Summary in English

Information Flows across the Baltic Sea: Swedish-language press as a cultural mediator, 1771–1918

The project examines how the Swedish-language press acted as a cultural mediator between Finland and Sweden from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The researchers will use digital newspaper collections to investigate how the press in the two countries reused each other’s news articles and other material.

The daily press for this period has been digitized in both Finland and Sweden, enabling the project researchers to study overlaps in the text masses and thereby see how the information was spread across the Baltic Sea.

The project explores which themes and events dominated the flow of information and further what these findings tell about the role of the press as a cultural mediator between the countries. At the same time, the project produces new knowledge of 19th-century cultural history and studies how relations between Finland and Sweden developed from the end of the 18th century until Finland’s independence and Civil War.

The project asks:

How did the content of Swedish-language press circulate transnationally, between Finland and Sweden, which were the dominant themes in the information flow across the Baltic Sea, and what does this say about the changing role of the Swedish-language press as a cultural mediator between 1771 and 1918?

Research methods

In its task to identify text reuse across the Baltic Sea, the project is based on the software BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), which was originally created in bioinformatics to compare information containing noise, such as amino acids and DNA. In our project, the texts must first be encoded so that BLAST can process them and detect overlapping sequences. These matching pairs are grouped into clusters that contain all occurrences of text reuse. With the help of metadata around place and date, flows in time and space can then be mapped and analyzed. The method has already proved successful on Finnish material (see Our ambitious goal now is to pull newspapers from Finland and Sweden into a corpus and analyze the overlaps. We will be able to develop the software and its application further when tested against new materials, technical challenges and research problems. The project is methodologically groundbreaking and the first to algorithmically study the relations between the Finnish and Swedish press.

The project covers all newspapers published in Finland from 1771 to 1918 and a large proportion of newspapers published, and digitized, in Sweden from 1645 to 1906. This material is added to our corpus and supplemented with digital magazines from the Swedish Language Bank’s collection. In this way, the research material can be extended until 1918.