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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Torben Elgaard Jensen

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to work in Durham. The willingness to invest in novel interdisciplinary collaboration is extraordinary and impressive - and a clear indication that Durham takes its position as a world-leading university seriously.”

Professor Torben Elgaard Jensen, Aalborg University

IAS Fellow at the College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham University (January - February 2020)


Professor Torben Elgaard Jensen is Director of the Techno-Anthropology Research group at Aalborg University, Denmark.

Prior to his current position, he was an associate professor at the Danish Technical University, a visiting research fellow at Oxford University, and an assistant professor at Copenhagen Business School. He earned his Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Copenhagen. He is the co-founder and former chair of the Danish Association for Science and Technology studies, and he is currently an editor of Science & Technology Studies. In 2016, he was named winner of the East Freeman Award for a significant contribution to the interaction of science and technology studies with the study of innovation.

His research examines innovation practices and user involvement across range of different contexts. He has conducted ethnographic studies of knowledge construction and innovation processes in engineering companies, start-up firms, public sector organizations, and research groups. Alongside these ethnographic studies, he has investigated the practical circumstances and arrangements of user engagement and public engagement in a variety of cases. Recently, he has moved into a more active experimental and interventionist mode of work to explore the opportunities and challenges of user-involvement. With his colleagues at the Techno-Anthropology Lab at Aalborg University, he is currently developing a new form of data-intensive form of user-involvement called Participatory Data Design.

His work has been published in leading journals of Science and Technology Studies, including Social Studies of Science, Science, Technology & Human Values, and Science & Technology Studies. His books include Bruno Latour: Hybrid Throughts in a Hybrid World (with Anders Blok) (2011) and The New Production of Users: Changing innovation collectives and involvement strategies (edited with Sampsa Hyysalo and Nelly Oudshoorn) (2016).

During his stay at Durham, Professor Jensen will contribute to the broad-based, interdisciplinary project led by Professor Tiago Moriera and Dr Margarita StaykovaMaterial imagination: exploring participatory design methodology for smart materials”. The project engages with important questions about how to communicate science, how to address the societal responsibility of science, and how to engage the public in science in a meaningful and productive way. Drawing on his experience from earlier work, Professor Jensen will contribute to the conceptual development of the model of open innovation for material science, and the organisation of the interactive event involving stakeholders. The project will be a unique opportunity to develop an innovative methodological approach to public engagement in the early, conceptual and visionary processes of cutting-edge natural science.

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Participatory Data Design: Acting in a digital world


The last few decade’s dramatic advances in digital technologies have been followed by equally dramatic and surprising developments in how we live and organize ourselves with data. Some of the emerging forms of datafield life are quite sinister, such as the American surveillance capitalism, the Chinese social credit scores, or the mobilization of data for the purposes of audit regimes and new public management. But there are also alternatives aiming at more local and progressive uses of the new data opportunities. This lecture presents one such approach - Participatory Data Design (PDD) - which Professor Torben Elgaard Jensen and his colleagues have been developing in a series of recent projects in the Techno-Anthropology Lab at Aalborg University. This lecture describes how the PDD approach draws inspiration from the Scandinavian tradition of participatory design, it explains how Professor Jensen (and colleagues) collaborate with stakeholders in developing data practices, and it finally discusses some of the issues and unintended consequences that have arisen in these types of experiments.

Listen to the lecture in full.