May 2019: A rotation is happening in the ETHOS Lab. Marie Blønd is returning to her role as manager, meanwhile having become an activist celebrity. We are marking the event with an interview on all sorts of matters. 

How would you describe the role as a Lab Manager for ETHOS?

As the Lab Manager of ETHOS: experimental techno-humanities & organisational services lab, I am not a researcher in the traditional sense, but a researcher in practice. I do research through and in the lab with our community of students and researchers. The ETHOS lab is an experimental space for methods and particularly the intertwining of the quali-quantitative space of digital and ethnographic tensions and cross-fertilization. It is a sandbox for both researchers, students and myself, where “failing” is just as important lesson as what is considered a “success” in the IT University educational system.  

Limited by resources, the lab is very much driven by the student and researcher community and volunteers. A community that breaks down the traditional and hierarchical distancing between faculty and students. Inviting in and inspiring one another mutually to create an informal place for academic and methodological sparring with interesting cases and epistemic diversity. Our community-driven approach has resulted in a network of not just affiliated researchers, but also students that have been active in the lab as junior researchers. The ETHOS Alumni are now on their way to becoming researchers or play important roles in the industry and ongoing societal shaping. Their sense of belonging and affiliation with the lab is extraordinary, no matter where they are physically, and we make an effort of the ongoing relational work and mutual beneficial interests. The lab also becomes a point of contact for our global research community, exchange students as well as for open source and software companies that offer novel methodological tool-sets.      

What are your research interests?

This is is good mental exercise, so let me list some of the experiments and research I have done. None of them are peer-reviewed or published.  

  • Evolving Networks in climate adaption – case: Karlstrup Mose
  • Socializing Nature: City Harvest re-configuration. Creating digital and physical spaces through the use of technologies – case: Byhøst
  • Electrical Smartgrid as a living experiment in socio-technical implementation – case of Ecogrid on Bornholm
  • Foodways: City Sharing of Ethics, Rights & Concerns. Community driven parallels to mainstream forms of living, using food, technology and participatory approaches – case: Københavns Fødevarefællessskab (KBHFF)
  • Digital Summer School projects focused on geotagged data
    • Rewilding as a subject with a geolocated digital mapping
    • City Speaks – Analysing geolocated Twitter data for Amsterdam and identifying matters
  • Personal Digital Assistants in practice – experimenting with the Googlification Chat Bubble and Alexa Gamestation
  • Mapping A Colony – making alternative narratives and maps through a participatory approach of data collection

Summarizing, the themes roam in the intersection of communities, technology and nature/environment. Making visible the social, societal and sometimes physical constructs that these suggests and impose. Experimenting with the digital personal assistants and Mapping a Colony have been particularly exciting as they serve as an intervention and thus become philosophical thought experiments that hopefully travel beyond the research realm.        

What is your history in the IT University arena?
Graduating in the first ‘batch’ of Global Business Informatics (GBI) bachelors and also Digital Innovation & Management (DIM) candidate students, I enjoy proclaiming myself as a product of ITU. A guinea pig in a ITU lab experiment. Meaning, that novel educational designs are always a bit of an experiment. GBI and DIM designs were some of the first interdisciplinary educations designed by Science & technology Studies (STS) scholars in Denmark and I applaud ITU and the scholars behind it for daring to be visionary and ambitious.  
Although, I was not the typical ITU student. It was my second educational career as I already held a CBS diploma and had over 10 years of experience from being a Nordic Product Manager for Nordisk Film and a freelancer. I had also spent the last 2-3 years travelling and experiencing other cultures and societies. Enrolling as an ITU student and being addicted to new knowledges, I hoped to radically enhance my analytical skills. Science and Technology Studies immediately appealed to me and after 5 years of being both a student and staff (TA and Assistant Lecturer) throughout DIM, I stayed on as Lab Manager for ETHOS.    

Where have you been up to the last year?
On maternity leave and I am thrilled that Simy Kaur has managed the lab in an extraordinary way that only she could do. Some of the ideas that we have had in the pipeline were brought into this world and I am especially excited to come back and see a thriving community and Junior Researchers as well as a GDPR Deletion Poems publications! An actual ETHOS LAB artifact!
The last 3 weeks of holiday on top of my maternity leave was unplanned but impulsively  became dedicated to starting a grassroot movement called ‘#HvorErDerEnVoksen?’ culminating in nationwide protests with 80-100.000 Danish Parents marching the streets in 57 locations! This sort of rapid activism is historic in the civic context of family politics in Denmark and spurred a steep learning curve for all of us.  As the official spokesperson for the movement, I was suddenly appearing on national TV, Radio and in Newspapers debating with journalists and politicians.

Reflecting on the process, the tactics and the arguments in the movement while simultaneously playing an active and main part in it, was a quickening of the skills I have gained throughout my former career but also as a student and employee at IT University. Standards, gender roles, media tactics, activism, social constructions and democracy were suddenly played out in practice through my socio-technical empirical stance. Very interesting and enlightening on many levels. Also extremely intense. From the day we started the Facebook group (over 31.000 members) to the 6th April protests, where I spoke on a small stage next to parliament in Copenhagen to a crowd that far outgrew the space, we counted 25 days!

Now the date of the Danish parliament election is official and the grassroots movement is bubbling in activist anticipation. Another protest is in the making and I hope that some kind of research will also grow from this digital mobilization that experts have already commented on in the media. Maybe an ETHOS Lab case is in the making, we definitely have a lot of data to work with!   

How would you describe yourself?
Addicted to knowledge and exploration. Curiosity killed the cat :) I have already had an office job and a high-ranking job in a media company, and what makes me tick at ITU is the informality, experimentation and having fun while expanding my knowledge horizon. For me, it is the process, rather than the product that drives me. Being in a collaborative, methodological lab and working with researchers and skilled students is positively challenging and extremely motivating. I struggle with routine…. but so desperately need it in my work and life (laughs). Inspired by other researchers, particularly Heads of Lab, I enjoy experimenting with a diverse set of analytical tools from digital methods to ethnography, poems and interventions. 
Like knowledge, technology appeals to me if I see a purpose for using it and investing in familiarizing myself with it. Learning new technology requires one to enter a temporal bubble where time flies and you don’t want to be disturbed but you also get frustrated and get stuck. It can be quite addictive and lonely. Therefore, I prefer people and learning from them, discussing, sparring and team efforts. Collaborative learning is such an amazing and forgiving concept where you get more than you bargained for. We therefore enact this form of learning through the lab, our events and teaching such as Python study group, datasprints and Motivational Writing. An inclusive and a collaborative way of learning, experimenting and getting things done! 

Follow on Twitter @ITU_Marie