Andreas Birkbak

Andreas Birkbak is an Assistant Professor in the Techno-Anthropology Research Group in the Department of Learning and Philosophy at Aalborg University (AAU) in Copenhagen. He is also on the Executive Committee of the Techno-Anthropology Lab (@TANTlab). His research focuses on digital publics but he engages broadly with science and technology studies and related fields. Andreas completed his PhD in 2016 at AAU on the topic of how (digital) publicity media contribute to issue politics. He also holds an MSc in Social Science of the Internet (University of Oxford), and an MSc+BSc in Sociology (University of Copenhagen). Funded by an ‘elite researcher’ government grant, he was previously a visiting PhD scholar at the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation at Ecole des Mines and the médialab at Sciences Po, both in Paris (2014), and at the Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP) at Goldsmiths, University of London (2015). He has published in journals such as Science as Culture, Computational Culture, Techné, First Monday, and Design Issues. He has also published several book chapters and a co-authored book on digital methods with Anders Munk (in Danish).

Selected publications

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    Designing with Publics that Are Already Busy: A Case from Denmark

    Design research has recently turned the attention to how designers contribute to the organization of publics when designing objects. This also raises the question of what kind of “good” public is being pursued. In this article, we argue for the importance of taking pre-existing normative projects into account to avoid approaching publics as yet another instantiation of “users” of design objects. We develop the argument by discussing our recent attempt at designing an online data visualization tool for public use. Instead of inviting potential future users of our tool to a design workshop, we decided to adopt an ethnographic interest in the existing “goods” that guided the publics for which we wanted to design. Based on explorations of three sites, we found our publics to be already busy with concerns that were both highly relevant to the data practices we were trying to facilitate, while at the same time overflowing and provoking our framing of the publics we were attempting to engage. Drawing from work in Science and Technology Studies on multiple ways of “doing good” in practice, we propose a reconsideration in design of the publics that we hope to “spark into being,” by pursuing the question of how to design with rather than for publics that are already busy.

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    Forthcoming book chapter

    Digital methods contributions to citizen hearings : A techno-anthropological approach to Twitter and technology assessment. Written with Anders Koed and Anders Kristian Munk. Published in Techno-Anthropological Contributions to Technology Assessment. ed. / Lars Botin; Tom Børsen. Aalborg Universitetsforlag, 2019.

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    Into the wild online: Learning from Internet trolls

    An Internet troll is a person who deliberately upsets users of online forums or social media. The term has been taken up widely in media discourses about democracy and the Web. Internet trolls and the act of ‘trolling’ thus speaks to a renewed significance of monsters and the monstrous in modernizing liberal democracies. Following ideas developed in science and technology studies (STS), monsters have the generative political capacity to teach us about heterogeneity and hybridity. Indeed, trolls have historically been understood not just as dangerous, but also as invitations to try to come to terms with ‘the other’, which cannot be ignored. In this paper, I explore this potential in relation to online trolling. I start by examining the rise of the troll metaphor in relation to online discourse and observe a shift towards an increasingly broad usage. I argue that Internet trolls are no longer only understood as acting for the sake of controversy itself. Today, the designation is also used to demarcate the boundaries of proper debate, i.e., by expanding the label of trolling to include things like information warfare, hate speech, and sometimes even political activism. Using the troll figure in this way invokes and reproduces ideals about deliberative democracy, where an ongoing public debate that meets certain standards of rationality and inclusiveness is understood as central to democratic societies. However, trolls per definition defy such terms, which means that their subversive political potential as monsters is contained rather than exploited in this frame. With the help of Belgian philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers’ use of the figure of the idiot, I suggest that to enter into a more interesting relationship with online trolls, we may have to open for the possibility that ‘there is something more important’, which is not articulated ‘seriously’, but is nevertheless crucial for the sort of issue-oriented take on democratic politics currently being developed in STS. More specifically, online trolling may be politically generative in the sense that trolls challenge the dichotomy between serious ‘public’ issues and ‘private’ jesting.

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    When Financial Concerns Shape Traffic Policy

    How Economic Assumptions Muted the Copenhagen Payment Zone Issue. Published in Science as Culture, Bind 26, Nr. 4, 2017, s. 491-504.

See more publications


Why did you join the lab?

What is ‘the lab’ in a field like techno-anthropology? I enjoy this challenge. If we take inspiration from natural science, where labs are abundant, a scientific laboratory is a place where controlled experiments can be carried out. What would a controlled experiment look like in a techno-anthropological context? I am not sure, but I would like to be part of exploring such questions. Another feature of labs is that they can facilitate collaborative research. This is another aspect that I am enthusiastic about. The lab creates a space where data sets can be investigated by more than one person.


What do you do at the lab?

So far, most of my time in the lab has been spent on grabbling with digital data sets. We have a screen, a projector, a couple of whiteboards, all of which make it easier to explore digital data sets together through various visualizations, for instance via the open source dataviz software Gephi. This is useful, not least for moving quickly back and forth between data collection and data interpretation, which is one of the exciting things about digital methods in techno-anthropology.


How did you get to call yourself a techno-anthropologist?

Easy question! I was the first member of the techno-anthropology research group to finish my PhD while part of that group, so in a way this makes me a techno-anthropologist by training. But it started earlier than that for me. I got interested in techno-anthropology, or science and technology studies, already when I was half-way through my bachelor in sociology at the University of Copenhagen. I remember discovering the writings of Latour while working on an assignment on philosophy of science. Latour was not on the curriculum, but somehow I managed to write my exam paper about his thinking. Since then, my interests have been quite techno-anthropological, so perhaps by now I get to call myself a techno-anthropologist.


The Techno-Anthropology Research Group

The Techno-Anthropology (TANT) group researches key processes of social and technical innovation that are critical to the challenges facing contemporary and future societies. Complicated societal issues are unlikely to be solved by technical fixes. We therefore believe that workable solutions and a responsible development of technology must build on the active consideration of social relations, the engagement of users, and an in-depth understanding of the complexities of technology-in-use.

Department of Learning and Philosophy

The Department of Learning and Philosophy operates on an interdisciplinary, cross-faculty basis. The mission of the Department is to do research, development and teaching in the areas of education, learning and philosophy, within the educational system as well as in public and private organisations.

The Faculty of Humanities 


Aalborg University Copenhagen



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