Crossing Borders of an International Language

This is an abstract of a paper to be presented under the subtheme 'Knowledge construction, diffusion and transformation' of the UNESCO Conference on Teaching and Learning for Intercultural Understanding, Human Rights and a Culture of Peace in Jyväskylä, Finland, 15-18 June 2003.

Participatory Research in the Activities of an Interregional Orchestra

Finland's government has created a network of competence centres, which covers all parts of the country and a wide variety of knowledge and skills. The Centre of Expertise Programme is carried out under the European Union. It is a Finnish answer to the challenges of regional development: Rather than artificially balancing regional weaknesses, the program is based on a positive thesis of identifying strength. After a period of focusing on hard science, it is now being assumed that also culture, and in this case more specifically music, can be a factor of development.

Kuhmo is situated in Kainuu region in the middle part of the country and close to the Russian border. The town is well-known for extraordinary skills in chamber music productions. This formed the basis of the government's decision to try out the potentials of music in the regional development program.

The author has a background in real-time music net education as well as development research. He moved from Finland's music university, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki to Kuhmo to gain an alternative perspective into the process of information society construction. The Centre wanted to take benefit from the achievements of information technology, with the aim of making information and communication technology a catalyst in the process of reinforcing the local action environment.

The orchestra Sinfonietta Lentua started in 2002 as a project of Kuhmo Music Institute. The aim was to train students to become competent orchestra musicians. The easy-going conductor, Jukka-Pekka Kuusela has taken benefit of his knowledge in the Russian language and the conditions of the neighboring Karelian Republic of Russia. He managed to form an orchestra with half of the musicians coming from Kainuu region and the other half from Karelia.

Participatory research puts an emphasis on raising an awareness of existing knowledge and skills as a way of unleashing development potential. This is often done by involving the subjects of the study in the very process of formulating problems and even of setting aims for the research. Instead of passively observing the development process, the researcher takes an active part by contributing with analytic skills.

After assuming the role of producer of the orchestra, the author carried out a series of discussions with the conductor and many of the crucial decision-makers. In this process it became evident that while 20 regions in Finland have a professional regional orchestra, Kainuu doesn't have one. The activities of the conductor had resulted in interregional cooperation, which in complexity and skill by far exceeded what most other fields of cooperation could demonstrate. Equipped with this understanding, the level of the activities was raised to the target of producing an interregional professional orchestra.

Instead of making cultural differences a barrier, which could prevent the orchestra from achieving its goals, intercultural communication became one of the driving forces behind the new line of action. Drawing on Finland's initiative for activation of a northern dimension of the European Union, the Sinfonietta coined a motto of being an Orchestra in a New Dimension. The content of the concerts was explicitly formulated to promote intercultural understanding and thus accelerate interregional cooperation. This was possible by utilizing the multimedia and net communication skills of Kuhmo's Centre of Expertise.

— Philip Donner


Donner, Philip: Tietoyhteiskuntaan susirajalla? [The conditions of information society construction in periferal areas of Finland]. Musiikin Suunta 2/2001, s. 65-73.

Donner, Philip: Nets in an Archipelago of Information Provinces. Paper at the 'Development Intervention - Methodological Approaches and Debates' conference, 16th March 2002 at the Viikki Infocenter of the University of Helsinki.

Donner, Philip: Sinfonietta Lentua - Uuden ulottuvuuden orkesteri. Raportti orkesterin työskentelyperiodista 19-25.10.2002. English Summary: Music in a New Dimension. 25 s.

Donner, Philip and Matti Ruippo: Music in a New Dimension. Paper at Online Educa Berlin, 8th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning & Training, November 27 29, 2002. The Presentation was based on a 20' netcasting multimedia presentation produced by Ph. Donnner.

Jerman, Helena: "Hur ryssar presenteras i tv-dokumentärer" [How russians are being presented in documentary programs on TV]. Nordisk Østforum 1/2003 [Article in process].

Swantz, Marja-Liisa, "A Personal Position Paper on Participatory research: Personal Quest for Living KnowLedge". In Qualitative Inquiry, Vol.2, Number 1, March 1996: 119-136. Special Issue: Quality in Human Inquiry, eds. Reason Peter and Yvonne S. Lincoln.