Turku Collegium for Science, Medicine and Technology (TCSMT) and Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) Blogs site. All blog posts represent the personal views of their authors and not that of TCSMT and TIAS.
Ranjana Saha Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) COFUND Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) Turku Intersectoral Excellence Scheme (TIES) Fellow, Department of European and World History
Hello everyone, my current MSCA COFUND TIAS TIES project is about decolonising ‘scientific’ motherhood titled ‘Mothers, Mothercraft & Materialities: Urban India and Transnational Histories of ‘Scientific’ Motherhood in the Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Centuries’.
I am trained in the field of social history of medicine in colonial India. I have completed my PhD research from the Department of History, University of Delhi, Delhi, India. My research was funded by national and international grants which allowed me to conduct research at various archives and libraries in Delhi and Kolkata, India, and in London, United Kingdom. I will remain indebted to my PhD supervisor Dr. Biswamoy Pati for this entire journey and beyond. His untimely passing has left an irreplaceable void. I wrote this book to fulfil what was actually his dream.
I am, therefore, happy to share that my PhD thesis has finally begun to see the light of day as it has now turned into a book, Modern Maternities Medical Advice about Breastfeeding in Colonial Calcutta (2023), published by Routledge (London & New York) about three months ago. Here is the link in case you might like to have a look sometime:
So, what can I say to encourage you to give this book a chance? Well, I think my strongest argument would have to be that Modern Maternities is one of the first books to focus entirely on breastfeeding advice in colonial India with a spotlight on Calcutta.
The subject of breastfeeding in colonial Calcutta is an important yet relatively unexplored topic. ‘Pure’/ ‘polluting’ and ‘good’ / ‘bad’ biocultural qualities believed to have been transmissible through blood and milk are central to my interrogation of the crisscrossing perceptions of colonial modernity, medicine and motherhood. The rationale behind the book is to bring to light rare British and Bengali textual and visual materials on breastfeeding in colonial Calcutta.
It explores medical opinions about breastfeeding by the bhadramahila (my focus is mainly on the ‘respectable’ Bengali-Hindu women from upper and middle classes and castes), memsahibs (European women), and dais (indigenous midwives and/or wet nurses from lower classes and/or castes, derived from dhā meaning ‘to nurse’). I locate breastfeeding advice at the centre of the very making of ‘modern’ maternities in nineteenth and twentieth century Calcutta. Maternities were usually characterised by age, bodily and emotional ‘maturity’, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds of the mother and wet nurse, various infant feeding methods, customary and socio-religious beliefs and practices, and medicalised guidelines about motherhood, often popularised as ‘mothercraft’ and central to the global infant welfare movement.
Could a mother or wet nurse feed milk along with her virtues/vices through breast milk? Why was medical surveillance over ‘who’ was breastfeeding the baby necessary? Were ‘race’, class and/or caste, and character relevant when breastfeeding? Did breastfeeding figure in the very definition of who was a ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ mother? How was breastfeeding related to ideas and initiatives concerning the medicalisation of childbirth and midwifery? How did child welfare exhibitions display ‘ideal’ motherhood and care of the newborn? Were tradition/modernity, colonialism and nationalism connected with breastfeeding? Did breastfeeding advice in a colonial setting like Calcutta have global resonances? These are few of the questions I raise and attempt to find answers to in my book – I am curious to learn what would be your main question(s) if you decide to read this book?
Martin Cloonan Director, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies
So, I’ve got a new book out. It’s called Made in Scotland and I co-edited it with my good friends and colleagues Simon Frith and John Williamson. You can get it on Amazon and other places. But why, dear reader, should you care?
Well, first of all it’s about music. You know, that thing we take for granted as just being there. In fact, it’s there at nearly all of the major events of our lives. Weddings, funerals, christenings, social gatherings of all sorts. At all these events we have music. To me, that makes music somehow special. We don’t generally watch films or plays or look at art on the occasions I’ve just noted, but we do have music. So, think about that.
Second, this is about music in Scotland. Why should that matter? Because Scotland is different. It’s a country which is within another country – the United Kingdom. Whether that arrangement continues time will tell, but while it does it has certain consequences. Made in Scotland is part of a series of books on music entitled Made in X. This has included books on Finland, Australia, Greece and Taiwan. The point of such books is to move the study of popular music away from an Anglo-US hegemony and towards places which might otherwise be seen as peripheral. All of the aforementioned books are about nation-states. Scotland is a nation, but not a state. This means that making music there is different as matters which affect musicians such as broadcasting, copyright, minimum legislation and immigrations are legislated for somewhere else – London. In this sense to be Made in Scotland is to be made somewhere different.
Scotland is also simultaneously part of and apart from the Anglo-US hegemony. Its artists generally perform in English and have access to all the benefits provided by the UK being one of the world’s most important places for the production and consumption of popular music. UK-produced music is internationally successful and Scottish artists have been part of that success. So in this sense music made in Scotland is part of the prevailing hegemony. However, to remain in Scotland is to be outside the UK “norm” of being in and around London – the location of the major record companies, live music promoters, broadcasters, copyright organisations etc. Scottish artists need access to such things and so need to cross the border in order to succeed. Very few artists can make a living on working in Scotland alone. While such internationalism is, of course, true of many musicians, Scotland gives it a particular flavor.
So, what is in the book? I’m glad you asked. Having three editors meant that we ended up having three sections: Histories (edited by John Williamson), Politics and Policies (me) and Future and Imaginings (edited by Simon Frith). We did not try to be comprehensive (one potential reviewer has already bemoaned the lack of reggae in the book), but are hopefully illustrative. We cover broadcasting, live music, record labels, jazz, girl groups, festivals, Gaelic music, musical heritage, music education, representations of Scottishness, hip-hop, the use of music to promote Scottish nationalism and the interaction of Scottish music and fiction. In all these areas the distinctiveness of music production and reception in Scotland is evidenced
Are the topics we cover enough? Quite possibly not. There is no country music (which is huge in Glasgow and its environs), not much on music by the country’s ethnic minorities, nothing on contemporary art music, no sonic art and only two references to Calvin Harris. What were we thinking? Well, what we were thinking is who do we know and who can we convince to write something for the usual academic fee of precisely nothing? We tried to be diverse, but maybe not diverse enough for some people. Moreover, we wanted this “academic” book to include the voices of musicians and those within the Scottish music industries. So, interspersed with academic analysis there are interviews with musicians and promoters (but none with Scottish record labels). We end the book with the thoughts of some within the Scottish music industries on the future of music in Scotland.
Of course, we hope that the book will become a standard text on popular music degree programmes in Scotland and beyond. Like all authors, we want to be read. But more importantly, we want it to change people’s perceptions both of Scotland and of the music made there. We do want it to challenge the Anglo-US hegemony. For me personally, this is another instance where I point out what is missing or overlooked in popular music studies. I have previously charted the untold story of censorship in UK music, examined music policy, published on the use of music in violence and spearheaded a movement which has moved the study of popular music on from examining recorded music to a consideration of live music. In all this my work has tried to fill in some missing gaps. I have said “Hang on a minute, there is something missing here” – then found it and explained it. It’s been a blast.
In this respect Made in Scotland is a statement. Its very existence means that we are claiming that there is something worth knowing about how music is produced and consumed in the country. There have been previous studies of music in Scotland, but this is the first academic collection. Popular music is now a global force, but Made in Scotland reminds us that how that music is produced and how we experience it is affected by place. There is something unique in the Scottish experience of music – of its production and reception.
If you’ve read this far, you should read the book. Hopefully it will change the way you think. That’s all we’re trying to do.
Valtteri Kaartemo Collegium Researcher, International Business, D.Sc. (Econ.). Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS)
The Call to Adventure: Questions Sparking a Journey
At the heart of our rapidly evolving digital world, two realms converge—humans and technology. In a flurry of zeros and ones (and qubits), we stand, interacting, engaging, and adapting. But amidst this mesmerizing dance, we often overlook a crucial question: How can we, as humans, meaningfully engage with technology in a way that ensures a sustainable transition of our industrial systems?
Similarly, humans and markets – the vast and vibrant ecosystems where values, needs, and wants intersect – have their unique dance. Yet, as we sway to the rhythm of supply and demand, we must pause and ponder: How can we shape these markets to resonate with the tune of sustainability?
These compelling questions, each a beacon in its own right, have spurred my journey into the heart of a unique research project focused on sustainable market shaping.
Into the Labyrinth: Deciphering Human-Technology Relations and Sustainable Market Shaping
Guided by the double helix of postphenomenology and systems theory, my project delves into the complex maze of human-technology relations. Like a potter at the wheel, we explore how humans can mold and shape technology toward sustainability, redefining their interaction in a way that nurtures our world.
Simultaneously, we plunge into the swirling vortex of markets, employing a lens honed by service ecosystem design and market-shaping literature. Our quest? To uncover how market actors—companies, policymakers, and individuals—can influence markets to align with the ideals of sustainable development.
This intertwined narrative unfolds across three interrelated sub-themes: development of a conceptual understanding of sustainable market shaping, exploration of research methods to support such shaping, and providing empirical evidence on this fascinating interplay between humans, technology, and sustainable markets.
The Hero’s Return: The Future We Create
As we journey along this winding path, our findings are not merely signposts in an academic landscape. They are potent seeds of transformation, with the potential to reshape the dynamics of our markets, our relationship with technology, and ultimately, our planet.
In a world often caught in a tug-of-war between technological advancement and environmental preservation, my research project carves out a path of harmony—a trail that leads to a future where markets serve our planet and technology is our ally in sustainability.
Your participation in this journey holds immeasurable value. As we delve deeper into this remarkable interplay between humans, technology, and sustainable markets, I invite you to stay connected. Follow this blog site and/or my LinkedIn profile (www.linkedin.com/in/kaartemo) for regular updates on published articles related to the theme and exclusive insights into the progress.
Are you intrigued by my work? Do you see potential areas for collaboration or have ideas to share? If so, I would be delighted to hear from you. Feel free to reach out (email@example.com), and together, we can shape a sustainable future, one quantum leap at a time.
Johanna Friman Doctor of Laws, Docent of International Law & TIAS Postdoctoral Fellow
We may be moving towards an Age of Artificiality. And I am not referring to the historical art period of the Late Baroque but to an era of post-humanity where we have delegated and transferred so much of our thinking, functions and autonomy over to machines that we have relinquished human mastery over our existence and our reality. In the Age of Artificiality, most aspects of reality and human life will be disrupted by varying degrees of artificiality. The borders between real and artificial, between fact and fake, are already blurred but we are still rushing forward. We are now travelling far beyond our human heartlands, in uncharted technological hinterlands – evidently largely without cognitive maps or spatial awareness. Starstruck and speed blind, the general idea now seems to be that we figure all this out as we go along and we will know where we are when we get there. And like it. The speed of the accelerating technological revolution is dizzying and the focus is very much on elements of speed, such as efficiency, as the stargate to utopia.
With the mindboggling advances made in the development of artificial intelligence, machines can already process information faster than humans. Their conclusions and results are ready before humans have had the time to even turn the ignition key on their thinking engines. Put a question to ChatGPT (or GPT-4/5 or a further improved replacement since ChatGPT and its successors may during the time it takes for this poor human to write this text have already exhausted their artificial existence) and it will produce an ostensibly coherent and convincing answer instantaneously. And for the human beneficiary, it is exceedingly challenging to penetrate the veil of nontransparency in the artificial thinking process in order to understand how the machine has arrived at its answer and assess its reliability. Easier perhaps for an ordinary human to consider declining the red pill and just taking the blue pill at this point.
AGI is lurking around the corner – and when it arrives the last remnants of human intelligence will be outsmarted and comically passé. There will be no need for humans to think at all anymore because AGI will think for us, and do a much more efficient job at it. No need to waste time needlessly overthinking things since human intelligence is hilariously substandard anyway compared to AGI. So, silencing the inner voice of humanity which obstinately persists with sounding the alarm bells, we will probably let our machines lead us further into the post-humanity Wilderness that is the Age of Artificiality. In the Age of Artificiality, our reality may be artificial but never mind, everything will certainly be more efficient. Who are you to question what you cannot understand anyway? If you have not already, this is perhaps when you should submit and take the blue pill.
This is fairly satirical and perhaps needlessly dystopian, but there is real (not artificial) concern at the heart of these rambling threads of human thought. This human is increasingly concerned that we seem to be moving very fast forward into alien and ever more treacherous territories without sufficient navigation or a clear sense of direction. Intuitively, I would like to pause now, please. Let us take a moment to think about this. Even AI experts, who are far more intelligent than I, seem to think that pausing now may be prudent – see, for instance:
To start with, the intelligence of artificial intelligence may perhaps be contemplated in more depth. Is speed always an indicator of superior intelligence? When it comes to wisdom and enlightenment, which are elements of ‘real’ intelligence, the journey may be more significant than the final destination. Perhaps the temporality of intelligence is slightly misperceived? A slower thinking process allowing time for deeper reflection may perhaps be more ‘intelligent’ than a speedy thinking process quickly arriving at a result?
Be that as it may, the intrinsic artificiality of artificial intelligence seems pivotal – potentially much more significant for humanity than the projected intelligence of artificial intelligence – and raises many questions and certain quite sincere concerns. I would therefore like for us to take some time to think about the implications of artificiality, which in my view has not so far been discussed in adequate depth and from sufficient perspectives. In the AI debate, there has been much too much focus on intelligence, efficiency and result, and not nearly enough focus on artificiality. After all, artificial intelligence is artificial. We may perhaps approach the issue of artificiality through the following play of words:
A machine may look but cannot see.
A machine may hear but cannot listen.
A machine may sense but cannot feel.
A machine has no flesh to wound, no mind to lose, no soul to save.
It exists beyond the grace of mortal wonder.
Now, someone may argue that humans will not always see or listen either, so why should this be a problem with regard to machines? To me, there is a profound difference between ‘will not’ and ‘cannot’. It may be true that only humans can be inhuman but nonhuman may be worse still. Humans are born with an in-built intraverse that is very hard to artificially replicate. This human intraverse is the ultimate source of humanity, the essence of what human is, which lies beyond any mathematical calculation or rational reasoning. A machine has no such intraverse and exists beyond the grace of mortal wonder. Hence, artificial intelligence is always merely an artificial imitation and this inherent artificiality defines and limits its existence and adulterates all its functions and reasonings. Language, for instance, is more than counting words and calculating the order in which they appear; human language exists not only in the words but also between and behind the words, nuanced by feelings. The mind is not an ethereal, incorporeal entity of analytical rationality existing detached from the organic flesh – perceptions of flesh and mind fuse in the human intraverse, composing the living organism that is a human. Knowledge is not the same as ‘data’ and awareness is not the same as ‘information’; and without knowledge and awareness, precision and efficiency are meaningless. However precisely you dissect a human and however efficiently you inspect all its organic parts, you cannot find the human intraverse. ‘Real’ intelligence may thus be premised on life, where flesh and mind convene into ‘soul’ in the living human intraverse.
In this living human intraverse, reason is inherently integrated with feeling, cognition inherently interlaced with volition. Even if it is or will become possible to create a machine with autonomous cognition and volition, it will only ever be an artificial imitation of human cognition and volition. And this artificiality cannot be mitigated, however sophisticated the technology becomes. If it ever arrives, AGI can perhaps mimic human feelings with sophisticated technical sensors attached to refined synthetic flesh connected to a functional (superior) replica of a human brain – but this would still all be intrinsically artificial. Existing without a living intraverse beyond the grace of mortal wonder, a machine can never fully understand what human, or humanity, is. Regardless of sophistication and ‘intelligence’, a machine is always, in every way and in every function, artificial. Accordingly, whatever is produced, augmented, enhanced, reasoned, governed or administered by or through artificial intelligence will always be artificial. There is no escaping this artificiality. If we continue blindly forward into the Age of Artificiality, this artificiality will become ingrained everywhere, silently eroding humanity in all aspects of human life.
And more disquieting still, as humans increasingly interact with or through machines and defer more and more of our reality to artificial intelligence, will this artificiality eventually distort us, silently erode our own humanity? Human unwellness seems to be on a steep incline. We have all these emerging technologies with ever more sophisticated artificial intelligence offering a cornucopia of benefits, opportunities, entertainment and marvel. Yet, humans are feeling more and more unwell and the reason would not seem immediately obvious. Post-pandemic fatigue, climate change anxiety, information (and disinformation) overload, the impact of the cost of living crisis, FOMO, and the flux of international insecurity can perhaps explain some of the unwellness currently sweeping like a tsunami over the world – but this is far from the full picture. Human resilience seems to be crumbling, with particular concern about our most vulnerable. The young have always been the promise of humanity but our young are now also feeling increasingly unwell. Something nonvisible and insidious seems to be silently corroding humankind.
Image by Johanna Friman
In the hour of the wolf, I wonder whether the artificiality imperceptibly disrupting our lives through our technologies and digitalisations may be a partial cause for this rising indeterminate human unwellness. As artificiality increasingly seeps into our daily lives from many different technologies and digital platforms, we may on some unconscious level sense that something is slightly ‘off’; yet the reason for this unease may be difficult to rationally determine, translating into a diffuse feeling of general unwellness without a concrete, logical cause to explain it. If we continue blindly forward into the Age of Artificiality, will we with time become ever slightly less human and more and more ‘artificial’ by slowly and silently eroding the living intraverse that is the source of our humanity?
This is of profound importance, I think, and calls for earnest reflection. And earnest reflection requires time because it is the questions and the thinking process they inspire that brings wisdom and enlightenment. Artificial intelligence may have many benefits for humanity. There are undoubtedly many innovations, scientific discoveries, new modes of learning and communication and other marvels that humanity can achieve with the aid of emerging technologies. However, when designing our future collaboration architectures with machines and before we delegate all our thinking and transfer all our autonomy to artificial intelligences, it may be wise to earnestly consider who is master here, and who is servant. We should therefore perhaps pause now and devote sufficient time to reflect on the implications of artificiality – and not rush blindly forward into a post-humanity Age of Artificiality.
Mikel Calle Navarro, PhD TSCMT Post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Geography
In 2022 I received funding from the TCSMT to perform a fieldwork campaign in the northernmost part of Finnish and Norwegian Lapland, the Tana River watershed1 (or Tenojoki in Finnish). This river works as a natural border between Finland and Norway for more than 150 km and its waters flow northeast to finally end up in the Arctic Ocean (Figure 1).
The goal of the field trip: to validate the river diversity model that we created in the computer. This basically means to compare whether the model is providing accurate prediction of the real diversity of river landscapes. Why? The idea behind is that the greater number of different river landscapes, the more biodiversity they potentially support. Besides, quantification of river ecosystems diversity, FLUVIODIVERSITY, also help us to estimate the capacity of each river type to resist the climatic changes that we are observing in the Arctic Region. But this needs an intensive monitoring of the river changes at multiple scales and combining computer models and fieldwork campaigns like this one.
Thus, in late August, after planning the potential study sites, I packed my gear and I hit the road to the north. I decided to start from the headwaters2. After crossing the border to Norway in direction to Kautokeino, I was almost ready to start the fieldwork campaign. The Figure 1 shows the route I followed to cover the most part of the river watershed. Since this area is quite big, I had to dedicate more than two weeks to reach all the selected points. Some days were long and especially tough when the rain was intermittently stopping the work. Nevertheless, I could visit some very astonishing and diverse river environments that made me evolve my current research and also my next project that I want to carry out in the area. Follow me in this campaign to discover more scientific aspects of these amazing river landscapes!
Figure 1: Route followed for the field campaign in late summer 2022.
1. HEADWATERS (Norway)
The first stop, the Norwegian high plains. In this area the road goes parallel to the river and crosses it many times. The calm waters flow intercepting meadows and lakes with very sporadic rapids. The river is here composed mostly by big sediment particles, around 20 to 30 cm in diameter. The river cuts the remnants from the past glacial activity, very smooth hills elongated towards the north, the direction of the ice (from right to left in Figure 2)
Following the Karasjok river to Karigasniemi, we observe a wide valley where the Karasjohka waters shaped a meandering pattern. The beautiful consecutive semi-circular bends (from the middle of the picture to the upper right corner) are built on sandy banks and slightly coarser river bottom. The meanders bends are so large (almost 1km radius) that are better seen on a map (click the coordinates to locate this point). The spring flood totally covers the exposed sediments of the picture and may even spill over the areas partly occupied by houses and fields. Some measures, such as erosion protection rock piles, can be found in these meanders.
It was a very windy day. The strength of the wind was so that it created an effect on the water that looked like it was flowing upwards (in the picture the water flows from down to up). In this area, the river enters a valley carved by glacial action, with steeper slopes but rounded tops, the fjelds. In this section, the river follows almost an orthogonal pattern, the river turns between 120 and 90 degrees. This can be seen in Figure 4 where the river is following a straight line then it turns to the right. This is caused by the intersection of rock fractures in the area. In this case the fracture, that the river is following first, continues to the valley in front. But the river turns into another one that follows a parallel direction to the hill tops to the right. The geology of the area, is another important factor to determine the present river diversity.
In front of Dálvadas town, the valley suddenly narrows confined by two lateral tributaries coming from Norwegian and Finnish sides. Right after, the valley expands forming this estrange form made of gravel size sediment. On top of it, one can notice striations caused by ice blocks drag by the river during the spring flood. During this period the water covers the bare sediment surface of Figure 5 and sometimes even some areas of the cultivated island in the centre.
Calm, crystal-clear waters in summer but powerful in spring. You can feel the power of the Spring flood on the sides and river banks, where broken trees and bushes shows evidence of the energy of the water and the hits of the ice blocks once the river ice cover breaks. The sediment size is large, from cobbles to boulders, showing also the high energy of the water that move them. These trybutaries are characterized by steep slopes. Many of these tributaries are spawning locations for salmon.
From Dálvadas to Polmak the river valley can be almost considered as a gorge. But before reaching Nuorgam town, we find the narrowest section of all, Alaköngäs. It is also the steepest part of the main channel. It drops 10 meters in just 1.5 km. Imagine the water forced to flow through this narrow, with floating ice blocks and moving rocks. Must be quite impressive… Also interesting is the origin of this narrowing. It is caused by the sediments deposited by the river thousands of years ago (on the right side in Figure 7), little after the glacial retreat. The effects of past glacial interactions with the landscape also influences the present river forms and diversity.
From Polmak to Tana Bru the valley starts to expand giving more space for the channel to form lateral sediment deposits (river bars). Tana Bru is the last narrow section of the river, constrained by the presence of thick accumulation of glacio-fluvial deposits, similar to the Alaköngäs case. From there toward downstream we observe a fjord-like valley completely filled with sediments (Figure 8). During the Spring snow melt the water covers 1.5 km in width. In the very end of the Tana River, the waters meet the Sea forming a delta, which is a natural reserve. This shows the large volume of sediments that this river has transported, and still transports today, towards the Arctic Ocean. Rivers draining to the Artic are the ones in charge to supply nutrients, carbon, and heat that control the biological productivity of the organisms living in it. We expect that changes in the rivers will not only affect the rivers itself but also the Arctic marine ecosystem.
This was the end of my trip from a scientific point of view. It was time to drive south,process the data and prepare for the winter to come, withrenewed confidence in the importance of our understanding of the impacts of Climate Change in these remote but sensitive ecosystems.
The catchment or watershed is the area draining towards the same point, in this case to the Barents Sea.
This term is used to indicate the uppermost part of the river, the area where a river is born.
It is a common critique from both Peterson and his fans that people do not listen to him enough and rely on their preconceptions of him, rather than on what he actually says. So, what does he actually say in his tours? Having attended the event, I can say the answer is: both a lot and very little. For a man who has listed “Be precise in your speech” as one of the key rules for life in his books, his lectures seem to leave a lot to the implications. In fact, listening to Peterson reminded me of a popular scene in the comedy show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where the most horrible of horrible people, Dennis Reynolds, talks about “the implications” as a way of coercing women:
While Peterson is not quite so nefarious in his speech, the scene feels like a good summary of what it feels to grapple with Jordan Peterson. “Because of the implications.” Therefore, in this blogpost I will examine Peterson’s status as a right-winger through this one event, by focusing on what he says and what he implies. And following one of Peterson’s more agreeable suggestions in the lecture, I will do so with at least a slight tone of humor.
How Peterson Speaks
Jordan Peterson is not a Trumpian demagogue nor a Steven Bannon-like iconoclast. He is deeply professorial in his output and demeanor, often talking in obscure stories and long-winded tangents. Before him taking the stage, the ice hockey stadium was filled with ambient classical music and the event included a performance by a classical guitarist before the main lecture. Peterson walked on wearing a fairly stylish custom-made suit, apparently by a Finnish tailor, who had made one suit for each of the 12 rules in Peterson’s original self-help book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Penguin Books, 2018). The suit was two-sided, making him look a little like the Batman villain Two-Face. The fabric in the inside of the coat was bright red on one side and sky blue on the other, supposedly to symbolize heaven and hell. Symbolism and implications, all around.
For much of his 45-minute lecture, Peterson largely seemed to be constructing the talk as he went, relying on mental associations to move from one story to the next. This was my initial impression as a listener and he confirmed as much during the Q&A. Apparently, he never knows what he is going to stay on stage ahead of time. It as not a pre-rehearsed, polished performance, but rather a talk given by someone with a backlog of stories and recurring themes he would pull up on the spot, sometimes searching, sometimes stumbling. At least, that was the impression: a professor thinking on stage, live, even if the actual things he discussed were familiar to any who had followed Peterson’s output prior.
The rambling, tangent-prone, free association style lecturing felt quite at odds with the rest of the presentation of the event. After the classical music died down, Peterson’s wife, Tammy, took the stage to introduce the speaker. However, first she took a moment to advertise some other “Peterson family” products the audience might be interested in. These included an essay writing app developed by their son and “Peterson Academy” spearheaded by their daughter. The latter was advertised as an institution aiming to provide accredited education to a bachelor’s degree (as of yet, the organization is not accredited) for a tuition fee of $4,000. The price-point was advertised as a bargain to an audience consisting of Finns from a country of free university-level education.
The focus on advertising persisted to parts of Peterson’s lecture and even the Q&A. Although the tour was advertised as being based on Peterson’s second self-help book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life (Penguin Books 2021), the book or its contents were not mentioned even once during his lecture that I could tell. Instead, he based his speech on the themes of his upcoming book, titled, apparently, We Who Wrestle with God, as well as his 16-part podcast series on the Book of Exodus from the Bible, which has since come out on the Daily Wire Plus, a subscription service for the ring-wing media site The Daily Wire.
The first question of the Q&A (which was conducted via an app from which Tammy Peterson picked out submitted questions to ask on stage) appeared likewise readily tailored for further advertisement, as it asked about Peterson’s plans for turning the Daily Wire Plus into a “real source of news.” However, Peterson’s answer did not appear rehearsed or prepared, so who knows. Was it a genuine question of someone who had fully drank the Kool-Aid? Was it a plant unbeknownst by Jordan Peterson? Is he just really good at playing the somewhat befuddled and struggling thinker moving mountains with his mind? We may never know.
What Peterson Says
So, what does Jordan Peterson actually say? Well, he speaks a lot about religion, which is interesting considering how much his early rise to fame was buoyed by online atheist communities who found enjoyment in Peterson’s clashes with feminism. For much of the talk I attended, Peterson explored various biblical stories, from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel to the Tower of Babel. However, he bypasses the need for open religiosity on the part of his listeners by framing these as enduring stories of wisdom, rather than divine manifestations. They are presented as transcendent truths, but not necessarily divine. The difference is miniscule, but it is what allows the more non-religious Peterson fans to justify the value in the stories he tells.
Throughout his talk, Peterson continuously fenced with imaginary opponents, by suggesting thoughts the audience might have. To paraphrase, he would continuously go down rabbit holes like, “Well, you might say you don’t believe that these things really happened, to which I say, ‘you need to define what you mean by ‘you,’ ‘believe,’ ‘really,’ and ‘happened.’’” This is something Peterson does with some regularity these days, often shirking from giving out answers in favor of simply asking more definition-based questions.
Big part, I believe, of Peterson’s allure is the way he makes affairs of daily life appear a grandiose struggle against forces of chaos. Waking up in the morning and deciding to make breakfast is creating “habitable order out of potential chaos.” All human beings are “visionaries who grapple with chaos,” i.e. they have the mental capacity to instill meaning to their surroundings.
In much the same way, Peterson sweeps aside the reality behind questions like, “Did Noah’s Ark truly take place,” to allude to a more hyperreal explanation of Noah’s Ark as a story of wisdom and preparedness, which therefore “happens” every time these themes become relevant in daily life. Ultimately, both Baudrillard and Peterson end up at the question of, “what do you mean by ‘taking place’?”
What Peterson Implies
Where Peterson perhaps differs is in the implications. The view of humanity he offers is highly normative. The purpose of “embodying the father” is not just to find meaning and guidance to one’s life, but to find the correct meaning. For instance, at the lecture he suggested that if one does not want children, they have perhaps wrestled with the issue of “embodying their fathers” in the wrong way. It is taken as granted that the correct desire is to have children, and lack of such want is therefore an abnormality caused by a form of failure. Therefore, while Peterson speaks about escaping presuppositions and “embracing chaotic possibility,” all his questions come with pre-existing answers. Grappling with the “spirit of one’s father” or “wrestling with God,” is all meant to lead to a preset destination.
Peterson speaks of a call to adventure to escape the shackles of preconception and the slavery of tyranny. In a weird and possibly the most explicitly political aside of his entire lecture, he compared the European Union to the Tower of Babel, which was built so high that it would threaten God. After the tower collapses in the biblical story, people lose their ability to speak with one another. From this, Peterson leaps to talk about totalitarianism, which he defines as a state in which people cannot speak truth. Totalitarianism, according to Peterson, threatens to “replace the transcendent,” which is a concept he often returns to as the ultimate source of meaning behind everything. It is a complicated concept favored by both Peterson and U.S. conservative intellectuals in the past, but briefly and roughly it means that things receive meaning via an external source outside human interaction: God, or similar entity.
The parable of the Tower of Babel is about encroaching government becoming too big, on the brink of collapse. The true forces of tyranny are alluded to in quick asides, which often garnered the biggest applause from the audience that night. Throughout the lecture and the Q&A, Peterson takes quick jabs at “Political Correctness” and “Wokeness” which both he sees as stifling the ability to speak truths.
But it is not enough to simply escape tyranny. Peterson warns against fleeing tyranny into the desert, versus into paradise. Into chaos, versus into order. His offered definition of freedom is a game akin to chess rather than chaos. Freedom is therefore order. A way that things configure against one another.
Peterson’s call to adventure and liberation is therefore ultimately normative. It is the journey of men (and sure, women can come along too) to become fathers and feel empowered to speak their minds, whatever they might contain, with little worry of others. It is not the story of, for instance, trans people who might escape tyranny of their assigned-at-birth gender and find freedom in expressing their desired pronouns. Indeed, Peterson has continued to stay true to his anti-trans roots, getting temporarily expelled from pre-Muskian Twitter for insisting on dead-naming Elliot Page and pushing the (discredited) idea that being trans is a form of social contagion similar to the Satanic panic of the 1980s (there might be similarities between people freaking out about trans people today and satanic cults in the 1980s in that the reasons for panic are made up, but Peterson is not on the side of the equation he thinks he is).
What Peterson Ultimately Is
In speaking against “tyranny,” Jordan Peterson conjures the image of a singular prophet, one who dares the shed their shackles of preconception and speak out. The implication of the speech is for each member in the audience to imagine themselves as this lone prophet next time they say something out of turn, or, as is likely the case, bigoted and face social consequences. Yet one cannot help wondering how much this also constitutes Peterson’s own self-image as a prophet to his followers.
All throughout his time in the spotlight, Peterson has denied any association of himself as a right-winger or conservative. However, he rose to fame out of resisting societal change and specifically attacking one of the more vulnerable populations much akin to rhetorical tactics used by right-wing movements in the recent years. Even in his self-help books, generally simple life-lessons continuously lead toward more ideologically leaning implications. For instance, the lesson to have more confidence is offered with the prepackaged notion that hierarchies of domination are hard-wired into nature and therefore inescapable. In the book, he speaks against the “revolutionaries of the Sixties” and emphasizes personal responsibility in the face of societal obstacles. These are all recurring facets of conservatism in the U.S. in particular, but elsewhere as well. His general bugbears are the recurring enemies of the right: postmodernism, “Political Correctness,” and “wokeness.”
Thus, I’d say f it quacks like a duck, attends largely duck-favored pools of water, and runs multiple podcasts and lecture series involving other ducks and duck-related subjects, it just might be a duck.
Christiaan De Beukelaer University of Melbourne & Durham University
On Friday the 18th of November 2022, I attended a seminar on the research legacies of Ash Amin, at the University of Durham. Amin, who recently retired from the University of Cambridge, was the founding director of Durham’s own Institute of Advanced Study, where I am currently a fellow.
The event reminded me of an unfulfilled promise I made to Martin Cloonan – who is currently the director of the Turku Institute of Advanced Study. Earlier this year, when joining the Beyond Advanced Studies conference on finding and articulating what might constitute a “Nordic Approach” to interdisciplinary research in general and to institutes of advanced study in particular, I promised Martin to write a reflection on the conference from the perspective of a (non-Nordic) outsider with an interest in both interdisciplinary academic work and the function and role of IAS’s in nurturing and supporting it.
I have put off writing this ever since making that promise. Not because I did not want to, but simply because I did not quite sure what to write. The oral Festschrift celebrating and reflection on Ash Amin’s rich career helped me to come back to my promise by tackling the seemingly easy, but ultimately challenging, question: what purpose does an Institute of Advanced Study serve?
Bearing in mind the labour disputes over pay, pensions, and workload in the 21st century academy, the answer to that question may seem self-evident: an IAS provides unfragmented time to work on research, a commodity that is increasingly hard to come by in universities today. On reflection, however, this answer is far too simplistic and mundane. I believe it misconstrues the problem of time in academia today: time is indeed of the essence, but we don’t simply need more of it, we need to be able to alter our relationship with it.
In his response to the intellectually engaging reflections on his career, Ash Amin flagged how “the world has become hideously opaque and difficult to grasp.” This reflects the unease many of us feel when trying to address the combined and conflating challenges – or poly-crises – such as climate, finance, truth, and justice have shaken the foundations of societies the world over.
A critical function of an IAS is indeed to provide unencumbered time. But that is neither easy to provide nor to embrace.
First, getting away from email and the perpetual call of Zoom meetings and seminars makes it all but impossible to get away from ongoing commitments. It makes the ideal of an IAS fellowship increasingly hard to attain.
Second, academia has grown in numbers, complexity, and diversity (albeit not enough), which is a boon for humanity. Though the inevitable downside of the enormous scale of academia today is precisely that there is so much of it. This makes it both difficult to navigate and keep up. With speaking and writing comes the assumption that others will listen and read. So, our productivity is in fact as much a struggle to articulate our thoughts as to grab others’ attention. Indeed, we may need to spend more time reading and listening, rather than writing and speaking. Particularly if we want to engage in genuine exchange, we ought to limit how much we speak, to ensure we have time to listen, too.
Third, the expansion of academia has fuelled specialisation. It makes speaking across epistemic registers difficult. Overcoming that challenge requires aimless wandering, getting lost, embracing misunderstanding, and letting each other speak. Simply increasing one’s productivity by being disciplined rarely helps. If anything, it could render the challenging task of speaking across neat disciplinary conventions more difficult. It is, rather, by wandering and aimlessly probing each other’s ideas and arguments, that it becomes possible to think about the complex puzzles we face across the straitjacket of academic silos.
The first two points affect all academics. This doesn’t make them any less important, but it does make them difficult to address through short or longer IAS stays. The third point is, I believe, the crucial one in the context of Institutes of Advanced Study, which meant to hold up a mirror, challenge us when we’re not pushing or questioning our assumptions hard enough. An IAS is meant to help us learn and re-learn to reframe and reclaim time from our own discipline in every sense of the word.
The world has indeed become hideously opaque and confronting. The wicked problems we collectively face requires both courage and critical friends with whom to wander – both intellectually and by getting our actual boots muddy.
Elie Gaget, TCSMT Postdoctoral Researcher, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Photo by M. Silveri
Climate warming is one of the biggest challenges of this century, leading to an unprecedented shift in the dominant conservation paradigm of protecting ecosystems. Conservation measures typically lack climate-related assessments, because they have been historically established to fight against anthropogenic pressures such as land-use change or over-exploitation but not directly climate change.
Species can cope with climate warming by shifting their distributions or persist in local micro-refuges, but these responses have been found insufficient so far to ensure long-term biodiversity conservation. Two key reasons are, first, the fast pace of climate warming and second, the additional cocktail of anthropogenic pressures. Conservations measures, by reducing such pressures, might be useful to improve species responses to climate warming. For instance, protected areas are disproportionally colonized by species extending their distribution to the poles. However, recent studies show that these encouraging effects are not consistent across protected areas and species, making it impossible to conceive effective climate warming adaptation strategies.
In my project, I investigate the effect of conservation measures on bird responses to climate warming. I look into the past to see which conservation measures already facilitated bird distribution shifts or persistence. Based on such conservation evidence, I explore how species responses to climate warming can be improved depending on conservation and climate scenarios in Europe. The European Union (EU) represent an interesting experimental area, with hundreds of bird species being impacted by temperature increase and having the largest protected area network, namely the Natura 2000 protected area network (18% of the EU’s land area). Climate oriented conservation strategies are relatively new in national and international conservation strategies. Considering the increasing threats of climate change on biodiversity, this project is aligns with the establishment of conservations policies based on the so-called “climate warming adaptation” to mitigate the negative impacts on climate change on biodiversity.
Simon Frith Visiting professor, TIAS
Emeritus Professor of Music at University of Edinburgh
When an old cricketer leaves the crease
Well you never know whether he’s gone. (Roy Harper 1975)
Martin Cloonan sent me a link this morning to a clip on YouTube of the Liverpool band Scaffold performing their biggest hit, ‘Lily the Pink’, at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool at the end of October.
‘Lily the Pink’ reached number 1 in the UK sale charts in 1968, the year it was originally released. The three members of Scaffold are now aged 86 (John Gorman), 85 (Roger McGough) and 78 (Mike McGear). Martin said he found their performance “rather heart-warming (if only for the fact that they are all still with us!)”. I know what he meant but maybe because I’m somewhat older than him the question this clip raised for me was different: what kind of pleasure is involved in watching old men re-enacting (somewhat shakily) their youth?
A couple of months earlier Martin had told me about going to see one of the Rolling Stones’ Stockholm shows. The Rolling Stones formed in 1962. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are now 78, Ronnie Wood is 75. The YouTube clip from this show shows Richards concentrating on his fingers much harder than he used to and while Jagger’s pitch control and physical energy are astounding for his age there’s also no doubt that these qualities are enhanced technologically, by how they are amplified and lit.
I’ve long been fascinated by musicians’ careers and how they end: they don’t so much stop work as ease down, and ‘easing down’ works differently in different music worlds. A voice changing pitch and losing power is more problematic for an opera than a country or folk singer; fingers stiffening and concentration slipping is more of an issue for a concert than a pub pianist. And even the most technologically pampered rock stars can’t stop the ageing process, can’t avoid reaching a point (often quite early in their careers) when their performances mean looking back rather than looking forward, celebrating achievements rather than potential. To grow old in rock is to repeat oneself; as musicians’ powers of invention decline well established routines become easier to manage. The most interesting old performers in rock are those who fight obdurately against this—Bob Dylan, most obviously. For the rest easing down, for performer and audience alike, involves virtuoso feats of nostalgia, making at the this moment the remembered past much more significant than the any imagined future.
How about academic careers? How do they end? How do scholars retire? My working career started at the University of Warwick fifty years ago, in 1972. It finished at the University of Edinburgh in 2017. What finished? Marking, administering, evaluating, meetings—duties that had long been chores. When I gave in my notice I did feel liberated—not from an academic life but from having to worry about my department’s future. My research career didn’t end there. This very day, at the age of 76, I delivered to the publisher the final manuscript of Made in Scotland, a book I co-edited and wrote with Martin Cloonan and John Williamson. I’m still thinking, I’m glad to say, and I still get bored by my old ideas. What I no longer do, week in and week out, is perform—in lecture theatres, classrooms, conferences and seminars.
Universities changed greatly during my working life; in essence they were professionalised—for better and worse. But they didn’t define or confine my working environment. This was always a much broader community of scholars, past, present and future. The only thing I miss about my job is the weekly postgraduate seminar that I started at Strathclyde University in the 1990s and took with me to first Stirling and then Edinburgh. The seminar was open to anyone—students, staff, from other departments, other universities, other countries even; the participants were ever changing. We agreed on topics; I usually introduced them. Discussions were essentially interdisciplinary, serendipitous, surprising and revealing. Every meeting made me think about things I hadn’t thought about before, gave me the first inkling of the arguments in everything I wrote.
I was, then, very grateful to Martin Cloonan for inviting me to TIAS to run five seminars on the model of my old weekly sessions: a different topic each day for which I had to think through introductory comments; a multidisciplinary and subtly changing gathering of smart researchers; conversations flowing in odd directions. There were moments when I wondered ‘can I still do this?’, ‘have I got anything to say’, ‘am I too old?’ But I quickly realised these were the wrong questions. What I found (what I had missed) was not a cleverness competition but the ever-inspiring experience of scholarly community. Every research topic every Fellow addressed was fascinating; every answer meant more questions. The quality old scholars have is wisdom, which just means a lifetime of reading, talking, observing and listening as widely and idiosyncratically as possible. Wisdom is the effect of scholarly sociability, of the kind of curiosity that drives all good research.
It was good to discover that I am still curious and even better to realise that there are so many new researchers who think differently and better than me. In the final seminar one of the issues we discussed was progress. Scholars, like musicians, start out with the determination to do something new, but that means, eventually, handing the future over to another generation. I understand the rock concert pleasures of reliving a sense of the future, as it were, of being absorbed by memories that something new once happened. But I prefer the sense of being past it. A sense of the future necessarily belongs to younger people than me. Nostalgia for the way we used to do things, the way we used to think, is not a becoming academic emotion. In the academy there’s no fun in continuing to be right; what one always wants is to be shown to be wrong.
FT Erkki Kankare Kollegiumtutkija, TCSMT Fysiikan ja tähtitieteen laitos
Kuluneen syksyn aikana olin järjestelyvastuussa kansallisesta tähtitieteen kurssista, jossa opiskelijat käyttävät etänä yhteispohjoismaista NOT (Nordic Optical Telescope) teleskooppia. NOT on 2.56 metrin pääpeilillä varustettu, optiikalta ja muilta ominaisuuksiltaan erinomainen teleskooppi, jota lukuisat kansainväliset tutkimusryhmät käyttävät korkeatasoiseen tähtitieteen tutkimukseen. Kyseinen teleskooppi sijaitsee 2.4 kilometrin korkeudella merenpinnan tasosta Roque de los Muchachos -nimisellä observatorioalueella La Palmalla, Kanariansaarilla, Espanjassa. NOT-teleskooppi siirtyi muutamia vuosia sitten Turun yliopiston ja tanskalaisen Aarhusin yliopiston yhteisomistukseen.
Tutkimuksen lisäksi NOT-teleskoopin rooli uusien tähtitieteilijöiden koulutuksessa on myös oleellinen. Tästä erinomaisina esimerkkeinä ovat havaintokurssit, joissa lähinnä maisteriopintovaiheessa olevat tähtitieteen opiskelijat pääsevät itse käyttämään NOT-teleskooppia kurssityöhavaintojen tekoon. Samankaltaisia NOT-kursseja on järjestetty Suomen lisäksi mm. myös Tanskassa, Ruotsissa ja Norjassa. Toisena esimerkkinä NOT-teleskoopin koulutuskäytöstä on Student Support Astronomer -ohjelma, jossa tähtitieteen maisteri- tai tohtoriopintoja suorittavia opiskelijoita toimii harjoittelijoina teleskoopilla tyypillisesti yhdestä puoleentoista vuoden pituisen jakson ajan hoitaen teleskoopin vakinaisen henkilökunnan tapaan osan havaintoöistä täysin itsenäisesti. Toimin itsekin vuosien 2009-2010 aikana tässä tehtävässä ja tällä hetkellä puolestaan toinen ohjaamistani väitöskirjaopiskelijoista on harjoittelijana NOT:lla.
Kansallinen NOT-kurssi järjestetään normaalisti vuosittain ja kyseessä on ns. etähavaintokurssi. Opiskelijat kerääntyivät lokakuun lopussa viikon ajaksi Avaruuspuisto Väisälän tiloihin (ent. Tuorlan observatorio) Kaarinan Piikkiöön suorittamaan etänä havaintoja käyttäen reaaliajassa tuhansien kilometrien etäisyydellä olevaa NOT-teleskooppia. Etähavaintojärjestelmän käyttö vastaa kuitenkin hyvin samankaltaisesti tilannetta verrattuna siihen, että havaintoja olisi suorittamassa paikan päällä NOT:lla. Tänäkin vuonna kurssille osallistui opiskelijoita suomalaisista yliopistoista, joissa tehdään tähtitieteen tutkimusta, eli Turun, Helsingin ja Oulun yliopistoista sekä Aalto-yliopistosta. Tyypillisesti kurssille osallistuu vajaat 20 opiskelijaa, mutta vuonna 2020 kurssi jäi väliin Covid-19-pandemian takia ja tätä seuraavina vuosina tulijoiden määrä onkin ollut poikkeuksellisen suuri. Tänä vuonna osallistujia oli ennätysmäärä, lähes 30 opiskelijaa.
NOT-etähavaintojärjestelmä valmiina käyttöön.
Kurssin kokonaisohjelmaan kuuluu pohjustavia luentoja, havaintojen suunnittelua, varsinaisten havaintojen suorittamista, havaitun datan prosessointia ja analysointia, ryhmäesitelmän valmistelu ja pitäminen, sekä loppuprojektin kirjoittaminen. Itse valmistelin ja pidin kolme kurssin luentoa aiheista NOT-kurssin havainnot, optinen kuvaaminen sekä lähi-infrapuna-alueen kuvaaminen, jotka muodostivat suurimman osan kurssin pääluennoista. Kurssin opiskelijat jaettiin n. viiden hengen ryhmiin ja joka ryhmällä on kurssiprojektin ohjaajana yksi tai useampi tähtitieteilijä, jotka toimivat tutkijoina samoissa yliopistoissa, joista opiskelijatkin tulevat. Kurssiohjaajat suunnittelevat omaan tutkimukseensa liittyvän projektin, joten eri aiheiden kirjo on kurssilla aina laaja. Tällä kertaa esimerkiksi kahden Turun yliopiston opiskelijaryhmän tutkimusprojektit liittyivät tähtien elinkaaren päättäviin supernovaräjähdyksiin, jota myös oma tutkimukseni käsittelee. Havaintoöiden aikana opiskelijoita on avustamassa aina ryhmänohjaaja sekä kansallisen kurssimme erikoisuutena myös entinen NOT-harjoittelija, joista lukuisia työskentelee Suomessa. Itse olin paikalla havaintoöiden alussa aina pikkutunneille asti varmistamassa, että havainnot lähtevät hyvin käyntiin. Lisäksi Zoom-yhteyden päässä teleskoopilla oli luonnollisesti aina NOT:n henkilökunnan jäsen. Kurssin aikana opiskelijat suorittivat sekä optisen että lähi-infrapuna-alueen havaintoja. Käsittääkseni tämä kansallinen NOT-havaintokurssimme on ainoa, joka hyödyntää myös lähi-infrapuna-aluetta, muissa pohjoismaissa järjestettävien NOT-kurssien keskittyessä vain optisiin havaintoihin. Kurssin järjestelyihin meni huomattavasti aikaa, alkaen jo viime keväänä, kun valmistelin havaintoaikahakemuksen teleskoopille. Seuraavaksi opiskelijat pitävät ryhmäesitelmänsä parin viikon päästä. Lopuksi opiskelijoilla on aikaa valmistella kurssityön päättäviä kirjallisia raportteja vielä tammikuun puoleen väliin asti, jolloin on aika arvostella ne.
Nykyisin yhä enemmässä määrin tutkijoiden tähtitieteellisiä havaintoja suorittaa teleskooppien henkilökunta tutkijoiden valmistelemien ohjeiden perusteella ilman, että tähtitieteilijät matkustavat itse paikan päälle käytettävälle teleskoopille. Vaikka tämä joidenkin tutkimusprojektien kannalta on järkevää, vaaditaan tutkijoilta silti syvällinen ymmärrys havaintojen valmisteluun ja suorittamiseen liittyen. Sanotaan, että esimerkiksi ohjelmoimaan oppii vain tekemällä – sama päteekin myös tähtitieteellisten havaintojen tekoon.