Last week we (researchers from the Centre for Youth Studies, Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg) visited Helsinki. First of all it was a working visit: we presented our research finding at the DiMe panel at the 16th Annual Aleksanteri Conference “Life and Death in Russia”, then we had a project workshop discussing our cases and methodology, and thinking how to compare Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Sticker-artists from St. Petersburg and young people from youth centers in Helsinki, becoming urban photographers, they seem to be so distant from each other, divided by borders, cultures, backgrounds, at the same time, they share similar experience of being young in global digital era, of living in a big city, coping with its alienation, risks, infrastructures, and control from different ‘adults’. All of them try to make the city their own space, and art became one of the efficient tools for this, and metro – a public gallery.
It was also a very ‘personal’ visit: meeting with people who understand you, sharing the ideas and passion to the research, discovering Helsinki from new perspectives (from underground and from ‘periphery’). These ‘unplanned benefits’ came from successful research partnership and are very valuable. Sociology in general is a collective enterprise. Of course, you can sit in the library alone and write your own book, but in one moment you have to leave your academic shelter and to go outside: to people and to colleagues. And there you can find (if you would be rather lucky) the main pleasures of being sociologist: exciting field work and communication with researchers who are interested in the topic as much as you. This visit in Helsinki was full of these pleasures.