Saila Poutiainen, University of Helsinki, Finland

The following is a synopsis of an interview (conducted by Todd Sandel) with Saila in June, 2012, while attending the “Ethnography of Communication: Ways Forward” Conference, in Omaha, Nebraska at Creighton University. To listen to the audio of this interview click the play button below.


  • Can you tell me a little about yourself? Where did you study, and what is your current position?

I studied both in Finland and the United States. I have a master’s degree in Speech Communication from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. In the early 90s I met Donal Carbaugh in Finland. After studying traditional intercultural communication in Finland, the way he studied from an LSI perspective made sense. Thus I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst where I completed the PhD and wrote a dissertation, “Finnish Cultural Discourses about Mobile Phone Communication” (2007). While writing the dissertation I was working at the University of Helsinki, which is my current position. I am one of two faculty who teach speech communication at the BA and MA levels.

  • What piece was inspirational to you as an LSI scholar and researcher?

The only time I have cried reading a piece of research, was when I read the prologue to Kristine Fitch’s (Muñoz) book Speaking Relationally (1999). It described relationships in ways I found interesting to study. My hope is that in the future, perhaps ten years, I will write something like that about Finnish communication.

  • What questions you are currently exploring?

I have much data from Finns talking about “summer cottage.” I’m hoping to combine that with my work on the mobile phone. In both cases they talk about “being in peace” which is a cultural term for being, implying certain ways of communicating and being with other people. I’m hoping to publish on that. Another is early work with colleagues on what a “close relationship” feels like with a person who has a memory illness. We have collected data in the US and Finland. It’s a big problem and I hope we can help people in that kind of situation.

  • What do you see are ways forward for you personally, or LSI scholarship in general?

I’m looking at this from a Finnish perspective, and see this as a missing perspective in Finland, and am bringing in this literature to studies of interpersonal and mediated communication.