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Timo Honkela

Born August 4, 1962, Kalajoki, died May 5, 2020

Master of Arts 1989 (computer science), University of Oulu
PhD 1998 (information technology), Helsinki University of Technology

Professor of Research into Digital Materials, University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland, 2014–
Chief Research Scientist 2006–13, Helsinki University of Technology/Aalto University
Acting Professor 2003–05, Helsinki University of Technology
CEO and Director of Research 2000–02, Gurusoft Oy
Professor 1998–2000, Helsinki School of Arts and Design
Researcher 1994–99, Helsinki University of Technology
Researcher 1990–94, Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)
Researcher 1987–89, Sitra
Research Associate and Lecturer 1985–87, University of Oulu

Research themes:
Computational semantics and pragmatics, socio-cognitive modelling, the philosophy of artificial intelligence and its applications in the humanities and social sciences

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Written by Timo Honkela (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Philosophical Musings on Video

The heightened awareness of the limitations of a single human lifespan, brought on by illness, has opened up many new themes and avenues of thought regarding academic research and teaching. Timo Honkela has never championed reliance on measurement, because measurement alone cannot capture the enormous variety found in reality in a manner respectful both to reality itself and the behaviour of people. Short-term measurable results seems to Honkela, in the current situation, ever-more shallow; although he does understand decision makers’ desire for tools that could help them in their work. In an article for the scientific magazine Tieteessä tapahtuu, Honkela states the following:

“Speech and interaction that are off the record also play an essential role in contemporary science, even when measurements are now based solely on formal written output.”

However, Honkela does not want to reject measuring altogether, and reminds us of the differences between qualitative and quantitate research. In some cases and under certain circumstances, the qualitative can be seen through the quantitative, but that requires there to be a large number of elements under inspection. Semantic models in computational linguistics, which are closely related to this topic, can have millions of variables.

While thinking of possible ways to improve web-based teaching, Honkela decided to start filming different kinds of active presentations that can be used as study materials. The idea is to produce small modules that can be put to use as parts of a wider programme and combined with interactive teaching. An example of such a video is a presentation Honkela gave on the topic “On Knowledge.”

Timo Honkela giving a presentation “On Knowledge” at a Library in Leppävaara, Espoo. Photo by Nelli Honkela.


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