October 8, 2018

Against digital monocultures (a thought experiment by Bodo Balazs)

The development of the digital Europe is too important to be left to markets. The digital single market (DSM) startegy has been very effective in producing growth, innovation, jobs, companies, ideas that serve hundreds of millions consumers with cutting edge products and services. But every day we trun on our digital devices, we are confronted with the fact, that digital markets also tend to produce extensive monocultures. History shows us that it is suicidal to rely on monocultures, as they are extremely voulnerable to collapse. Monoculture is also not what Europe is. A monocultural Europe is not what we want, and its not what we should allow. Europe above all, is diversity: a rich patchwork of languages, cultures, languages, formed through a eons long shared history. If Europe has a competitve edge in the global economy, it is this diversity.

The time has vcome to reinvest the spoils of the economic growth pruduced by the DSM into maintaining the cultural, social, communical European diversity. Europe needs citizens, and communities who can enjoy the freedoms provided by cultural, economic, political, technological self determination. Europe needs a plurality of approaches to thrive, because no single one of us has the holy grail of what is the successful way to organize our lives when everything is digital. We need to remain inclusive, in solidarity with each other, so we can recongnize and improve new ideas, originating in unexpected places. We need thriving publics where these ideas can be discussed, contested. We need commons, public institutions, which can incubate ideas, and provide them with uncurtailed access to material, and immaterial resources for growth.

Monocultures don't disappear by themselves. Monopolies don't break up voluntarily. We need to be aware when fair competitions is stiffled, and markets or political power don't deliver socially desirable results. Possibly the greatest contribution of Europe to world histroy was the Enligtenment, when economically emacipated bourgoise rasied against the monocultures of throne and the altar, and unleash an unprecedented enrichment of science, of at, of culture, of economy. This is a history to be aware of in face of new monopolies, and the extreme concentration of power in a hands of a very few digital global corporations. DSM provides the material grounds of a new European emancipation, a new era of digital enlightenment.


Michael Pollan Wheat Monoculture