Professor Pekka Himanen — A Brief Bio

Mission: Dignity For All

Introduction

Professor Pekka Himanen is one of the internationally best-known researchers of the information age whose books have been translated into over 20 languages from the Americas to Asia (English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Croatian, Estonian, Swedish, and Finnish). He has authored or edited 15 books as well as numerous articles.

The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age

After obtaining his PhD in Philosophy at the age of 20 (Helsinki University) Himanen moved first to England and then to the United States (Stanford and Berkeley). The best-known work of this research period is The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age (2001) that has been compared to Max Weber’s classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by Manuel Castells and others. Castells also writes: “Pekka Himanen's theory of the hacker culture as the spirit of informationalism is a fundamental breakthrough in the discovery of the world unfolding in the uncertain dawn of the third millennium.” Whereas “the Protestant Ethic” described the spirit of capitalism in the Industrial Age “the Hacker Ethic” describes the culture of the Information Age.

Developing the Theory of the Information Age

In the recent years, Himanen has focused on his international research cooperation on developing the theory of the Information Age, where his special themes include the culture of creativity and the culture of caring. Related to this, he has published, among many other works, the influential book The Information Society and the Welfare State (Oxford University Press 2002) that has been widely discussed within the leading academic and policy-making circles. He has also published numerous arcticles, most recently in the volume The Aftermath: The Cultures of the Economic Crisis (Oxford University Press 2012). Anthony Giddens has commented on this work: “This book marks a breakthrough.”

As a sign of the global impact of Himanen’s research work, he has received many international recognitions, such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader for Tomorrow award in 2003 and the selection as a Young Global Leader in 2005. In 2012, he was chosen as a member of the Club of Rome.

Synthesizing the last decade’s work: Dignity as the goal of development

Most recently Himanen has been focused on synthesizing his research work of the last decade through the concept of dignified life. Related to this, he is a Co-Founder of Global Dignity with Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and John Hope Bryant, a member of President Obama’s advisory council. The initiative has operated in over 50 countries worldwide. The Global Dignity intiative includes also e.g. the Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Amartya Sen and President Martti Ahtisaari as well as Sir Richard Branson and Ambassador Andrew Young as its Honorary Board members.

According to Himanen’s synthesis of his philosophical and social scientific work, the ultimate goal of development should be to advance every person’s opportunity to lead a dignified life. This is a step further from his earlier research work on the cultures of creativity and caring – and the theory of the Information Age conditioning them in our time.

International keynote speaker and lecturer

Himanen is a very popular lecturer around the world. He has lectured in the world’s leading universities as well as given keynote talks in numerous leading international forums: ranging from giving a talk to the group of the CEOs of the 60 biggest IT companies from Bill Gates the founders of Google or giving the closing ceremony presentation at the World Economic Forum with Desmond Tutu. Himanen’s university courses at the Aalto University Film Studio and the Grand Auditorium of the Helsinki University are among the most popular in Finland: at best, there have been more than 1000 registered participants. Himanen has also been awarded for his merits as a lecturer with the Govermental Award (Valtion tiedonjulkistamispalkinto) and for advancing science by being selected the Alumnus of the Year of the Helsinki University. He is also one of the most popular lecturers invited by corporations.

The broader cultural impact

Himanen’s synthetic approach which aims at having also a real life impact on everyone’s opportunity to lead a dignified life has always broken traditional disciplinary boundaries and had a wider cultural dimension. This includes having written articles to, for example, the Time Magazine and The Financial Times. Himanen cultural character has even inspired books, poems, TV shows, and plays written on “Pekka Himanen.” One example is the award-winning play Cherished Disappointments in Love by Jouko Turkka, performed in Finland and in London (Soho Theatre). In this satirical play a female journalist falls in love with the young “Himanen,” which starts a very wild series of love stories. The journalist confesses her falling in love:

The noise we made! I am like a dancing open fireplace! I am like a fountain splattering flames! And Himanen comes like a fucking fire engine! He made me change colour like a tropical sunset! Thunder is racking in my sky and a fireball is blazing under my skirt! My hair is whipping the trees and rocks!… and the bottom of the lake and the upper regions of the heavens… and those stars up there… so near you can hold them in your hand!

Current main positions and contact information

Currently, Himanen divides his time between being a Professor at the Aalto University and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Earlier, in addition to the places mentioned above, he has been a Visiting Professor at the Oxford University and a Visiting Professor at the new fully Internet-based Open University of Catalonia.

To contact Professor Himanen, email to: pekka.himanen@aalto.fi

For some more information on his work: see the CV (selection since 2000).

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