When does it end?

It is exactly a year ago when I wrote here last. No, I haven’t quit the research – thing called Life just intervened. At first as a shift from a full-time student to a full-time city planner, then from a full-time city planner to a full-time lecturer. I have been wondering throughout the past year, how in all the world is it possible to find time for closing up the case study and finishing the whole research despite all these changes?

Ok, there are people who manage to do all this at the same time and even more. I bet most of them are women. They say that women’s mind is like a funnel cake that allows them to do several things simultaneously – in other words to multitask. Well, I don’t have it. I can concentrate fully only on one thing at a time. I guess this makes me a man who is said to have a one-track mind instead of a funnel cake.

To tell you the truth, the real reason that my research has been on a sidetrack for a whole year, is that I am just so slow in thinking and doing. Furthermore, when your research is advancing distressingly slow, you start paying attention to other fascinating things that this world is full of, and so you get astray.

So, here I am again, after a year, trying to round up everything again and wondering: When will the research come to an end?


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The shorter, the better

KirjakasaEveryone who has written something, knows that it is far more easier to write a long story than a short story. This is why we often bump into unnecessarily long texts, when we are desperately seeking an outline instead.

Scientific texts are a good example of this. Research literature is too often too long to be read, no matter how eloquently it may have been written. I dare to declare that even the thickest books could be compressed to a few core sentences. That is at least what you remember of the book after a week, let alone after a year – or years as it is in my case.

I know how paradoxical I may sound: I praise short scientific texts but at the same time prefer a monograph instead of a bundle of handy articles in my own research. Why? Firstly, articles often fail in showing the big picture. Secondly, a monograph does not automatically mean an opus of over 200 pages in my opinion. You just have to concentrate more carefully on your core message – otherwise you end up with one more thick book to go. I have been thinking that it must be somehow part of our common human nature to explain everything a little more complicated with outpouring sentences. The other explanation is that it is just a bad habit of us mediocre kind of people. Whatever the reason, I have found this tendency in myself too.

This is exactly why I am creating these netpages: They help me crystallize, what is essential in my own research – my very own dear case study – and help me kill my darlings. It is up to you to evaluate at the end, whether I have succeeded in it or not.

This is also exactly why I am closing my posting right here. The threat is that some of us do not care even of simple outlines. If the text becomes too long, they do perfectly well with only pictures.


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Scraping and clearing

I just threw away old notes and photocopies of books and articles related to my doctorate studies. Two trash bags. Both full.

According to my experiences so far, doing research is a very messy process. Believe me: It really is. At first you think you have a clear idea of what you are going to do. Then you start doing it and notice that it is taking you to places where you were not even aiming at going to. Finally you end up with something that includes two bags of literature, paper clippings and notes among other things. At least this is true with qualitative research and grounded theory.

However, also according to my experiences so far, this is only a half-truth. What you thought is the end, is only a beginning. This is where your work starts seriously: clearing, removing, blazing, demining and bulldozing everything that you have scraped together. Everything that is either too old, irrelevant or just nonsense, has to go.

What a waste, someone might think – all those working hours you have invested in them, and now they have turned to trash. At first the two trash bags appeared sad to myself as well. Then I started to see them as essential parts of my very own research process. I would not stand right here where I am now, if I had not taken those paths that the trash bags were a concrete evidence of.

This phase of the research process demands much more than what it takes to drop two trash bags in a garbage can. In fact, this phase is much harder than the former one. Searching and finding others’ knowledge is a lot of fun and gives a lot of new energy (and produces a whole lot of mess as a side product), whereas crystallizing your own knowledge requires struggling and takes energy (and reduces the mess).

What makes this phase so hard is that you have to evaluate your material and set it against the big picture before you end up in throwing it away. It is just like cleaning up your own binders, desk drawers, room or house of everything that you have grabbed along the way doing this and that in your life. At some point (at the latest when places are getting full) you have to decide, whether you really need all those things only as memories or if you are still going to use them some day – or preferably now.

Despite this trouble, you still want to do the clearing work, because in the real end everything – old and new knowledge – is in its own place creating a neat order together. Or to be honest still at this point: Let us hope so.


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Writing = Thinking

Writing during the research process is vital for thinking. Even if I do not aim at an article dissertation (consisting of several articles in scientific publications) but a monograph (a single publication of its own), I have tried to write something about my topic anyway.

It does not matter if these texts are targeted at non-scientific audience. As a matter of fact, I believe it is even an advantage: You have to put your thoughts in a simplest form possible so that even a wo/man in the street can understand them.

I also believe that the scientific language could and should be stripped off its disguise in many sciences, especially in humanities. Too often things could be said in a much more simplified form. If you are sure about yourself and the things you are saying, you do not need to resort to research Latin. And I do not mean here that you should cut through so much that you end up twisting the truth. Just avoid playing the game of concepts and using intricate and quirky sentences to start with.

You have a magnificent opportunity to test if I have managed to follow my own rules in these pages. I have just added under the heading ’Articles’ different kinds of texts which I have originally written to be used somewhere else: in a local paper, in a history or in a conference. Even though the texts vary and the audiences change, the main message should still be the same.


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Writing as a caleidoscope

The structure of these pages is in constant change. The reason for this is that the process of summing the whole case study up is still going on. Whenever you discover another new angle to the research data or find that you still need another explaining link to the chain of reasoning, the overall structure needs to be modified. Small movements here and there make the whole picture become different as in a caleidoscope.

The caleidoscope is a metaphor also to one of my chosen research strategies, grounded theory, where the research findings modify both the next step in the research process and the big picture that the research results form together. This means that you have to live in uncertainty until the case study is fully closed – a hard lesson to be learnt for a perfectionist.


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Situated knowledges

I have just added some pictures in the header of each page at this net site. I made the pictures out of videoclips from a TV-document that I found on Youtube (Lähiöstudio, suvela nuorten silmin). The TV-document tells about the second wave urban regeneration in Suvela: the so-called SOFY-Project. You can find more information about it in my History-page.

I wanted to show you a glimpse of Suvela right on the front page. At first I planned to make a panorama of Suvela seen from the direction of the railway station of Espoo. The high blocks of flats form a uniform and handsome silhouette, which is like the wall of China when winding and conforming to the contours of Kirstinmäki hill.

However, this view would show Suvela seen from the outside, not inside. It is nevertheless the insiders’ view that I am trying to grasp in my research. Happily, I came across the previously mentioned Youtube-video where I noticed a widescreen camera run about the blocks of flats seen from the school yard – bingo! The picture shows Suvela in its early days, clear and bare.

At the same time I am totally aware of the fact that I can never fully get an insiders’ view of Suvela as a researcher. As a matter of fact, I do not even try to get one since there are as many views of Suvela as there are viewers. According to Donna Haraway, an American feminist, the knowledge is always scattered and embodied in certain situations, certain places, certain people, certain bodies. Therefore, I have duplicated the picture of Suvela through different filters to a whole set of pictures which then represents this manifold of views. The different pictures are like reflections from a prism, my case study.


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Finding any place?

”Finding any Place? Immigrants in city planning and city plans: Case Suvela in Espoo.”

This is the working title of my doctoral thesis that I will tell more about to you in these pages. Working with the doctoral thesis is usually a long and winding road. This is more than true also in my case : ). Even though the journey still continues, the finish line is in the year 2017.

I will offer here some general information about Suvela as well as some preliminary results about my case study under the subject. As the research reaches the end, the results will turn final.

The urban event, the Suvela Bazaar on Sept, 4th -11th in 2016, is connected to my doctoral thesis. I will supplement these pages during the Suvela Bazaar on a daily basis and later on once every fortnight or a month.

So please keep up-to-date and welcome to Suvela!

P.S. Due to some technical problems, these web pages have not opened until today, my deepest apologizes!

The flyer of the Suvela Bazaar in 2016.

The flyer of the Suvela Bazaar in 2016.


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