Minna Santaoja: Technologies allow participation and learning on nature

Minna Santaoja: Technologies allow participation and learning on nature


Hi, my name is Minna Santaoja. And I work as a postdoctoral researcher at TIAS, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies. My background is in environmental policy so I am an environmental social scientist. I am currently placed at the Finland Futures Research Centre which is part of the Turku School of Economics. There is an emphasis on research on sustainable development so I found my place easily there. My project in TIAS is called Envisioning the Role of New Technologies in Shaping Human–Nature Relationships. So I am interested in different ways of knowing nature, different ways of acquiring data, knowledge on biodiversity, and then the question of the role of technology in acquiring information on biodiversity. So, by technology I mean, for example, different databases, or, the mobile devices that we have in our pockets, mobile applications and also social media. These kinds of technologies they provide a lot of new opportunities for citizens to participate in gathering data on biodiversity. But then the question becomes that does our relationship with nature change when it’s increasingly technology-mediated. Does it become sort of more instrumental, or, more kind of commodified. These are such questions that I’m addressing in my project. Another thing is what we discuss a lot in TIAS, TIAS is an interdisciplinary unit so people come from very different backgrounds, which is richness, but then, how to work together, how to do interdisciplinary work. And I think the kind of challenges that we are facing in today’s society that it’s increasingly complex, they require interdisciplinary research and interdisciplinary knowledge generation, and TIAS provides good opportunities for that. I am really grateful for this period of being allowed to take my time in first wrapping up previous projects, writing up stuff that have been kind of gathering on my desk from previous projects, but then also to think forward: where do I really want to go with my work, with my research, and with my research career. So, in terms of interdisciplinarity, I have, for example, been planning collaborative projects with ecologists, thinking together how to live in harmony with non-human other species, for example, like wasps, species that we find harmful. And another form of interdisciplinary work is, I have been collaborating with some artists. I have been invited in some artistic projects, and that’s really inspiring and fascinating to think of the role of arts as well in shaping our relationship to nature and thinking of new hopeful futures. Welcome to TIAS!

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