Understanding each other – digital services facilitate cultural exchanges – Nordic Labor Journal


A common digital platform for topical conversations with Nordic profiles could raise awareness of what is happening in our neighboring countries, just as television once did. New technologies make it easier to cross national borders.

“We know each other far too little. Although Nordic societies are privileged, based on well-being and high levels of trust where everyone contributes, we often know little about the conversations our neighboring countries have, ”says Lise Bach Hansen in Copenhagen.

She is leading a new “sounding board” with a discussion group and network that she has initiated with the Öresund Institute in Malmö and others. The aim is to improve contacts between the cultural sectors of the Nordic countries.

She is also responsible for lectures and literature at The Black Diamond – the modern extension of the Royal Danish Library facing the city’s port.

Digitally cross borders

There is a Swedish proverb which roughly translates to “Every cloud has a silver lining”. This fits well with the potential of digital communication, which was highlighted by the pandemic when physical meetings and gatherings became limited or impossible. This was also true for the international writers scene at Black Diamond.

“The restrictions have opened our eyes. Today, we can perform a production in front of a large audience here at Black Diamond while delivering it live to libraries and upper secondary schools in Denmark. We reach people across the country without them needing to be in Copenhagen, ”explains Lise Bach Hansen.

Lise Bech Hansen in one of the empty Corona auditoriums at the Black Diamond, before Denmark reopens.

The live shows are introduced locally by librarians in Denmark who introduce the evening’s writers before handing over to the transmission of The Black Diamond.

This fall, the stage featured Swedish Alex Schulman, and English-Canadian author Rachel Cusk arrives in November. Next year’s bookings include Finnish-Swedish Kjell Westö and Norwegian Karl Ove KnausgÃ¥rd.

“Imagine if conversations like these could also be transmitted to Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish libraries. This would give us a chance to learn more not only about the author, but also about the environment they write about, which is often their country of origin. This happened when television came to the Nordic countries and we were able to start watching each other’s programs. Now we have a new chance to tackle topical issues, ”says Lise Bach Hansen.

A broader perspective

She cites an example of such a subject. The mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen, had to resign after admitting to being the victim of sexual harassment the day after the day the international writers scene had welcomed Matilda Gustavsson.

She was the Swedish journalist who exposed the scandal to the Swedish Academy before writing the book “The club” where she “exposes a world known to few and depicts power struggles and corruption in the highest of cultural circles,” as the editor writes. Part of the conversation at the writers stage was about the #Metoo debate in Sweden.

Black Diamond event

Matilda Gustavsson is one of the Swedish guest writers at The Black Diamond.

“If we widened the perspective in such a setting with a range of relevant profiles, many more people would be interested in listening to our conversations and we would learn more about our Nordic countries,” says Lise Bach Hansen.

Other questions that might be of interest from a Danish perspective include why electric cars have become so popular in Norway and why gender equality in Sweden is almost ‘avant-garde’ in Denmark, as she puts it.

“We don’t know each other’s opinion makers either. Not many people in Denmark know that Peter Wolodarski is the editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter. And in Sweden, few people know about Danish literature beyond the fact that Suzanne Brøgger is a Danish writer, ”explains Lise Bach Hansen.

Required translations

She believes that it would be necessary to translate the conversations into the respective Nordic languages ​​in order to be successful with a common digital platform.

“It is after all something that works in the film industry. A lot of Nordic films have actors from Scandinavian countries speaking their own language, and that’s genius. I think it’s important that we hear Nordic languages, know what they sound like, and can grasp the odd word or phrase while fully understanding the underlying context of what is being said. We must allow us to understand each other.

Lise Bach Hansen has a vision of what a Nordic digital platform could look like. It’s something she developed with a film production company in Stockholm, between two jobs at the Royal Library.

“With a platform like this, the Nordic countries would come together. New technologies make it easier to cross national borders, ”explains Lise Bach Hansen.

A growing bridge of words

Johanna Rivano EckerdalA digital platform is already under construction, with Swedish and Danish language and linguistic culture. The initiative for this bridge of words came from Johanna Rivano Eckerdal, head of the Orresund Regional Study Center at Lund University.

“It is important to be able to understand the languages ​​of others. Often times you either realize that you don’t understand, or you think you understand and miss a lot. The challenge can therefore be at different levels, ”she told the Nordic Labor Journal.

People of different mother tongues and backgrounds contribute to the word bridge by describing their own reflection on a Danish or Swedish word, term or saying. Contributions include texts involving the Swedish words or sayings “Lagom”, “Hoppas att allt är bra med dig! “And” Folkhemmet “, as well as the Danish” Det kan man ikke være bekendt “,” Pyt “,” Lige “,” Træls “and” Fjernsyn “.

Language must be inclusive

Johanna Rivano Eckerdal agrees with Lise Bush Hansen on the importance of languages ​​when it comes to knowing neighboring countries.

“It would be nice if we understood each other’s languages. This is a prerequisite for being able to take advantage of what is happening in our different countries, ”she says and underlines another linguistic aspect that she faces as a lecturer at Lund University. ALM and Digital Cultures Division.

“When you cooperate with researchers from Nordic countries where not everyone has a Nordic language as their mother tongue, you are walking a delicate tightrope where you have to be aware that we do not understand each other all the time. “

Situations like this require negotiations over which language to use, thinks Johanna Rivano Eckerdal, but not just negotiations.

“We must also take into consideration the consequences of our choice of language. While it is important to be inclusive, it must also be possible to maintain an interest in local color, ”she says.

Listening with an attentive ear is always an advantage

Many young Nordic citizens speak English rather than Scandinavian, which could facilitate communication. But, says Johanna Rivano Eckerdal, we are often much more nuanced when we speak our mother tongue. She recalls the consequences of the choice of language and the importance of being aware of the meaning of words and terms and of being humble in conversation.

“It might sound like a problem, but there is great potential in aiming for good communication. Listening to each other with an attentive ear is always an advantage, ”says Johanna Rivano Eckerdal.


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