The Mystification of Digital Technology in Norwegian Policies on Archives, Libraries and Museums: Digitalization as Policy Imperative


  • Erik Henningsen The Department for Welfare, Democracy and Governance, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
  • Håkon Larsen Department of Archivistics, Library and Information Science, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway



Digitalization, Cultural Policy, Cultural Heritage, Cultural Sociology, ALM, Norway


In this article, we investigate how digitalization has attained the role of policy imperative in the culture sector, and how the imperative is influencing contemporary policy discourses on archives, libraries and museums (ALM-organizations) in Norway. We have analyzed policy documents issued by state authorities within the Norwegian ALM-sector since the time around the turn of the century, and demonstrate through the analysis that one must take three types of cultural processes into consideration in order to understand how digitalization has attained the status as policy imperative. Each of the cultural processes amounts to a form of mystification. Firstly, one must understand that digitalization’s ascendancy into a policy imperative is in part a process of imitation, of other countries and societal sectors. Secondly, one must take into account the conceptual framing of the policy discourse, in particular in relation to the epochalist vision that structure the discourse. Thirdly, one must take into account the process of fetishism which is at work in this policy discourse. Combined, these processes lead to digitalization being perceived as a force which is external to social relations, dictating action on the part of actors working within the sector. As such, digitalization comes effectively to serve as an overarching policy imperative in the culture sector.


ABM (2006): Kulturarven til alle - digitalisering i abm-sektoren, Oslo: ABM-utvikling.

Bateson, Gregory (1972): Steps to an Ecology of Mind, London: Jason Aronson Inc.

Borghi, Maurizio, & Karapapa, Stavroula (2013): Copyright and Mass Digitization, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Caswell, Michelle, Harter, Christopher, & Jules, Bergis (2017): "Digital historical record: integrating community archives in national strategies for access to Digital Cultural Heritage," D-Lib Magazine, 23:5/6.

Dahl, Hans Fredrik, & Helseth, Tore (2006): To knurrende løver: kulturpolitikkens historie 1814-2014, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

DiMaggio, Paul J., & Powell, Walter W. (1983): "The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields," American Sociological Review, 48:2, 147-160.

du Gay, Paul (2003): "The tyranny of the epochal: change, epochalism and organizational reform," Organization, 10:4, 663-684.

Eagleton, Terry (1991): Ideology: An Introduction, London: Verso.

Fidjestøl, Alfred (2015): Eit eige rom. Norsk kulturråd 1965-2015, Oslo: Samlaget.

Goffman, Erving (1974): Frame analysis: an essay on the organization of experience, New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Graeber, David (2005): "Fetishism as social creativity. Or, fetishes are gods in the process of construction," Anthropological Theory, 5:4, 407-438.

Henningsen, Erik, Berkaak, Odd Are, & Skålnes, Sigrid (2010): Mangfoldsåret: Muligheter og motsigelser i politikken for et flerkulturelt kulturliv, NIBR rapport 18, Oslo: NIBR.

Henningsen, Erik, & Jones, Peris (2013): "'What kind of hell is this!' Understanding the Mungiki movement's power of mobilisation," Journal of Eastern African Studies, 7:3, 371-388.

Hylland, Ole Marius (2017): "Even better than the real thing? Digital copies and digital museums in a digital cultural policy," Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Culutral Research, 9:1, 62-84.

Kaufmann, Mariele, & Jeandesboz, Julien (2017): "Politics and 'the digital': From singularity to specificity," European Journal of Social Theory, 20:3, 309-328.

Lakoff, George (2010): "Why it matters how we frame the environment," Environmental Communication, 4:1, 70-81.

Lakoff, George, & Johnson, Mark (1980): Metaphors We Live By, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Larsen, Håkon (2016): Performing Legitimacy: Studies in High Culture and the Public Sphere, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Marx, Karl (1906): Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, New York, NY: The Modern Library.

Ministry of Culture (1996): NOU (1996:7), Museum, mangfald, minne, møtestad, Oslo: Kulturdepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (1999): St.meld. 22 (1999-2000), Kjelder til kunnskap og oppleving. Om arkiv, bibliotek og museum i ei IKT-tid og om bygningsmessige rammevilkår på kulturområdet, Oslo: Kulturdepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2003): St.meld. 48 (2002-2003), Kulturpolitikk fram mot 2014, Oslo: Kultur- og kirkedepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2009a): St.meld. 23 (2008-2009), Bibliotek. Kunnskapsallmenning, møtestad og kulturarena i ei digitial tid, Oslo: Kultur- og kirkedepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2009b): St.meld. 24 (2008-2009), Nasjonal strategi for bevaring og formidling av digital kulturarv, Oslo: Kultur- og kirkedepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2009c): St.meld. 49 (2008-2009), Framtidas museum. Forvaltning, forskning, formidling, fornying, Oslo: Kultur- og kirkedepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2012a): Meld.St. 23 (2011-2012), Visuell kunst, Oslo: Kulturdepartementet.

Ministry of Culture (2012b): Meld.St. 7 (2012-2013), Arkiv, Oslo: Kulturdepartementet.

Ministry of Justice and the Police (1999): NOU (1999:27), 'Ytringsfrihet bør finde sted'. Forslag til ny § 100, Oslo: Justis- og politidepartementet.

Pfaffenberger, Brian (1988): "Fetishised objects and humanised nature: Towards an anthropology of technology," Man, 23:2, 236-252.

Ritzer, George, Dean, Paul, & Jurgenson, Nathan (2012): "The coming of age of the prosumer," American Behavioral Scientist, 56:4, 379-398.

Rønning, Helge (2016): "On press freedom and other media freedoms," Ulla Carlsson (ed.): Freedom of Expession and Media in Transition: Studies and Reflections in the Digital Age, Gothenburg: Nordicom, 43-51.

Sayer, Derek (1991): Capitalism and Modernity: An Excursus on Marx and Weber, London: Routledge.

Snow, Davis A., & Benford, Robert D. (1988): "Ideology, frame, resonance, and participant mobilization," Bert Klandermans, Hanspeter Kriesi & Sidney G. Tarrow (eds): From Structure to Action: Social movement Participation Across Cultures, Greenwich, CT: JAI press.

Thylstrup, Nanna Bonde (2019): The Politics of Mass Digitization, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Toffler, Alvin (1980): The Third Wave, New York, NY: William Morrow & Co.

Valtysson, Bjarki (2017): "From policy to platform: the digitization of Danish Cultural Heritage," International Journal of Cultural Policy, 23:5, 545-561.




How to Cite

Henningsen, E. and Larsen, H. (2020) “The Mystification of Digital Technology in Norwegian Policies on Archives, Libraries and Museums: Digitalization as Policy Imperative”, Culture Unbound, 12(2), pp. 332–350. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.20200504b.