Tea in TiP: Interview with visiting researcher Torbjörn Rolandsson

Torbjorn Welcome to 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 (on this occasion we have shared coffee) and talk about what they hope to work on while visiting ITU and TiP.

Torbjörn Rolandsson is visiting from the Faculty of Journalism Studies at the University of Stockholm, where he is in his second year of his PhD studies. He is staying at TiP between September and November 2019.

Lara Reime: Welcome to TiP! What problems or issues are your working on while you’re here?
Torbjörn Rolandsson: My field of studies is the digitization of the public service radio in Sweden. One of the aspect that I am interested in is how algorithms being implemented in journalistic work and in public service news specifically. And I am interested in the field of STS, so I wanted to be in a place that has a pretty strong focus on STS and especially on the digital technology work. So I have just been at the TiP Salon and presented a very preliminary draft and got a lot of great feedback basically on how to approach the object of study in different ways. That was very rewarding.

Lara: So how did you ended up working on the digitization of the public radio?
Torbjörn: To be honest I knew that a lot of research was being done at my faculty in Stockholm or at the faculty in Stockholm that I was applying to and I am personally interested in the intersection of ideology, power and technology. So then I thought I write an application about public service, because that’s what people do and digitization is like a popular topic, so I wrote an application, I got accepted and yes that’s why I write about what I write about.

Lara: How have you decided to come to TiP? Or where have you heard about TiP?
Torbjörn: I did a PhD course in introduction to Science and Technology Studies in Linköping, and Sunniva Sandbukt (PhD Fellow in TiP) also took that course and she just said that the stuff that I am doing doing seems to be quite in line with how you work on in TiP, so I should come over. You have a very generous guest researcher program and I really love Copenhagen and I thought and still think that the theories you are working with here are very interesting. So it was just a very appealing concept to me.

Lara: What would you most like to work on in the future?
Torbjörn: I would like to work with in the future… I think possibly critiquing how digitization takes shape. I think that’s a good topic to study. How the digital changes or implemented as if it was necessary because we have to be digital but in fact there is like all these power relations behind. And why these digital, these specific digital changes happen.

Lara: How is your research structured? Are you doing fieldwork?
Torbjörn: Yes, I am doing fieldwork at the Swedish public service radio. Ethnographic studies, but all with a very technological focus.

Lara: What was the most surprising moment of your fieldwork?
Torbjörn: I am not done with it yet. But I think discovering exactly how massive organizations can be. They have these formal structures and everyone has their place in theory but then there is all these… I mean social reality is just a very massive place and that really comes out when you’re actually watching it take place and talk to different actors within an organization. I am sure it shouldn’t be surprising but to me it was. You know, I didn’t realized that it was this complex.

Lara: What’s the coolest thing about your research?
Torbjörn: I think it theoretically and methodological it could be something completely new to Journalism Studies. Or it does Journalism Studies in a way that it usually isn’t. So I think that is pretty exciting just seeing what my theoretical framework does in Journalism Studies. I think that’s exciting.

Lara: Great. Now we are leaving the academic part. Coming from Sweden it might not be so different, but what is your favorite Danish food?
Torbjörn: Did I had any Danish food? I think I have eaten meat every day since coming here, I usually don’t. I think my favorite Danish food is beer for 15 kr in the pub. And I had a very nice pastry at føtex, that was excellent.

Lara: Now you have been here two weeks, what would you say is the best thing about being in TiP?
Torbjörn: So far I think that it is a very open environment intellectually, and socially. I mean people are very welcoming and interested in the work that you are doing and able to talk about it in different ways that is really stimulating. And also I haven’t partaken in all the activities in TiP but I know that there is stuff going on at TiP and the Business department and ITU all the time. So, if you want to you could just go to stuff all the time which probably is a really good thing when you come as a guest researcher and you don’t know that many people, it seems like a place that is very easy to get in socially and to become a part of.