Nailed Communication

Julkaistu 09.05.2017. - Väitöskuiskaaja

Nailing is a tradition at the University of Vaasa.

How do we do a job well, or nail it? Well, by nailing it to a wall.

Most academic institutions that offer graduate degrees worldwide offer public access to dissertations approved by their departments. The most common means of accessibility is through each institution’s library, whether in print form, electronically, or both.

University of Vaasa has a unique method of displaying dissertations publicly. Literally!

Not only are dissertations available in the university’s library and online, they are physically hung on a board on campus, at Tervahovi, the main building, where most vivas and thesis examinations are held. The process is referred to at the Dissertation Process section of the university’s website as nailing.

All doctoral candidates are required to submit copies for the public display or nailing, of their dissertations at the Information Desk ten days prior to the students’ vivas. The dissertations are nailed to the board, hanging from one end, like an ancient scroll displaying a major announcement to the subjects of an ancient city.

This display, this spectacle, akin to some Greco-Roman or other ancient market place announcement is what makes this process unique among many comparable institutions.

I have recently presented a paper in a conference in Zagreb about the use of graffiti during the Egyptian revolution as a type of narrative continuum. I find similar strains of narrativity in the nailing tradition at our university. Graffiti turns a two-sided wall from a semi-public surface into a public space for communication and communal sharing. Similarly, the nailing of dissertations turns the wall into a public sphere rather than an enclosement of knowledge in an academic institution.

The board, the wall, where the dissertations hang is a communicative vehicle. It communicates what goes beyond the wall, behind its concreteness, to the world outside the wall, facing it. The nailing penetrates the wall. As much as an actual nail penetrates a wall, the nailed dissertations sum up the fruit of the entire life throbbing behind that wall. Thus, they penetrate the institutionalization of knowledge that has enveloped and mystified higher education for decades. The wall of dissertations, therefore, is a wall of communication and access rather than a wall of separation and restriction.

In addition to its communicative trait, this magical wall offers a narrative. Each dissertation tells a story. It narrates the life of the text, and carries the intellect of the researcher, the advisers and the examiners, not to mention the dozens of intellectual influences an individual researcher is shaped by, from authors to teachers at various stages of education. Together, the nailed dissertations form a narrative continuum. They remind me of an ancient practice in market places where poems and stories were hung on walls for public access, just like graffiti are extensions of wall engravings in caves and temples. The nailing process is a cross over between those traditions and the contemporary cyber-reality of social media, and the ever changing newsfeed.

In a world fraught with issues of walls and access, academia needs to respond in a manner that reflects its defining role. Nailing dissertations on a wall is, from my perspective, a positive mark on the walls of academia, and a refreshing episode on the endless narrative of acquiring and sharing knowledge.

Muna Khattab
PhD Student
Doctoral Program in Languages and Communication


Most awaited moment for UVA Doctoral Students

Kirjoittanut Faisal Imran 10.05.2017 09:23:32

It was really a very interesting read. Nailing the doctoral dissertation is a dream moment for any doctoral student studying here in University of Vaasa. You have raised very interesting points, especially the comparison with use of Graffiti in Egyptian revolution. In my view, nailing the dissertation is also a sign of appreciation for all the hard-work than we do and provides a sense of "I nailed it".

Nail down

Kirjoittanut Erwan 10.05.2017 10:05:56

Interesting take on the nailing practice! It seems that the nailing is happening in many scandinavian universities, and the origin dates back to Martin Luther, who in 1517 nailed a list of 95 propositions for an academic disputation, which eventually led to the protestant reformation. Strong symbol of the power of academic ideas leading the way to societal transformation.
Now however, it seems that this academic practise is apparently built on a legend (or should we call it fake news these days). See article here:

If symbolically, the objective of the nailing is to support the spread of ideas among the community, i wander why it is done inside the university premises and not in a more open public space. This leads me to another thought: i barely see anyone standing in front of a nailed dissertation, browsing through what was written by a fellow student for four years or more. Should it be time to revisit this practice and make it more compatible to our current excessive consumption of information? How could ideas from a doctoral student be more spreadout in today's hyper connected world? Is a nail just enough?

A remarkable display.

Kirjoittanut Ebo Kwegyir-Afful 10.05.2017 14:13:48

Thanks Muna, you've already nailed it in one sentence: The wall of dissertations, therefore, is a wall of communication and access rather than a wall of separation and restriction. This physical display and publication really brings to mind the essence of long study here. To produce academic works for humanity. It is a desire we all have as Faisal wrote and it surely is a positive mark. As we go digitization, my hope and wish is that this physical nailing of dissertations would never be replaced with a digital nailing on the schools webpage.

Cyber world is taking over

Kirjoittanut Tomi 15.05.2017 14:58:54

Long traditions for putting your year's of work open for debate and discussion is no longer achieved by hanging a printed copy of your thesis on the the front corridor of the university. Admittedly it's a honorable tradition which i would wish to follow some day but todays world with its many listeners is better reached by the digital means. Market areas and gathering places for people area turning into social medias news feeds, reachability is greater but effectiveness is still admittedly controversial. So for now the answer is, choose both.


*Pakollinen kenttä


Päivitetty 09.05.2017 - Verkkotoimitus