Digital Library Platforms’ Democracy Building Between Instrumental Education and Web 2.0 Sharing: A Swedish Case Study

  • Arwid Lund Södertörn University
  • Pamela Schultz Nybacka Södertörn University
Keywords: digital libraries, public libraries, regional libraries, digital platforms, Web 2.0, gamification, peer production, collaborative production, digital sharing, Bildung, direct democracy, participatory democracy, deliberative democracy, representative democracy


Digital platforms are a primary means of communication in society. Public libraries play an empowering role in these processes, strengthening citizens’ digital competences. This raises questions about what democratic processes the digital technology is made to enable. The study investigates how a Swedish Digital Library (DL) is envisioned and organised within a national digitalisation strategy. Qualitative methods are used, and a theoretical democracy framework is developed and used together with the concepts of education and Bildung in the analysis. Four empirical themes are identified. The analysis centres on tensions related to horizontality and hierarchy, and Bildung and sociality. The DL vision is dominated by a hierarchical and instrumental educational vision that connects to representative democracy. A subordinated social and pedagogical vision of inner motivational drives and partial forms of sharing, connected to deliberative and semi-participatory democracy forms, exists, mostly in the form of some cherry-picked Web 2.0 discourses.

Author Biographies

Arwid Lund, Södertörn University

Holds a PhD in Information Studies from Uppsala University. He is a Senior Lecturer and subject co-ordinator in Information Studies at Södertörn University, Sweden. He has published Wikipedia, Work and Capitalism: A Realm of Freedom? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Corporate Capitalism’s Use of Openness: Profit for free? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, co-authored). He has also published articles and chapters on open data.

Pamela Schultz Nybacka, Södertörn University

Holds a PhD in Business Administration from Stockholm University, Sweden. She is a Senior Lecturer at Södertörn University, and the founder and Head of their Librarianship programme. Her research topics include libraries and librarianship, books and readership, cultural economy and the arts in consumer culture.