When the French “culture” intelligentsia scrutinizes its belly button

lobsterI probably made a lot of fresh new enemies this morning. AFDEL and Renaissance Numérique were organizing the “Tokyo Forum” on the digitalization of “culture”. Why the name “Tokyo Forum”? Because the venue was the basement of the Palais de Tokyo, a modern arts museum in the heart of Paris. Why quote marks around “culture”? Because in France, “culture” is an industry, a business, a mindset, which does not translate nor transpose easily in English. Closest I could come up with would be “arts” – but then there would be an “artistic” expectation, and thus a disappointment. So I’ll just use culture here, and drop the quote marks.

Of course, being my usual dry sarcastic self, I tweeted my typical acerb comments during the discussions. I did get a lot less retweets than I typically get at – for example – Gartner conferences. Maybe it’s because I was tweeting in English and nobody in the room understood English? Or maybe it’s because I was not adhering to the “pensée unique” that was prevailing.

“Pensée unique”, another French concept. Think: mainstream thinking, but with a coercive twist. If you’re not mainstream, you deserve to be banished from the intelligentsia. And maybe put on trial in the media or in court.

Anyway, I haven’t been “tweetporting” from events for a while, but since I am lazy and it’s late, let me pick a few of my tweets from today, to give you a flavor of the “debates” among mostly like-minded individuals.

  • Attending #ForumTokyo, where digital meets arts & culture. An @Editeurs_AFDEL event.
  • Let’s hope the type of culture discussed at #ForumTokyo is not splashing paint on walls or inflating “sculptures” next to monuments…
    • Right, I forgot to mention that the basement of the Palais de Tokyo was actually decorated by “street artists” in what is called the “Lasco Project”
  • Culture should not be defended, it should be promoted. Digital is here to help, says @axellelemaire #ForumTokyo
  • Digital enables self publication, crowdfunding – new benefits for culture and arts. #forumtokyo
    • So far, so good. Starting to be hopeful.
  • And now, the mandatory stab at the GAFAs… #forumtokyo
  • So, for @axellelemaire, Netflix is good when they buy rights to French TV shows, but bad when they open service in France? #forumtokyo
    • Nothing like good old protectionism, right?
  • Before digital era, technology was already democratizing culture & arts: printing, radio, TV… #forumtokyo
  • The culture industry is the 3rd largest employer in Europe #ForumTokyo
    • Do they count the “intermitents du spectacle”? (look it up if you are interested, but be warned, it’s a difficult concept to grasp, even for the French)
  • Digitalization transfers revenue model from purchase to subscription, explains @loic_riviere #ForumTokyo
    • Finally a sensible thought. Well done Loic.
  • French publishing industry resisting the eBook model – for all the wrong reasons #ForumTokyo #rearguardfight
  • 30% of books sold in US are digital. In France: 3%. #ForumTokyo
  • The French book market was shaped by the “Lang” law. Bad start… #FreeMarket #USSR #ForumTokyo
  • German booksellers fight Amazon (and win) with their own value added platform. French do same with protectionist laws. #ForumTokyo
  • Instant access to information did not kill daily newspapers, but forced them to evolve. They remain a reference. #ForumTokyo
    • So why can’t book publishers evolve, too?
  • For musical creation, crowdfunding complements well the “majors” model. Enables artists to find public first. #ForumTokyo
  • Fascinating to understand the parallel between artistic funding and company funding. #ForumTokyo
    • Crowdfunding, sponsorship, angels, VCs – concepts are very close here. To be further refined…
  • In theory, digital/streaming platforms democratize access to all artists. Practically, it depends on who controls algorithms… #ForumTokyo
  • Stop confusing the long tail with algorithmic “equality”, says @loic_riviere. Excellent point! #ForumTokyo
    • Again, Loic saves the discussion. Algorithms will maximize the profit for these who build them. Their goal is not to decide for you what you should watch, listen, or read. The long tail is not equal right to be consumed for every product, but the opposite.
  • French press was helped by Google’s tech and $$ to digitalize their historical issues. #FriendOrFoe #ForumTokyo
    • But now, let’s break Google down…
  • What is French “cultural diversity” as defined by CSA? Forcing people to watch stuff they don’t want to? #1984 #ForumTokyo
  • Netflix recommendations based on usage data, not government imposed quotas… #ForumTokyo
  • CSA president suggest that recommendation algorithms should be “infused” by “diversity” metadata #ForumTokyo
  • This is what “cultural diversity” brings us, Mr Schrameck… #ForumTokyo
    • See the image illustrating this post. I am sure all of Versailles visitors wanted to see this lobster – this is why they came. Very Orwellian.
  • RT @Erebuss: Le #ForumTokyo, c’est un repère des descendants de ceux qui pensaient que la terre était plate et qui brulerent Galilée ?
    • So maybe I wasn’t the only one trying to alienate the entire room…
  • #ForumTokyo is turning into a fight about the Korean movie industry. #GladToBeHere
    • Actually, there was a heated debate. Panelists did not agree on every point. Too bad the topic was the Korean movie industry.
  • Google is a platform, and enables diversity more than mainstream media… But this is not the “coercive diversity” type I guess #ForumTokyo
  • Who owns data collected by private platforms about their clients? #FranceTV speaker stops short of demanding they become public #ForumTokyo
    • This one is a cool idea. Force Netflix to provide all their big data (and algorithms while we are at it) to their competitors. Like GDF for their customer databases.
  • French media chronology serves individual interests, not the public good. No other country has such an idiotic concept… #ForumTokyo
    • And I stopped tweeting when the other politician got on stage to close the event.

OK, it wasn’t all bad. There was good stuff too, and I am pretty good at picking on the stuff I disagree with. But the facts remain: new coercive laws are not going to better shape up the French cultural landscape, and decrease further the French level of education. We already have schools that are good at doing the latter.

Digitally yours,

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