Torben Elgaard Jensen

Torben Elgaard Jensen is the head of the research group of Techno-Anthropology, and a professor in Techno-Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies at Aalborg University, Copenhagen. His studies focus on how the processes of knowledge and innovation will evolve in the future with more and more users of innovation, more intense and public controversies of new technology, and more options for using great quantities of digital data

Selected publications

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    Materiality, Performance and the Making of Professional Identity

    Drawing on Actor-Network Theory, this chapter introduces the notions of translation and performativity to provide a novel perspective on professional identity and social work. It presents observational data of an interactional event between a social worker and a client. The chapter elucidates the techno-social heterogeneity of the event through an analysis based on the Actor-Network Theory of translation. It discusses the precarious and temporary natures of the techno-social hybrids in social work through the concept of performance. The first concept, translation, will help us develop a richer description of doing by deliberately blurring the line between the social and the technological. The second concept, performance, will help us describe how several different patterns of practices simultaneously unfold when social work is taking place. The chapter focuses on how an actor-network-inspired analysis of socio-technical performance may contribute to discussions about professional identity in social work.

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    Datasprints as a method for Controversy Mapping

    A datasprint is an intensive 3-5 day workshop that brings together humanistic researchers, data experts, and stakeholders from a selected field. Together, the participants visualize and analyse a collection of data sets, which have been prepared before the datasprint. In the beginning of a datasprint, stakeholders present their understandings and views of the field in question. Following this, the workshop participants explore how the prepared data may shed new light on the field. The final products of a datasprint are prototypes of analyses or digital products that forms the basis for future collaboration between the partners. Since 2015, DIGHUMLAB has sponsored a special interest group in controversy mapping. Datasprints have proved to be a very productive format for controversy making and for creating dialogue and joint projects between humanistic researchers.

    Co-authors: Anders Kristian Munk, Daniel Bach, Pelle Israelsson

    Find the publication here

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    Identifying notions of environment in obesity research using a mixed‐methods approach

    The recent rise of computation‐based methods in social science has opened new opportunities for exploring qualitative questions through analysis of large amounts of text. This article uses a mixed‐methods design that incorporates machine reading, network analysis, semantic analysis, and qualitative analysis of 414 highly cited publications on obesogenic environments between 2001 and 2015. The method produces an elaborate network map exhibiting five distinct notions of environment, all of which are currently active in the field of obesity research. The five notions are institutional, built, food, family, and bodily environments. The network map is proposed as a navigational tool both for policy actors who wish to coordinate efforts between a variety of stakeholders and for researchers who wish to understand their own research and research plans in light of different positions in the field. The final part of the article explores how the network map may also initiate a broader set of reflections on the configuration, differentiation, and coherence of the field of obesity research.

    Co-authors: Anne K. Kleberg Hansen, Stanley Ulijaszek, Anders K. Munk, Anders K. Madsen, Line Hillersdal, and Astrid P. Jespersen.

    find the publication here

See more publications


Why did you join the lab?

I am heading the Techno-Anthropology group in which the lab emerged. Right from the start, I sensed that developing a lab, and thinking about what a lab may be would be an extremely interesting activity for a research group. For a group grounded in social science and humanities (SSH), the idea of constructing something experimentally and collectively is particularly importantly. If we take a quick look at other professions around us it is evident that the impact of their knowledge is intimately related to the formats, products, and materials into which their knowledge is translated. Just think of medication, highway bridges, jail sentences, symphonies, or money transactions.  SSH has traditionally allied itself with the relatively weak medium of words, and the relatively weak position of being a distant critic. The promise of developing lab-based SSH research is the promise of engaging with a broader set of materials and media. We will never master pharmacological substances, money streams or concrete, but we may develop interesting new opportunities if we combine our words and our critical thinking with matters such as design games and digital tools.


What do you do at the lab?

I have participated in a datasprint on obesogenic environments and project on mapping the controversies related to AirBnB. I am a regular hang-around.


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

In 2012, I was hired to lead the Techno-Anthropology Research Group at the Department of Learning and Philosophy. So from that date onwards, I guess it became official. Before that I had a long background in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), which I had worked with at KU (University of Copenhagen), CBS (Copenhagen Business School), DTU (Technical University of Denmark), and at academic visits to Lancaster University and Oxford University. I have worked with studies of laboratories, innovative organizations, markets, design processes, user-engagement and more. In my opinion, more or less everything empirically and theoretically within STS could be considered to techno-anthropological, so in that sense, I have been a techno-anthropologist since I wrote my master thesis in the last century. But the important thing is not how to demarcate the field of techno-anthropology. Quite the contrary, I like to believe the field of techno-anthropology is still open and emerging, and I am confirmed in this belief every year, when I see the creative and ambitious topics that the students are engaging with. So calling myself a techno-anthropologist, I am not saying that I know exactly what it is, but rather that I enjoy being a part of the discussion and following where colleagues, students, and collaborators are taking it.



Associated organisations


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



Department 10 - Department of Education, Learning and Philosophy 
A.C. Meyers Vænge 15 
Building: A, Room: 2-3-312 
2450 København SV, DK 

Phone: 9940 3394