Tools for Trade

Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen) in tablet mode
Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen) in tablet mode.

The key research infrastructures these days include e.g. access to online publication databases, and ability to communicate with your colleagues (including such prosaic things as email, file sharing and real-time chat). While an astrophysicist relies on satellite data and a physicist to a particle accelerator, for example, in research and humanities and human sciences is less reliant on expensive technical infrastructures. Understanding how to do an interview, design a reliable survey, or being able to carefully read, analyse and interpret human texts and expressions is often enough.

Said that, there are tools that are useful for researchers of many kinds and fields. Solid reference database system is one (I use Zotero). In everyday meetings and in the field, note taking is one of the key skills and practices. While most of us carry our trusty laptops everywhere, one can do with a lightweight device, such as iPad Pro. There are nice keyboard covers and precise active pens available for today’s tablet computers. When I type more, I usually pick up my trusty Logitech K810 (I have several of those). But Lenovo Yoga 510 that I have at home has also that kind of keyboard that I love: snappy and precise, but light of touch, and of low profile. It is also a two-in-one, convertible laptop, but a much better version from same company is X1 Yoga (2nd generation). That one is equipped with a built-in active pen, while being also flexible and powerful enough so that it can run both utility software, and contemporary games and VR applications – at least when linked with an eGPU system. For that, I use Asus ROG XG Station 2, which connects to X1 Yoga with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, thereby plugging into the graphics power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. A system like this has the benefit that one can carry around a reasonably light and thin laptop computer, which scales up to workstation class capabilities when plugged in at the desk.

ROG XG Station 2 with Thunderbolt 3.
ROG XG Station 2 with Thunderbolt 3.

One of the most useful research tools is actually a capable smartphone. For example, with a good mobile camera one can take photos to make visual notes, photograph one’s handwritten notes, or shoot copies of projected presentation slides at seminars and conferences. When coupled with a fast 4G or Wi-Fi connection and automatic upload to a cloud service, the same photo notes almost immediately appear also the laptop computer, so that they can be attached to the right folder, or combined with typed observation notes and metadata. This is much faster than having a high-resolution video recording of the event; that kind of more robust documentation setups are necessary in certain experimental settings, focus group interview sessions, collaborative innovation workshops, etc., but in many occasions written notes and mobile phone photos are just enough. I personally use both iPhone (8 Plus) and Android systems (Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and S7).

Writing is one of they key things academics do, and writing software is a research tool category on its own. For active pen handwriting I use both Microsoft OneNote and Nebo by MyScript. Nebo is particularly good in real-time text recognition and automatic conversion of drawn shapes into vector graphics. I link a video by them below:

My main note database is at Evernote, while online collaborative writing and planning is mostly done in Google Docs/Drive, and consortium project file sharing is done either in Dropbox or in Office365.

Microsoft Word may be the gold standard of writing software in stand-alone documents, but their relative share has radically gone down in today’s distributed and collaborative work. And while MS Word might still have the best multi-lingual proofing tools, for example, the first draft might come from an online Google Document, and the final copy end up into WordPress, to be published in some research project blog or website, or in a peer-reviewed online academic publication, for example. The long, book length projects are best handled in dedicated writing environment such as Scrivener, but most collaborative book projects are best handled with a combination of different tools, combined with cloud based sharing and collaboration in services like Dropbox, Drive, or Office365.

If you have not collaborated in this kind of environment, have a look at tutorials, here is just a short video introduction by Google into sharing in Docs:

What are your favourite research and writing tools?

Tech Tips for New Students

Working cross-platform
Going cross-platform: same text accessed via various versions of MS Word and Dropbox in Surface Pro 4, iPad Mini (with Zagg slim book keyboard case), Toshiba Chromebook 2, and iPhone 6 Plus, in the front.

There are many useful practices and tools that can be recommended for new university students; many good study practices are pretty universal, but then there are also elements that relate to what one studies, where one studies – to the institutional or disciplinary frames of academic work. A student that works on a degree in theoretical physics, electronics engineering, organic chemistry, history of the Middle Ages, Japanese language or business administration, for example, all will probably have elements in their studies that are unique to their fields. I will here focus on some simple technicalities should be useful for many students in the humanities, social sciences or digital media studies related fields, as well as for those in our own, Internet and Game Studies degree program.

There are study practices that belong to the daily organisation of work, to the tools, the services and software that one will use, for example. My focus here is on the digital tools and technology that I have found useful – even essential – for today’s university studies, but that does not mean I would downplay the importance of non-digital, informal and more traditional ways of doing things. The ways of taking notes in lectures and seminars is one thing, for example. For many people the use of pen or pencil on paper is absolutely essential, and they are most effective when using their hands in drawing and writing physically to the paper. Also, rather than just participating in online discussion fora, having really good, traditional discussions in the campus café or bar with the fellow students are important in quite many ways. But taken that, there are also some other tools and environments that are worth considering.

It used to be that computers were boxy things that were used in university’s PC classes (apart from terminals, used to access the mainframes). Today, the information and communication technology landscape has greatly changed. Most students carry in their pockets smartphones that are much more capable devices than the mainframes of the past. Also, the operating systems do not matter as much as they did only a few years ago. It used to be a major choice whether one went and joined the camp of Windows (Microsoft-empowered PC computers), that of Apple Macintosh computers, those with Linux, or some other, more obscure camp. The capabilities and software available for each environment were different. Today, it is perfectly possible to access same tools, software or services with all major operating environments. Thus, there is more freedom of choice.

The basic functions most of us in academia probably need daily include reading, writing, communicating/collaborating, research, data collecting, scheduling and other work organisation tasks and use of the related tools. It is an interesting situation that most of these tasks can be achieved already with the mobile device many of us carry with us all the time. A smartphone of iOS or Android kind can be combined with an external Bluetooth keyboard and used for taking notes in the lectures, accessing online reading materials, for using cloud services and most other necessary tasks. In addition, smartphone is of course an effective tool for communication, with its apps for instant messaging, video or voice conferencing. The cameraphone capabilities can be used for taking visual notes, or for scanning one’s physical notes with their mindmaps, drawings and handwriting into digital format. The benefit of that kind of hybrid strategy is it allows taking advantage both of the supreme tactile qualities of physical pen and paper, while also allowing the organisation of scanned materials into digital folders, possibly even in full-text searchable format.

The best tools for this basic task of note taking and organisation are Evernote and MS OneNote. OneNote is the more fully featured one – and more complex – of these two, and allows one to create multiple notebooks, each with several different sections and pages that can include text, images, lists and many other kinds of items. Taking some time to learn how to use OneNote effectively to organise multiple materials is definitely worth it. There are also OneNote plugins for most internet browsers, allowing one to capture materials quickly while surfing various sites.

MS OneNote
MS OneNote, Microsoft tutorial materials.

Evernote is more simple and straightforward tool, and this is perhaps exactly why many prefer it. Saving and searching materials in Evernote is very quick, and it has excellent integration to mobile. OneNote is particularly strong if one invests to Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (or Surface Book), which have a Surface Pen that is a great note taking tool, and allows one to quickly capture materials from a browser window, writing on top of web pages, etc. On the other hand, if one is using an Apple iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet, Evernote has characteristics that shine there. On Samsung Note devices with “S Pen” one can take screenshots and make handwritten notes in mostly similar manner than one can do with the MS Surface Pen in the Microsoft environment.

In addition to the note solution, a cloud service is one of the bedrocks of today’s academic world. Some years ago it was perfectly possible to have software or hardware crash and realize that (backups missing), all that important work is now gone. Cloud services have their question marks regarding privacy and security, but for most users the benefits are overwhelming. A tool like Dropbox will silently work in the background and make sure that the most recent versions of all files are always backed up. A file that is in the cloud can also be shared with other users, and some services have expanded into real-time collaboration environments where multiple people can discuss and work together on shared documents. This is especially strong in Google Drive and Google Docs, which includes simplified versions of familiar office tools: text editor, spreadsheet, and presentation programs (cf. classic versions of Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; LibreOffice has similar, free, open-source versions). Microsoft cloud service, Office 365 is currently provided for our university’s students and staff as the default environment free of charge, and it includes the OneDrive storage service as well as Outlook email system, and access to both desktop as well as cloud-hosted versions of Office applications – Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, and OneNote Online. Apple has their own iCloud system, with Mac office tools (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) also can be operated in browser, as iCloud versions. All major productivity tools have also iOS and Android mobile app versions of their core functionalities available. It is also possible to save, for example, MS Office documents into the MS OneCloud, or into Dropbox – a seamless synchronization with multiple devices and operating systems is an excellent thing, as it makes possible to start writing on desktop computer, continue with a mobile device, and then finish things up with a laptop computer, for example.

Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X (Macintosh computers) and Linux have a longer history, but I recommend students also having a look at Google’s Chrome OS and Chromebook devices. They are generally cheaper, and provide reliable and very easy to maintain environment that can be used for perhaps 80 % or 90 % of the basic academic tasks. Chromebooks work really well with Google Drive and Google Docs, but principally any service that be accessed as a browser-based, cloud version also works in Chromebooks. It is possible, for example, to create documents in Word or PowerPoint Online, and save them into OneDrive or Dropbox so that they will sync with the other personal computers and mobile devices one might be using. There is a development project at Google to make it possible to run Android mobile applications in Chrome OS devices, which means that the next generation of Chromebooks (which will all most likely support touchscreens) will be even more attractive than today’s versions.

For planning, teamwork, task deadlines and calendar sharing, there are multiple tools available that range from MS Outlook to Google Calendar. I have found that sharing of calendars generally works easier with the Google system, while Outlook allows deeper integration into organisation’s personnel databases etc. It is really good idea to plan and break down all key course work into manageable parts and set milestones (interim deadlines) for them. This can be achieved with careful use of calendars, where one can mark down the hours that are required for personal, as well as teamwork, in addition to lectures, seminars and exercise classes your timetable might include. That way, not all crucial jobs are packed next to the end of term or period deadlines. I personally use a combination of several Google Calendars (the core one synced with the official UTA Outlook calendar) and Wunderlist to-do list app/service. There are also several dedicated project management tools (Asana, Trello, etc.), but mostly you can work the tasks with basic tools like Google Docs, Sheets (Word, Excel) and then break down the tasks and milestones into the calendar you share with your team. Communications are also essential, and apart from email, people today generally utilize Facebook (Messenger, Groups, Pages), Skype, WhatsApp, Google+/Hangouts, Twitter, Instagram and similar social media tools. One of the key skills in this area is to create multiple filter settings or more fine-grained sharing settings (possibly even different accounts and profiles) for professional and private purposes. The intermixing of personal, study related and various commercial dimensions is almost inevitable in these services, which is why some people try to avoid social media altogether. Wisely used, these services can be nevertheless immensely useful in many ways.

All those tools and services require accounts and login details that are easily rather unsafe, by e.g. our tendency to recycle same or very similar passwords. Please do not do that – there will inevitably be a hacking incident or some other issue with some of those services, and that will lead you into trouble in all the others, too. There are various rules-based ways of generating complex passwords for different services, and I recommend using two-factor authentication always when it is available. This is a system where typically a separate mobile app or text messages act as a backup security measure whenever the service is accessed from a new device or location. Life is also much easier using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password, where one only needs to remember the master password – the service will remember the other, complex and automatically generated passwords for you. In several contemporary systems, there are also face recognition (Windows 10 Hello), fingerprint authentication or iris recognition technologies that are designed to provide a further layer of protection at the hardware level. The operating systems are also getting better in protecting against computer viruses, even without a dedicated anti-virus software. There are multiple scams and social engineering hacks in the connected, online world that even the most sophisticated anti-virus tools cannot protect you against.

Finally, a reference database is an important part of any study project. While it is certainly possible to have a physical shoebox full of index cards, filled with quotes, notes and bibliographic details of journal articles, conference papers and book chapters, it is not the most efficient way of doing things. There are comprehensive reference database management services like RefWorks (supported by UTA) and EndNote that are good for this job. I personally like Zotero, which exists both as cloud/browser-based service in Zotero.org, but most importantly allows quick capture of full reference details through browser plugins, and then inserting references in all standard formats into course papers and thesis works, in simple copy-paste style. There can also be set up shared, topics based bibliographic databases, managed by teams in Zotero.org – an example is Zotero version of DigiPlay bibliography (created by Jason Rutter, and converted by Jesper Juul): https://www.zotero.org/groups/digiplay .

As a final note, regardless of the actual tools one uses, it is the systematic and innovative application of those that really sets excellent study practices apart. Even the most cutting edge tools do not automate the research and learning – this is something that needs to be done by yourself, and in your individual style. There are also other solutions, that have not been explored in this short note, that might suit your style. Scrivener, for example, is a more comprehensive “writing studio”, where one can collect snippets of research, order fragments and create structure in more flexible manner than is possible than in e.g. MS Word (even while its Outline View is too underused). The landscape of digital, physical, social and creative opportunities is all the time expanding and changing – if you have suggestions for additions to this topic, please feel free to make those below in the comments.

Fafnir 4/2016 CFP

(Please spread the word) Call for Papers:

FAFNIR 4/2016: SPECULATIVE FICTION IN COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research invites authors to submit papers for the upcoming edition 4/2016. Theme for the edition is “Speculative Fiction in Comics and Graphic Novels”. We invite papers that focus on speculative fiction in, for example, genres of comics, graphic novels and graphic narratives, cartoons, animations, anime or manga.

Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research is a peer-reviewed academic journal which is published in electronic format four times a year. Fafnir is published by FINFAR Society (The Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research) from 2013 onwards.Fafnir publishes various texts ranging from peer-reviewed research articles to short overviews and book reviews in the field of science fiction and fantasy research.

The submissions for the edition 4/2016 must be original work, and written in English, Finnish or in Scandinavian languages. Manuscripts of research articles should be between 20,000 and 40,000 characters in length. The journal uses the most recent edition of the MLA Style Manual. The manuscripts of research articles will be peer-reviewed.

Please note that as Fafnir is designed to be of interest to readers with varying backgrounds, essays and other texts should beas accessibly written as possible. Also, if you are writing in English, and English is not your first language, please have your article reviewed or edited by an English language editor.

In addition to research articles, Fafnir constantly welcomes text proposals such as essays, interviews, overviews and book reviews on any subject suited for the journal.

The deadline for research articles is August 15, 2016and for other submissions November 15, 2016.

Please send your electronic submission (saved as RTF-file) to the following address: submissions(at)finfar.org. For further information, please contact the editors: jyrki.korpua(at)oulu.fi, hanna.roine(at)uta.fi and aino-kaisa.koistinen(at)jyu.fi.

More detailed information about Fafnir and the submission guidelines is available at our webpage journal.finfar.org.

This edition is scheduled for December 2016.

Best regards,
Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, Jyrki Korpua and Hanna-Riikka Roine
Editors, Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research

Money & Games blog note, #moneygames

A quick note about the Money & Games seminar, based on the first day: I was expecting the relationships between money and games to be diverse and rather complex field, and I was not disappointed by the seminar. The idea that game could be seen as a straightforward product that someone just builds, and then sells to someone else for a fixed sum of money is not how things play out – and, as the historical reviews of the seminar pointed out, is not that typical about how things have been in the past, either. For example, the entire era of game arcades was based on coin-operated games, where the economic incentive was to design for short, micropayment style transactions: every time the player failed, the was room for another coin to be spend (something that Sebastian Deterding’s ambitious “Toward Economic Platform Studies” paper and presentation was particularly emphasising). Value of games and monetary and time-based investments are intricately intertwined, and it is clear that e.g. putting a higher price tag on something can mean that pleyers are more likely to expect it to be of higher quality, or value, than a cheap game. Thus, setting the right price involves theorycrafting practice of game business economics of its own – or “valuecrafting”, like the paper presented by Mia Consalvo suggested about indie developers. Free-to-play business model and the associated monetization strategies were particularly discussed in the seminar, with several interesting case studies focusing on that, plus the more philosophically oriented paper by Olli Heimo et al. used it, plus industry advertising practices as a target of (Aristotelian) virtue ethics based criticism. There were comments expressed in the seminar that the political economy angle of the entire free-to-play sector would be something that would be valuable at this point. On the other hand, while Janne Paavilainen presented the first results from a detailed micro-ethnography in Armoured Warfare game, pointing out the multiple “dark design patterns” or manipulative tricks that tempt the free-riding player to become a paying player, Markus Montola was quick to point out that many of the analysed design choices actually sounded just like good, regular game design that is balanced and appropriately both challenges and rewards the player – and Janne agreed that Armoured Warfare is an example of good game design; free-to-play payments are just used to make an already good game to play even better. Great papers, presentations, and discussions, thanks everyone! Also, our invited commentators, Pauliina Raento and Juho Hamari, did excellent job in providing commentary and guidance, Pauliina also giving a keynote talk of her own about doing gambling studies, about the lessons she personally has learned from her history in this field, and that made the valuable point about importance of bridge building between isolated academic communities. – Link to the seminar program page: https://gamemoneyseminar.wordpress.com/program/

On university mergers, and “Tampere 3”

As UTA staff representative in the Tampere 3 steering group, I have been asked to talk next week in the UTA professors’ forum event. Much is still in the air, and open, but here are some key themes that relate to this topic:

  • The primary goals of the university merger. There has been some unclarity how various parties (state government, university administration, students, staff, etc.) see the primary aims of this merger, but often the primary driver for starting this kind of merger processes has been economic one: consolidating education, research and services into larger units will supposedly open doors for savings. The quality reasons for improvements on the other hand are commonly expressed in terms of the “big is beautiful” model: various reports and policy statements have long claimed that there are too many Finnish universities as compared to the population size of the country (the wide geographical reach is rarely commented in these) and that there is too much fragmentation – small one/two person programs or disciplines have no “critical mass” to systematically evolve and carry out high quality research, or provide strong education. (What is clear is that the effectiveness and focus provided by smaller units is insufficiently understood in these discussions.) It now seems that Tampere 3 merger is moving forward and that it has aspects that both are related to rationalizing, as well as aspects that relate to profiling: i.e. that Tampere region takes a stronger role in some areas (and is then also expected to scale down involvement in some others). There is much need for wisdom and hearing of experts while such crucial strategic decisions are being made. Professors, teachers, other staff and students all have their important contributions to make in this process.
  • Innovation potential vs. realities of work. Change is always a burden, and (if my memory serves me) in UTA for example, the number of staff has already gone down from c. 2.500 to 2.000 in a few years. As there has not been a radical drop in bureaucracy (new requirements for reporting, quality controlling, etc., rather have been introduced in this period), this has meant that numerous tasks that have previously been handled by some assisting personnel, are today handled by professors and other key staff members themselves. There is no longer someone who would quickly and efficiently take care of your travel receipts: after each trip (which there are many, if you collaborate nationally and internationally, as is expected), a professor will stay late at work to do a few extra hours to scan documents, manually input all numbers and explanations of cost items into the travel system, or otherwise fill in and check working hours or budget numbers of his team’s projects into various spreadsheets and administrative databases. This takes its toll, on top of research funding (to give another example) becoming an increasingly competitive and collaborative effort, which, in turn, also means an increase in meetings of various kinds, as well as plenty of grant and plan writing, report writing and form filling work. The university staff is already overburdened, some are seriously struggling in keeping up with the various requests coming into their overflowing inboxes and shared electronic calendars, and the atmosphere towards starting yet another radical round of restructuration is therefore not exactly optimal. In UTA, there used to be over 30 discipline-based departments and a mid-layer of faculty structures on top of that, but in 2011 this was restructured into nine larger Schools, and some aspects of that change have yet not been properly processed, and continue to create their own challenges (see: http://www.uta.fi/ajankohtaista/yliopistouutiset/1010/0510/yksikkojako.pdf). Yet, that said, there is nevertheless also genuine potential to find mutually complementing counterparts in the Tampere 3 restructuration – or at least get an opportunity to fix some of the errors that were made in the previous restructuration rounds. “Change is good” mantra might sound like a joke for a tired and overworked academic staff member, but there truly is also catalysing potential and opportunities for genuine innovation when the wide range of UTA, TUT and TAMK education, research and societal collaboration activities are brought together in sensible and clever, new ways. But this sense and cleverness requires that the best expertise in understanding complex phenomena, and the true substance of research and other academic work is used and activated as this process moves forward.
  • Resources and promises. Much of this boils down to how the extra overhead related to the merger will be resourced and managed. Many members of staff are currently cautious, due to seeing all too well the dangers of committing to overambitious objectives with insufficient resources. On the other hand, there is also pent-up energy and need for taking the next steps and building the new university: there are highly dynamic young (and older) researchers, teachers and administrators who have witnessed the societal transformations, seen the potential for innovation, who have published research or piloted new models in their individual projects, but who have not yet been provided an opportunity to apply these lessons to wider scale in their own institution. Such best experts and research-based solutions are now in crucial demand, as the excellent opportunity potential in Tampere 3 finally starts to open up in a big way. The unique profile of Tampere 3 in societal, cultural, technical and health related research areas, as well as the strong expertise in some really interesting, collaborative and experimental work that has been carried out in Tampere means that a new and interesting university can be created that can in flexible and multidisciplinary manner tackle many of the challenges related to the future societal developments. But that creation process requires a lot of work. And when work needs to be done, both energy, enthusiasm, expertise – and money – need to come together, and be channelled in a wise manner. Let’s hope that we are lucky enough to have that wisdom in Tampere, as well as in the Finnish government.

CFP: Finncon 2016 Academic Track

Call for Papers for the Academic Track at FINNCON 2016

Fantastic Visions from Faerie to Dystopia

July 1–3, 2016, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

Finncon 2016 is one of the largest events in Europe for anyone interested in science fiction and fantasy. By tradition, it is free of membership fee, and offers you several programme tracks with presentations, panels and lectures on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy. The main language will be Finnish, but there are programme tracks also in English and Swedish. For more information, see http://2016.finncon.org/en/what-is-finncon/.

Finncon 2016 includes an academic track, organised in cooperation with the University of Tampere research project Darkening visions: dystopian fiction in contemporary Finnish literature and the Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research (FINFAR, http://finfar.org/en).

The Finncon 2016 Academic Track aims to bring together a wide range of scholarly perspectives on the speculative and the fantastic. We hope for a broad, interdisciplinary discussion on the many ways in which genres such as fantasy, science fiction and horror take their readers, users, and consumers to strange speculative worlds, from modern dystopias to classic fairylands.

The Academic Track now invites presentations on fairy tales and dystopia. The general theme of Finncon 2016 is fairy tales, and accordingly the Author Guests of Honour are Catherynne M. Valente (USA), Jasper Fforde (UK) and Anne Leinonen (Finland). Fairy tales are a part of the shared human cultural heritage, and each culture has fairy tales of its own. Although fairy tales are often seen as children’s culture, fairy tale tropes and motifs may also belong to a galaxy far, far away, as they have become material for popular culture in many forms.

We also wish to emphasise the fiction of dystopia. One of the most noticeable trends in speculative fiction has been the rise of dystopian themes and visions that expand from undesirable, oppressive societies to apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios of the future of the mankind and life on earth more generally. What is the attraction of these dark imaginations that also penetrate young adult fiction?

The Guest Scholar will be Raffaella Baccolini (University of Bologna), who will give a plenary lecture and comment on papers.

Proposals for scholarly papers from any academic discipline that seek to examine, interrogate, and expand research related to any aspect of fairy tales or dystopia, for any age group, in any medium are welcome. Papers will be allowed a maximum presentation time of 20 minutes.

Please submit a 500-word proposal describing the content of your proposed paper, and a few words about yourself and your research to either Saija Isomaa (saija.isomaa@uta.fi) or Jyrki Korpua (jyrki.korpua@gmail.com).

The deadline for the proposals is February 29, 2016.

Tampere is easy to get to either directly by air or by train (or car) from Helsinki. The convention location is the University of Tampere which is downtown, near the train station and a short way from several hotels, shops and markets.

If you have any questions about the Finncon 2016 or the Academic Track, please contact Liisa Rantalaiho (liisa.rantalaiho@uta.fi).

Sanna Malinen’s PhD defence

2016-01-08 14.31.49Today researcher Sanna Malinen defended her PhD thesis in the University of Tampere. The opponent in the public defence was professor Pekka Räsänen from the University of Turku, professor Frans Mäyrä acted as the custos. The abstract and download link to the full, PDF version of the dissertation, titled Sociability and Sense of Community among Users of Online Services, are below:

The dissertation explores a current and popular phenomenon referred to as ‘online communities’ from both theoretical and empirical viewpoints. Online communities are discussed in the context of a wider development in social life from small geography-based units to large and dispersed social networks, which can be mediated by technology. In this study, online communities are understood as fluid objects that are created and maintained through users’ social interactions and actual social practices. Therefore, they are not stable and fixed groups but, instead, a social process that transforms over time.
The empirical portion of this work illustrates the multifaceted nature of the research subject and consists of five case studies exploring the usage of software intended for various purposes: an online photo-sharing service, an online exercise diary, online auctions, and social-media applications for smartphones. In addition, there is a research article consisting of a literature review that synthesise research into online community participation conducted over the past 12 years. The findings from the empirical sub-studies show that community-evocative feelings and behaviors can emerge within various online settings, including dispersed networks and content-oriented sites focusing on artefacts that users produce, such as photographs. However, users can have very different orientations with respect to their interest in social networking and community-building within the context of the same site. The literature review shows that the majority of previous research on user participation has focused on the quantity of their activity. Instead of dividing users into active and passive on the basis of the amount of content they produce, research should acknowledge that there is greater variety in the ways of participating and belonging to an online community.
The dissertation vividly illustrates that online communities are a constantly changing and developing phenomenon. In recent years, the most notable technological changes have been the surge in popularity of large-scale social network sites and increased usage of the Internet via mobile devices. In order for the concept of community to be applied in description of online sociability within current technological settings, the meaning of this term and the criteria for community needs to be rethought.

The full dissertation: http://tampub.uta.fi/handle/10024/98292.