New Media Doctoral Seminar – Designing a Culture – Qifeng Yan

Please see below for the information regarding upcoming Doctoral Seminar Presentations:

Presenter: Qifeng Yan

Opponent: Wang Wei, School of Design, Hunan University

Date: 01.03.2022

Time: 15:00-17:00

Zoom Link:

Title: Designing a Culture


After identifying technology preferences and value orientations in different cultures from a series of user studies, this research tries to form a theoretical base for understanding cultural shift and design for existing and emerging cultures. This dissertation also explores what kinds of new mindsets, design methodologies and strategies would be needed for designers in technology boom era.

To better understand design related cultural differences, the author visited 93 countries across the world during his doctoral study to run cross-cultural design and research projects and observe the ways how local people interact with technologies and how to create objects and services and what are the cultural hints behind them. Articles about 5 research projects are introduced in this dissertation as follow:

Remote mobile testing and interview based on Smartphone360 tool. This research tool can be regarded as a software tracking all mobile phone usage data in real life with good privacy control.

Practices and user studies in a Chinese style keypad design and a hybrid text input method design.

Mobile internet content consumption data mining. Based on the content consumption statistics for the English and the Chinese websites of a mobile widget content service with 20 million registered users

Practices and user studies in designing an edutainment robot combining Chinese traditional culture and AI technologies.

Practices and user studies in designing a Tibetan Buddism religion service system with devices and services integrated.

User studies of acceptance of a series of design concepts of nano technology based wearable devices by users in Beijing, Helsinki and Palo-alto.

Most of the above research projects are based on mass production products and commercial internet services. And some of them have been implemented into mass market products and services. This research tries to suggest an efficient and sustainable strategy for developing user experiences for different cultures in technology boom context. It is found that cultural templates and special versioning tools might be a cost-effective and feasible way. A culture-sensitive user interface may be also an answer. Above research provides practical guidelines and propose more cultural dimensions for quickly understanding local users and designing cross-cultural mobile services. The author is running a service robot innovation company and implements several robot R&D projects for different cultures. As a summary, this dissertation suggest a new model to understand cultures in the future and a new design paradigm shift might happen in the AI technology boom era.

Different from iceberg, river and onion metaphor of culture, To better understand international cultural differences in AI technology boom context, in which all kinds of new creatures by AI technologies are defined as AI-being, a new cultural metaphor or water network is proposed in this dissertation. In the water network metaphor, the cultures of human beings are original water networks where rivers are flowing and mixing. And the cultures of AI beings are like new canals which connect revers across the whole water networks. This provides a possibility to design a culture around a product of service instead of adapting to the existing culture.

Through a series of research, this dissertation proposes that in the mixed society of humans, robots, cyborgs and other AI beings in the coming future. This research proposes that another design paradigm shift from human-centered design to culture-centered design is coming. The design process would evolve from analysis of the relationship with people and products to the relationship among people, and then to the relationship between people and AI in the future. Since humans are building relationships with AI beings, which are now sentient beings if powered with AI algorithms.

Possible contribution of this work to design is to develop new cultural knowledge and tries to form a culture design methodology that enables designers to build that knowledge into their designs. Culture would be designed and formed by all the sentient beings including humans and AI beings, and culture itself might hereby become the core in the design process.


Qifeng Yan, Entrepreneur of an smart health and robot start-up, Visiting Professor of in Southern University of Science and Technology. Qifeng has trans-cultural experiences in design. After working as principle designer in Nokia Design Helsinki for 7 years, he was expatriated to Shenzhen, China to set up a design-driven Nokia Research Center on 2010. In 2013, he initiated Media Lab (Shenzhen), Hunan University and act as Director. He is a winner of Red dot Best of the Best, IDEA and other design awards. was awarded as“2008 China’s Top 10 Young Designer Award” . Qifeng’s research interests are Smart sports and health, UX design for cultural differences. And He got B.Sc. and MA with honor in Industrial Design from Hunan Univ. He has more than 20 international invention Patents granted and he is the winner of 1st Award of “China’s Standardization Contribution Awards” for his contribution in IEEE11072 international standards in personal smart health.

Wang Wei:

New Media Doctoral Seminar January 25, 2023 15:00-18:00

Please see below for the information regarding upcoming Doctoral Seminar Presentations:

VRturalising exhibitions: In search of novel engagement approaches in experimental museology.

Presenter: Cvijeta Miljak
Date: January 25 2023
Time: 15:00-18:00
Zoom Link:

The research is carried out in the framework of an international interdisciplinary project that brings together Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture and ZKM – Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (Germany), the Centre Pompidou, Paris (France), the Ludwig Muzeum, Budapest (Hungary), Tallin Art Hall (Estonia) and Tirana Art Lab (Albania). The institutions encompass the fields of cultural heritage, digital art conservation, digitalising heritage, new media art and experimental museology.

In broadest terms, this practice-based research in the emerging field of virtual museology is concerned with developing novel engagement approaches with the aim to encourage co-creative participatory practices for community involvement. The research takes a particular interest in facilitating the audience engagement with museums and digital heritage as well as studying audiences’ responses to digital cultural heritage and to virtual exhibitions. The research supports further development and implementation of Performance-oriented Research Methods for Audience Studies and Exhibition Evaluation (PORe), a methodology coined by Lily Díaz-Kommonen.

Cvijeta Miljak is a doctoral candidate working as a researcher with Prof. Lily Díaz -Kommonen on the Creative Europe co-funded project Beyond Matter – Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality (2019-2023). Miljak’s interest focuses on exploring emerging narratives, intermedial poetics andi implications of digital tools, through developing experimental methods for nonintrusive participatory evaluation practices to investigate and re-examine the forms of storytelling in the post-digital media.

For a more detailed bio, please check:

New Media Doctoral Seminar December 14, 2022 15:00-17:00

Information regarding upcoming Doctoral Seminar Presentations:

Date: December 14 2022
Time: 15:00-17:00
Zoom Link:
Presenters: Heini Haapaniemi & Edward Morrell
Commenters: Pamela Burnard, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and Teemu Leinonen, Learning Environments Research Group, Aalto University

Towards a pedagogical model for characterization: Applying Commedia dell’Arte and art workshops in higher education design studies
Presenter: Heini Haapaniemi

Pedagogical models for the cross-fertilization of the disciplines that rely on characterization are missing. These domains are digital game design, digital and tangible costume design, theater, and actors’ art. Learning character design in a multidisciplinary way with focus on characters themselves without the limitations of each other’s specific domain, is beneficial and has much potential. Character design is a centuries old art form in theater. When moving to design processes that strongly rely on digital technology, we can easily forget the existence of the old traditions. This study stems from the need of a pedagogical model for higher education design studies in a university of applied sciences (UAS) context. The focus is on drama pedagogical methods and collaborative inquiry on characters for a multiplayer digital game wall in a 3D space. Farce comedy characters and the entire art form is based on Commedia dell’Arte and its aesthetic presentations. Commedia dell’Arte was an improvised popular street comedy which originated in Italy in the 16th to 18th centuries.


Heini has used drama pedagogy and performative inquiry in pedagogical settings, upper secondary schools and projects prior to appying it to higher education design studies.

Research wise Heini is interested in digital narratives, pedagogy and modelling co-design in the intersection of art, design and technology. Haapaniemi works at the Creative Industries Research Unit (CIRU), South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences.

More at

She has earned her MA (2005) specializing in theatre studies, management and English language and her pedagogy degree (2017) at the University of Helsinki. She has studied dramaturgy for one year at the University of Arts, Theatre Academy, Helsinki and worked in versatile positions from production manager, producer to dramatist, coordinator and facilitator of public events tn Theatres, theatre festivals, cultural houses and foundations prior to her career in Xamk innovations, development and research unit for creative business, CIRU.

Videogames Potentiality: Exploring the Speculative Properties of Digital Assets

Presenter: Edward Morrell

The potential of videogames as a creative medium can be understood through their capacity to contain and combine many more traditional forms such as art, literature and music. The additional spatial, temporal and ludic affordances provided by videogames allow for further augmentation of any media that can be contained within a digital file. Starting from this initial deconstruction of videogames as a collection of assets, or assemblage of different forms, this work considers the relationship between videogames and their constituent parts from an artistic research perspective. Through the notion of videogames partiality, we can further explore their potentiality, as the ‘ideal art form’, all the time delineating the limitations of such medium exceptionalism.

This study utilises digital assets as a means to examine the space between what is actualised in contemporary videogame design and the speculative possibilities of the medium. Any digital asset has the potential to be transformed into a videogame asset and can often be imported as such in modern videogame engines such as ‘Unity’ or ‘Unreal’. Similarly, videogame assets can be exported from commercial game products to be remixed, reframed or repurposed further – this is the foundation of game art (Sharp, 2015), itself deriving from post-production art (Bourriaud, 2002). Videogames can thus be read as being both all-encompassing, totalizing design objects and as a material or texture for artistic expression. To forward understanding of this medium, specifically within an arts context, it has become essential to separate the medium further from the content made with it. Consequently, this research concerns the analysis and development of experimental prototypes, digital art assets and ‘fictional videogames’ – speculative, conceptual or superfiction works presenting videogames that don’t exist. Through the creation of fictional videogames and speculative assets an opportunity has developed to better divorce medium and content, to anatomise potential and observe where the limiting lines lie.

Edward Morrell is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Art and Media. His research concerns speculative approaches to videogames, utilising design fiction and conceptual art to investigate and interrogate the relationship between art, design and games. He holds an MSc in Internet and Game Studies from Tampere University and has worked in both fictional and non-fictional roles as a game designer, developer and artist.

New Media Doctoral Seminar November 23, 2022 15:00-18:00

Please see below for the information regarding the next Doctoral Seminar Presentations:

Presenters: Andrea Mancianti & Sebastian J. Schlecht
Date: November 23 2022
Time: 15:00 -18:00
Zoom Link:

Living thresholds and performing others. An ecological approach to queering immersive sonic experiences.

By Andrea Mancianti
Doctoral Candidate

The context of the present artistic research, carried out in Aalto University’s Department of Art and Media, is centred around the researcher’s own practice as a composer and performer in the field of immersive sonic experiences. This field could be thought as a shifting intersection between electronic and mixed music (the sub-genre of contemporary classical music involving a mixture of acoustic and often traditional instruments and electronics), site-specific installation art or other spatially informed practices such as acoustics, and finally electroacoustic lutherie.
The research is especially concerned with investigating the agencies put in action within the creative processes, especially within collaborative activities where different physical materials and technologies are employed. It enquires how these influence the work of composer and performer, as well as their relationship allowing for a collective, shared creativity to emerge, rather than conceptualising it as an individual effort.
The pieces produced during the course of this research develop across both temporal and spatial artistic domains, appropriating and transforming technologies and practices that are linked to what could be called immersive art (from multichannel installations to Augmented and even Virtual Reality). The project is also an alternative, low-tech and DIY reaction to much of the hype associated with those highly commercial, spectacular entertainments.
The present artistic research, extending across a number of artistic fields and disciplines, is thus strongly motivated by looking for a definition of sonic immersion that can be alternative to those proposed by the mainstream discourses and alternative in its practices.

I am a composer, performer and sound artist mostly devoted to experimental sonic arts. I studied composition with Rosario Mirigliano in the Conservatory of Florence. I hold an MA in composition and music technology from the same conservatory (2012) and a Bachelor in Philosophy from La Sapienza, Rome (2006). I also completed the IRCAM Cursus in Paris (2013-2014). Currently I am a PhD candidate in the department of Media, of Aalto University, Helsinki, researching case-specific sonic experiences. My artistic work, in the intersection between music, sound art and electronic lutherie, includes compositions, installations and mixed media performances, involving interconnected audiovisual ecosystems, where material phenomena extend in the virtual digital world and complex feedback networks are established between the two realms. With media artist Roberto Fusco I founded the audiovisual project quietSpeaker.I am in the board of the association Äänen Lumo (Charm of Sound), to promote experimental music and sound art in Helsinki. I am a strong supporter of open and DIY culture, and my work is all available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. My works have been performed or exhibited in Europe and Usa, for institutions such as Ircam (FR), Biennale Musica (IT), Ars Electronica (AU), Currents New Media (USA), Musica (FR), Impuls and KUG (AU), Muziekcentrum De Bijloke (BE), Centre Henri Pousseur (BE), STUK (BE), Boston University (USA), Nuova Consonanza (IT), Sibelius Academy (FI) and others. Since my biographer is busy, I wrote this my-self in first person.

Sound in 6 degrees-of-freedom VR/AR

By Sebastian J. Schlecht
Guest Speaker

Recent advances in tracking technology brought wide-spread accessibility to room-scale virtual experiences providing the user with movement in 6-Degrees-of-Freedom. But how to create compelling soundscapes that the spectator can freely explore? The possibility to travel through space leads to many technical, perceptual, and design challenges as complex acoustics scenes need to be adapted in real time. Purely physical acoustics rendering continues to be too demanding, particularly for mobile platforms. The most promising results rely on a mixture of efficient algorithms, perceptual subspaces, and sound design. This talk presents recent advances for sound in XR, including virtual room acoustics and insights into auditory perception and sound production in room-scale experiences.

Sebastian J. Schlecht is a Professor of Practice for Sound in Virtual Reality – a joint appointment at the Acoustics Labs, Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics and Media Labs, Department of Art and Media, of Aalto University, Finland. He received the Diploma in Applied Mathematics from the University of Trier, Germany in 2010 and an M.Sc. degree in Digital Music Processing from Queen Mary University of London, U.K., in 2011. In 2017, he received a Doctoral degree at the International Audio Laboratories Erlangen, Germany, on the topic of artificial spatial reverberation and reverberation enhancement systems. From 2012 to 2019, Dr. Schlecht was also external research and development consultant and lead developer of the 3D Reverb algorithm at the Fraunhofer IIS, Erlangen, Germany. Between 2010 and 2019, he spent half his working time as a touring and recording musician playing internationally with bands such as Mighty Oaks, David Lemaitre, and Get Well Soon.

His research interests are acoustic modeling and auditory perception of acoustics, analysis and synthesis of feedback systems, music information retrieval, and virtual and augmented reality and their artistic applications.

He is the recipient of multiple journal and conference best paper awards, including JAES (2020), WASPAA (2019), DAFx (2018, 2021, 2022), and AES AVAR (2018).

Defence of Doctoral Thesis in the Field of New Media, MA Neha Sayed

Cover of Neha Sayed's dissertation book

MA Neha Sayed will defend the thesis “The Changing Meaning of an Urban Place” on Friday 17 June 2022 at 14:00 in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art and Media at Otakaari 1, lecture hall A1 (Otaniementie 14, Espoo) and online in Zoom (please click here to join). The event language is English.

Doctoral Candidate: MA Neha Sayed
Opponent: Professor Brendon Clark, Umeå University, Sweden
Custos: Professor Lily Díaz-Kommonen, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art and Media

The audience is kindly asked to enter the lecture hall or join Zoom no later than 14:00.

Information at Aalto University web page: EnglishFinnish

The doctoral thesis is available and publicly displayed 10 days before the event here

Doctoral theses in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture available here.

 Image related to Neha Sayed's dissertation "The Changing Meaning of an Urban Place". A busy street crossing view from India.


The meaning of an urban place for a traditional trading community on Ṭapāl Nākā develops in response to the development policies enforced by the government’s planning department. The government policies are enforced through artefacts such as maps and reports. The analysis of these artefacts reveals their purpose to control the development. Their operational role also assigns a certain meaning to the place. These policies are adapted to by the community as a post-implementation response. Their concerns are expressed through mobilising trade networks to emphasise the trade practices and property ownership patterns. The ethnographic data of networks and spaces analysed using the collective cultural memory framework of Assmann(1995) reveals the meaning of Ṭapāl Nākā generated by the community. The government is now implementing smart technologies to enforce their regulatory control, strengthening their meaning of Ṭapāl Nākā. The community is already well-versed with technologies such as surveillance cameras connected to smartphones. The Internet of Things (IoT) technology can reinforce the voice of the community addressing their concerns related to development. This is shown by an exemplary design concept for traffic management to be implemented by the community. This design concept which improvises upon the way the community already manages traffic indicates the possibility of enhancing the community’s meaning of place. The research contribution lies in presenting an approach to study the meaning of place for design intervention and exploring the role that IoT technology may play in the changing meaning of place. It also contributes to the IoT paradigm by indicating a pro-community approach for technological development. The research contributes to the urban planning discipline by revealing the disparity in the meaning of a place. More immediately, the project contributes to New Media research by highlighting the role of media studies in the developing understanding of IoT.


Profile picture of the doctoral candidate Neha Sayed.

MA Neha Sayed

Neha Sayed started her PhD in the Department of Media in 2016. In her doctoral research she investigated the role IoT can play in the changing meaning of an urban place. She conducted a two-year-long field work with a trading community in India to establish the change such a ubiquitous technology can play in traditional community networks. The research was conducted using ethnographic methods such as narrative-ethnography to understand the communitie’s relationship with technology. She also did geospatial mapping in GIS to understand the urban fabric which has a complex transformative nature responding to urban planning.

She graduated as an architect from the university of Mumbai in 2000. Since then, she has done a combination of architectural practice, teaching and research in Navi Mumbai. Her masters in Experience Design from Konstfack, Sweden, added a new dimension of design research based in User Centered Design to her skill-set. In her career she has remained focused on the role and identity of media in the changing times of last twenty years.

Contact information: email

FOURTH NEW MEDIA DOCTORAL SEMINAR of SPRING 2022 – Thursday, 12 May, 16:30 – 18:30


The seminar will take place on Zoom, Thursday 12 May, starting at 16:30 and ending at 18:30 (UTC/GMT+3, Helsinki, EEST). Mediated by Professor Lily Díaz-Kommonen, we have an interesting presentation by Kirsi Manninen about her work “Using ‘A Digital Pocket Atelier’ For Creative Teamwork — What Are the Impacts and Meaning of Digital Screen Sketching On the Professional Competence of Costume Designers?

Zoom link: Please click here to join the seminar!


Using ‘A Digital Pocket Atelier’ For Creative Teamwork — What Are the Impacts and Meaning of Digital Screen Sketching On the Professional Competence of Costume Designers?
by Kirsi Manninen

Illustration Image depicting a woman practicing self-regulating, organisational and work-related skills included with key-words. by Kirsi Manning


Over the past decades, costume designers have begun to combine traditional hand-drawing and digital sketching techniques in a costume design procedure. In addition to computer-aided costume design and traditional hand-drawing, costume designers have recently switched to advancing more and more different tablets and mobile devices while designing costumes for the characters. This thesis builds an understanding about costume sketching and considers how the particular competency of a costume designer — digital costume sketching — affects a designer’s subjective knowledge of one’s own skills as well as their ability to perform the tasks required for the design process and collaborative teamwork. The role of sketching techniques and digital sketchbooks has so far received too little attention from a research perspective. The participants in this study were recruited from costume designers who utilized a tablet device as a portable ‘pocket atelier’ and created costume sketches on the screen of the tablet. This thesis presents ideas and theories on the effects of digital costume design methods in the field of performing arts, as sketching tools and methods play a crucial role in the visual presentation of costume sketches and communicating with them.

This practice-based research relies on ethnomethodology and is interested in the routines of sketching and the outcomes and meanings of specific design activity. In this study, the source of knowledge is based on thinking through drawing and on the interpretation of physical and digital costume sketches. The purpose of this thesis is to find answers to the research question: what are the impacts and meanings of digital costume sketching on the professional competence of costume designers?

Qualitative methods offer an effective way to use a practice as a source of data by illuminating retrospective accounts related to sketching techniques. In this thesis, I have approached and participated in my research topic openly from many perspectives. The key method in this dissertation has been that by making things progress. For this reason, I have avoided over-planning both in the conduct of research and in the preparation of written outputs. I tried to do matters one thing at a time and see how the research that has already been done leads to new subjects.

The material for this study is collected through a literature review, samples from digital character creation courses (students), the researcher’s own autoethnographic data and through semi-structured interviews. Participants in semi-structured interviews consist of eight professional costume designers between the ages of 20 and 60, drawn from the fields of theatre, film and other performing arts from across Finland. The aim of the data collection is to obtain answers to research questions. The focus of my research is to examine the nature of costume sketching methods and the significance of the research topic from the point of view of the practical working life of costume designers.

Regarding the research question, it was found that the positive feedback as well as the better management of the use of sketching tools, time and space had a positive effect on the whole costume design process. Overall, the results indicate that there was an association between digital costume sketching methods and the professional competence of the designer. Taken together, these results suggest that the digital transformation changed the costume designers’ vision of their expertise to better meet the needs of the organization they worked with.

Keywords: costume design, digital costume sketching, screen sketching, tablet device, competence


Image showing DA candidate and Scenographer Kirsi Manninen and some of her self-portrait works

DA Candidate Kirsi Manninen

Kirsi Manninen, MA, is a Helsinki-based costume designer, teacher of digital character creation and doctoral candidate at Aalto University. The topic of her research is: Digital Transformation and Professional Competence in Costume Design. Her professional credits include designing costumes for more than one hundred productions for television, theatre, and film. She is one of the pioneers in the development of digital sketching methods for costume designers. She has taught and lectured digital character creation in several institutions in Finland and abroad: Aalto University School of Art and Design, London College of Fashion: UAL, University of Arts London, University of Lapland, Prague Quadrennial (the world’s largest exhibition of theatre architecture) and (Teme, LP) Union for the Theatre, Film and Television Designers and TV1, Finnish Public Broadcaster Yle. In 2020, she was awarded an Artist of the Year in Helsinki.





HYBRID EVENT: MIT Media Lab x Aalto Media Lab – Friday 29 April 2022

Image of Aalto x MIT <INTERFACES> event poster.


MIT Media Lab< interfaces > Aalto Media Lab is an informal mingling event between the Media labbers in Helsinki and Cambridge. Here you will be welcome to share your ongoing research and projects, and learn about each other’s work both live and in Zoom breakout rooms.

You will be able to gain insight from your distinct perspectives and talk about your ideas. It might be useful to prepare a one slide presentation about who you are and about your interests in the field of new media.

The hybrid event will happen on the 29th of April at 12:00 (UTC-5) Cambridge / at 19:00 (UTC+2) Helsinki on-site in each of the Media Labs and the bridge over Zoom.

Please register for the event if you wish to attend in-person or online before 28 April.

Facebook event 

THIRD NEW MEDIA DOCTORAL SEMINAR of SPRING 2022 – Thursday, 28 April, 16:30 – 18:30


The seminar will take place in Zoom on Thursday, 28 April, starting at 16:30 and ending at 18:30 (UTC/GMT+2, Helsinki, EEST). Mediated by Professor Lily Díaz-Kommonen, we have an interesting presentation by Mamdooh Afdile about his work Toward implicit cinema. A search for a Numinous filmic experience.

Before the presentation we will also have a guest talk titled ‘Composing the Performance’ by Professor Kent Olofsson who is a collaborator in Mahdooh Afdile’s recent work ‘Implicit Cinema’. Kent Olofsson is a Professor of performing arts for the research area Concept and Composition at the Stockholm University of the Arts.

In his presentation, Professor Olofsson will discuss how he has been exploring musical composition as a dramaturgical device in the creation of performing arts. He will use examples from his works in theatre, dance, radio plays and opera to demonstrate the artistic processes that aim to integrate the elements in performances into polyphonic theatre experiences. He will also discuss artistic methods in the collaborations with performers, scenographers, playwrights, and directors. His methods challenge traditional hierarchies and working structures, which change and expand working roles in productions.

Zoom link: Please click here to join the seminar!


‘Toward implicit cinema. A search for a Numinous filmic experience.’
by Mamdooh Afdile

Image related to Mamdooh Afdile's presentation.


Predicting how cinematic experiences will evolve in the future is a challenging task, arguably because the fundamental question of why we watch movies is still not clear. A number of theories were proposed to answer this question, yet the debate is still ongoing. In this brief presentation I will propose my answer to this question based on novel results from unpublished data providing an insight on the leading motivation for watching fictional movies. Furthermore, I will also present preliminary results from my current artistic research “Implicit cinema”, that builds upon these findings. Implicit cinema is a meditative and reflexive audiovisual experience inspired by Carl Jung’s Active Imagination method. This audiovisual experience aims to give an alternative to the hyperstimulative media we are currently surrounded with, by engaging in a self-reflecting experience, facilitated by projective viewing mode.


Image of New Media Doctor of Arts candidate Mamdooh Afdile.

New Media DA candidate Mamdooh Afdile.

Mamdooh Afdile is a filmmaker and researcher interested in interdisciplinary approach to filmmaking and production by integrating neuroscientific and psychological perspectives to audiovisual art practice. In 2019 Afdile developed PMSM; a method for investigating the subconscious brain with movies, in collaboration with neuroscientists at the brain and mind lab in Aalto. In his latest publication in 2021 he introduced the Scientific Hypothesis Approach to filmmaking practice, which was showcased in his short film “Helsinki Accord”. Currently Afdile is an Assistant Professor in the film and media department at Stockholm University of the Arts.

Kent Olofsson is a composer and an artist in the field of performing arts with an extensive artistic output that spans a broad range of genres, ensemble types, art forms and contexts including music for orchestra, chamber music, electronic music, contemporary theatre, dance performances, opera, radiophonic art, and rock music. In recent years his artistic work and research has been particularly focused on exploring musical composition as dramaturgical strategies in interdisciplinary and intermedial theatre performances. In his thesis Composing the Performance: An exploration of musical composition as a dramaturgical strategy in contemporary intermedial theatre from 2018 he discusses artistic and collaborative processes in performances that are situated in the intersection between contemporary theatre, new music, radio plays and performance art. Recent works and productions include the highly acclaimed Independence Day and In Search of Lost Time (a staging of Proust’s novel), two intermedial stage works created in collaboration with actor, writer and director Nina Jeppsson. Olofsson is a Professor of performing arts for the research area Concept and Composition at the Stockholm University of the Arts.

Defence of Doctoral Thesis in the Field of New Media, MA Ilan Manouach

MA Ilan Manouach will defend the thesis ‘Estranging Comics – Towards a novel comics praxeology’ on 22 April at 12:00 in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art and Media.

The defense is organized as a hybrid event and will be held both live at Väre, lecture hall F101 (Otaniementie 14, Espoo) and in Zoom (please click here for link).

Doctoral Candidate: MA Ilan Manouach
Opponent: Dr. Jan Baetens, KU Leuven, Belgium
Custos: Dr. Bassam El Baroni, Assistant Professor in Curating and Mediating Art at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University.

Information at Aalto University web page: EnglishFinnish

The doctoral thesis is available and publicly displayed 10 days before the event here.

Image of Shapereader by Ilan Manouach, a system for tactile storytelling specifically designed for blind and partially sighted readers/makers of comics .

Shapereader by Ilan Manouach.


The industry-wide adoption of digital and network technologies has produced long-lasting and unevenly distributed effects in all the sectors of the comics industry. The globalization of markets and services has profoundly reshaped comics labor. Its effects are economic (the precarization of craftsmanship traditions), social (the rise of entrepreneurial fan culture and the consolidation of increasingly diversified communities with novel forms of amateur and semi-professional activity), technical (the introduction of digital tools for the distribution, the archival and retrieval of media artefacts) and aesthetic (the gradual integration in the production pipeline of AI and synthetic media). As is demonstrated by the recent emergence of radical forms of experimentation documented in the Conceptual Comics media collections of Ubuweb and Monoskop, comic artists are often able to leverage the dependencies of the ever-growing network infrastructure of the comics industry. Nevertheless, these disruptions foreground an epistemic crisis in the understanding of contemporary comics, both in academia and in more traditionally established professional spheres.

This thesis embraces an attitude of productive estrangement towards the medium’s forms, material qualities and operations, and constructs comics as a “contemporary object”. According to philosopher Anne-Françoise Schmid, a contemporary object is an extra-disciplinary entity that is massively distributed in space and time. Understanding such an object depends on the increasingly aggregate nature of knowledge production and dissemination in the computational age. Both in theory, with a series of papers in peer-review journals, and in artistic practice, by way of published comics and commissioned curatorial projects, this thesis examines the mutations of the comics ecology as an expansion of the scope of knowledge. It embraces the cumulative impact of digital transformation and articulates a novel comics praxeology predicated on two conditions. First, the thesis appeals for a systematic exploration of comics outside of narrow media purviews, the implicitly disciplinary conceptions, and the dominant historical perspectives in Comics Studies. It aims to develop a conception that embraces a rigorous application of a non-hegemonic interdisciplinarity in comics research. Second, and most importantly, the thesis argues for the expansion of operational agency on the part of comics professionals. This agency is described as a heightened contextual appreciation of the industry’s infrastructural backend, an awareness of its imbricated institutions and a diversification of the professional toolbox. I argue that a novel comics praxeology is a necessary attribute in order to embrace future, speculative, unclaimed or hitherto impossible forms in comics expression.


Profile picture of doctoral candidate, MA Ilan Manouach

MA Ilan Manouach

Ilan Manouach is a researcher, a musician and a multidisciplinary artist with a specific interest in conceptual and post-digital comics. His research examines how this century’s frontier technologies such as AI, financial technologies and globalized logistics reshape the comics industry. He is mostly known for Shapereader, a system for tactile storytelling specifically designed for blind and partially sighted readers/makers of comics. He is the founder of Echo Chamber, a Brussels-based non-profit organization with the mission to produce, fundraise, document and archive radical and speculative artistic practices in contemporary comics. The topics of his research and artistic practice include conceptual comics, post-internet publishing, and synthetic media and AI. On the side, Ilan works as a pirate/librarian for the Conceptual Comics Collections at Ubuweb and Monoskop, is an appointed expert in experimental comics for the Belgian government for its national public funding program (CCAP) and works as a strategy consultant for the Onassis Foundation and its visibility through its newly funded publishing activity.

Contact information: email / +30694169008

SECOND NEW MEDIA DOCTORAL SEMINAR of SPRING 2022 – Thursday, 24 March, 16:30 – 18:30


The seminar will take place in Zoom on Thursday, 24 March, starting at 16:30 and ending at 18:30 (UTC/GMT+2, Helsinki, EEST). Mediated by Professor Lily Díaz-Kommonen, we have an interesting presentation by Ningfeng Zhang about his work ‘From “Roll Up Our Sleeves to Work Hard” to “Lie Flat”: Mediated Discourse Analysis of How Memetic Engagement Exerts its Potential in Shaping Collective Memory in China’s Social Media‘.

Zoom link: Please click here to join the seminar!


From “Roll Up Our Sleeves to Work Hard” to “Lie Flat”: Mediated Discourse Analysis of How Memetic Engagement Exerts its Potential in Shaping Collective Memory in China’s Social Media
by Ningfeng Zhang

Image related to DA candidate Ningfeng Zhang's work 'From “Roll Up Our Sleeves to Work Hard” to “Lie Flat”: Mediated Discourse Analysis of How Memetic Engagement Exerts its Potential in Shaping Collective Memory in China’s Social Media'



This study focuses on the modal and discursive capability of online discursive repertoire as a “memetic engagement” in the potential shaping process of collective memory in China’s social media. The case study involved in this research concerns an ongoing online socio-cultural phenomenon called the “Lying flat movement”, and its essence can be considered as a form of memetic social action to challenge the existing, institutionalized glorification and aestheticization of a kind of chaotic social competition process that curls inward instead of outward, ensnaring its participants within an endless cycle of meaningless self-flagellation. This hustle working culture is disguised with the term “Spirit of Hardwork”, which was originally brought forth by the founder of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Tse-Tung in the 1950s.

The material consists of 11,555 comments collected from Chinese social media platforms, namely “Sina Weibo” and “Toutiao”. The former is China’s leading microblogging platform, and the latter is seen as one of China’s leading news and information platform that uses its algorithm models to generate a tailored feed list based on both popularity and personal interest of contents for each user.

Mediated discourse analysis (MDA) was applied to understand the form, content, and stances of the total 11,555 comments in a holistic way as a discursive repertoire, a memetic engagement inheriting a series of intermedial affordances that function as mnemonic shaping potentials in collective recollection.

Through this study, the author aims to expand and deepen the understanding of online memetic engagement as (1) a multimodal “hupomnemata” with formal capabilities in memory shaping; (2) an ideological cluster with narrative capabilities in memory shaping; and (3) a social action stemming from the entanglement of “discourse in place”, “interaction order”, and “historical body”.


Profile picture of New Media DA candidate, Ningfeng Zhang

New Media DA candidate Ningfeng Zhang

Ningfeng Zhang is a doctoral candidate currently working as a new media researcher with Prof. Dr. Lily Díaz -Kommonen. His research interest focuses on the social, cultural, and political relevance and the generation mechanism of internet memes in the context of the Chinese media environment, exploring the mechanism of how internet memes, as a form of visual rhetoric, a propaganda entity, a phenomenological studying subject, a discursive hypomnemata, as well as a facet of citizen journalism, generate, mutate and proliferate in a highly homogeneous media environment.