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Professor of aesthetics dives into big data

As far back as during his days as a pupil, Ossi Naukkarinen was already fascinated by what it is about art that intrigues us.

Professor Ossi Naukkarinen, what do you research and why?

At the moment, my research touches on the meta-questions related to aesthetics: comparison of different types of theories and practices and how people perceive and model their own aesthetic life. Previously research of aesthetics was more normative, i.e. researchers tried to determine how things should be done and understood. I do not give an opinion in favour of any certain aesthetic, but rather research the differences and similarities in different ways of perceiving.

Currently, I am interested in a matter which is quickly making its way into many fields, i.e. the utilisation of big data in research. My intention is to determine how academic research of aesthetics is visible in databases such the Web of Science and how results are comparable to big data related to on-line aesthetics in different ways. 

I research aesthetics because it is a topic area that influences people's thinking and actions, and, in this way, affects the environment and wellbeing in a central way.

How did you become a researcher?

When I was a pupil in school I already noticed that studies tended to emphasise mathematical thinking, reasoning and logic, but in spite of this people often acted with little regard for these. They just looked at what looked best, was fun and attractive. I was interested in the "logic" behind this. I have also always been excited about art, and the field of aesthetics researches this a great deal.

I never really made a decision to become a researcher. However, I am a curious person by nature, and aesthetics as an academic field combined topic areas that have always interested me. I was accepted to study and noticed that there was an infinite amount of things to determine, and little by little the possibility of carrying out research opened up to me.

What are the highlights of your career?

Many of the highlights of my work have involved teaching. The research of aesthetics is a somewhat lonely humanist pursuit, but working with students allows me to develop things and test them in a team. The feedback I receive on teaching is also great. Advicing my doctoral students has also been among the best highlights, as I've been able to cheer the student on towards their goal.

What is the most important quality for a researcher?

Curiosity is essential. You must have the courage carry out trials and fail, and you cannot allow setbacks to depress you. Research will always involve dead ends and knock downs, but at these times you must just state your reasoning better. Positivity first is a good guideline for researchers.

What do you expect from the future?

I would like continuity; to continue working with students and colleagues. I would like to find suitable partners with who to share ideas, so I could share something meaningful with them and also gain something myself.

Ossi Naukkarinen and the other recently tenured professors at Aalto University will present their research in the multidisciplinary afternoon starting at 14.15 on 12 October. We hope to see you there!

See the lecture programme here

Photo by Erica Nyholm

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