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“I have been lucky for not making mistakes” – how journalists use social media

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If you are a journalist, social media is something you can’t really avoid using.

At work, I have talked with my colleagues for example about Twitter. We have discussed whether we should be there to promote our stories, to find ideas and interviewees. Some of us are on Twitter or Instagram, nearly all of us use Facebook. “And then there is Snapchat. I don’t understand how to use it”, we have said.

After these kinds of chats, I realised I want to do academic research about the topic: which social media platforms journalists use and what do they do there?

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I had dreamed about studying and living abroad. In Finland, we have the notable Helsingin Sanomat Foundation, which allows grants for Finnish journalists to study at the top universities in the world. I applied for the University of Oxford and got accepted. Now I am doing research at the Reuters Institute, which is a part of the University. The aim of the Institute is to improve the standards of international journalism.

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In my research, the main question is what kind of professional identity journalists build on social media. I have been exploring this question from three aspects:

  1. Which social media platforms journalists use?
  2. Is social media only for work or do they share something about their private lives?
  3. What do journalists think about the question of objectivity on social media?

My researched is based on interviewing journalists from Finland and the United Kingdom. I have interviewed altogether about 15 journalists. All of them are active on social media, at least on some platforms. I wanted to interview journalists from two counties, because in the English-speaking countries journalists tend to have more social media followers compared to other countries. For a journalist in UK, over 100 000 Twitter-followers is not uncommon whereas in Finland, 10 000 followers is a lot.

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And what have I found? Even though there are many social media platforms, journalists seem to use often one or two. Using only 1-2 platforms can be a relief for journalists: don’t try to use too many, stick with platforms that benefit your work.

“I think it is quite ambitious for an individual to think they can make four, five, six social media presences. Or if they can, that is pretty impressive.” (Journalist, UK)

For my interviewees, reasons for not using more platforms are lack of time and uncertainty how newer platforms (e.g. Snapchat) would benefit their work. Also, some interviewees mentioned that they have social media teams whose full-time job is to take care of social media.

Interviewees in this research form two types of groups when it comes to the question of separating professional and private life on social media: for some, social media is strictly only a part of work, some others blend professional and private life. Usually Twitter is a part of working life, Facebook and Instagram a part of private life.

“For me, Twitter is a part of work. And I’ll try to keep it like that. I would never tweet something like “hello, I am on holiday”. If I want to tell something about my holiday, I’ll do it on Facebook.” (Foreign correspondent, Finland)

The third aspect of this research, i.e. objectivity on social media, I find particularly interesting because as we all know, social media is a place for opinions, sometimes heated debates and social media bubbles. I wanted to know if journalists find it challenging to stay objective there.

My interviewees have very positive attitude toward this issue. They think objectivity it is not threatened on social media if you are transparent, fair to everybody and impartial.

“I was quite old when I started. I was experimental. I have been lucky for not making mistakes and I have been asked to advice other people on how to use Twitter. I think I developed rules for myself that work.” (Correspondent, UK)

“We are living on era where things are more and more transparent. It can be even more honest to tell that my attachment to this story is this and that and I am coming from this angle.” (Journalist, Finland)

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The academic year will end in June. Now, I am finishing up my research. As mentioned, my main research question is what kind of professional identity journalists build on social media. Based on my interviews I suggest it is formed of four pillars.

  1. Expertise: If journalist for example covers Middle East or domestic policy or education issues, what he shares on social media is often linked to this.
  2. Guidelines: Most media companies have some sort of social media guidelines and journalists bear these in mind. Guidelines for example deny insulting colleagues.
  3. Freedom: Journalists know social media guidelines but after that they do basically whatever they want, whenever they want.
  4. Spontaneous: It is related to freedom but spontaneous means journalists interviewed for this research have started using social media on their own initiative, they don’t have any social media routines and they have found their own style on social media by trying.

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I arrived in Oxford in September and time has been flying. I have enjoyed academic atmosphere and Oxford is such a beautiful place to live. One of the best things about this year is my fellow journalists at the Reuters Institute. In our group, there are about 20 journalists from all over the world. From them, I have learnt a lot and after this year I will miss our student life.

 

Ilona Turtola is a Finnish journalist who works for Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. Ilona is specialised in municipal politics as well as social and health issues. Ilona holds an MA from Jyväskylä University where she majored in journalism. For the academic year 2016-2017, Ilona is doing a research about journalists and social media at the University of Oxford.

Private is Made Public Through Art and Public Matters Become Private

by Elisa Alaluusua

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Everything goes in circles. Recently at Tate Modern with a friend, a fellow London-based-Finnish-artist, Minna Haukka we were able to point at Robert Rauschenberg’s goat, Monogram (1955-1959), and tell our daughters that both of us had seen this work of art at Moderna Museet in Stockholm when we were their age. We still remembered that one particular work of art and here we were decades later, the four of us, looking at it again. I suggested that perhaps the girls will remember this moment in time, in London in 2017 at Tate Modern, when they grow up. Walking around Rauschenberg’s exhibition was an emotional roller coaster for many reasons. Visiting a great art exhibition is always wonderful and in London we are truly spoiled with choice. I don’t know whether London is the ‘first’ or the ‘greatest’ here, but for sure is at the top of the game in the field of visual arts. Rauschenberg’s work seems more than timely and with very mixed feelings we discussed this. It is exhilarating to be an artist today trying to make sense of the world around us when things that are hard to understand happen every day. I wondered whether Rauschenberg was scared or worried or only observant when he made his Retroactive II in 1964.

From an artist point of view it is hugely interesting to see how people around the globe turn to arts to work through their reactions towards world events. They might not think that they are making art, but what else are the recent global video reactions commenting on political events or sending messages across national borders? To me they are at the heart of the art scene of today. In my opinion, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are the perfect artists of their times and now we have moved on from their times to today: it is no longer about being famous for 15-minutes, as Andy Warhol put it, now every(wo)man has become the artist of today through access to a wide global audience. I don’t claim to have a great theory about how we got here but I have spent a fair bit of time thinking about this through the research I have conducted over the last few years on such an ordinary object as the sketchbook. I need to backtrack a little – things do go in circles.

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Sketchbooks are an ordinary tool for an artist. Others use them too to jot down their ideas, work through problems, make a note of things seen, read or heard. Sketchbooks are found in artists’ studios and in their pockets and handbags. They have no particular glamour or prestige attached to them, they are and have been used by ordinary people for many centuries. I started to research sketchbooks in 2009 as the topic of my PhD research and ended up interviewing a number of contemporary artists about their sketchbook practice. It turned out that I was constantly drawn back to questioning whether sketchbooks were as private as they had previously been presented.

Liza Kirwin from Smithsonian Archives of American Art has written that sketchbooks “afford an intimate view of an artist’s visual thinking and reveal a private world and creative process”, which sums up how sketchbooks are most often perceived. Yet I discovered artists being aware of a potential viewer looking over their shoulder and peering right into their sketchbook. I won’t bore you with the details and findings of my practice-based PhD but conclude that I have come to realise that today sketchbooks and their role can perfectly illuminate how confused we are about our private and public lives. Already in the 1970s Richard Sennett argued that the public realm has been destroyed by secularisation and industrial capitalism. According to Sennett an unbalanced personal life and empty public life had been a long time in the making while different behavioural codes are appropriate in these two realms: in the private arena sharing of feelings, self-disclosure and intimacy are acceptable, while different expectations prevail in the public setting.This confusion with private and public might have taken over our lives. For artists this is of course a rich field to explore. The reason I think that Hirst and Emin are perfect artists of their times is very simply: Hirst has made making money the centre of his practice and Emin has made personal experiences the central idea of her work. Nothing new. Could it be that things have gotten confusing and scary because we have lost the sense of public and private and are confused by our emotional reactions at the cost of rational thinking? Where are we heading to when public figures in positions of power are judged by their private actions rather than qualities that might make them fit for the job at hand? We might not have to be reminded about the prevailing uncertainties around us by Rauschenberg but it does not hurt to pause and think. Rauschenberg manages to make work that is political and beautiful at the same time. He also reminds me how lucky I am. I have been able to make choices when so many others do not have that luxury, but I still wonder how our children – those lucky ones who live in places like London spoilt with choice – perceive their childhood. Do they remember the work of art seen at Tate Modern with a good friend or do they remember something more sinister, a time when things went wrong?

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Dr Elisa Alaluusua originates from Finnish Lapland and grew up on a reindeer farm in the artic circle area. She lives and works in London. Her exhibition Sketchbooks: An Obsession is on show at Drawing Projecs UK in Trowbridge (until 4th March) and has been supported by the Finnish Institute in London. The Institute has played an important part over the years hosting a number of memorable events including Alaluusua’s first solo show in 1996 as well as an evening when she met her future husband, a fellow Finn.

Emma Mether and Johanna Sumuvuori: Towards more ethical journalism

 

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Report on journalist workshop: Interpreting Crisis: Reporting on Migration, Asylum Seekers and the Syrian Conflict. Monday 24 October 2016, 11 am – 2 pm, EFJ, Brussels

On 24 October the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, the Finnish Institute in London, Felm, and the Media Diversity Institute organised a workshop at the European Federation of Journalists headquarters in Brussels. Two reports functioned as background for the workshop: The Representation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Newspapers (January 2016), carried out by the Finnish Institute in London and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, and Syria in Global Media, commissioned by Felm during 2015-2016.

The aim of the workshop was to discuss the challenges journalists face when reporting on migration, asylum seekers and conflict, and to raise a dialogue on the preconditions and effects of journalism and on the challenges of reporting migration and the so called ‘refugee crisis’ in the press. The question at the centre of the workshop was: What are the ways to represent refugees and asylum seekers, and how is it possible to do versatile, ethical journalism on Syria?

Summary of the workshop discussion – key questions

Partiality

One of the crucial problems journalists face when reporting on conflict, is the difficulty to remain objective while at the same time not taking security risks. To be a reporter in the middle of a conflict area almost unequivocally means working with one side of the conflict. Freelance reporters not taking sides are often not trusted by either side, which makes it challenging to gain the trust of sources.

Additionally, media owners tend to buy stories from freelancers instead of sending in their own reporters, which puts freelance journalists in further hazard and uncertainty. Ironically, journalists working for large media companies are treated with more respect by representatives of all sides of a conflict, while freelance journalists are more vulnerable. How do we address these issues of safety and reliability?

“European crisis”

In terms of media coverage on the Syrian war, by far most of it is given to terrorism and conflict, the subjects being mostly males, as the Felm study suggests. Humanitarian aid and peace negotiations are given a considerably smaller amount of focus, as is the case with reports on women and children. This of course does not reflect reality. Regarding newspaper language, the Syrian conflict is often reported from a Eurocentric perspective, with the ‘crisis’ being one that faces Europe. The ‘refugee crisis’ is seen as a threat to a harmonious European society, similar in effect to the economic crisis. As such, a humanitarian point of view of the afflicted society is often absent, making the people affected stand out as a faceless mass, incomparable as people to the conflict-free societies of media consumers. The influence of the media on public opinion and world view is notable, which of course highlights the responsibility of journalists. What steps do we need to take to make media coverage and language more humane and closer to reality?

Syrian journalists are rarely consulted or hired when reporting on the Syrian war, further confirming the Euro- or West-centric point of view. Local reporters are automatically considered unreliable due to a preconception of them working for the propaganda of one of the conflicting sides. However, local reporters have the advantage of better understanding the culture and the experiences of the people affected. How do we create a bond with local reporters and include them in the reporting of their country?

Ethicality in the media has changed with the reports on Syria. It seems that traditional rules of ethics and the idea of moral conduct have been dropped, reflecting a new openness or directness also visible in the now prevalent hate speech on social media. How do we secure that ethicality standards are followed?

 Proposed solutions by the workshop

On the basis of the workshop discussion, a few main suggestions for future focus stood out.

Firstly, solidarity between journalists is crucial for professional cooperation and mutual understanding. Solidarity would mean safety protection and more openness, which in turn would allow for better coverage. It would also lower the threshold of working together with local reporters. Creating large-scale solidarity among journalists requires cooperation with non-political organisations.

Secondly, editorial processes should focus more vigorously on the ethical point of view. Ethical guidelines for journalism have been produced in abundance and are available. The issue is rather that, as the two studies show, reporting often does not follow these guidelines. A revision process is thus needed that would make the work visible and open for debate. This type of permanent and public monitoring would lead to a greater commitment to follow guidelines. The aim is a model for a new crisis journalism.

Finally, media education and media literacy should become a focus in education. This is something that needs to be relied to state-level decision makers in order to implement it in school curriculums, both at elementary and university level education. Although it is our aim, we cannot only trust that all reporters can be properly schooled in ethicality and that a discipline-wide solidarity will be rapidly built, but we must also take responsibility of teaching people how to read the media as it is now.

 

Emma Mether, Intern, Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux

Johanna Sumuvuori, Head of Programme (Society), The Finnish Institute in London

 

Emma Mether ja Johanna Sumuvuori: Kohti eettisempää journalismia

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Raportti journalismityöpajasta “Interpreting Crisis: Reporting on Migration, Asylum Seekers and the Syrian Conflict”, maanantaina 24.10.2016, EFJ, Byssel.

Suomen Lontoon instituutti ja Suomen Benelux-instituutti järjestivät 24.11.2016 pakolaisjournalismia käsittelevän journalismityöpajan yhteistyössä Felmin, The Media Diversity Instituten ja Euroopan journalistiliiton kanssa Brysselin kansainvälisessä mediakeskuksessa. Työpajaan osallistui toimittajia useista maista.

Työpaja perustui kahteen raporttiin: Suomen Lontoon instituutin ja Suomen Benelux-instituutin tekemään Pakolaiset ja turvapaikanhakijat sanomalehdissä -lehdistöselvitykseen (tammikuu 2016) sekä Felmin teettämään Syria in Global Media –raporttiin (2015-2016).

Työpajan tavoitteena oli avata keskustelua niistä haasteista, joita journalistit kohtaavat raportoidessaan maahanmuutosta, pakolaisista, turvapaikanhakijoista tai konflikteista. Työpaja keskusteli journalismin ennakkoehdoista ja seurannaisvaikutuksista. Käsittelyssä oli myös raportoinnin haasteet ja niin kutsutun “pakolaiskriisin” käsittely sanomalehdissä.

Ydinkysymyksinä oli, millä eri tavoin pakolaisia ja turvapaikanhakijoita kuvataan mediassa ja onko eettinen, monipuolinen journalismi Syyrian tilanteesta mahdollista.

Tiivistelmä työpajan keskeisistä kysymyksistä

Puolueellisuus

Yksi journalistien suurimmista työssään kohtaamista haasteista konfliktialueilla on objektiivisena pysymisen vaikeus. Objektiivisuuden pyrkimys voi tuoda mukanaan myös henkilökohtaisen turvallisuusriskin. Konfliktialueelta raportoiminen tarkoittaa lähes aina konfliktin yhden osapuolen myötävaikutuksella työskentelemistä. Ne freelance-toimittajat, jotka eivät valitse yhteistyökumppaneita, joutuvat helposti konfliktin kummankin osapuolen epäluottamuksen kohteiksi, mikä vaikeuttaa entisestään lähteiden luottamuksen saamista.

Yksi merkittävä seikka on myös, että mediatalot ostavat usein reportaaseja suoraan freelancereilta sen sijaan, että lähettäisivät konfliktialueelle omia työntekijöitään. Tilanne on freelance-toimittajan kannalta epävarma ja vaarallinen. Ironista kyllä, konfliktin osapuolten edustajat kohtelevat suurille mediataloille työskenteleviä journalisteja kunnioittavammin kuin freelance-journalisteja, jotka ovat haavoittuvammassa asemassa. Yksi tärkeä kysymys on, miten näitä turvallisuuden ja luotettavuuden haasteita voidaan kohdata nykyistä paremmin.

‘’Eurooppalainen kriisi’’

Felmin teettämästä raportista ilmenee, että Syyrian konfliktin uutisointi keskittyy suurelta osin terrorismiin ja konflikteihin, haastateltavien ollessa lähes yksinomaan miehiä. Rauhanneuvotteluille ja humanitaarisen avulle, samoin kuin naisille ja lapsille, annetaan raporteissa huomattavasti vähemmän tilaa. Tämä ei luonnollisesti heijastele todellisuutta. Sanomalehdillä on taipumus käsitellä Syyrian konfliktia eurosentrisestä näkökulmasta, kuvaten konfliktia Eurooppaa uhkaavana kriisinä. ‘’Pakolaiskriisi’’ nähdään samaan tapaan uhkana rauhanomaiselle eurooppalaiselle yhteisölle kuin talouskriisi. Seurauksena on humanitaarisen näkökulman unohtuminen, jolloin hädänalaisessa asemassa olevat ihmiset näyttäytyvät kasvottomana massana, joita ei voi kuvitella osaksi median kuluttajien rauhanomaisia yhteiskuntia.

Medialla on huomattava vaikutus yleiseen mielipiteeseen ja yhteiskunnalliseen keskusteluun, mikä korostaa toimittajien vastuuta. Miten raportointitapoja voisi viedä humaanimpaan suuntaan ja lähemmäs todellisuutta?

Syyrialaisia journalisteja harvoin palkataan tai konsultoidaan Syyrian sodasta raportoitaessa, mikä puolestaan vahvistaa eurosentristä tai läntistä näkökulmaa tapahtumiin. Paikalliset toimittajat kohtaavat paljon ennakkoluuloja, sillä heidän oletetaan toistavan konfliktin eri osapuolten propagandaa. Paikalliset toimittajat ymmärtävät kuitenkin paremmin paikallista kulttuuria ja konfliktista kärsivien ihmisten kokemuksia. Miten voisimme ottaa paikalliset toimittajat paremmin huomioon ja osallistaa heidät raportointiin omasta maastaan?

Median eettisyys on kohdannut haasteita Syyria-raportoinnissa. Perinteiset eettiset normit ja moraalisen käytänteet on usein unohdettu, mikä puolestaan heijastaa uudenlaista avoimuutta ja suoruutta, jonka yksi seuraus on sosiaalisen median vihapuhe. Miten voidaan varmistaa, että journalismin eettisiä standardeja noudatetaan?

Työpajassa syntyneitä ratkaisuehdotuksia

Brysselin työpajan keskusteluista nousi esiin muutamia ehdotuksia edellä esitettyjen kysymysten jatkokehittelyä varten.

Ensinnäkin toimittajien välinen solidaarisuus on elintärkeä osa toimittajien keskinäistä ymmärrystä ja ammatillista yhteistyötä. Solidaarisuus tarkoittaa tässä yhteydessä turvallisuudesta huolehtimista  ja lisääntynyttä avoimuutta, mitkä puolestaan parantavat raportoinnin laatua ja kattavuutta. Yhteistyö madaltaa myös kynnystä työskennellä paikallisten toimittajien kanssa. Toimittajien välisen, laajapohjaisen yhteistyön kehittäminen vaatisi yhteistyötä myös kansalaisjärjestöjen kanssa.

Toiseksi toimitusten tulisi keskittyä selkeämmin eettisen näkökulman esiintuomiseen. Journalismin eettisiä ohjeita on tarjolla runsaasti. Ongelma on, että raportoinnissa nämä ohjeet usein sivuutetaan, kuten käy ilmi myös työpajassa käsitellyistä raporteista. Raportointiprosessi tulisi tehdä läpinäkyväksi, mikä mahdollistaisi keskustelun myös eettisyydestä. Avoin seuranta- ja arviointiprosessi voisi kannustaa journalismin eettisten ohjeiden tarkempaan noudattamiseen. Tavoitteena tulisi olla uudenlaisen kriisiraportoinnin mallin luominen.

Lopuksi työpajassa tultiin siihen tulokseen, että mediakasvatuksen ja medialukutaidon kehittämiseen pitäisi keskittyä enemmän jo peruskoulutuksessa. Tämä on viime kädessä kiinni myös yhteiskunnallisista päättäjistä, joilla on mahdollisuus vaikuttaa valtakunnallisiin opetussuunnitelmiin sekä peruskoulu- että korkea-asteella. Vaikka tavoitteena on, että toimittajat sisäistävät laajasti  journalismin eettiset ohjeet, ei voida olettaa että kaikki saavat niihin tarpeeksi perehdytystä. Ammatillinen yhteistyö rakentuu nopeasti, mutta on otettava vastuuta myös siitä, että ihmiset oppivat tarkastelemaan mediaa kriittisesti.

 

Emma Mether, harjoittelija, Suomen Benelux-instituutti

Johanna Sumuvuori, yhteiskuntaohjelman päällikkö, Suomen Lontoon instituutti 

 

REDISCOVERING NATIONAL IDENTITY

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This text is a translation. Not only is it translated from my mother tongue, Finnish, but it is also a translation of images into words. Before words became images, they were purely ideas. Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921) thought that some things can only be expressed in non-verbal ways and claimed that thoughts and propositions are pictures. Our thinking is constantly being limited by language, as we can only speak of what we have words for. Language was invented for the purpose of human beings to be able to communicate with one another efficiently, but it also ties us to a certain culture, as we do not all share the same language. As eyes are physical extensions of our brain, I believe that seeing is a purer form of understanding.


Making art is making sense of the world. It’s the philosophy of seeing. Art can challenge the basic assumptions of our society by reacting politically and aesthetically against these norms. As the only knowledge we can perceive, comes from within, an artist can only show what to look at, not what to see. As an artist, I want to show the spectator something about the world, so that they will see it slightly differently.

“Perspective makes the single eye the centre of the visible world. Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for god. There is no need for god to situate himself in relation to others: he is himself the situation.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1972

The word perspective comes from the Latin word perspectiva that translates to “seeing through; seeing precisely; or understanding clearly”. It is a point of view that derives always by the individual. It is not merely a physical body that sees, but the perspective is all of what one sees through with. According to this idea the perspective is ultimately the identity. The identity is a construction of how we see ourselves, how others perceive us, what we dream of and how we live our lives. Life is like a stage, where our identities are roles that we are assigned to play out.

The individualistic postmodern generation likes to think of themselves (=ourselves) as individuals who themselves create and produce the identity they choose to. Still we are torn between wanting to belong, and wishing to be one-of-a-kind. This could be caused by the inherited and adopted identity that is formed according to how and where we were raised.

Finnish national identity was recreated (or branded) in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s by painting a picture of a raw beautiful nature and it’s hardworking, humble people. Artists started to portray the beauty and uniqueness of their homeland. This was called the golden era of Finnish art and was closely related to the oppression and national awakening. It also started the quest for the original and true national landscape that would encapsulate the particularities of Finland. The Finnish National epic, Kalevala (compiled by Elias Lönnrot, 1835) also played an important role in the development of Finnish national identity, affirming the Finnish language strife that culminated to the independence from Russia 100 years ago. These national romantic images, folklore and mythology are nested into the Finnish consciousness, and no matter how far we go, they will follow.

When I would look at a foreign landscape, I’d inevitable see it through the one I know. I was reluctant to admit how much my national herstory and heritage affected my everyday life and my artistic practice. The ultimate goal in life and art is to find some kind of a truth, so I felt obliged to address my finnishness. The only way to self-discovery and critical thinking is in re-evaluation, redefinition and acceptance. Defying pre-existing normative roles, is discovering them within yourself and bending them…. and making art about it.

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Anikó Kuikka is an artist working with moving image installation. She is currently finishing her post graduate diploma at the Royal Academy of Arts and holds a Masters degree in fine arts from the time and space department at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki. Anikó’s works depict the psychologically surreal and absurd nature of life and the construct of reality and illusion. She deals with identity, archetypes, the social power structures as well as the position of the viewer. The aesthetics and themes are often inspired by the domestic and mythological. Anikó’s moving image work has been shown and screened nationally and internationally in art exhibitions, screenings and film festivals. Her diploma piece ‘White Sugar’ will be shown at the RA Schools Show 22nd June – 2nd July 2017.

Equity and Justice in the Energy System – The Case of Fuel Poverty in the UK

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We are again getting to the time of the year when the days are getting shorter and the nights colder. Many of us are turning  our heating on, without having to think too much about it. However, many others are in a situation where they cannot afford heating in their homes and this time of year can have dire consequences on their health and wellbeing. We at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, together with South East London Community Energy, a community group developing sustainable energy projects, have been researching community-led initiatives that address fuel poverty.

An estimated 2.35 million households in England alone live in fuel poverty whereby they need to use more than 10-15% of their income to heat their homes and use other key energy services such as cooking and washing clothes. Fuel poverty is usually attributed to three key factors: the level of household income, the quality of housing in terms of energy efficiency and the cost of energy bills. Even though the UK does not have the highest gas and electricity prices in Europe, our housing stock is one of the poorest regarding energy efficiency. For example, many houses have bad quality insulation – or none at all – and lack purposeful heating arrangements. This also has implications on climate change. The UK’s 27 million existing homes account for around 25% of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel poverty is a complex issue as those living in fuel poverty are not always easy to identify, and there can be a stigma attached to being fuel poor, preventing people from seeking help. Fuel poverty does not just mean being cold in your home, but the associated problems of cold and damp homes can also have severe health implications. The fuel poverty charity National Energy Action has estimated that fuel poverty is costing the NHS around £1.36 billion a year, as those who live in fuel poverty are more likely to need additional doctor’s appointments for issues such as respiratory diseases and mental health including anxiety and depression. Already vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and the disabled can be especially affected by the consequences of fuel poverty. Furthermore, some of these consequences can be fatal. Each winter people die of illnesses related to fuel poverty, for instance during 2014-2015, England and Wales had the highest number of ‘excess winter deaths’, with 43,900 people dying – 27% more than during the non-winter months.

Numerous government programmes have addressed fuel poverty over the years, including programmes such as the Warm Front which ran from 2000-2013, subsidies such as the Warm Homes Discount, an annual payment of £140 towards energy bills, and the Winter Fuel Payment aimed at pensioners. Energy supplier obligations such as the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) have targeted energy efficiency measures to vulnerable customers. However, energy utilities might not be best placed to deal with fuel poverty, especially given all the other social and health issues linked to the problem. Despite government pledges to eradicate fuel poverty, the problem persists. One effective solution would be to upgrade the UK’s poor quality housing stock, but with limited policy support, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

While government support for addressing fuel poverty has not eradicated the problem, an increasing number of community groups have started to address the issue. Our research, funded by the Chesshire Lehmann Fund, focused on ‘energy cafés’, an energy advice service run by community groups to help those living in fuel poverty. A number of community energy groups across the UK have hosted energy cafés or energy shops, which have been held in a number of locations such as high street shops, farmers markets and community cafés. Some of these energy cafés are permanent, whilst the majority operate for a short period of time in a pop-up shop style. Our research findings indicate that energy cafés could provide a key service in identifying those people that may need help also beyond their energy bills. In other words, energy cafés could act as a triage service bringing together local authorities, health workers and community organisations. Many of this work relies on limited funding via grants and volunteer time, both of which can be in short supply, but are often inspired by genuine desire to help those in need.

Fuel poverty kills and it is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed as an energy, social and health issue, and at all levels of government, local authorities and health authorities. It also has wider energy justice implications in terms of how we consider equity within our energy system. We need to ask ourselves what type of a society we live in – and if our homes, usually a source of comfort, are allowed to keep having fatal consequences.

 

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Dr Mari Martiskainen is a Research Fellow at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand based at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex. Mari is a social scientist who has worked on a range of energy research projects including topics such as building energy efficiency policies, innovation processes linked to community energy, influences on household energy consumption and the diffusion of small scale renewable energy technologies.

Artists are the Missing Link in Community Planning

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“Artists are at the heart of London’s creative success and the centre of many of our thriving communities. Only by incorporating artists’ workspace in strategic planning for the city, will we maintain our competitiveness and achieve the Mayor’s ambition of becoming an international “capital of content.” Mayor of London, “Creating Artists’ Workspace” (2015)

I moved to London three years ago. Three years ago I also found Hackney Wick; an artist-built warehouse zone in East London.

When I walked into the first live-work space in a converted warehouse, I knew I had found something exceptional. Seeing the wonky, self-built units, large communal work areas and industrial yard where all the neighbours were sharing a meal together outside, I said aloud “I’m going to move here.”

Now this community, known as the densest concentration of artists in Europe, is under threat of demolition. Bulldozers are replacing artist studios and cafés have signs stating “Development of luxury apartments.”

I’m one of the campaigners of Save Hackney Wick, because I want to ensure that the current developments take into consideration the existing community: local businesses, residents, artists, families and youth.

Why should anyone care where the artists go?

London, as it stands, is in crisis. According to a Just Space study, Towards a Community-Led Plan in London (2016), London has the lowest levels of well-being and life satisfaction on record, and the highest levels of income inequality – only to name a few of the city’s socio-economic crises.

London has been known as Europe’s “capital of culture” for years, with over 35,000 people graduating from Art and Design colleges every year. According to the Mayor’s Creating Artists’ Workspace (2014) case study, culture is a key driver for London’s economy, attracting tourists and contributing £21 billion to the city’s economy. According to the same study, at least 3,500 artists are to lose their studios in the next five years. Around 600 of them are based in Hackney Wick.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, is now to amend the London Plan. He has promised to celebrate London’s vibrant culture scene and to make the capital greener, healthier – and he has vowed to offer more affordable housing and highlight the positive impact of community planning development.

Save Hackney Wick is, at least in theory, in the core of Khan’s plan. The area could become a flagship example of cultural, social and community planning in London, where taxpayers’ money would go back into the community. Hopefully it’s not only wishful thinking.  

Recently, Khan released his new vision of London, which underlines the importance of creative workforce and artist spaces to London’s future:

“My plan for Creative Enterprise Zones is designed specifically to assist the artists and creative workers who may otherwise struggle to work in London, and I also want to explore innovative financial models to support small creative businesses.”

Positive regeneration?

Rapid urban changes are a threat to diverse, multi-ethnic communities and the independent art scene — qualities for which London has been known and celebrated for centuries. These are the same qualities why I, as a Finnish artist, fell in love with the city, and decided to make a life here three years ago.

This is a part of a global issue that follows the simple cycle of gentrification: first arrive the artists, then come the developers. As soon as the artists have made the area “attractive,” rents will rise and the artists will be pushed out, along with the pre-existing community. The same “hipster-led gentrification” has happened in Kreuzberg in Berlin, Williamsburg in New York and Shoreditch in London.

But could this be stopped? Could we say “no” to the constant uncertainty and “no” to the luxury development that is only affordable for investors? I’m not against regeneration, as that is the nature of cities, but these developments should value existing, vibrant communities.

Without independent culture and artists’ work spaces for artists to work, cities will become only fragile eggshells without content. London will lose its soul.

But instead of demolishing these existing communities, homes and cultural hubs, we could integrate artists as part of community development, thus strengthening the neighborhood’s well-being.

The cycle could be stopped — or even used as a positive recycle model.

Instead of treating artists as disposable waste, artists could be “problem solvers” as well as links between cities, people and communities. We should connect the dots together.

Now is the time to act.

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Sara Kärpänen is a freelance writer and artist based in London. She has a Master’s degree in Visual Culture and Art in Public Space from Aalto University, Finland. Sara has worked as a journalist, researcher and curator, and collaborated with international street artists and architect practices. Currently Sara works as an editor for the online publication Elephant Journal and writes for the Finnish culture-jamming blog Häiriköt. Sara has taken part in international festivals and seminars (Hackney WickED London, Summer School Thinking City Amsterdam, Spaces of Commoning Vienna, Culture Jam Round I, London) and exhibited both in group and solo exhibitions in Finland, London and Portugal.

Sara wants to create more community-driven urban spaces and to explore art as a tool with which to engage communities. Connect with Sara on her website www.sara-karpanen.com and Twitter.

EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY: LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER

Education is an investment for the future, but the question is, what do we hope the future will be like? What are children of today being educated for – what issues will they grow up to confront, and with what kind of skills do they need? In their newly published book, Educating for Democracy in England and Finland (Routledge 2016) Andrea Raiker and Matti Rautiainen question the trend for increased assessment and competition in education. The authors call for education and learning of something more difficult to measure, yet with arguably great returns: democracy.

For what kind of a world is education currently preparing pupils? The recent years have witnessed a rise of extremist and populist politics and anti-democratic movements in several EU member states and globally. As a consequence of the deep and prolonged economic recession in Europe, the attitudes and values of people in Europe have hardened and populist politics have gained growing support. These developments have also been fuelled by the growing amount of immigration set forth by the humanitarian crises in Syria and the Middle-East. It seems that at least in Europe, both representative democracy and the views of individuals are leaning further and further away from the principles on social equality. Austerity politics are hurting the least well off, and people are more willing to blame individuals for their hardships.

Yet at the same time, as Raiker and Rautiainen (2016) point out, great progress has been made in global issues such as global warming, sustainability and human rights. This development would not have happened without educated  and critically reflective governance and the participation of citizens and societies globally.

According to Raiker and Rautiainen, the skills and qualities that have brought on the progress in these global issues are fundamental prerequisites needed for us living together both within and across national borders, as democratic societies. Therefore, these are the skills our school systems should be teaching children.

 

Learning skills for constructive coexistence

Education for democracy is essentially education for learning to live together. The skills ultimately needed for this are those which allow pupils to voice critical opinions to guide their citizenship: to be involved in society and to come together as equals to solve common issues. (Raiker & Rautiainen 2016.)

Students should be equipped with skills that allow for critical perception of common, global issues and solving these issues together through reflective, knowledgeable deliberation. This, more than the act of voting at the ballot box on election day, is what the authors understand by democratic citizenship. The book, Educating for Democracy, is a statement on not only the underlying political ideologies and conceptions concerning education, but can be seen as part of the wider discussions on the nature of democracy and democratic citizenship.

 

The Power to Change Society

The opposite of a democratic school would be a passive, or a passivating school. Such a school lacks participation, community, empathy and critical thinking. It’s a place where the teacher limits the conceptions of democracy by defining what is the good and correct way to act democratically, not giving room for the critical scrutiny of such conceptions. In such a school there are no possibilities for pupils to take part in decisions that affect themselves, and no time and space for working together with each other. (Raiker & Rautiainen 2016, Rautiainen & Räihä 2012.)

A passive school can be seen as a breeding ground for a generation that not only does not take an interest to vote in elections, but that does not even realise the opportunities it might have to affect decisions concerning themselves.

On the other hand, a passive school raises easy followers for populist politics and anti-democratic movements. In other words, a passive school raises students who don’t have the ability to assess information aimed at them critically or encounter their fellow citizens with empathy and understanding.

Raiker and Rautiainen (2016) see the fundamental task of schools to develop democratic living by cultivating communality and empathy – emphasis on the word develop, since democratic life is not something fixed and stagnant. The aims of education are twofold: raise pupils to be a part of society and to change that society. School should be, according to the authors, a platform where pupils could experiment with democracy from their own viewpoints.

 

What the Classroom Needs: Empathy and Communality

The idea enforced in the book is that educating for democracy should not be perceived rigidly as teaching a subject, or be limited to the contents of one class such as civic education. Rather, learning democracy happens through the everyday practices and principles of schools.

Echoing John Dewey (1966), Raiker and Rautiainen (2016) write that democracy should be experienced in the daily life of schools, not only taught in preparation for a “real life” that awaits pupils once they grow up. In fact, schools should be “miniature societies”, in which knowledge is transformed into lived, everyday action.

The thought of schools as “miniature societies” implies that just as society at large, schools too need to be organised in such a way that democratic life is possible. Democracy in nation states cannot exist without structures of government, elections, representative politics, media, and all other institutions that have been created to foster particular democratic practices. Neither can democracy exist in schools if there are no spaces, places, and structures that allow democratic life to happen.

For this purpose, two prerequisites of democratic life are especially noteworthy. The first is empathetic environments – something that seems to have been lacking in a lot of places lately. Democratic life needs empathetic environments; environments for being heard and being understood (Raiker & Rautiainen 2016).

The other prerequisite, greatly related to the first, is communality. Communality unites individuals and invites individuals to participate – it is “the stuff of democratic living”:

“The fundamental work of school is not just to impart and instill the knowledge and understanding required by society for economic growth and profit, it is also develop communality and communal life, the stuff of democratic living.” (Raiker & Rautiainen 2016, 154)

Communality refers to having common aims or values and shared responsibilities. The democratic community that the authors of Educating for Democracy in England and Finland hope schools would foster would recognise that the value of a person cannot be measured only in terms of economic growth and profit. The political climate in the times of economic crisis has increased the tendency to view people in terms of the expenses they create. Much less attention has been paid, both in the UK and Finland, on what these individuals can contribute to society. Raiker and Rautiainen write that democracy is a social and moral bind keeping together the individuals of society:

”Democracy is essentially about how a society relates to an individual, and how that individual relates to society.” (Raiker & Rautiainen 2016, 6)

 

 

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Vilja Kamppila, M.Soc.Sc., is an intern at the Society Programme of The Finnish Institute in London. During her internship she is writing a discussion paper on practical means of education for democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ambassador of Finland hosted a seminar based on the book Educating for Democracy in England and Finland on Wednesday 12th October 2016. In the spirit of open democracy, a live video from the event is viewable on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/FinInstLondon/

Speakers in the seminar included editors of the book Dr Andrea Raiker and Dr Matti Rautiainen, as well as Dr Neil Hopkins and Dr Mirja Tarnanen. The event was hosted by the Finnish Embassy, The University of Jyväskylä, The University of Bedfordshire and The Finnish Institute in London.

 

Sources

Dewey, J. (1966) Democracy and Education. New York: The Free Press.

Raiker, A. & Rautiainen, M. (eds.) (2016) Educating for Democracy in England and Finland. Principles and Cultures. 

Rautiainen, M. & Räihä, P. (2012) Education for Democracy: A Paper Promise? The Democratic Deficit in Finnish Educational Culture. Journal of Social Science Education, 11 (2), 7-23.

 

Life stories in the Jungle

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By: Aura Lounasmaa

Jungle houses dangerous animals, creepy crawlies and predators. In the Jungle there is no law, no order, no humanity. In the Jungle you learn to live like an animal. Jungle is dangerous, and yet intriguing. The media wants to get a look inside. Many want to go and help; visit; see; witness. Misguided, or perhaps deliberately misleading political campaigns were using the Jungle as a rationale for Brexit. For those on the outside, the idea of the camp as Jungle helps dehumanise the animals inside; only animals can live like this. This has been perpetuated by some of the media coverage from the Jungle, as shown in a recent report by Sumuvuori et al[i].

Zimako Jones, a refugee, an activist and founder of Ecole Laïque de Chemin des Dunes in the Calais unofficial refugee camp talks about the Jungle as a Forum, a new city, the true Calais. Choosing to call it by another name does not change the effect the Jungle has on forming public consciousness about the ‘refugee crisis’, the ‘swarm of migrants’ or the ‘benefit surfers’.

The camp in Calais is currently home to an estimated 5,000 people, including some 568 children, of whom 74% unaccompanied[ii]. During the winter these numbers were nearly twice as high. Fires, partly started as part of violent clashes between groups of residents, as was reported by the French police, but mostly due to the stun grenades used by the police themselves, are frequent. There is a shortage of food, shelters, clothes, blankets and clean water. Sanitation and waste control are intermittent. The camp sits on an old landfill with toxic waste. France is accepting asylum claims from the camp, but processing times are currently long and even after claiming, although accommodation should be provided, it is not currently available to all.

Most camp residents want to make their way to the UK across the channel on ferries, lorries or the Eurostar. Some want to come to the UK because they have family and friends here, others because they speak English and feel there is a better chance of building a life here, yet others because British involvement in the internal politics of their home countries has made them uninhabitable. People from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are fleeing either Al Qaeda, ISIS, or both. Their question to us is: “Where should I go? If I stay in my country, the ISIS/Al Qaeda will kill me. If I join them to stay alive and keep my family safe, the British will bomb me. Yet, you don’t want me here.”

The recent Dubs amendment to the immigration bill means that unaccompanied minors from the camp can apply for asylum in the UK, although none have so far received one. A test case is also being heard regarding those who have served the British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and are thus persecuted in their countries. Others will have to make it across the channel to make a claim, as the UK fears that accepting asylum applications from the Jungle would create a precedent and attract more people to make the perilous journey across the Aegean Sea and through Europe to reach Northern France. At least this is the official story by the Home Office. For the residents of the camp the Jungle remains untamed, unclean and unsafe. It is a sore reminder of the empty words of Western democratisation and human rights discourses. Residents express disbelief to have arrived at these conditions in the middle of Europe, where they thought they would be safe.

Beyond the misery and squalor, the Jungle is also a place where more than 20 nationalities and different religions, most coming from areas of war and conflict, live together, build lives, cafes, libraries and schools, volunteer at distribution centres, work as translators, write, take photos, paint and draw, form friendships, miss their families – and dream of a future. Although the conditions are inhumane, humanity survives and thrives.

Stable governance is difficult due to continuous changes in people and structures; evacuations and demolitions of existing structures by French authorities and continuous harassment and violence by the police, the human traffickers controlling the routes to the UK along with local mobs. Clashes between groups of residents are not uncommon. Yet, forms of deliberative government have emerged, with representatives, open meetings and a body of residents who actively negotiate with volunteer organisations and state actors on behalf of the residents. A large number of volunteers, together with the residents, run educational programmes, children’s centres, art therapy sessions, photography and drama courses, provide equipment and training for a radio station, library, schools, distribute food, clothing, sanitary products, build shelters and service and cultural centres, provide legal aid and medical services. The Jungle is full of humans, refusing to be brought to their knees.

I am teaching a university course on Life Stories in the Jungle in Calais, initiated by Professor Corinne Squire and run as a short course through the Social Sciences in UEL. The course consists of reading philosophical, political and biographical texts, including writings by Mandela, Plato, Malcom X and Selvon. Life stories are understood in this context as multimodal, incorporating visual and oral forms of telling, and politically and socially situated. As part of the course we have organised photography workshops, led by photographers Gideon Mendel and Crispin Hughes, a poetry workshop and discussion by a UK based refugee poet JJ Bola and finally in June a discussion about access to refugees and asylum-seekers to higher education in UK and elsewhere in Europe. 19 students were enrolled on term 2 in 2016 and 11 of those completed coursework using photos, recordings and written text as their medium for storytelling. The submissions were done through handwriting, recordings and other medium as computer and online access in the camp is scarce. The course has given some students the tools and the drive to pursue further formal education, either through programmes opening up in different European universities for asylum-seekers or through initiatives such as Kiron University[iii].

UK universities have also offered opportunities to refugees in light of the refugee crisis, including some direct access education in UK institutions and various scholarship schemes falling under the Article 26 principle of education as human right[iv]. The scholarships are all offered in different terms and actual availability and take-up of offers is currently unclear. The UK is committed to admitting 20,000 Syrian refugees in the next five years, selected on the eligibility criteria of most vulnerable people[v], and are unlikely to be in a position to begin or continue higher education directly upon their arrival in the UK. The UK universities, beyond our short course, are out of reach to most of the residents in the Jungle, yet there is a will to open up and welcome refugees in our HE community.

The short course has inspired some students to pursue further education, but as their chances of arriving and getting asylum in the UK are small, one might ask, why should this be of concern to UK institutions. We come back to what the Jungle means. The Jungle is out there, in a different country, across a sea. Perhaps, some of us tell ourselves, if we are no longer part of Europe, the Jungle will move even further, across another border. In reality however, the Jungle is one hour away from London. I step out of the Jungle, get on a train and I am in St Pancras, on the tube. I am transformed by the ease of that journey into a human, whereas my students, whom I left behind, become the animals we made them into,  just because they stay behind.

So what am I doing? What is my contribution? What separates me from the dehumanising gaze of the press and other onlookers? The division is not easy. Volunteer organisations and individuals go to great lengths to fundraise, to build, donate and help make life in the Jungle a little more bearable every day. A great deal of development literature is dedicated to showing the problems of poverty tourism which, although may be inspired by good intentions, has the result of further victimising the recipients of such voluntary efforts and constructing the recipients as objects of Western gaze[vi].

The Jungle has brought poverty tourism within our easy reach and we can now enter, bravely, the squalor, the dirt and the smell, take our souvenirs, our photos and stories and show them at home. However good the intentions behind such charitable trips are, the effects are always conflictual. On one hand, meeting people, looking at another human in the eye and saying hello, is an act of humanity. Taking that act and making it part of the greater discourse about the Jungle will, on the other hand, always contribute to the discursive construction of the place as othering. The Dublin agreement can also bring legal consequences to those whose images, names or stories have been taken and shared with or without their permission.

There is no easy way to make change. There are stories that need telling, but telling them right is a difficult task. Life Stories in the Jungle aims to equip students to access higher education, but also to think about, and to tell that story themselves. One of the outcomes of the course will be a book, co-authored by our students and due to be published by Pluto Press next year, Voices from the Jungle. In addition, through the course we continue to meet students and tell them their thoughts, ideas and futures matter.  

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Dr Aura Lounasmaa is a lecturer in the University of East London School of Social Sciences, a research fellow at the Centre for Narrative Research and part of a team of academics teaching an accredited university short course ‘Life Stories in the Jungle’ in the Calais refugee camp in France. The course will continue this year in Calais as well as in the UK with refugee organisations. Aura completed her PhD in the Global Women’s Studies Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2014, funded by the IRCHSS. Her research focuses on women’s political activism in Morocco.  

 

[i] Sumuvuori, Vähäsöyrinki, Eerolainen, Lindvall, Pasternak, Syrjälä and Talvela (2016) Refugees and asylum seekers in press coverage, London and Luxemburg: Finnish Institute, http://www.finnish-institute.org.uk/en/articles/1613-launching-a-new-report-refugee-crisis-in-european-newspapers

[ii] UK based Help Refugees and a French organisation l’Auberge des Migrants, both working closely with residents in the camp providing services, conduct quarterly census of the camp to keep track of official numbers. The last one took place in May. For more information see http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/tag/census/

[iii] Kiron is an NGO based in Germany allowing refugees to begin university courses online before their resettlement in any European country https://kiron.ngo/

[iv] 30 UK universities are currently offering scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers under the Article 26 network, coordinated by the Helena Kennedy Foundation  http://www.hkf.org.uk/

[v] Gower and Politowski (2016) Syrian Refugees and the UK response, Briefing Paper 06805, London: House of Commons Library http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06805

[vi] See for example http://www.e-ir.info/2012/10/04/international-citizen-service-a-critical-perspective-on-volunteer-tourism-and-development/

 

Navigating the space between cultures

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By Ndéla Faye

You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all.”Maya Angelou

In a world where moving abroad is becoming commonplace, the phenomenon of ‘Third Culture Kids’ (TCKs) – children who spend a significant portion of their developmental years in a culture outside their parents’ cultures – is increasing rapidly. The term, coined by American sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1950s, refers to the tendency of TCKs to mix their ‘birth culture’ with their ‘adopted culture’, creating a culture of their own: a third culture. TCKs can be seen as an elitist form of transnational migrants, although the reasons for children becoming TCKs in the first place vary. Nevertheless, as the number of TCKs is growing, so are the cultural complexities of their identities and experiences.

Like many Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs), I struggle to answer the question “Where are you from?” Fearing coming across as standoffish or facetious, I often catch myself diluting parts of my story in order to make myself more palatable to others who find it difficult to place me. Depending on the situation, I have a short and a long answer to the question. To save time (and any further questions), I’ll sometimes respond “Finland and Senegal.” But the whole story, the story that makes me me, is that I was born in Helsinki, moved to Luxembourg, then to Brussels and finally to London.

Culture is often described as being a combination of the way we speak, how we act, what we eat and how we dress; it’s an amalgamation of patterns of behaviours, beliefs and values. It’s something that is learned, rather than instinctive; passed on through generations and shaped by the surrounding environment. But if those lines are blurred, and you feel as though you can’t claim a single country or culture as your own? What happens when you feel like you are from nowhere, yet everywhere at the same time?

Although I was born in Finland. I’m aware that I don’t look typically Finnish – but seeing as I’ve never lived in Senegal, I don’t feel very Senegalese either. Or Luxembourgish, nor Belgian for that matter, and even though I still hold a Finnish passport, I’ve lived ‘abroad’ for too long to call it my home country. I see the countries as places I’ve spent time in and made friends in, places I have family in, places I visit every few years – places I think of with nostalgia. But when I’m actually there, I feel very much like an outsider.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering how different my life would be if I would have lived in just one place: would I be different if I’d have lived in the same house my whole life, or gone to the same school and kept the same friends I made in nursery all the way to adulthood…? I feel I would not be me had I not been a TCK.

Aside from having had the opportunity to be surrounded by multiple languages from a very early age, I love being able to choose whomever I want to be wherever I go, like a chameleon. Because I don’t feel as though I belong to any specific place, my identity and sense of self is fluid, and I’m constantly reinventing myself. There’s a strange sense of freedom, and a comforting knowledge of being able to pack my bags and move anywhere, without having to think about it too much.

At times, I joke with my TCK peers about having ‘itchy feet’ – the feeling that we’re unable to settle down in one country for long periods of time. In an almost-too-idealistic way, the possibilities for the future seem endless. We are global nomads, revelling in our rootlessness, able to go anywhere, and make it a (however temporary) home.

In light of the recent EU referendum result, the thought of ‘home’ has been on my mind even more than usual. “Do you think you’ll ever go back?” I’ve been asked a few times. “Back where?” I ask, puzzled, anxious, concerned. Should I have a place to go back to? Should I feel like I can always return somewhere and feel at home? Of course, I have played with the thought of settling down in Finland or Senegal, but always in the safe confines of my imagination – in a similar spirit of toying with the idea of doing something drastic with my looks – but knowing very well that I will probably never actually do it.

With trepidation, like thousands of others in the same predicament, I can only hope that I will still be allowed to keep finding my place and building a little corner to call home on this island – freely, as I have been able to do until now. I also hope that future generations will be able to explore the world and be presented with a breadth of opportunities just like I was.

So where is home? For now, I’ll swirl all the different answers in my mouth – and after ten years in the UK I’m finally starting to feel like home could be here – but I’m not quite ready to utter the words out loud just yet.

 

image1-4Ndéla Faye is a freelance writer and journalist based in London. Her work has appeared in the Guardian and Image magazine in Finland, among others. Follow her on Twitter @NdelaFaye

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