Roger Blomgren

2017-03-20 11:30

New professor is interested in power

Roger Blomgren is a new professor in the Swedish School of Library and Information Science. He researches how digitalisation affects public venues and is interested in who makes decisions within cultural policy.

This past year, he has been on a leave of absence to work within librarian studies at Oslo and Akershus University College in Norway. Since the beginning of the year, he's been back in Borås as a professor of library and information science.

Roger Blomgren
Age: 57
Lives in: Uddevalla
Worked as: In addition to working at the university, he has worked as an analyst at the then Education and Cultural Affairs Department, as secretary of a public service investigation, culture investigation and for Västra Götaland region. He has also worked for fifteen years at University West.
On the train to and from Borås: Corrects exams, reads research material, reads "ordinary" books, and listens to the news. Sometimes I sleep.
Leisure: Watches a lot of films and is in a wine club called “Munskänkarna”. A film tip is "Toni Erdmann," a very good German film.
Watches: Right now, Homeland. Good to watch while cycling in front of the TV. I usually try to cycle three Swedish miles during an episode. Another good series is Breaking Bad.
What not everybody knows about you: When I was younger, I wrote screenplays. But they were not good enough for anyone to buy them. Or I was before my time.

"It feels good and inspiring. I have two main new roles and they are being the research director for the Centre for Cultural Policy Research (KPC) and the research group Library, Culture and Society (BiKuSa)."

Free to pursue policies

The interest in power and governance runs like a thread through his research. He is also interested in cultural policy and says that it is a small piece of the political playing ground. Politicians are generally disinterested in it and the same goes for citizens.

"Cultural policy doesn't engage as many as, for example, healthcare and schools. And there is not so much legislation around it. This allows individual civil servants, but mainly institutional representatives and directors of arts organisations in the field, to have a lot of influence," he says.

'This is the main problem within cultural policy – who decides, for example, which books will be purchased for the libraries? Who has the power?"

He explains that this contributes to how social engineering plays a large role in cultural policy. That means pursuing policies based on scientific arguments rather than party ideology. An example is when government film censorship was introduced in 1911. Then, the decision was based on arguments from researchers in education and psychology. 

"Science has been, and still has, a great influence on cultural policy. Today, research on social sustainability, becoming healthy through culture, cultural planning, and culture in schools are current issues. It is problematic that researchers are setting the agenda. But there are elements of social engineering in other parts of policy as well."

Digitalisation's impact on public venues

Right now, Roger Blomgren is conducting research in an international project that began when he worked in Oslo. In the project, researchers are investigating how digitalisation affects public establishments' role as meeting places – specifically, they are looking at archives, libraries, and museums.

Centre for Cultural Policy Research--KPC
Established in 1997 to encourage research, research, information and debate on cultural issues.
KPC seeks to play a key role in the growing research and practice fields that involve cultural issues.
Plays a major role in the publication of the Nordic Journal of Cultural Policy.
Link: Hb.se/kpc

"According to Norwegian law, these places are to serve as meeting places. They should be part of the social infrastructure for an open and enlightened public dialogue. But how are these venues impacted by digitalisation? For instance, can meetings occur via social media instead, and who do you meet there?"

He says that, with his new position, he is now involved in the project as a representative from Borås.

Political scientist interested in film

Roger Blomgren is a political scientist at heart, and thanks to a keen interest in film, he wrote his dissertation (completed in 1998) on Swedish film policy during the years 1909-1993. By studying the policy, he could see how the view of film changed from, at the beginning, something somewhat threatening that society had to be protected from through censorship, to being culture that policy instead would support.

Library, Culture and Society (BiKuSa)
The research group is linked to undergraduate and doctoral programmes and conducts research on society, libraries and culture.
Read more about BiKuSa. 

He believes that you learn a lot about society by studying cultural policy. He takes “pilsner films” in the 1930s as an example: "Politicians wanted to ban these films because they thought that the characters only drank alcohol and did not go to work. But it didn't work. Then they wanted to support alternative types of films that showed people with better morals and thus affect the viewers to become better people. And so culture has often been used for political purposes in order to ennoble mankind."

Wants to give a reflective perspective

Roger Blomgren teaches courses on, among other things, cultural policy, and supervises doctoral students. He thinks it is important to teach to create critical and questioning students.

"I think we should not only teach students to say that others are wrong, but also that you can have a critical perspective towards yourself. It is easy for academia to create ideologies, and it is important to have a reflective perspective on the world," he says.


26/4 Culture, politics and society--Meeting for Cultural Research and Practice

A conference for researchers and others in academia who are interested in cultural policy research, politicians, institutional representatives and other professionals active in the cultural field.

Text: Anna Kjellsson
Translation: Eva Medin
Photo: Suss Wilén