Tea in TiP: Interviews with visiting researchers

This post inaugurates our informal interview series with visitors to the research group. It is called Tea in TiP because interviewees are invited to share a cup of tea and talk about what they hope to work on while visiting the ITU.

Our first visitor to take part in the series is Sara Jensen, visiting from Det Informationsvidenskabelige Akademi (IVA) or the Royal School of Library and Information Science at Copenhagen University, visiting between December 2013 and February 2014. On this occasion, Sara Jensen drank Lemon tea and Rachel Douglas-Jones drank Earl Grey.

Rachel: Hi Sara! Welcome to TiP. Can you tell us what questions, problems or issues are you working on while you are visiting?

Sara Jensen med Hindbærsnitter

Sara: People at TiP work with STS using anthropology and ethnographic methods and I think the projects are similar to what I am trying to do – such as those studying different kinds of technologies and politics done through practice. The group name itself says a lot! During my stay here, I’ve been working on situating my study and my ethnography and thinking about how STS contributes to my study. Most days I am trying to write, talk to the PhD students around and seniors. That is actually very very helpful and productive for me – that’s the thing I can’t do on a dayly basis at my own institute. The everyday contact with people doing similar stuff is just very helpful, and people not looking at me in an odd way when I say “assemblages” or “emergence” or “ontologies” – something like that.

Rachel: How did you end up working on digitisation in Denmark?

Sara: I think it was mostly due to my former job within the Danish state where I – amongst others – worked with digitisation. It was certainly not due to my studies at the university, where I was trained as a humanist, and didn’t engage much with STS or technology, or indeed digitisation. But in my job as a bureaucrat I found it was often on the premises of the organisation and the people who made the digital solutions instead of on the people who were going to use it. And I was just missing to focus on how it might fit into their daily life. I also worked next door at DR and I did ethnographically inspired work where I visited different Danish families and observed and interviewed them, and I was just missing that kind approach in my job. So when I saw this PhD post announcement about studying digitisation in everyday life from “School of Library and Information Science”, I did not hesitate to apply.

Rachel: What would you most like to work on in the future?

Sara: I think it would be still to engage with ethnography and anthropology as a method. I really like doing these field studies and studying everyday life practices. It doesn’t have to be from a digital or technological point of departure, it could be bringing in things I have worked on previously, during my Masters. So, themes from the humanities and trying to look at them using STS concepts. Something like ‘art’ in everyday life; I think ‘art’ is something STS is concerned with, people are talking about art and design.

Rachel: Tell us about one of your most surprising moments during fieldwork?

Sara: Oh there were so many!

Overall, how much people – luckily for us researchers – seem to like to tell stories about themselves…

Rachel: Coolest thing about your current research?

Sara: That I get to go on fieldwork! And on conferences and abroad, as a PhD student, also cool that you get to teach : even though ti’s hard it’s good for you. But I still think doing fieldwork is just really fun and demanding and nerve wrecking and all that, in a good way! I like to go and talk to people.

Also, bake your PhD: people bring a cake and argue why it is like a symbol of their PhD, or how it resembles your PhD. For example, there’s a student writing about memory. He baked this madeline (madelinekæge) about triggering the memory with this madeline cake! I had never had it before but it was a very strange cake!

Rachel: What is your favourite tea?

Sara: Walnut tea.

Rachel: And your favourite baked good?

Sara: Hindbærsnitte. I had this huge test at my apartment, I baked one of them myself and people knew that I baked it and gave it a lot of points. It was good, I refined it and tried different recipes and mixed it a little so it would be the best kind of hindbærsnitte. Some of the other (bought) hindbærsnitter did well too. But I didn’t make it a blind test! That was the scientific failing.

Rachel: Favourite Danish food?

Sara: Really traditional food – And I go to an eating club with friends, where we make mormor-mad, dishes with heavy brown thick sauce!

Rachel: Finally, can you tell us the best thing about being at TiP?

Sara: The PEOPLE! And the daily chats with them. And the CAKE!

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