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Ville Laakso

Born March 5, 1972, Helsinki

Master of Arts (General Linguistics), University of Helsinki

Entrepreneur, Paletti Oy, 2005–
Researcher, PhD student, part-time teacher 2000–2004, University of Helsinki

Photo: Ville Laakso
Written by Ville Laakso (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My dream

After diving into the history of my own field as well as a few others, I've come to think that the framework of professionalism is not always the best fit or the most productive for a researcher in the humanities. In the history of the humanities, there is also a fine and vibrant tradition of amateurs – of attraction to and unselfish love of knowledge – in which at best you can bypass the issues of funding and politicking in research by researching and writing privately, at your own expense.

Since technological progress is rarely the key question in the humanities, there is little actual need to socially organise research around laboratories. In the past, humanities scholars have often tried to justify their claim of representing a scientific discipline by constructing frameworks and formalisms that would be a credible imitation of the hard sciences. Naturally enough, this has led to all manner of contending schools, wrangling over funding, and regional politicking, which, let’s face it, have hardly produced any immortal insights, classic texts, or morsels of knowledge fit for the ages.

I can already see in my mind's eye the anguish on the faces of many thesis examiners and research administrators: even more eccentrics and crackpots with their solidly unfounded theorising to deal with? – Not necessarily, if we look at it from a different angle.

My dream is to become a strong amateur – to return at some point to good thought and texts, to be relevant and productive – without burdening academic institutions with my desires for funding or degrees. It might be that thanks to its general interest and its strong subplots based on amateur research, the humanities is better situated than many other disciplines to discovering a future model for a research career where being a researcher is not a lifetime professional career but consists of various periods in business and research.

Surely, it’s obvious that no one can be at their best for their whole career. What if, after having happened to write a lauded and widely-cited classic paper, there were no need to wrestle with second monograph angst or churn out endless variations on a theme, but instead you could take, say, an expert job in human resource management and later come back to research with fresh ideas?

This kind of lifetime diversity could also benefit from innovative funding models with advanced financial instruments based on the productivity of business periods and the applicability of research period results, like some kind of crowdfunding options. Furthermore, there are endless opportunities for productisation: true amateurs will need discussion forums, publication channels, advisers, sparring partners, editors – and they are likely to be prepared to pay for them.

Photo: Ville Laakso personal archives.


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