From ‘Network’ to ‘Visions’: The Role of the Umbrella Organisation VisionWorks in the Norwegian Alternative Movement
Margrethe Løøv [+]
University of Bergen
The Norwegian New Age milieu has been marked by a quite extraordinary feature; a national umbrella organisation for alternative spirituality, therapies and lifestyles. Founded in 1992, VisionWorks (formerly Alternativt Nettverk) seeks to coordinate and promote actors within the ‘alternative’ field by providing common platforms for interaction. The organisation organises alternative fairs in Norway’s largest cities, issues the magazine Visjon, arranges lectures and runs a web site with news on activities and press coverage of alternative topics. This article will provide an outline of VisionWorks’ activities, and discuss the organisation’s role within the Norwegian New Age milieu. It will be argued that Alternativt Nettverk was instrumental in establishing a sense of communality among producers and users of New Age thought, services and goods in Norway. The organisation also strongly contributed to creating a public awareness of the existence of such phenomena in Norway. However, its heyday as the main agenda setter might be coming to an end. As the ‘alternative’ is becoming more widespread, new and competing network-structures have emerged. New media have reduced the importance of a centralised information source. Moreover, the past few years have seen fierce debates over VisionWorks’ regulation of its market. Although it probably will remain the largest and most influential network for New Age in Norway, VisionWorks is becoming one among many organising forces in a growing and increasingly diverse alternative landscape. The article will address the most important dynamics at play in this process.