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The Beauty of Change: Culture, Technology, Nature, and Media Theory During the 1950s

This book project is an attempt to study the cultural implications of media change during the 1950s through the results of looking at a vast array of media objects but in a context characterized by some small, but as I will show, significant changes in both the conceptualizations and practices of phenomena like television, commercial culture and politics.

The aim of my study is to use a particular, “local” case, a broad study of the media ecologies of Sweden during the 1950s, to discuss the intricate web of relations between television, culture and society that are difficult to discern in a larger, and more well-known, context. Swedish media culture in the 1950s is, I will argue, a useful case for understanding these processes. It is small enough to grasp, not in its entirety of course, but in enough detail. Sweden after World War II was also extremely open to influx from other countries, mainly the US, but also from the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, as well as from the old business partner and long-time source of inspiration, Germany. If an idea emerged in any of these countries it was immediately treated, discussed and often adopted in Sweden.

An important reason for studying Sweden is its political situation, with a business world still thinking that they were a natural part of the western capitalist system (and with a similar legal framework as other western democracies) facing a social-democrat government determined to strengthen a Swedish "exceptionalist" "third" way. Therefore, I consider that what in for example the US or (West) Germany disappears into other contexts can in Sweden be singled out as more clear-cut specimens of media culture. Despite its profiled engagement in the United Nations and the European Union in later decades, Sweden has never been as international in its cultural, media and business approaches as during the 1950s.

If we take seriously the lessons from the strong links between television, commercial culture and politics, from American and British research, the outcome, our view of the media culture, will change as soon as we change any of these parameters.

Through the last decade's formative historical research of industrial films, early computing, management, accounting, market communication, advertising, vocational training, public relations, domestic research, etc., this project aims at explaining a series of issues and objects related to uses and theorizations of media in industry and commerce in Sweden during the 1950s, in order to widen our understanding of the media-cultural context of television's breakthrough.

Project leader: Mats Björkin
Project duration: 2010-2018
Funding: Faculty of Arts and the Marie Nisser Grant (Vattenfall)


Contact Information

Mats Björkin

PO Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Visiting Address:
Renströmsgatan 6 , 41255 Göteborg

+46-(0)31-786 5333

Page Manager: Felicia Bigot Klinteberg|Last update: 6/19/2017

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