Currently, I’m doing research on environmentally oriented narratives; how people discuss them and how they trigger people to think differently about the environment. I’m especially interested in climate fiction -fiction focused on climate change- and its potential to help us make sense of climate change as well as trigger fresh thinking and acting in relation to it.
For the past year, I have been working in an interdisciplinary project called NARMESH, based at the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University, Belgium. My part as a psychologist has been to investigate whether and how reading fiction influences the way we conceptualize human-nonhuman relationships and how non-human oriented narratives can invite people to see the nonhuman environment in new ways. I am particularly interested in what kind of (non)agency we humans are able and willing to ascribe to nonhuman animals and the environment, and what is the potential role of reading experiences in these attributions.
I am also interested in human and nonhuman (non)agency in the context of smart devices. The (non)agency that the users ascribe to themselves and to their gadgets is an essential element of the relationship we have with this kind of everyday technology. In other words, I try to understand our relationships and interactions with personal smart devices from the perspective of who can do what and who not -who has the ultimate power to act? See more here: https://www.heiditoivonen.com/research/2020/03/human-smart-device-interaction/
Previously, during my PhD studies, I was involved in studying the discursive construction of agency and nonagency in psychotherapeutic conversations at the University of Jyväskylä. More information about the research group here (only in Finnish): https://www.jyu.fi/edupsy/fi/laitokset/psykologia/tutkimus/tutkimusalueet/kliininen-psykologia-ja-psykoterapia/toimijuuden-ja-sen-puutteiden-diskursiivinen-tuottaminen-psykoterapeuttisissa-keskusteluissa