Meet the InnoLabbers: Ville Manninen


This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Ville Manninen.

What are you?

Journalism scholar, well-rounded nature-enthusiast, cultural dilettante and a far-flung country yokel.

Your title at InnoLab is researcher, but what exactly do you do?

Oh, pretty much anything they tell me to. I’m currently working with InnoLab’s “Disrupting the media scene” project, and I teach a bit in Communication Studies. What those things entail in practice is still under deliberation. I’m also affiliated with the University of Jyväskylä, where I help with a research project on the use of drones and satellite imagery in Finnish newspapers.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

That sweet, sweet paycheck makes it all worthwhile! In all seriousness, I like to think I’m doing something good. My background is in journalism, and I hope the research and teaching I do eventually benefit that field. And what benefits journalism will eventually benefit the society as a whole.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

It’s the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and they’ve finally decided to launch an extensive research program on the plurality of Finnish media! It’s something me and my colleagues have been advocating for for years, and now I’m called to help plan the project.

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

Media plurality in Finland needs research! Although that’s something I’ve told already, and not just once. Maybe I could complain about the poor treatment of Finland’s national parks by some fellow hikers. It’s one of my pet peeves – what kind of a person walks dozens of miles to vandalize a camping site?

Good job on the interview. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

I’ve neglected a lot of classics. I’ve had War and Peace sit on my bookshelf for over ten years without getting past the first few chapters. Last summer I bought Hannah Arendt’s The Origin of Totalitarianism and I’m afraid it’ll meet the same fate. On a strictly academic note, I’d really love to get better acquainted with quantitative methodology. I took a few courses in statistical mathematics as a grad student, but I forgot most of it pretty quickly.

Sounds interesting. Is that something I, too, should be concerned about?

Classics and statistical mathematics? Yes, definitely! One thing that did stick with me from those statistics courses was the teachers’ general disdain for the haphazard treatment of statistical information in media. Classics are useful in that once you’ve read them, you don’t have to re-invent their concepts and philosophies. Instead of coming up with things a naked dude living in a barrel already thought of millennia ago, you can think of ways to rebuke him. Well, I think that’s been done as well…

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

Jonagolds are my absolute favourite type of apples. They’re big, inexpensive and juicy. Just make sure you pick ripe ones, since Jonagolds are often shipped kind of raw. Go for apples with a yellow base colour with swathes of stripy red rather than solid red, and check the bottom and around the stem – if there’s still green, the apple’s going to be sour. You can also try to ripen the apples yourself by keeping them near ripe bananas, but I usually go for ones that are ready to eat off-the-shelf.

Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

I think breaks and routines help with both. Sometimes you need inspiration, but most of what I do tends to be fairly routinized – it’s then better to just sit down, power on for an hour or two and then have some coffee. After a full week, just shut down your cellphone and forget the office address for a few days!

From the perspective of Ville’s colleagues: If Ville was an animal, what would he be?

”As a communication researcher, I would mark Ville as a Whale as they say it can communicate for longer distance, meaning that they have really good outreach and message is clearly delivered.”

“A humble-bee of course! Charmingly humble about his skills, and a fine team player. I’m positive he has wings”

“A wise owl! He can listen to others, and whenever he talks, it is something clever.”

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