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Contribution : "Digital technology and culture to stir up European desire" by David Lacombled

There is no doubt that Europe is going through a desire breakdown. Between ethereal utopia and administrative configuration, the UE is having some trouble finding the transcendental way to build its own story. What if the culture and the digital technology were our chance to finally create an identity and a European storytelling?

European elections, dull plain... It’s not enough to say that European campaign doesn’t keen the public opinion. A Vivavoice study published in Liberation, on May 5th, gives clearly the nature of the feeling that prevails in our countrymen’s mind when talking about Europe. A mixed feeling indeed. For 49%, Europe means “something negative” and 58% perceive it as “a constraint”. An ambivalent and paradoxical feeling, as in the same time 60% reject “any exit of Europe, in its both political and economical form”.

Neither a clear adhesion nor a total reject: everything is going on as if Europe was hit by a desire breakdown. We might find conjectural explanation to that: the difficult mobilization due to the closeness of the European ballot with the municipal one, the economic conjuncture that leads to an inward-looking attitude and not to the exploration of new horizons, and finally, a certain loss of impetus of the idea of the European utopia…

But beyond all this, it seems that we can detect a structural incapacity from Europe to tease the desire. As the Italian essayist Giuliani Da Empoli notices: “is there any project more exalting than Europe? Nothing more wide, nothing more wonderful, and finally nothing more revolutionary than this first human attempt to create a supra-nationality entity in time of peace? Nevertheless, no one relates this epic.[1]” Between ethereal utopia and administrative configuration, Europe is having some trouble finding the transcendent way to build a story. Actually, there is no European storytelling that would tell the History and the characters of the construction of the Union, as we do for the United States, the end of the Apartheid, and India’s independence… 

Until now, it is true that it was about building a Union, starting with coal and steel, with the establishment of an unique market, with the invention of a common currency, with some directives and definition of functioning rule for a constantly increasing number of member States. One can admit, it leaves only little space for dream and utopia. But today, it seems that we are reaching the end of a process, a tipping point which is essential. Europe needs breathe, beyond a strict framing.

What if digital technology and culture were the opportunity of a new impetus? After the necessity of infrastructure works, what if both culture and digital technology could give to Europe its identity and physical superstructure? 

Yet here, the aim is quite different. It is not about configuring, protecting, supervising, but about opening up. Setting free the energies, fertilizing the initiatives, revitalizing projects, accompanying synergies… Without speaking of an “airbus of the culture”, it is important to initiate projects with a European scope, by learning from our mistakes. Because innovation is also the culture of failure.

It is just as vital for the digital technology. This sector not only makes up the light in the darkness of the economy (studies show a growth of 8% for the digital sector), but it is also a wonderful vector in order to build our identity.

It is possible to rise next to the giants that Google, Apple or Facebook are. Not by standing in their way – it would be useless – or trying to copy them – it would take us more than 10 years to “redo” Google Map. But by being ourselves: a model opened to oneself, to others and to the world, facing closed models and temptations of autarky.

Didn’t we succeed in existing facing the Hollywood studios dream machine? By giving birth to a wide, audacious and experimental cinematography, rich in its failures sometimes, but also in its efficiency (one just needs to check the number of remake projects). There are also some European champions of the digital technology, and their names are Deezer, Spotify, Criteo, Dailymotion… 

It is vital that Europe favours the emergence of new digital actors by releasing the new generations’ innovation capacities. Those we called “digital natives” are also “European natives”. It is essential for the strength of our economy, but also, and particularly for the sharpening of our European identity. It is culture and digital technology’s breathe that can give it a soul.

David Lacombled

[1] Giuliano Da Empoli, « Che Barba l’Europa, ma provateci voi » Il Sole 24Ore, 26th of April 2014.

About David Lacombled 

A journalist by training, David Lacombled is a Managing Director for the content strategy at Orange. He is also president of the think-tank, The Villa Numeris and author of the book Digital Citizen (Plon).

His website :

On Twitter : @david_lacombled