Swedes living overseas and Americans with connections to Sweden have every reason to look to the Web and the entire Internet as a very exciting technology, one that will link them with their friends and families on the other side of the Atlantic, as well as keep them in tune with developments in Swedish government, business, and culture.
Is the promise of this new technology being realized?
kulturCHOCK! would like to take a look at the state of the World Wide Web from a Swedish-American perspective. Simply stated, is it worth all the fuss? Are those of us who eagerly look to this technology as a link to Sweden getting anything out of it? Are the organizations in Sweden that are putting up Web pages really providing anything of value?
Many of us have already discovered the ease with which we can communicate with friends and family across the ocean via email. Newsgroups and mailing lists give everyone a chance to share and debate the issues they face. Hundreds of individuals have read a shamelessly frivolous e-zine like kulturCHOCK! simply because it holds the promise of either reducing the burden of living thousands of miles from Mother Svea or bringing a little Sweden home to us.
BuT what of the rest of the Swedish Web? Is it giving us what it should be? kulturCHOCK! rates the Web by TYPE of information or organization. We’ll give each category a grade consisting of one or more thumbs up or down.
Give us your opinion! Tell us what you agree or disagree with, tell us about your favorite site and WHY you think it is good. Send an email or add comments directly to kulturCHOCK! via our interactive interface.
This article will be published on the kulturCHOCK! Web site, where you will find hypertext links to the sites discussed here.
Consider the the many Web sites provided by federal agencies in the United States. There are literally dozens of sites with information about the rules governing the agencies, downloadable forms, searchable databases, etc. Where are their Swedish equivalents?
Where are the Swedish political parties? Why aren’t they represented by Web pages that present their plans, their core principles, their leaders?
Where are the Swedish Embassies abroad? Why don’t they have Web sites containing the various forms and documents that now can take weeks to obtain by telephone and mail?
One excellent public organization that is represented online is the Swedish Technical Attaches. Ironically, since their purpose is to monitor technological developments outside of Sweden, their Web site contains little of value that pertains to Sweden itself.
A plea to Swedish authorities: shape up! A democracy thrives on information, as do international relations. It simply won’t do to have the public sector ignore this new medium.
From kulturCHOCK!s point of view, the better ones are those that allow us to identify and contact people at the university. Uppsala University and KTH (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, the Royal Institute of Technology) have Web sites that allow one to search a database of students, researchers and professors. Many of kulturCHOCK!s readers are active at some educational institution, or first came in contact with Sweden through an exchange program. A Web site that allows us to maintain contact with colleagues at Swedish universities is most valuable.
Other sites are valuable because of their content. Project Runeberg comes to mind. This site at the University in Linköping includes an extensive collection of classic Nordic literature texts.
Of the local and regional efforts, Helsingborgs Dagblad is the most ambitious. They go so far as reproducing an entire newspaper on their Web site every day, including small classified announcements and advertisments. Heaven for the Helsingborgian but perhaps of limited interest for the rest of us.
Technology-related magazines and newspapers are one of the bright spots of the Swedish Web. Magazines such as Datateknik and Ny Teknik offer lots of good reading in computers and other high-tech subjects, if that’s what excites you.
On the business side, Affarsvärlden offers a site with selected features on Swedish business. Very good reading for those of us who want to keep up with what’s going on in the Swedish private sector. For those tracking their investments in Sweden, Affarsvärlden are currently offering a free annual report service.
Culture, literature and music publications are clearly underrepresented on the Web. The Swedish magazine Z tries to be a sort of Swedish equivalent to WIRED at its site Z Central. It tries a little too hard to be cool and manages to offer little interesting or entertaining content. You can buy one of their t-shirts, however. Ballt! [Editor's note July 23, 1995: Since this editorial was written Z Central has undergone a face-lift and is a lot more interesting. Takes a long time to transfer the files to North America, however! The hardcopy Z mag@zine is worth picking up if you are visiting Sweden; it is better than most Swedish publications I have seen at putting the digital revolution in some sort of context]
TV and radio? Forget about it. Nothing on the Web. A big disappointment. This is to be expected from SVT and Sveriges Radio, but what about the other, newer, more innovative TV and radio stations?
A year from now, will more and more national and local publications have content on the Web? kulturCHOCK! and its readers hope so! Are you listening, Vetlanda Posten?
One wishes there were more e-zines containing social and cultural commentary on the Swedish Web. Straight news sources give us just one view of the changes occuring in Sweden. A broader and deeper range of e-zines such as the Art Bin would be welcome.
How about some transportation information? Where is SJ and its timetable and fare information? Where are the private bus companies with similar info?
AU System, a computer consulting firm in Stockholm, has placed a digital camera on its roof. When you call up their Web page, the camera takes a picture of the bridge and canal at Liljeholmen. It then displays the picture along with a weather report so that you’ll know exactly what the weather is like RIGHT NOW. For those of us homesick for Stockholm, this warms the heart.
Our other favorite silly site is in fact not in Sweden at all. A site in France has assembled data on a number of subway systems around the world, and allows you to plan your subway trip on the Web. Stockholm is one of the cities, so from time I go to this site and take an imaginary trip from my old station in Aspudden to exotic and exciting places like Akalla and Farsta. I plug in my departure station and my destination. The site plans my route and tells me how long it will take. It even displays the trip on a subway map. Virtual underground travel! The Web just doesn’t get much better than this.
What do YOU think about the Web in Sweden? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. (Note. This is a Historical Document, you can't write to kulturCHOCK)