MSc Niko Mäkitalo’s doctoral dissertation On Programmable Interactions took place on a sunny Wednesday 15.6. The opponent was Professor Jukka Manner from Aalto University. The leading concept in Niko’s research was programmable interactions. Also, physical proximity and social aspects have played important roles in his research.
Lectio praecursoria introduced the thesis with nice examples. Niko’s enthusiasm was obvious in his talk. Manner’s talk was funny (trough whole dissertation), and he was able to create exciting atmosphere by hinting about the coming hard questions. He ensured from the custodian professor Tommi Mikkonen that he had six hours to go.
The dissertation started with general questions. Why to make a doctoral thesis? What is the fundamental research problem? Is this philosophy or technology? What do you state? As Niko’s talent is to produce text, these we easily tackled.
Manner didn’t let Niko get off easily. For example, he made Niko to sketch on the whiteboard how the seven papers of the thesis are related to each other. The question visibly surprised Niko, and Manner made him, actually, to re-sketch the illustration using his favorite model. Manner wanted exact answers to all questions, and was not happy if Niko answered poorly in his mind.
For the first hour, the level of discussion was nice, as it remained at an abstract level without going to too detailed questions. The traditional nitpicking started after an hour or so. All in all, the discussion was understandable even if the audience was not familiar with the topic. Naturally, technical background was needed.
Finally, after two and half long hours the opponent was satisfied, and he read his “statement”. Manner suggested that Niko’s dissertation should be accepted. Audience had no questions.
Text by Timo Aaltonen