3 månader i Nya Zeeland börjar här.

Plötsligt stod jag där, utfanför Victoria University. Solen starkt brännande i nacken, shortsen lite för tighta kring rumpan, skjortärmarna uppvikta och med nykammat hår. Det känns som första dagen i skolan tänkte jag. Nya Zeeland är annars lite som “Bizarro world” där allt är tvärt om. Om man kunde se mig från månen, stående utanför universitetet i Wellington, skulle det se ut som jag stod upp och ner och jag borde i all rimlighet trilla rakt ner i universums djup. Vattnent snurrar medurs när man spolar toaletten eller tömmer badkaret (en av många visdommar jag lärt av The Simpsons) man kör på vänster sida av vägen, norra delen av landet är varmare än södra och man kallar basket för nätboll och brännboll för kricket. Men Nya Zeeland är samtidigt ett väldigt familjärt ställe att resa till där barnmat, blöjor, bussresor, trafikljus, restaurangbesök, varuhus, bad och shopping verkar fungera precis som hemma.

Jag är här först och främst för att skriva. Men också för att upprätthålla utbytesavtal mellan högskolan och Auckland University of Technology. Jag är också här för att bada, äta och dricka gott, prata engelska, kolla vingårdar, besöka troll och orcher samt – och detta kom som en överraskning – bli “fit”! Wellington är nämligen förlagd i en del av världen där du inte kan gå 100 meter utan att träffa på en backe, som i Skånska mått mätt handlar om ren bergsbestigning.

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My second host in Istanbul: The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

2015-01-05 17.33.352d7e7b69-00c8-40dd-a70a-a30a07d32744
During my Erasmus visit to Istanbul I had the privilege to stay at The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. The research institute is located on the European side of the city close to Taksim Square and was established in 1962. It was at first given access to small lodgings at the Consulate General of Sweden on a site bought by the Swedish state in the year 1757 for the then Swedish Embassy in Ottoman Constantinople.
In 1974, the so-called Dragoman House, situated behind the Palais de Suède of the Consulate General and once the home of interpreters (dragomans) working for the Swedish diplomats, came into the possession of the research institute. After several phases of restoration work, the Dragoman House at present comprises the secretariat and library of the Institute, as well as an auditorium and, on the top floor of the building, the residence of the Director. More information about the research institute can be found here: http://www.srii.org/

Next to the Dragoman House is a guest house with rooms for 10-15 guests, kitchen facilities, two seminar rooms and a beautiful terrace. The guest rooms, in the first place intended for scholarship holders and researchers from the Nordic countries. More information a can be found here: http://www.sfv.se/sv/fastigheter/utrikes/europa/istanbul-turkiet-svenska-forskningsinstitutet/

The guest house is very comfortable and a great place to meet other researchers staying in Istanbul. Moreover, the library in the Dragoman House provides a comfortable environment during working hours. I have spent my late afternoons there writing up my analysis on Istanbul´s urban expansion. I would like to say thank you to the staff at SRII for providing me with such a wonderful environment.

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Staff seminar 6 January 2015: Spatial Temporal Analysis on Istanbul Urban Expansion Using NASA MODIS EVI Images

Analysis on Istanbul Urban Expansion by Using MODIS_001
After giving an introductory lecture focusing on spatial methods to analyse urbanization using remote sensing data it was finally time to present initial findings of the changing urban landscape in Istanbul from 2000 to 2013. The analysis was conducted together with my colleague and graduate student Mr. Eigo TATEISHI and make use of a dataset called MOD13QI (MODIS EVI) which is available free of charge from NASA. However, before entering the analysis I would like to provide a few recent facts about the urbanization in Istanbul during recent years. This process is highly controversial and has stirred political turbulence providing news widely spread around the globe. Rapid urban land development is in many settings, not only in an emerging market context, controversial. Making land available for private or public development can cause environmental problems for example in the case of Istanbul turning the forest area surrounding the city to urban and built up areas or social and economic problems when suburban areas used by city dwellers with less financial capacity are converted into more expensive housing for the city´s population that can afford higher rents. In recent years the city planning strategy has been focused on large scale development projects called mega projects (see below images from Turkish media).


istanbul channel

To mention a few among many projects; the third international airport located on the European side of the city to ease the congested Atatürk Airport, on the European side of Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen International on the Asian side, a channel for sea freight connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara to ease the congested Bosphorus, subway tunnel to connect the Asian and European sides of the city, public housing and real estate projects catering for the city´s growing middle class´s demand for high quality and more luxurious housing in suburban locations. The spatial/temporal analysis of the changing land use patterns in Istanbul clearly find patterns were land used for forest and other vegetation has been converted into urban and built up area during last 13 years. The analysis is conducted using a resolution of 250m indicating a relationship between areas with observed large scale and infrastructure (see below image). The analysis based on satellite images conducted by me with very limited knowledge about the urban development in Istanbul clearly needed the contextual knowledge provided by my colleagues here. Once the results of the initial analysis were presented comments and suggestions were delivered. The main comments relate to find accurate measures on the extent of the urbanization in order to compare different districts in the city and the relationship between urban expansion and the present infrastructure development. There is definitely scope to develop the initial spatial analysis into an article which hopefully can be co-authored by colleagues from my host university. This would be a great outcome of my two weeks Erasmus scholarship and a great start for in-depth collaboration with Bahçeşehir University. The next steps of my stay here will be devoted to providing lectures on the GIS methods used for remote sensing analysis and to refine and expand my present analysis on Istanbul. A first brief with initial results must be ready for distribution to Turkish media before I leave so there is plenty of work to be done.

Analysis on Istanbul Urban Expansion by Using MODIS_002

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Erasmus teaching exchange in Istanbul December 2014 to January 2015

 On the way to the first day at workFerry from Kadiköy the Asian side of Istanbul to Besiktas the European side of Istanbul

I visited Istanbul during the summer 2014 and found the city very interesting from an urban planning perspective in particular in reference to its booming real estate sector. During my holidaystay I got so curious about the city and could not resist to contact a few local economists to get answers on my questions. The booming Turkish economy and the rapid urbanization of Istanbul was the closest I could come to the patterns found East Asian context which I am used to study. I was lucky to meet with a team of economists from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Bahçeşehir University at the main campus in Beşiktaş. We found common interests in emerging markets and the geographical and financial expansions of large cities and agreed on trying to establish an academic relationship in order to analyze the rapid expansion of Istanbul using remote sensing data.

Upon my return to Malmö I got help from Åse Falk (US) to establish and exchange agreement between our departments and from Maria English at the International Office to apply for an Erasmus Exchange. I must say that I am impressed by the fast actions taken and support given by the administration to put the outome of my summer meeting in to action. I was awarded a 2 weeks stay with the support of Erasmus +. Such a great outcome from meeting a gang of researchers during the summer. So after spending a few lazy days at home for Christmas I arrived to Istanbul on the 26 December to give my first lecture on 29 December and meet & learn from my new colleagues at Bahçeşehir University. My first lecture gave an introduction to how to use remote sensing in a social science setting mainly focusing on how to measure economic change based on a recent article which I have co-authored with Ola Hall at Lund University and Souknilah Keola at IDE-Jetro in Tokyo, Japan (article and be found here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X14002551). The lecture was attended by staff members and graduate students and gave me excellent comments on how to proceed with my interest in measure and analyze the rapid urbanization of Istanbul.
View from office

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PhD dissertation

Yesterday I attended a PhD dissertation at the academy of science. Lilit Zakaryan was part of the committee. As usual in the room there is a long desk, two men sitting behind it. The first 2 rows of the public was full of men, all in costume, all of them had a microphone. No one had a computer in this lecture room! There was an introductory talk in Armenian (all the dissertation was in Armenian), then the student presented his thesis orally (no slides, or projector, no other media, is it the same in Sweden in the humanistic faculties?)

PhD dissertation

PhD dissertation

The topic of the thesis was gender perception of life under communism in ex-soviet union (or something similar). After the student’s presentation, the people in the committee gave their feedback. Some of the opinion were formal, in the sense that the committee member went to the stage to read his/her feedback, some other opinion are given from the public. The student responded to the comments. In total there are 13 people in the committee, and Lilit is the only woman. It seems that the feedbacks are positive, there has been some comments about the methodology; since the history in this thesis is recent, the method seem to be not suitable (according to what Lilit says).

When everyone in the committee had finished to comment on the thesis, we went out from the lecture room, while the committee remained and voted the thesis.  We went back after 10 minutes and one person communicated the response: 13 out of 13 members in the committee were positive to the thesis, the student was approved. However, the thesis was not yet published, so the student has to modify the thesis according to the comments he received and then it can be published.

After that I went home. The city is preparing for Christmas!

Christmas decoration

Christmas decoration


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Quality conference at the american university of Armenia

On the 4th and 5th, I attended the quality conference  at the american university of Armenia. The conference was in armenian and english, but we got translators. The conference was organised by the Anqa organisation (http://www.anqa.am/en/).
After the welcome speech made by several people (prime minister, minister of education, president of Anqa, rector of university), there was a panel discussion on the following topic: the impact of quality assurance in the development of higher education system: expectations and outcomes.  
Some of the topics of the conference are similar to what we discuss in Malmö (life long learning, education connected to research, education that produces professionals needed by the society, and other topics). One of the differences is that in Armenia, they (Anqa) do not only evaluate the education programmes but the whole university (the teachers, the organisation, the facilities, the research and other things). The universities get some kind of certification after they have performed the accreditation process.

Quality conference in Yerevan

Quality conference in Yerevan

Another main difference with Sweden is that Armenia is a post-soviet country where there are few companies, therefore it is difficult to have people from companies  or society interacting with the universities. Also the feedback of the students to the education system is low because (according to Lilit who works with quality) students are afraid to give their own opinion. The general impression is that both the people working on Anqa and the university people work a lot with quality but the universities are a bit detached from the  needs of the society and the students.  
During the conference I met several people, one teacher working on economy who would like to come to Malmö for staff exchange. Another person, the chancellor of the “YEREVAN UNIVERSITY AFTER MOVSES KHORENATSY” needs an external quality expert for peer reviewing their self evaluation. I may do it, they will check the formal requirements with the minister of education.

I have also met a finish guy, Karl Holm, who is a Residence Twinning Advisor at Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, he  will work with Anqa for 2 years. I got to talk swedish with him! :-)

After the conference me and Lilit went to a cafe and it was very very interesting to hear from her about Armenia and Yerevan, and the conditions they have lived the past 20 years.

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Swedish design students in Hong Kong

During this week Malmö university has been fully active in Hong Kong.

4 students from Graphic design and Interaction design participates in a week long workshop. A part of the workshop is to attend the Hong Kong Business of Design Week Opening ceremony that we just have been at.  Now Jörgen Halldin Generalkonsul, opening the Swedish part of BoDW. And the truth is we can be proud of our Swedish design brands (and educations).


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Anqa ceremony

Today there was a ceremony at university. The organisation called Anqa for quality assurance of universities (I believe it is similar to our UKÄ), has distributed some certificate of attendance to a training course.  For this ceremony there has been a lot of preparation done by the employees at northern university, for instance the poster in the picture has been prepared in few days.
Poster for the Anqa cerimony

Poster for the Anqa ceremony

It describes the latest events and collaboration of the university, for instance Nune’s staff exchange to Malmö, 2 polish exchange students who have been in Yerevan, some other trip of the staff to Palermo, to Austria and others.
There has been also a short film made of interviews to different people of the university, including me!
The ceremony started at 10:00. We sat in an auditorium, quite many people were participating. The rector, vice rector and the head of this organisation Anqa welcomed everyone.
Welcome speech
After that the expert and the public had a discussion (kind of panel, people saying their opinion or asking questions and the the expert were answering). After that there was the distribution of the certificates. One of the responsible of the quality assurance at Northern university Lilit Zakaryan got the certificate (very nice and colourful!)
The ceremony ended at 13:00 with a buffe’ of fruit and sweets.
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Flexible meetings

On the 26th I went to the university knowing that I had 2 meetings scheduled, one at 11:00 with the computer engineering department and the other after lunch with the quality assurance department. However, when I arrived in the morning  at work I got to know that the first meeting was canceled. Instead, I went to the library, and the librarian Julia, offered me turkish coffee, fruit and chocolate. She also gave me a present, a book with the title: “Realities as if unknown to turks”, a collection of letters written by armenians about the genocide, written in four languages: Russian, Armenian, Turkish and English.
Julia and Martin

Julia and Martin

The library was quite small and the books were old. There was no computer in the library, the borrowing of the books is done manually. Actually, there was none in the library, the librarian said that armenian students do not like to read books! (similar to our students? ;-)
The second meeting was also canceled today, it is shifted to next week. It seems that they are quite flexible with the meetings!
The meeting with the computer engineering department was rescheduled on the 27th. I had no idea of what was the agenda and who would come to the meeting (I would not accept this in Sweden!). The evening before I browsed a bit the site of our faculty in order to be prepared for the meeting. When I arrived at university, I went directly to the meeting room and it was full of people, mostly students but also faculty staff. They asked me to talk about the TS faculty, so I improvised a presentation of TS (thanks to Filippa T since she sent me a ppt presentation of TS). One of the faculty member translated my talk.  After that they asked me specific questions, like what programming languages do we teach, detailed of the web design course, and of the database course. They also asked me about the research and example of projects. That was a difficult question, I do not have a good overview of the research done at our computer science department and know nothing about the projects at IMP. I searched and showed some slides from the latest presentation of the IOTAP research center.

Presentation of TS

Presentation of TS

In the evening, I got a video of the presentation (a slideshow with music), which is also available on Youtube:

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First day at work!

On monday I had my first presentation about Malmö University at 13:00, but I couldn’t sleep the night before!! Nervous or jet lag or dry air? Finally I fell asleep around 4am (1am swedish time).
It was my first day at work, the plan was that Nune (my contact person) present Northern university, she would also translate my presentation.
I arrived at uni few minutes before 13, we went directly to the rector office. Entering his office made me the feeling of going back in time, the room had one big oval table with many chairs around it, the rector desk did not have a computer on it!  There was a secretary just before the entrance of the office. After greeting each other  and leaving my jacket and bag, we went up to the fifth floor.
I entered the room of the presentation, this look like any other meeting rooms, a big round table, a projector screen and a projector on the table. The room was full with people and they were all watching at me! I was so excited that I did not take any picture during the whole day! Hopefully I will do that the coming days! On the table there were plates with sweets, juice water and some other stuff. Nune presented to me all the people around the table, she had also invited  some students from the language department. I presented the general Malmö university english presentation plus some slides of TS faculty and english programmes at our faculty. When I show the slide “questions?” there were really many questions! I have never got so many question on a presentation (except when I defended my PhD thesis). That was actually fun, the audience have been listening to me with interest and were curious about the Swedish system! I got the following questions (I probably have forgotten some questions):
  • Salary of teachers (embarrassing question!)
  • Students paying a fee, (I explained the system with credits and that the students have to pass a certain amount of credits in order to get their salary)
  • Students trying to stay longer at university because they get a salary
  • Percentages of students finding a job
  • How many percent of students are good
  • Business incubator (from a student, I had to google to know what it is!)
  • Students dropping out, and why
  • Why do we have so many students (do we?)
  • Why are we successful (are we?)
  • Main income /product in Sweden
  • How is research funded
  • How many universities are public, and private
  • How would the Swedish government react if Armenia would start Swedish courses?
  • What is the goal of my trip
  • Why did I choose Armenia
  • What am I going to do here
  • Why did I move to Sweden
We had some discussion about gender, they have the same problem in IT with gender inequality.
During my presentation I heard some bells ringing, at 14:00 and at 14:15. I guess it was the break between lectures, it reminded when I was in primary school. Actually the whole university reminded me of an elementary school I attended in Italy, simple,  the rooms are with few furnitures, just small desks and chairs. the entrance door is small.
A classroom of Northern University

A classroom of Northern University

After my presentation, many left, so it was decided to skip Nune’s presentation for the day.
We went to the rector office again, where I was offered armenian wine and cognac. We sat around the table, me, Nune, the rector and vice rector and another man (do not remember his role). The secretary prepared the glasses with the water, and cognac (or wine).  We toasted to “the small countries”, the rector wanted to find a similarity between Armenia and Sweden. We talked about history of Armenia and todays world history and economy (very challenging for me!) and the hope that Armenia will become again a successuffull country like it has been before the genocide in 1915.  The rector excused himself for not knowing English, he said that when he was young he thought that armenian would become a big language.
They asked me if Sweden has diaspora (i.e. if many swedes are living outside Sweden). I answered that there are swedes living in other countries but it is not a big phenomena. Just for information, Armenia has 3 million inhabitants, but there are 10 millions armenian living in other countries (since the genocide in 1915).
After chatting a bit,  I got a book from the rector about quality assurance at the Northern university, then we sayd good bye.
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