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Mauri Ylä-Kotola

Mauri Tapani Ylä-Kotola
Born September 18, 1971, Mikkeli

Master of Arts 1996, Licentiate 1996 PhD 1998 (theoretical philosophy), University of Helsinki

Rector, University of Lapland 2006–
Rector, 2006–06, Academy of Fine Arts
Dean, 1999–05, University of Lapland Faculty of Art
Professor of media science 1997–, University of Lapland Faculty of Art (leave of absence 2005–)
Lecturer in art and media and communications studies 1996–97, University of Lapland

Positions of responsibility:
Board member 1999–2003, European Master in Multimedia and Audiovisual Business Administration (EMMABA)
Vice-chairman 2005–, European Institute for a Sustainable Information Society
Board member, 2003–, CITI Media Lab, New University of Lisbon
Chairman of the Lapland Regional fund 2007–13, Finnish Cultural Foundation
Chairman 2007–13, FinELib, National Digital Library
Chairman 2008–11, European Master in Art and Culture Management (EMACIM)
Chairman 2009–12, Lapin Elämystuotanto Osakeyhtiö
Chairman 2010–, Särestöniemi Museum Foundation
Board member 2010–, Seppo Säynäjäkankaan tiedesäätiö (science foundation)
Vice-chairman 2012–, The Fine Arts Academy of Finland
Board member 2013–, Lapinmaan kiinteistöyhtiö
Chairman 2013–, Rovalan setlementti (local settlement )
Chairman 2013–, Rovalan Kiinteistöyhtiö

Selected publications:
Mitä on mediatiede? (‘What is media science?’), University of Lapland 1999.
Mediakasvatus simulaatiokulttuurissa (’Media education in a simulation culture,’ together with Juha Suoranta) WSOY 2000
The Integrated Media Machine I–IV (published as a tetralogy) EDITA 2000–2004
“Morphological Idealism, Kant and Historical Senses”, in I. Kant and M. Bakhtin: Perpetual Peace and Dialogue. Murmansk State Humanities University 2014.

Selected work of art:
The radio opera Takaisin Xanaduun (‘Return to Xanadu’ together with Hannu Puttonen), Radio Theatre, Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE)

Honorary PhD, Urbana University (Ohio, USA)
Honorary professor, University of Murmansk, 2009 (Russian Federation)

Photo: Arto Litti
Written by Olli Siitonen

Translated by Matthew Billington

Of studies and teaching

Professor Mauri Ylä-Kotola went to upper secondary school at the Helsinki II Normal School, attached to the University of Helsinki (now the Viikki Teacher Training School of the University of Helsinki). The purpose of normal schools, or teacher training schools attached to universities, is to provide both practical training for trainee teachers and a test bed for teaching experiments. A pedagogically fertile learning environment and its teachers provided him with an outstanding space to develop his thinking.

“We published three books on philosophy and literature through the Gnosis Team, active at the Helsinki Normal Lyceum. From my generation, those involved in this philosophical hobby included Pekka Lahdenmäki, Janne Saarikivi, Juhani Huopainen, and Pekka Himanen. At upper secondary school, my interest became fixed on the status of both popular culture and the media. The book Die Erlebnisgesellschaft ('The experience society') by Gerhard Schulze was an eye-opener to me. His sketch of a new class division between high culture, popular culture, and entertainment culture, and his discussion of these groups’ pursuit of their own interests influenced my own thinking. I became intrigued with the notion of the juxtaposition of the media and academia from a deconstructionist perspective.”

After upper secondary school, Professor Ylä-Kotola applied to the University of Helsinki. He was accepted to study pharmacy, philosophy, history, and theology, but in the end he chose theoretical philosophy. After the learning environment at the Normal School, university classes struck him as slightly old-fashioned.

“But on the other hand, the lectures left room for your own thoughts and questions, and even if they could be rather cryptic by today's standards, they did offer some stimulating experiences.

Professor Ylä-Kotola thinks today's universities are too focused on pedagogical efficacy.

“Lectures are judged as theatrical performances with a focus on PowerPoint. This leads to a kind of obligatory teaching paradigm that may be effective but doesn’t correspond to my understanding of the needs of a top university and the humanities of today. Teachers are individuals too, and there should be no need to stamp everyone in the same mould.

Furthermore, Professor Ylä-Kotola calls into question the nature of PowerPoint-based teaching.

“It may be a sign of laziness if a presenter reads their message straight from their slides. Blackboards and overhead transparencies were more interactive, since they were operated right then and there. Today, in the worst case lecturers don’t even remember what they’re going to say next.

Photo: Ari Aalto.


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