A good servant, but a bad master

Artificial intelligence has been slowly developing over the years, until recently it has nearly exploded due to newest advancements. In conversations, it’s even compared to electricity thanks to its upheavals. Some are afraid that AI will take their jobs, but at the same time AI eases our lives greatly. Advancements in AI’s development have intrigued […]

TEKSTI Jere Laitinen

KUVAT Jenna Pakonen

Artificial intelligence has been slowly developing over the years, until recently it has nearly exploded due to newest advancements. In conversations, it’s even compared to electricity thanks to its upheavals. Some are afraid that AI will take their jobs, but at the same time AI eases our lives greatly.

Advancements in AI’s development have intrigued people ever since Alan Turing made his observations on artificial intelligence in the 1950s. Nowadays speaking of AI might arouse visions of independently thinking autonomous robots, which are slowly becoming more common in public services. Although this vision feels distant, recent advancements might make it a reality faster than previously thought. Professor Olli Silvén and professor emeritus Matti Pietikäinen, who have both meritoriously studied and popularised the development of AI, state in their new work Miten tekoäly vaikuttaa elämäämme 2050-luvulla? (How will AI affect our lives in the 2050s? Only in Finnish) that they believe AI to be an assistant of people, not a master.

Today the AI models developed by OpenAI and other AI companies can be applied to the work done by humans, from coding to teaching, information searching, marketing, and creative writing. ChatGPT, which has gained viral success, has actively provoked discussion over the possibilities it has to offer. The possibilities of AI are manifold, but at the same time the concern over its increasing presence in our everyday lives is growing.

In education, the presence and effects of AI have been widely recognized. This autumn the University of Oulu will introduce guidelines regarding AI in education. Despite these common guidelines, the possibilities offered by AI have challenged teachers to examine their course practices in a new light. The guidelines also leave some room for the teachers to assess their course policies in accordance with their own consideration.

The ethicality of profitable AI

ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), published by the American OpenAI in November 2022, is an AI-based language model that can discuss with its user on an expert level. The user can ask it to write school essays, write the beginning of the user’s own story based on a given topic, open up problems in written code or explain the terms of quantum physics in a simple manner.

The AI in question has existed ever since 2018, after which newer and more intelligent versions of it have been developed. ChatGPT-4, published in March 2023, is the fourth version of the GPT language model and it’s already capable of achieving top scores in exams aimed at humans. As a new feature it can assess images with words and it can be used in different languages, for instance in Finnish.

Thanks to these advancements, ChatGPT has especially provoked discussion regarding the suitability of its use in studies. It’s not easy to tell apart whether an essay has been written by a student or ChatGPT. In Italy the use of ChatGPT has already been banned in March, and according to the supervising authority its use is seen to “expose underage children to completely inappropriate answers when compared with their level of development and awareness.” It’s also debatable whether ChatGPT adheres to EU’s general data protection regulations.

Finnish higher education institutions have also reacted to AI’s presence in the students’ lives. The guidelines introduced in August 2023 by the University of Oulu recognize AI’s inevitable effects on society and the academic world. The guidelines offer guiding principles on how to approach AI from the viewpoint of education.

For instance, the guidelines define that a teacher can decide if using AI is permitted during their certain course. This means that teachers can, within the limits of the guidelines, permit, prohibit, or limit the use of AI depending on what is pedagogically meaningful in relation to the learning objectives. The teacher can utilise AI for instance in the planning of courses, compiling assignments, and assessments. The guidelines emphasise that it’s important to have a shared understanding of what is permitted and prohibited.

OYY, which is responsible for advocating for the students’ rights, has taken part in the preparation of the guidelines. Mikko Hakoniemi, the vice chair of the board of OYY, sums up the guidelines completed in the spring of 2023 with the words transparency and equality. “In a multidisciplinary university, the role of AI will be manifold. Instead of clearly banning or permitting the use of it, the guidelines lead us towards open discussion in courses and towards sharing knowledge of new tools and their possibilities to all members of the community”, says Hakoniemi.

Although utilising AI has awakened opposing views on its ethicality even in Oulu, AI still doesn’t compensate for the students’ own thinking and it cannot graduate from a degree programme on the student’s behalf. The texts generated by AI still need to be checked for factual errors, and AI doesn’t offer any references. The University of Oulu’s guidelines for using AI in studies remind us that students are always responsible for the assignments they turn in, and texts and other creations crafted by AI cannot be presented as the student’s own or as references. The guidelines emphasise that AI doesn’t make up for personal learning, thinking, information processing, and training.

The accountability of using AI is crystallised into equality and following the ethical principles according to the University of Oulu’s guidelines. If AI is used on a certain course, every student must have the same possibilities to do so. In practice this means that assignments cannot demand the use of software that is not free. Ethicality is still based on following good scientific principles and on the same definition of cheating as before. Cheating means any actions the student takes to paint an incorrect picture of their competence.

AI can instead be utilised for instance to form exam questions by teachers. “The teachers can input their ideas on the site, which ChatGPT then turns into polished questions and perhaps gives new viewpoints on the topic. Quite many of the researchers and teachers understand that their questions must be demanding and varied, so that any misconduct cannot happen”, said Susanna Pirttikangas, the research director of the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oulu, in an interview with Yle in January 2023.

It’s particularly because of misconduct that it’s important to create ethical guidelines and supervision mechanisms so that AI isn’t used for vandalism, manipulation or spreading false information. It’s important to be able to recognize information created by an AI. Although AI can answer demanding placement test questions with great success, the factual contents of its creations are still often inaccurate.

“In view of developing education, it’s important to assess AI and both its possibilities and threats analytically and many-sidedly. AI and its methods of application are developing quickly, and it’s good if education keeps up with this development”, describes Elina Niemitalo-Haapola, the programme manager of the Noste development programme. The University of Oulu’s guidelines on AI will be updated as needed, at least once per academic year.

AI in the world of art 

In addition to regular texts, AI can also succeed in creative projects. Based on a given word or premise, AIs are capable of creating stories, poems, stock photos, and even works of art. The creations of AI are also ready within seconds, unlike humans’ creations which generally take up more time.

For instance, regarding art, AI has created new ways of thinking about what art actually is. AIs that create art have become more common especially in 2022, and these AIs include AIs such as DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion. In the same year at the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition, for the first time ever, an AI artwork won the award. The art piece in question is called “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial”. This piece of art was made by the artist Jason M. Allen, who faced criticism for winning the award although he had openly announced to have used the Midjourney AI in the creation of his artwork.

In Finland, the University of Tampere has studied the suitability of AI in arts with their UrbanAI Art project. The pieces created in the project were on display at the University of Oulu in March 2023. The AI created a new work of art every couple of seconds by combining features that had been programmed in advance. This way it’s theoretically possible to create a limitless amount of unique images with the materials at hand.

“This art piece raises questions about what art is and what artists are needed for”, said Jussi Lahtinen, the artist of UrbanAI Art project, in an Yle interview in March 2023. 

In relation to the exhibition, it was deemed important to observe how people reacted to art created by AI. The presence of AI and robots in humans’ everyday life often increase anxiety and lessen the feeling of belonging. Art made by AI represents a new trend in the art world and the role of traditional artists, if an artist, or the AI they employ, creates art.

“Artists have always used tools and technologies in their work. Creating art has been collective, and perhaps AI for one deconstructs the myth about artists that there’s only one party creating new things”, said Atte Oksanen, a professor of social psychology, in an interview with Yle in March 2023. Oksanen leads the UrbanAI Art project at the University of Tampere.

Despite its threats, creating art this way can also create new opportunities. AI can be compared with a digital camera which was originally thought to take the jobs of illustrators and drawers because of its ability to capture exact images.

“The main point has always been the idea and the thought of what you as an artist are trying to convey. You use the tools that you have. It’s awesome that artists can use AI that’s capable of learning, because at the best there will be such interactions that feed both the AI and the artist,” said Arja Miller in Yle’s Kulttuuricocktail live show in the autumn of 2022.

In audiovisual productions on social media, the usage of AI is already common for experienced people. Instead of using the everlasting photo directories and their very limited contents, e.g. content creators on YouTube can create more varied, unique, and relevant illustrations than previously to illustrate their videos, enriching the viewing experience. Especially Midjourney seems to be in the favour of content creators in creating visual worlds and images.

Will AI take over future jobs?

Due to its fast and innovative development, AI has arisen questions about the ways it could change today’s society. Especially worrying is whether AI will take jobs traditionally done by humans, and if it will make it difficult to get jobs in different fields. In theory, the need for people would lessen in certain sections if AI took care of similar tasks more efficiently and without using the same amount of time as humans when creating texts and creative works.

AI would have the biggest impact on the jobs of educated experts, such as law firms, according to a study conducted by the universities of the USA. A news article in Helsingin Sanomat mentioned in March 2023 that according to a report by the American Goldman Sachs bank, AI might replace “a quarter of the current jobs in Europe and USA”.

On the other hand, according to the same report, the wider implementation of AI and ChatGPT “would increase the annual gross domestic product of the world by seven percent in ten years.” AI would automate certain simple tasks, which would free the workers to work on other, more profitable tasks. However, AI wouldn’t create new jobs according to the report.

It’s not wise to trust AI on completely independent work. It cannot think intelligently, so to speak, so it’s dependent on the restrictions and databases set by humans. For this reason it’s better suited for instance for defining terms and for simplifying difficult terms.

To keep AI from becoming too influential and threatening, for now there are certain means of restriction in use. For example, the sufficient development of supervision mechanisms and charging fees for using ChatGPT have held back the expansion of AI, but these practices are only temporary.

At the moment, the European Human Rights Council and the European Union are preparing their own legislature regarding the usage of AI, and at the centre of it are human rights questions. Anna-Mari Rusanen, a university lecturer and philosopher in Cognitive Science at the University of Helsinki, notes that implementing AI isn’t adaptable to all situations equally. 

“The concern behind the hype is that we will automate everything, and that at the same time we won’t notice we are bringing forth an ideology we don’t actually want”, Rusanen said to Yle in February 2023. 

Rusanen thinks that understanding algorithmic operations is slowly becoming a civic skill. In science the effects of AI are a point of fascination and there are high expectations for it, but at the same time, it’s important to remember its effects as it spreads. It’s still very important to keep the development of AI controlled so that the horrifying pictures painted by the media about self-driving cars and the revolution of robots wouldn’t become realised in a catastrophic and uncontrollable manner.

*The illustrations of this article have been crafted by real human hands.

* Translation: Jenni Isokääntä.

Jere Laitinen

Oulun ylioppilaslehden toimitusharjoittelija. Opiskelutaustaltaan kokenut ainejärjestöaktiivi ja opiskelijavaikuttaja sekä innokas pelaaja ja kokkailija. 

Lue lisää:

Kaukana kotoa

Vaihto-opintoja markkinoidaan yhtenä parhaista tavoista hankkia kansainvälistä kokemusta. Oulun yliopistossa on valittavana useita eri vaihto-ohjelmia sekä satoja eri korkeakouluja niin Euroopassa, Pohjois-ja Etelä-Amerikassa, Aasiassa kuin Oseaniassa. Millainen kokemus vaihtojakso on? Kysyimme asiaa kahdelta viime lukuvuonna vaihdossa olleelta opiskelijalta.  Pitkäaikaisen unelman täyttymys Oulun yliopistossa luokanopettajaksi opiskeleva Meri Jurvansuu oli 12-vuotias, kun hänen ystävänsä sisko oli palannut Australiasta […]

Vaihto-opintoja markkinoidaan yhtenä parhaista tavoista hankkia kansainvälistä kokemusta. Oulun yliopistossa on valittavana useita eri vaihto-ohjelmia sekä satoja eri korkeakouluja niin Euroopassa, Pohjois-ja Etelä-Amerikassa, Aasiassa kuin Oseaniassa. Millainen kokemus vaihtojakso on? Kysyimme asiaa kahdelta viime lukuvuonna vaihdossa olleelta opiskelijalta. 

Pitkäaikaisen unelman täyttymys

Oulun yliopistossa luokanopettajaksi opiskeleva Meri Jurvansuu oli 12-vuotias, kun hänen ystävänsä sisko oli palannut Australiasta ja kertoi kokemuksistaan upeasta ilmastosta, työskentelystä farmilla ja yleisesti vuodestaan maassa. Seitsemännellä luokalla nuori ilmoitti, että hän menee yliopistoon ja lähtee vaihtoon Australiaan. 

Helmikuussa 2023 tuo unelma toteutui, kun Jurvansuu laskeutui Melbourneen ja aloitti puolen vuoden vaihtojakson Melbournen yliopistossa. “Kaukovaihtoihin pitää hakea todella aikaisin, joten tiesin lähdöstä jo vuotta ennen itse vaihdon alkamista”, Jurvansuu kertoo. Kaukokohteisiin hakuprosessi on muutenkin erilainen kuin esimerkiksi Erasmus-vaihtoon. Valintakriteereinä käytetään akateemisia perusteluita vaihtoon hakeutumiselle, motivaatiota, opintomenestystä ja kielitaitoa. SoleMove-hakemuksen lisäksi valintaprosessiin kuuluu ryhmähaastattelu. “Hakuprosessi oli aika raskas, mutta se todellakin kannatti”, Jurvansuu palaa muistelemaan epävarmaa hakuaikaa. 

Jurvansuu palasi Australiasta heinäkuussa ja aloittaa nyt viimeisen vuoden opintojaan Oulun yliopistossa. Vajaan puolen vuoden vaihtojakso hidasti opintoja hieman, sillä hän ei pystynyt suorittamaan toista sivuainetta loppuun viime keväänä Australiasta. “Nyt minulla on vain hieman kirittävää tänä vuonna. Kyllä tässä joutuu töitä tekemään.” Valmistuminen ajallaan on kuitenkin edelleen mahdollista. “Ei minulla toisaalta ole myöskään kiire valmistua, jos työmäärä tuntuu liian suurelta”, hän lisää. 

Vaihto-opiskelu on eittämättä rikastava ja arvokas kokemus ihan vain jo kansainvälistymisen näkökulmasta. Jurvansuun mielestä kuitenkaan ainakaan hänen tutkinto-ohjelmassaan mahdollisuudesta ei kerrota tarpeeksi. Ystäviensä kanssa keskustellessa hän on huomannut, että tutkinto-ohjelmien välillä on huomattavasti eroja, kuinka paljon vaihtoon lähtemiseen kannustetaan. Hän toivoisi, että vaihto-opiskelun mahdollisuutta painotettaisiin enemmän heti opintojen alusta. 


Vaikka Jurvansuu ei kokenut suurta kulttuurishokkia muuttaessaan yli 15 000 kilometrin päähän, oli esimerkiksi opiskelijan arki hyvin erilaista Melbournessa. “Opiskelu oli hyvin itsenäistä, kävin yliopistolla vain kahtena päivänä viikossa ja muut päivät tein itsekseni tehtäviä.” Myös opiskelijakulttuuri oli erilainen, esimerkiksi haalareita ei opiskelijoilla näe Australiassa. Yleensä opiskelijayhteisön tapahtumat olivat päiväsaikaan tapahtuvia, kuten piknikkejä tai kampuksella olevia tapahtumia, ja alkoholittomia. 

Melbournea pidetään Australian kulttuurin ja taiteen keskuksena, eikä turhaan.  “Melbournessa tapahtuu aina jotain. Usein lähdin vain kävelemään päämäärättömästi ja aina tuli jotain tapahtumia, kuten katutaidetta tai konsertteja eteen. Kaupungissa on myös paljon ilmaisia museoita.” Ilmaiset elämykset olivat opiskelijalle iso plussa, koska kaupunki on muuten melko kallis ja erityisesti asuminen on kallista Melbournessa. “Säästöjä kannattaa olla, jos lähtee Australiaan.”

Vaihto-opiskelussa toiseen kulttuuriin soluttautuessa altistuu vääjäämättä itselle uusille asioille, ja ainakin Jurvansuun oman kokemuksen mukaan se laajentaa maailmankatsomusta ja tietämystä kulttuureista. “Meille muodostui tiivis vaihtareista koostunut porukka, jossa hoksasimme, että meillä kaikilla oli eri uskonto. Opin enemmän uskonnoista tuona aikana kuin ikinä koulussa”, hän kertoo esimerkkinä. 

Oppeja ja itsevarmuutta

Vaihto-opintoihin asti sosiaalinen ja muiden seurasta nauttiva Jurvansuu oli vältellyt yksinoloa. Vaihdossa hänen täytyi opetella olemaan myös yksin. “En ole koskaan ollut noin paljon itsekseni kuin Melbournessa. Opin nauttimaan omasta seurastani ja yksin asioiden tekemisestä.” Hän kuitenkin kertoo, että tunsi olonsa välillä yksinäiseksi ja jos nyt saisi päättää, hän olisi valinnut ajalle kimppakämpän. “Ajattelin silloin, että minulla olisi epämukava olo asua tuntemattomien kanssa. Olisi kuitenkin ollut kiva, jos olisi ollut aina joku, jolle jutella.” Vaihtoaika opettikin arvostamaan läheisiä entistä enemmän. Hän lähes herkistyy puhuessaan, kuinka perheen ja ystävien merkitys korostui ja erossa vietetty aika sai tajuamaan, kuinka rakkaita ihmisiä hänellä on ympärillään. 

Alkuun Jurvansuu myös koki, että omaa persoonaa oli vaikea tuoda esille englanniksi. Puhelias ja sarkastiseen huumoriin tottunut huomasi, että vaikka hän puhui hyvin englantia, hän ei pystynyt reagoimaan keskusteluissa yhtä nopeasti ja nokkelasti kuin omalla äidinkielellään. “Aluksi ajattelin, että nyt kaikki luulevat, että olen ihan tylsä. Englanti kuitenkin parani todella paljon ja nopeasti, ja tämäkin helpottui vaihdon myötä”, Jurvansuu muistelee. 

Vaikka tuleva luokanopettaja ei lähtenyt vaihtoon niinkään akateemisen puolen vuoksi, merkittävimpiä asioita, joita hän otti vaihtovuodesta mukaansa, olivat akateemisten taitojen kehittyminen ja opintoihin panostaminen. Jurvansuu kertoo, että Australian korkeaan tasoon pyrkivä opiskelukulttuuri vaikutti häneen positiivisesti ja kannusti panostamaan kurssisuorituksiin. “Opin kirjoittamaan todella hyviä esseitä”, hän yksilöi. 

Vaihtoaika vahvisti Jurvansuun tahtoa hakeutua valmistumisen jälkeen vapaaehtoistöihin. Hän kokee, että uuteen hyppääminen ja toiselle puolelle muuttaminen toi rohkeutta ja varmuutta omasta identiteetistä. “Tuli varmuutta, että kyllä mä pärjään ja pystyn. Nyt kynnys lähteä uuteen ja tuntemattomaan on matalampi.” 

Jurvansuu kannustaa kaikkia lähtemään vaihtoon. “Se on niin rikastuttava kokemus tulevaisuuden, kielitaidon ja itsevarmuuden kannalta.” Hän myös muistuttaa, kuinka ainutlaatuinen mahdollisuus se on kokea uutta. “Ei samankaltaista mahdollisuutta välttämättä ikinä myöhemmin elämässä tule, se kannattaa todellakin hyödyntää.”

All about education

When Jian Lee, 32, decided to spend a year in France she had only one goal – getting a degree. Jian had come to Finland to get her Master’s in Marketing just under a year ago when she moved again to study the second part of her degree in Bourdeaux, France. The arrangement was included in her Master’s studies as a double degree program student. 

Double degree programs are available in Oulu Business School for a limited amount of students. In the program a student receives a Master’s degree from two universities having studied in both for one year. 

Lee knew the year in France would not be about getting experiences, travelling or other traditionally associated activities during one’s exchange year but full-on studying. “I wrote my thesis remotely and went to courses in France, it was quite hectic”, Lee explains. She would be completing her degree in Oulu Business School simultaneously with another tuition in France.

But she didn’t mind. Finland was already the international experience she had longed for. This was about education. 

Lee felt that the more European degrees she can get the better for employment. Now graduated Master of Science plans to stay in Finland and going to France was a milestone for achieving this goal. 

“I felt that having various degrees in European countries it might be easier to get a job. Some people may feel like they want to get the foreign experience but in my case it was different because I was already a foreigner in Finland. I needed a degree, a diploma.” 

Even though Lee went to Bordeaux with one sole purpose in mind, in time she realized there was more to take away from the journey. “I was really busy and swamped, but I tried to find small windows of periods of time to go out in the city. I enjoyed the small stuff.” She mentions the good food and wineries of Bordeaux. 

Set a purpose for why you are going there. It will help you keep yourself uplifted in times of doubt.

It’s not all sunshine and roses

Being in a melting pot of people with different backgrounds made Lee aware of the diversity issues she was confronted with on a daily basis. “Diversity was just a textbook concept for me, but after experiencing the negative and positive things I learned how to deal with and manage issues with diversity”, she explains.

Having to meet new people from all over the world was also the greatest gift. “I made many international friends.The study program offers a lot of opportunities to be mixed with people from different backgrounds from all over the world.”

She also feels that being around people from different cultures expands one’s perspective. “The more I experience different cultures the more I can think about the person instead of the culture”, Lee says. During that year she learned to focus on the people she meets instead of the culture they represent. Once she opened her mind it helped her to grow as a global citizen of the world. This lesson has stayed with her after returning to Finland. “I proved many stereotypes to be wrong.”

For anyone thinking about going to exchange or preparing to leave, Lee has two pieces of advice. “First, set a purpose for why you are going there. It will help you keep yourself uplifted in times of doubt. Second, be open. Don’t have too many stereotypes. Learning about the culture beforehand is wise, but too much prevents you from having smooth experiences.”

Tuuli Heikura

Oulun ylioppilaslehden päätoimittaja ja kauppatieteiden maisteri, joka nauttii syväluotaavista ilmiöjutuista, kuluttaa lenkkipolkuja kahden koiransa kanssa ja haaveilee mankelin omistamisesta.

Lue lisää:

Part 2. Cultural Shocks: Is the grass always greener?

One of the most common challenges for anyone moving to a new country is adapting to the new culture, traditions, and habits while retaining their identity at the same time. Being an international student coming from an Arabic country outside of Europe, I had a lot of thoughts regarding my identity moving to Finland for […]

TEKSTI Moustafa Khairi

KUVAT Maiju Putkonen

One of the most common challenges for anyone moving to a new country is adapting to the new culture, traditions, and habits while retaining their identity at the same time. Being an international student coming from an Arabic country outside of Europe, I had a lot of thoughts regarding my identity moving to Finland for studying for a master’s degree. Based on my personal experience, I can say it is quite challenging to retain your identity but it is doable, and at the end of the day, it is a choice!

It is hard because of many different reasons that make the two countries almost completely different. Differences starting from for instance the core beliefs to even the food, making a living in a foreign country, not an easy job. On the other hand, no one can force you to do anything that you do not believe in. You have the freedom to choose whatever you want to do without being judged, which also makes it a tough responsibility.

I could write a lot about the different traditions and habits I have experienced living a year in Finland, but I would like to focus more on the Finnish people. Unlike the stereotype, most of the Finns, from my point of view, are friendly but you just need to start the conversation. I have been involved in quite many student associations and communities and have always felt appreciated being just present. Sometimes, I am the only international person in a room of more than 20 people and all of them just switch to English to keep me engaged with them while they do not actually need or have to do that. A few are even fine with struggling to speak their non-native language for the same purpose mentioned.

In supermarkets, for instance, people welcome you with a heartwarming smile, not only when you enter the place but also when you are done and leaving. In buses, it is kind of a tradition to wave to the bus driver thanking him/her for the ride before you get off the bus, and at the same time, he/she waves back and yes, this happens with almost every single passenger!

Most of the people are willing to help whenever they are asked and sometimes they even take initiative. Through my early weeks in Finland, I was waiting for my train at the railway station at it’s expected track and it was almost 4 minutes before the scheduled leaving time and it had not arrived yet. Then, people started leaving the track slowly and I was not sure what was happening. Before heading to someone to ask, three guys standing on the opposite track noticed that I did not start moving as well and most probably I did not understand the Finnish instructions. They reached out explaining that the train changed its track due to a storm that happened and it is going to arrive at a different track and in addition, they offered to guide me to the new track due to the time limitation.

Being appreciated and welcomed, most of the time, is one of the best feelings I experienced living in Finland.

Moustafa Khairi

A Machine Learning thesis worker at Nokia and a Computer Science master's student at the University of Oulu. Also, I am the Founder and Lead of Google DSC in Oulu, Slush group lead, and next president of AIESEC in Oulu.

Lue lisää:

Part 1. Cultural Shocks: Is the grass always greener?

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture. “Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride […]

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture.

“Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride you, isn’t it? I mean, either you are an international student or a local with international friends, this close contact with someone from a different culture for sure would have some impact on you.

This change is not accidental, neither exempt of conflict. Since we are social beings, we try to mix with the people surrounding us. At the same time, when hitting a new place, we are carrying our bag of beliefs and perceptions. In my own experience, after living in Buenos Aires for some years I went back to Lima with my voice volume a few levels higher, and a more straightforward attitude. If I left Peru being a quiet and reserved person, I came back as a loud and straightforward one.

What is happening to me here in Finland? A mix of everything. First living in Oulu and now married to a Finnish woman, I have Finnish culture in and out of home. And that has created some interesting, funny, or awkward moments. In any case, they helped me to learn more and get a deeper sense of how to behave in the local environment.

Trust above all

Sometimes I tell my wife that to take her to Peru I must train her, to change her trust beliefs. I mean, it has many lovely traditions and people are warm and celebratory, but it also has a problem with respect and trust. And same in most of Latin America. To give you an example, when I was 17, I was robbed two blocks away from home. Concerned, my mom called the police, and then I had this dialogue with a lady police officer:

OFFICER      Did you try to run?

ME                No.

OFFICER      (a little bit surprised) But you tried to knock on someone else’s door?

ME                 (shier) Mmm… no.

(Long and uncomfortable pause)

OFFICER      You need to learn how to defend yourself, young man.

I was embarrassed. Double embarrassed, for letting myself be robbed and for the later reprimand. It was my responsibility to take care of myself, which also included being aware of the potential robbers. Something similar happened in my university. If my belongings were robbed, it was my fault for not watching them. So, I learned how to go around the city, always aware of the surroundings.

With that background, you can imagine now what a big deal it was for me to leave my jacket on the hangers during winter. Yep, leaving them unguarded, in no locker. Free for anyone to take.

It took me almost half a year to gather the confidence to leave it there. It was a cold day, and I could barely focus on class, imagining myself going back home just with my shirt. Walking down back to the green rack, my heart was pounding. When I found it, I felt like a parent picking his child after the first day at the daycare. Joyful and relieved.

Since then, I am more confident about leaving my clothes in the common areas or leaving my backpacks on my seat while going to buy food on the train. However, I still lock my bike. Several posts on Facebook suggest robbers here do not care about money or laptops, but their obsession is those devices with two tires.

The nuances of the system

When I go to the hospital emergency room, I know where I must go just by following the lines on the floor (red, green, yellow, black). I know what percentage to pay for taxes and what my retirement fund is. In need of a bus, I know at what time it is coming.

The system here is planned and effective. So, when I got appendicitis and was taken to the hospital, I thought that everything was settled just by giving them my personal ID. Convinced of this, I had a pleasant stay at the hospital, thinking of how well articulated the system was: just with my ID they were able to contact the insurance company that I put in my migratory application. Success. I left the hospital with this feeling. But unluckily it did not last forever.

It was a day like any other when I received the bill. It was not only for the operation, but also included the penalties for late payment. I was perplexed. I left the hospital with no one telling me anything about a bill. Now I also had to cover extra costs. Why did the nurses not tell me this? I asked this to the people in charge of the bill. “It is not their job”, they replied. And I got perplexed again.

In my previous hometown, although there were abysmal differences between the private and public healthcare system, they both shared something: if you owe them something related to your treatment YOU MUST PAY before leaving. With this background, I was struggling to understand how here everything was so different.

Although grateful for such a lovely attention, I felt a little bit bitter because of the misunderstanding. I mean, after receiving an explanation in the integration course about sexual consent and that I could not circumcise my children without the doctor consent, I was expecting something a little more detailed. Especially when there was money involved. Anyway, I paid straight away and began the process with the insurance company. However, some weeks later, there was another bill. And in this case, it came after they took the money from my bank account. This time I was just furious.

By the point I got the bills, I came back from another country after declining a doctorate position offer. What if I would have left Finland and stayed there? The local services would have lost the money. Maybe even got the impression that this guy with a foreigner name did not want to pay it, when in reality I was not even aware of how the system worked and no one explained to me.

After that I make no assumptions. Even if I sound dumb, I always ask all questions to avoid problems. It feels a little bit like back in school, when asking teachers the questions that my friends did not dare to ask to keep looking cool. Since there is enough cool here, I don’t have to worry about that.

Around flexibility

Studying my Bachelor, I used to have a friend who invited me to go for a beer whenever we met. “Now?” was my usual response, and it always preceded her laugh. For her I was a manic who had to plan everything at least a couple of days ahead. And in that sense, I feel that Finland and I had a wonderful relationship.

Do you remember that application that I said I declined? Well, one of the main reasons that led me to make that decision was the lack of planning. I could not get paid, because I did not have the local ID. To obtain it required around two months, but I only received the acceptance letter from the university two weeks before. After having lived in Finland for a couple of years, that was just impossible to bear.

However, during my studies I also unveiled some other aspects that differ from the usual Finnish thorough planning approach. I explain, before coming to Finland, I used to work as a university teacher in Peru. Mostly with experience in profit-oriented organizations, I was required to grade students several times during the semester. More exactly, three to four grades for practical exercises, and two for mid and end-term tests. And the administration assessed me, according to my compliance with the academic calendar. So, if I was late entering the grades, I would get a call from the coordinator to have a “nice chat” about my performance.

After these experiences, I was somehow manic to deliver all my assignments on time. I could eat or sleep later, but it had to be a well done and punctual delivery. So, you can imagine my surprise when hearing a teacher saying:

TEACHER     Just deliver it when you finish it

(Long pause of disbelief)

ME                 What?

TEACHER     Is it not clear?

ME                 So, no deadline?

TEACHER     No, just finish it.

And those words bring pure joy and bliss to my heart. I disliked that course from the bottom of my heart, but now I had until whenever I pleased to complete the final task. Not next week, neither the end of the semester. No, it was just me and my free will to deal with it. Well, kind of, because I still had to finish the university in two years or pay the corresponding fees.

I did not think about that task again until my classmates started to wonder why we did not get the grades yet. Then, I made peace with the course and deal with the assignment. I finished it during the weekend and send it. It was 67 days after the course finished (I just counted them again for the purposes of this article). The next day we all had our grades. I got a 5, but the guilt of delaying everyone else’s grades made me promise never to delay an assignment again.

With this article I do not pretend to make a generalization of the Finnish society, I just share things according to my own experiences during my time here.

When I came here, I thought that Finland was heaven on Earth. Now, I realized that as any other society, it has its pros and cons. Most of my experiences here had been sweet, and the few bitter moments did not alter my perception that this is a really organized country that cares for people. I am now curious to see how Finland would look in a few years, when more and more foreigners settle down on it.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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The deranged, the distressed, and the detrimental – The stigma of the severely mentally ill is still strong

Petteri Pietikäinen, who has researched the history of madness for over 20 years, has always been interested in the fate of utopists, anarchists and other outcasts. How has our attitude towards madness changed over time?  “[…] And so the unfortunate sufferer is shackled to a corner or kept in the dark, being fed from a […]

Petteri Pietikäinen, who has researched the history of madness for over 20 years, has always been interested in the fate of utopists, anarchists and other outcasts. How has our attitude towards madness changed over time? 

[…] And so the unfortunate sufferer is shackled to a corner or kept in the dark, being fed from a small hole in the wall. There they shall live in their loneliness day and night, in the most miserable condition, hungry and thirsty, sweating in hot weather and then shivering with cold, in the dirt, among parasites. They shall listen to insults and face contempt.”

“Treating the insane” (fin. Mielenvikaisen hoidosta), Savo newspaper, 7/1889

This was the fate of some mentally ill patients back when institutional care was not yet common in Finland. Usually the mentally ill were sold as paupers or they were moved from home to home as lepers – worst case scenario, the mentally infirm were isolated and cuffed. 

The excerpt is from Professor of History of Sciences and Ideas at the University of Oulu, Petteri Pietikäinen’s work titled Kipeät sielut: hulluuden historia Suomessa (trans. “Unwell souls: history of madness in Finland”). “Unwell souls” sheds light on the history of mental health in Finland from the 1850s to the 1960s. The work is a sequel to Pietikäinen’s earlier book Hulluuden historia (trans. History of madness), published in 2013. 

The semantic shift of hullu: who does it apply to?

In the 1800s, hullu (trans. mad) was still a general term for the mentally ill. 

However, the word hullu has always carried other meanings in the Finnish language. According to Pietikäinen, for example, Juhani Aho’s work contains several mentions of the word in both adjective and noun form (i. e. hullu and hulluus). However, Aho refers to the foolishness and unpredictability of people’s actions, not to mentally ill individuals, for example in the statement “Mad is he, who splurges his money on girls” (from the short story Kello, Ensimmäiset novellit, 1883)

According to the dictionary of the Institute for Languages of Finland, another definition of hullu is “wickedly awesome, funny” in contemporary Finnish. This is the definition that, for example, the title Hullut päivät (trans. “crazy days”) carries, referring to the prices of Stockmann’s 5-day long sale.

As modern psychiatry developed in Central Europe in the 19th century, the term hullu was replaced with different diagnoses. Ever since antiquity, madness had been divided into three varieties: mania, melancholy, and frenzy. As the definition transformed into a medical mental illness during the century, the amount of diagnoses multiplied and new illnesses, such as neurosyphilis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder were identified. Nowadays, the terms mental health patient and mentally ill are used (The Finnish Blue Ribbon). 

So, should the word crazy then be used when talking about the mentally ill? Pietikäinen emphasises that it is not appropriate, unless the mental health patient decides to call themselves crazy, as for example, author and theatre director Juha Hurme has done.

“Juha Hurme is civilised for knowing the original definition of the term hullu

From closed psychiatric hospitals to outpatient care with the aid of psychopharmaceutical drugs

As the focal point of psychiatry shifted from Europe to the United States in the 20th century, psychopharmaceutical drugs to treat mental disorders were developed. Especially the introduction of chlorpromazine in the United States in 1955 caused a significant turn in psychiatry. 

Before the invention of psychopharmaceutical drugs in the 1950s, symptoms of mental health disorders, such as suffering from hallucinations and delirium, would be visible in patients as such. Patients could only be offered, for example, sleep-inducing drugs and narcotics such as chloral hydrate (sometimes referred to as knockout drops) and derivatives of opium, which were not very effective. Nowadays the mentally ill receive medication early on in their sickness, thus relieving their symptoms. 

Researchers have estimated the introduction of psychopharmaceutical drugs to have led to the reduction of psychiatric beds. For example in the United States, the number of psychiatric beds has decreased to a tenth in 50 years. Whereas in the 19th century psychiatric institutions were often the final station for the mentally ill, few spend their whole lives in psychiatric hospitals in the 21st century. 

According to Pietikäinen, the prescription of strong medication is justified because it enables shorter treatment periods as opposed to longer treatment, which is more costly to society. However, medications do not cure mental illnesses, and they should only be used short-term alongside therapy and social support. 

“Of course psychopharmaceutical drugs help, and it is good that we have them, but the systems should not be built to rely on them”, Pietikäinen states. 

It’s a social engineering skill: from crazy people to proper citizens

The definition of madness studied by Pietikäinen shall not be limited to people who have got a contemporary psychiatric diagnosis, but shall include all those deviants that society has shut out at some point.

Pietikäinen calls this (mis)treatment of individuals who deviate from the norm social engineering. The concept refers to socio-political planning, which aims to change the behaviour of a certain group of people in a desired way. The focal point of it has gradually shifted from prison management to child protective services, education and health care. The concept gained its prominence through philosopher of science Karl Popper’s work titled The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), and it has mostly been employed in Swedish study of history in the 20th century, especially in discussion about social design and in creating “the people’s home” (swe. folkhemmet); a political concept which played a significant role in the Swedish welfare state in the 20th century. 

Political adaptation should always be investigated in its context. A hundred years ago, Finnish society designers had very different ideas as to what a proper citizen was like than contemporary social engineers do. The idea of moulding citizens to fit societal needs is still prevalent. 

“The expectations of a proper citizen are imposed on students also by pushing you to graduate as soon as possible and enter the working life”, Pietikäinen points out. Utilitarianism is still prevalent: good taxpayers are desired.”. 

According to Pietikäinen, the most important difference between former and present times is that instead of using discipline, the mentally ill aim to be helped using rather gentle means, such as social support and therapy. 

Discussion nowadays is more accepting, but the severely ill remain invisible

Another clear difference is that mental health issues are nowadays discussed more openly. “If one uses social media at all, they will encounter discussions about mental health.” However, few talk openly about severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. In the media, severe mental health issues are usually only mentioned in contexts of criminal sentences, which further reinforces the stigma. 

“It is different to talk about issues that will pass and ease off than to talk about being in some way chained by that illness forever”, Pietikäinen says. 

Pietikäinen finds one reason for this to be the fact that people have an easier time understanding minor mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Each one of us has some sort of personal experience of these. It is difficult to treat people with severe mental illnesses naturally, not having any understanding of their disorders. 

“I don’t know what it’s like being severely mentally ill, either – it is such a distant concept.”

On the other hand, experiences shared on social media often bring out the heroic and survival stories:  people have recovered from depression or some other mental illness and enthuse over how they survived their illnesses, and what it taught them. The idea of the “proper citizen” is visible even behind this narrative. Can only the already-recovered mental health patients fit into modern society?

Improving the connection between the healthy and the ill – could we learn from the past?

Even before the invention of psychopharmaceutical drugs, we aimed to develop alternative treatments for institutional care – some of which could be used as an inspiration even today. A good example would be the family care, invented in a hospital in the village of Nikkilä, Sipoo in the early 20th century, which gained popularity especially in the time between the wars. Nowadays, the term family care refers to children in foster care being placed in a new family. 

In family care,  a patient would live in a farmhouse near the hospital and participate in the housework. The patient would be a part of the family’s everyday life just like the other family members, but the family would receive a subsidy from the government. 

Although family care never became widespread in all of Finland, it has been proven to have had a positive impact on relieving prejudices. According to research, it seems as though people had a more open attitude toward mental health patients in municipalities where family care was practised.

“If family care was, for example, newly adopted somewhere where there had been a mental hospital for, let’s say, 10 years, people in those areas would have more prejudices against the mentally ill and fear them”, Pietikäinen clarifies. “It has been a big help as people have had the chance to see that mentally ill people are not scary or strange.”

The attitude toward mental health issues has changed during different time periods, and the severely mentally ill have by turns been feared, isolated, medicated and listened to. For example in the medieval times, hearing sounds was not necessarily deemed strange, but it was believed that people experiencing auditory hallucinations had a connection to God. 

According to Pietikäinen, mental health problems are part of humanity and life – the line between healthy and ill is eventually quite fine. The surprising misfortunes and setbacks of life can lead to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, it has been indicated that in a state of sensory deprivation, a human becomes delirious, anxious, and begins hallucinating in a few hours.

“The mentally ill are, after all, pretty much the same as us so-called normal people. We also have our episodes at times – and there is nothing mysterious about it, nor is there a reason to fear it.”

Frida Ahonen

Suomen kielen ensimmäisen vuoden opiskelija, joka on valmistunut valtiotieteiden kandidaatiksi ranskalaisesta Sciences Po Pariisin yliopistosta.

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The Swipe Journey – Can love be found on Tinder?

Tinder is a popular dating app used by millions of people worldwide. How do students in Oulu view the app? Have they found love?

What do you think about Tinder? Do you approach it as a dating facilitator or just as a convenient place to get to know new people? You may like, dislike or just be indifferent to it, but one or more of your friends might contribute to the over one billion swipes the app processes daily. Yep, a billion.

The nature of Tinder is simple. With only a picture and some basic info, you can create a profile. Then, based on your location you will see other users’ profiles and decide if you want to interact with them (swipe right) or not (swipe left). If two users like each other a match and the talk begins.

To know more about the experiences related to this app, we invited people to respond to a survey regarding Tinder. The thirteen responses from Master’s and Ph.D. students depict how the platform is perceived, used and sometimes avoided. Of course, their names have been changed to preserve their anonymity. You know, what happens on Tinder, stays on Tinder.

Opening Tinder

For its developers, Tinder is a social networking app for meeting people. However most users will mention that the main functions of Tinder are finding dates and sexual partners. 

The latter was the case for most of our interviewees before joining the app. At that point, the meaning of “I am on Tinder” to them meant “being single”, “looking around” or just “looking for sex”. 

This tension between points of view seems to be also in academia. Some researchers attribute the rise of apps like Tinder to their diffusion of casual sex. Others, however support that Tinder is more often used for entertainment purposes, locating casual sex being among the least common uses of Tinder.

In that regard, many of our interviewees mentioned using the app to get entertained. That was the case for Malena, post-doc student at the university.

“It used to be something I was doing to kill the time, almost the same as a game on the phone. But I also happened to check the profiles with some friends, a couple of times, just to laugh together.” 

For Beatrice, from Italy, it also began as a game, but later it became something else. “I started using the app just for fun. Me and my friends looked at profiles of people and judged them. That is how I met my actual boyfriend there.” 

Instead of entertainment, others found boredom on Tinder. At least that is Ramon’s perception.

“When people tell me they are on Tinder, I understand they are in the upcycle of loneliness and want to meet people… until they get tired of Tinder always being the same and get bored of it.”

What drives people to Tinder?

According to a study conducted in the Netherlands, people’s motivations to use Tinder can be classified in six categories. Beside the common ones (casual sex and love), the study also mentioned using Tinder to receive positive feedback about one’s appearance, thrill of excitement, ease of communication in online environments, and trendiness. 

When reviewing the motivations of our interviewees to start using the app, we found some similarities. For example, some were looking for a relationship (love), while others were exploring an interest in the same gender, or trying dating again after a break-up (sex / love). Others were curious due to friends’ suggestions to use the app (trendiness). Some started using it to develop flirtation skills or to overcome solitude (ease of communication).

In the case of Julieta, a Master student from Brazil, her response included not one but many of these categories. 

“Flirting in real life wasn’t really working, and I was much shier that I am now. So, it was an interesting way to flirt, have conversations and meet new guys. Also, everybody was already using it, so if I wasn’t there, I would be out of the system.”

A tainted reputation

If there is a wide variety of reasons to join the app, why is Tinder viewed as a hook-up platform? Beatrice offers an explanation after using the app for 5 years. 

“Because many people use Tinder just to find sex, people have a negative opinion of it. But I think that if used in the right way, it  can be a good tool to get to know, interact with and meet new people.”

Many of our interviewees seemed to feel the same way, because of the interesting people they met using the app. For instance Ramón, a Master student from Spain, had a surprising and unexpected encounter thanks to Tinder. He was in India when he matched with a model. 

“I ended up spending my last 3 days in Delhi with her. She took me to the most posh parties and afterwards slept in the slums of Delhi. We would have dated if I lived there, but we still talk.” 

Similarly, when asked about her craziest experience using Tinder, Adele, French exchange student, remembers her first encounter with a stranger. 

“I took the bus to his city, one hour away from mine, and he was supposed to take me back. I was there to meet him after almost one month of chatting. But I did not know him. I had no idea who I might run into. What if something did not go well? Luckily, he drove me home as planned. We kept seeing each other, and now he has been my boyfriend for almost 18 months.”

Despite the good experiences, there are also cases where users, especially women, suffered bad experiences. Angélica and Lyyti had negative experiences in their real-life encounters. After meeting a neighbor through Tinder, Angélica found out that he had a wife and a newborn child he had not told her about.

Lyyti faced a violent situation with a guy when she met him for the first time. “He tried to strangle me, I guess in a sexy, fun way? I did not find it sexy or fun. I never met him again.”

Gendered experiences

Even though many users considered no differences in the practices of men and women while using the app, it was intriguing that many female interviewees expressed they use  different strategies to avoid uncomfortable situations.

For example, identifying potential unwanted profiles (“there are weirdos everywhere, you need to learn how to identify them – and you gain experience with time – and how to avoid them”), elaborating a profile according to your interests (“I wrote a long description because I consider it important, especially when you are looking for something in particular. In my case avoid people who are only looking for one-night stands”), and have a protocol for the first dates (“to meet someone that doesn’t belong in your social network could be dangerous, so it is always an adventure. That’s why you should meet in a public place, never in your own house, or the other person’s house”).

None of the interviewed men mentioned any event related to violence or risk. Maybe the platform just replicates the behaviors of the offline world? Our interviewees mentioned behaviours associated with traditional gender roles. Some examples were passive-active roles (“women tend to be pickier because they are “chased”, and men have to do the chasing”), abusive behavior (“there was too much showing-off and pressure”), and plain machismo (“being a girl on Tinder is a lot worse than being a guy. Girls are quickly insulted and reduced to macho comments”).

According to Yan Asadchy, researcher of online dating culture, although some traditional roles are replicated within these platforms, there is an increasing demand in power for women. For example in India, the female audience is commonly facing straight-up and intolerable harassment, Asadchy says.

This motivated Tinder to implement a “My Move” feature that allows women to choose only they can start conversations after a match. This decision is highly coherent with the design of Bumble, the application that empowers women by putting them in a position where they can decide if they want to write their match or not.

On the contrary to heterosexual users, Fernando and Raija found that gay users may find the use of Tinder easier. For example, Raija found a more relaxed space to develop her curiosity. “I got interested in the same gender and found it very easy to use to Tinder: otherwise there’s a heteronormativity in society. We need to ask people who they’re interested in.”

Similarly, Fernando considered that “there might be roles that heterosexual users have using the app: who approaches whom first, who asks whom out first, and so on. This mirrors heteronormative social roles of men and women. Queer users, on the other hand, tend to disregard these roles.”

The core of Tinder

In an article of 2013, the columnist A. David claimed that Tinder does something “no previous app or dating site ever has before: it makes everyone feel okay about hooking up with near-strangers.”

Even though many interviewees met their long-term partners on Tinder, for Yan Asadchy the design of the Tinder’s interface might drive you away from achieving this goal. “Maybe they really want to find a long-term romantic relationship, but the design of Tinder invites you to behave in a different way.”

In a study about the swipe logic of Tinder, the authors defend that the almost exclusively image-based interactions, the scarce information, the binary response (like or not like), and the awareness of depending on the others according to your location, creates a tension between desire and anxiety.

One swipe after another, the selection can become addictive. In that cycle individuals are diluted, they become a part of the mass. Or as Lyyti says: “the massive ‘selection’ of people that Tinder brings to your fingertips might make other people seem more disposable.”

Dating always causes tension. While both agree to spend some time together, no one knows exactly what the other is expecting. So, the tension between expectations and possibilities of differences are constant. However, on Tinder that complexity is reduced to a simple swipe, a match and a few lines, before making potential contact. Maybe that explains some of our interviewee’s criticism of Tinder.

For instance, for Ramon the app  creates a superficial image of people. He thinks that “overused conversations become meaningless and fail to portrait either of the participants as a person”. On the other hand there is Irma: “communicating through the app made it easier for me to be indifferent towards others and not really care what they thought about me.”

Despite criticism of scholars or users, Tinder is here to stay. The more than 50 million users of the app prove that. So, next time someone brings Tinder up in a conversation, assume nothing and listen. Maybe you will find as many interesting stories as I found while writing this article.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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