere around the yellow vests, for instance on the issue of violence.

 

Jyrki Rasku (University of Helsinki): Branches of image recognition: Heuristic approach (Presentation PDF)

Purpose of this presentation is to give a reader a basic idea about the most common image recognition tasks. These tasks are applied to a set of Instagram images and some initial results are presented. Ultimate goal of using these heuristics is to find a way how to extract such information from the images that conveys recognizable dimensions of political, especially democratic actions.

Taina Meriluoto (University of Helsinki): I just want to be seen for who I am: Selfies of stigma and the struggle for recognition (Presentation PDF)

This part of the ImagiDem-project looks into experience-based activism in Finland. By using the snap-along method, I have followed two groups of activists with experiences of homelessness or mental ill-health. My aim has been to understand how the young activists employ their personal experiences in their societal participation, and how this takes shape visually.

One of the most intriguing manifestations of experience-based activism are the selfies the activists take and post on social media, mainly Instagram. I have conceptualized these selfies as the activists’ tools in breaking the stigma associated with their past experiences, and as their means for gaining recognition. In this study, I have wanted to push further from the idea of a political selfie being simply “a face and a sign with a political message”. Instead, I have wanted to understand how “being visible” can be a political claim in itself.

In my preliminary analysis, I have found three ways of using selfies to fight stigma: 1) images that testify normality, 2) images that highlight individual uniqueness and 3) images that contest what counts as valuable. The first strategy refers to selfies that seek to dispel stigma by highlighting how their taker conforms to the present criteria of “normality” in our society. The second is a strategy of detachment, seeking to create a distance between the stigmatising group and the selfie-taker as an individual. The third, in turn, targets the value-basis that enables the stigma to emerge in the first place by forcing the question “what counts as valuable and worthy?”.

Pekka

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