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#FA2013 - Summary of the session : Culture, How Many Divisions ?

Olivier Poivre d’Arvor (Director of France Culture) sets the parameters of the session centered aroun three questions: Can the powers of culture be measured? In the name of what endeavor? Economic, diplomatic, political? If culture is a factor of cohesion of certain territories, it is the cause of divisions, competition, and conflicts on others. Does high demand of cultural goods and services dissolve culture? What are the new divisions formed in the cultural sector for better or for worse?

Lawrence Lessig –Harvard Law Professor (USA) –has been an advocate for an internet that liberates culture through “creative commons”. Lessig emphasizes the value for universal access to culture. If Internet remains a vehicle for freedom as exhibited by the Arab Spring, Lessig also notes de difficulty in the short term to define its impact on democracy. He uses the American example in which politicians use up to 70% of their time searching for funding in their internet campaign. Internet has taken precedents on interpersonal communication; that being said, in order to be heard one must radicalize one’s opinions, often leading to excessive opinions. This explains, for example, the Tea Party’s success and the subsequent paralysis of American politics.  Can Internet save us? The answer is not evident in the short term given the negative side effects of extremist attitudes on democracies. We might have to rely on a new generation to extricate ourselves from this stifling position.

Jean-Michel Jarre, author and composer, President of CISAC. Jarre recognizes that with regard to intellectual property, artist weren’t unable to send a clear message to the public. IP is not only a means of insuring the economic sustainability of creation. A new relationship between contents and containers, software and hardware, must be reinvented. The antagonisms between creative commons and intellectual property might be erased with the establishment of a common platform allowing funding for creators and the diffusion of amateurs’ work. The freedom of the latter does not impede on the liberty of the former. We must update the system established in the xviiith century to adapt to contemporary conditions of production and diffusion. We must not stigmatize Internet. Artist have always known how to use this new technologies. Jarre even goes so far as to propose an ‘eternal copyright’ system that would nourish a fund for creation in emerging countries.

Paul Mashatile, minister of South Africa, reminds us that culture has an essential role in the development of numerous countries. In the case of South Africa, culture facilitates reconciliation and the construction of a nation. Culture must also bring nations together. This is what South Africa names OBOUTU: I exist because you exist, allow me to extend my hand to the other, to accept the difference. Culture is the bridge between men.

Yonfan, film director (China), through the destiny of two female artists –the German filmmaker Leni Riefensthahl and the Chinese actress Yushi Yamagichi (Yoshigo Otaka) –questions how art can influence our lives in some unconscious ways. The star system creates representations that inhabit ourselves for better or for worse.

Bernard Landry (former Prime Minister, University of Quebec and Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal Professor), notes that anti-globalization manifestations, replaced nowadays by alter-globalist ones, show us a different vision of the world. The real danger of globalization is the homogenization that would be a huge step backward. The first value of a country is not its economy but its culture that sacrifices the materialist obsessions in order to admire the reality’s beauty. Proposed by Canada, the cultural exception that refuses to see culture as a mere merchandise, remains to be defended; the idea is in the works but must be constantly nourished.

There were many echoes in the room: “defending the cultural exception is not out of date” (Laure Darcos). We should not forget that in many countries some religious powers twist the words to impose a religious culture. In Tunisia, creators and women will avoid democratic regressions. Although, money that a worldwide crowd funding may bring, are needed.