Newsletter from Center for Digital Welfare
Newsletter from the Center for Digital Welfare - March 2021​​​​​​​
Hello and welcome to our bi-monthly newsletter,

At the Center for Digital Welfare, we are excited for the coming of spring! Just like the winter aconites have recently begun peeking out under the snow in Denmark, things are also sprouting at the CDW. New projects have kicked off, we have been blessed with new working group leads as well as an entirely new working group, and we have begun signing external partners to the center.

In January, Associate Professor Sisse Finken took over the Digital Citizenship working group, while Assistant Professor Thorben Simonsen became lead of Democratic Digital Spaces. In February, Assistant Professor James Maguire took charge of Sustainable Digitalization, which will convene around IOT & sensors, automation and AI, climate imaginaries, digital anthropocene, trust, and justice, and much more. A warm welcome to all three!

Still under lockdown and experimenting with the digitalization of the academic life, we have begun issuing memberships to the center. The ambition behind signing practitioners to the working groups is to bring theory and empirics in closer dialogue in an attempt to create better and more relevant research. Our goal is to sign four societal partners for each of the four working groups, and we are already well under way. As soon as the Danish society re-opens, we will further boost the collaboration and knowledge exchange with regular meetings, expeditions and more. If you want to learn more about how you and your organization might become affiliated as a CDW partner, please reach out to Nikolaj Oppermann at
In addition to the above initiatives, in this issue of the newsletter we will be trying out a couple of new formats. Thus, in addition to the formal news pieces and our recurrent pop culture recommendations, you can now get a brief overview of the CDW researchers' recent media presences, read a concise version of an academic article, and get a little insight into some current CDW smalltalk. We hope you will appreciate these add-ons!
Enjoy the read,
Kitt & Brit

Short News
Many Comprehensions at Play in New School Subject on Technology
Digital technologies increasingly influence how we organise our lives. In Denmark it has in recent years become a pressing issue that we obtain understanding of technology and are not just users of it. We have begun to consider that a well-rounded knowledge of technology is as important as learning to read and write.  

Accordingly, Danish public compulsory schooling is introducing understanding of technology as something children should learn. Technology Comprehension (TC) is currently being trialed as a subject and subject matter in mandatory teaching. As such, TC emphasises critical reflection on and construction of digital technologies as a means to obtaining understanding of them. Select primary schools are teaching TC as either a standalone subject or as integrated into existing subjects. Based on the trial period, a political decision will be made as to whether and how understanding of technology should be a part of primary school.  

As for now, the new subject is settling into school policy and school’s everyday practice. But what does it mean to comprehend technology? PhD student Simy Kaur Gahoonia’s work explores the social, material, digital and discursive life of TC. The project explores how the new subject transforms school, and which possible understandings of technology are at play in the experiment with TC. Simy investigates the trial as a negotiation of how digital technologies should play a role in teaching and school, both as tools and as content, as well as in how we imagine our future as citizens, analysts and creators with digital technologies.

If you want to learn more about Simy’s work, you can reach her at  

Navigating for Serendipity – Constructing Productive Surprise
As described in a previous newsletter (1/2020), in spring 2020 the CDW was part of a joint research project with Aalborg University’s Techno-Anthropological Lab collecting data during the first Covid-19-related lockdown of Denmark. The result of the project (which ended in July 2020) was an impressive ethnographic archive with 222 transcribed interviews, 89 field notes from participant observations at virtual events, and 84 mobile diaries collected through an app on the informants’ smart phones. In total, the transcribed interviews, diaries and field notes comprised 1,396,332 words, corresponding to 3070 normal pages. Or the equivalent of three entire Lord of the Rings trilogies.   

Now, more than half a year later, we are ready to open the archive for access and thus looking very much forward to seeing it develop in collaboration with its users. The initial project ambition had all along been to open the material to other researchers interested in the topic of digitalization in Denmark, not necessarily involved in the generation of the materials. Yet, the question arose how any researcher could ever practically and meaningfully analyze this behemoth data body? 

To meet this challenge, the project researchers constructed an online interface (or navigation tool) allowing all users of the archive to navigate the material and collectively add codes to it as part of the search process. Accordingly, all 13,084 individual text segments (paragraphs in field notes or answers in interviews) were processed in semantic analysis and machine tagging. The intention behind the navigation tool is to support the users’ (i.e., researchers browsing the archive) ability to be “productively surprised” about emergent issues in the material rather than simply confirming their own or the machine tagging’s preconceived ideas. Ideally, the navigation tool should provide what we like to think of as navigation for serendipity.   

The next step in the process will be for the project researchers to present the archive as an example of digital anthropology at the Danish Ethnographic Association’s Annual Summit on April 8, 2021, as part of the theme Online Anthropology Online. If you want to learn more about the project, the collected data, the navigation tool and the process behind its construction, please reach out to Brit Ross Winthereik at  

Overheard in the (Digital) Hallway  
As was the case in other workplaces, some of this month’s CDW smalltalk has revolved around the lawyer-meets-cat filter story (aka. the #imnotacat-incident). The video of the unfortunate lawyer went viral in early February 2021, was both funny and potentially telling of the digital mediation of gender(ed gaps). We had the chance to reflect a bit on this with CDW-reseracher Katrine Meldgaard Kjær.

It is hardly controversial to claim that the #imnotacat-incident was a funny conversation piece in and of itself: The juxtaposition of the silly cat filter and serious lawyer desperately trying to un-cat himself is recognizable to most professionals these days; random absurd mishaps like these are one of the few laughable things that tie us together in these uncertain times.    

Yet, the incident is thought-provoking beyond its immediate entertainment value: In many ways it is a "purrr-fect" example of how the digital mediates the gap between gendered domestic practices and expressions of professionalism. One might even argue that the indisputable comical effect of the video comes from how we understand the distance between those two positions. 

Put differently, would the incident have attracted so much (or the same kind of) attention, had it been a female lawyer caught in the cat filter? Would the distance between a female professional and a kitten be perceived as big enough to be considered hilarious to a point of going viral?

In Other Words
In a recently published journal article, CDW researcher Tom Jenkins (et al.) argues for a new understanding of the smart city as a place for people and participation rather than for data and rationalization. Titled Participatory Sensing in the Speculative Smart City the article uses speculative design – design work that imagines how the world could operate in other ways – to explore the conditions of smart cities.  

In this article, based on a master's thesis, they use a small, wearable air quality sensor as a probe to explore how three Copenhageners might find value and personal application for sensing platforms that are being enrolled into the smart city. The researchers found that using sensors with residents in a bottom-up approach makes the use of sensors in smart cities more relevant and meaningful for them, and that active participation in sensing creates a different understanding of what a smart city can be: as a place for people and participation instead of simply rationalization.

For more information on Tom’s work with smart cities and participatory sensing, feel free to contact him here  

When We're Not Doing Research, We…     
... are watching Wikipedia’s 20th birthday celebration, which took place on 15 January 2021, and which can be found on Youtube. Speeches were given amongst others by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wahles, and the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation Katherine Maher.

… are reading up on W3C's guide to web accessibility and enjoying their free online course. Both give a basic introduction to how one can improve the user experience for people with disabilities. Specifically, concrete advise is given on how to keep contents clear and concise, how to use clear text captions for pictures and transcripts for multimedia, helping one meeting the Web Content Accessability Guildelines (WCAG) requirements.  
… are listening to the BBC Radio 4 programme The Digital Human. Here, journalist Aleks Krotoski explores the digital world through two dozens of episodes. The programme is a veritable treasure trove, but we particularly liked the episodes Trust and Solidarity.

Jenkins, T, Boer, L, Homewood, S, Almeida, T & Vallgårda, A 2020, Designing with Emerging Science: Developing an Alternative Frame for Self-Tracking. in 32nd Australian Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. Association for Computing Machinery.

Papazu, I & Olaison, L 2020, Laterale sammenligninger som eklektisk analysestrategi. In Eklektiske analysestrategier. Nyt fra Samfundsvidenskaberne, pp. 223-247.

Trier, SH & Jenkins, T 2020, Participatory Sensing in the Speculative Smart City. In 32nd Australian Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. Association for Computing Machinery.

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