New professor wants to help others grow and succeed

As a newly appointed professor in Informatics at the University of Gothenburg, Juho Lindman explores emerging technologies with uncertain prospects. His latest area of interest is blockchain. To succeed as a professor, it is equally important for the individuals in his environment to prosper.

Professor Juho Lindman
Photo: Maja Härnqvist

What does it mean to you, getting promoted to Professor in Informatics?

Academia is a curious but old institution, and the professors play a key role in maintaining academia.  Therefore, it is a great honor and privilege to be now counted as a full professor. But this institution and new role also pose a real challenge: how to live up to the expectations and use this remarkable opportunity to make a difference in academia and society?

In my mind, becoming a professor is about choosing a life of service – and by that, I do not only mean administrative service work so prevalent in modern academia. The job is about helping others to grow - and to succeed. Professors succeed only when the people they work with succeed. It is about nurturing, protecting, and growing your academic environment. It is about pursuing knowledge together in a nice and constructive academic environment that we have built together. But academic environments are also very vulnerable, not making these easy tasks.

Nobody ever succeeds only on their own in academia

Nobody ever succeeds only on their own in academia, everybody is deeply indebted to their academic environment and closest collaborators. I am grateful, too, to the people who have allowed me to grow and learn. In becoming a professor, I will return this gratitude to do my best to let this environment thrive.

On a more personal note, I strongly believe it is important for the division and the department to have professors also not originally born in Sweden. Even though Finns are in many ways culturally close to Swedes, this has not always been the easiest of journeys. I consider myself a part of a long line of Finnish immigrants that have for centuries come to Sweden looking for opportunities that were not present in their homeland and then contributing to this society in different ways.

How would you describe your research?

My current research is about understanding and researching emerging technologies. These technologies are still uncertain, risky, hyped, and in progress. The jury is still out on whether they will succeed - or not.

My most recent technological interest has been blockchain technology and the processes surrounding taking this technology into use in organizations. I have especially focused on how esp. public sector is piloting this technology. My starting point is that technologies do not come to us as fixed – there are always some renegotiations when (digital) technologies enter organizations and when technologies move from ideas and words to actual implementations, artifacts, and form parts of infrastructures – when technologies become more stable in their form and function.

GU Blockchain lab is an attempt to understand this technology and other related technologies better. This will allow us to understand better how novel this technology in terms of Information Systems is, but also to determine what is already useful to take into educational curriculum and what remains hyperbole.

In what way is your research of use for the society?

Understanding these processes better in contemporary society is important, as digital technologies and infrastructures are everywhere. We, as scholars, have a rare opportunity to understand past designs and improve current designs – in general, to make informed choices and educate others. This is especially important for “risky” emerging technologies that are still further away – we can learn about the good and the bad they potentially bring and take this into account when making choices about what kinds of digital technologies we want – or do not want, as designers, as regulators, as citizens, and as academics. 

What motivates you as a researcher?

I am curious to know more about what the future society will look like and to have a say in the process that brings it about. Some academics have a narrow focus on their research: I am the other kind. I have been lucky to have researched several topics that have evolved into something interesting. These examples include, for example, open source, open data, and now blockchains, but I have dabbled in several other areas too.

What will be your next focus?

Shoshana Zuboff's book Surveillance Capitalism had a significant impact on my thinking. I have recently started to develop an interest in regulation in the context of emerging technology. This area is where many things are happening, and the European Union has taken an active role in developing digital technologies, such as the recent work around the AI Act. I think these developments pose some specific pressures on universities to understand these technologies better and then make public what they are so that there can be an informed public discourse about their impact.