Report from Hourtin 26-27 August, 1998

Mikael Book (
Thu, 10 Sep 1998 00:28:52 +0300 (EEST)

For a week at the end of each August Hourtin (a holiday resort in
South-West France) is transformed into a "Summer University of
Communication". The participants are executives and professionals from the
telecom sector and the media, officials of the French state, the regions
and the cities. At Hourtin last summer, French premier Lionel Jospin
launched a nation-wide debate on the integration of France into the
internet and "the information society". In her speech at Hourtin this
summer, minister of culture Catherine Trautmann, spoke about what has been
done in terms of governmental cultural policy to develop the "cultural
content" of the Net. She promised that the French government will "enrich
the Web with a dimension which commercial services or simple communication
are not able to offer". After so many eulogies about the information
market it is good to hear that the government will intervene to make the
Net a pillar of the public sphere! (For Mme Trautmann's speech in the
original French version, you must go to

My own humble role at Hourtin was to be the one and only Nordic
participant in a seminar organised by "Veille Européenne et Citoyenne des
Autoroutes de l’information et du Multimedia" (VECAM), a French umbrella
organisation for citizens and associations who are engaged in precisely
the kind of question which Catherine Trautmann touched upon. I was invited
to the seminar to represent Katto, a Finnish partner of Inter-Citizens'
Conferences, which is a kind of European network of citizens' networks.
The seminar was about European citizens' networks. Ca 25 persons from
France, UK, Italy, Belgium, Canada and Finland, participated in this

The idea of a seminar is to have a little extra free time to meet and
exchange views with the other participants. In its own way, as a meeting
of networks, this was a metaseminar, a seminar on the getting together of
European citizens. The theme at Hourtin this year was "Europe". One key
question of "Europe", at the civil society level, is the European public
sphere. Does it even exist? Everybody at the seminar seemed to agree that
the European public sphere is very feeble. As counter-proof, I offered "Le
Monde Diplomatique", with its German and English editions. Could this
newspaper, which is read all over Europe, be accepted as an illustration
of European public sphere works? Maybe, but it is still only read by a
small, selected public. What about the "European" public at large?

Led by two stromg women, Véronique Kleck (VECAM) and Valérie Peugeot
(Europe99), the seminar discussed how citizens' networks could help to
create a European public sphere and a European public. Michael Mulquin
from UK Citizens Online spoke about the efforts to create an European
association of local networks (EACN). Local networks support small shops
and enterprises, associations, unemployed and marginalized groups with
local online facilities. They are community networks against social
exclusion in (or of?) the information society. At the lunch-table, I had
Mr Mulquin to explain to me the local networks of London in more detail.

Money is a problem of European citizens' networks which the Euro does not
solve. For instance, who will finance the European face-to-face meetings
which are so necessary variations and complements to the daily digital
networking? In order to get support from the EU Commission, we must be
pragmatic and speak their language. We should simply let them understand
that we are the market. Thus spoke Claire Shearman, also from the UK
Citizens Online, and started one of the significant debates of the
seminar. How far can we go without falling in the trap (the abandonment of
politics to the "market forces") in which the EU Commission itself seems
to have fallen?

With Denis Pansu ( who represented an organisation named
Résolutions, I had much (but too little time) to discuss. Like we in
Katto, Résolutions tries to improve the use of the Internet among civic
and cultural associations and to unite the telecommunication professionl
with the social activist. I count that we will keep in contact and,
hopefully, start uniting our scarce resources to develop common tools for
citizens' networking. Another new contact was prof. Gilles Lemaire from
Quebec, who fed the seminar with theoretical insights on networks. From
him and his wife I also got useful comments on my speech at the seminar,
in which I tried to explain why I think that the right to information is
under threat in the information society.

Here is a summary in 9 points of my speech at the seminar, which
the seminar itself helped me to formulate:


Séminaire éuropéen de VECAM (Veille Européenne et Citoyenne des Autoroutes
de l’information et du Multimedia) au sein de la 19e Université d´été de
la communication de Hourtin, 26-27 août 1998.

Propositions pour le débat:
"Quelle Europe? Vers un autre modèle de societé"

par Mikael Böök <book>

1. - Démocratie et information sont un couple inséparable.

2.- On peut aller à l’enfer de manière démocratique.

3. - Le destin de la démocratie est déterminé par la transformation de
l’éspace publique.

4. - La bibliothèque est une des vértebres de la démocratie.

5. - Notre espoir, c’est que l’Internet est en train de devenir l’épine
dorsale de la démocratie.

6. - Dans la societé d’information même, la liberté de l’information est

7. - Il faut se méfier de la directive sur le copyright de l’UE et au MAI;
ces projets de loi peuvent détruire la bibliothèque et l’Internet.

8. - Forger une alliance entre créateurs, bibliothècaires et réseaux

9. - Munir la bibliothèque publique de pouvoir politique.

Voir aussi


At home again, I have started to write an essay based on this disposition
(in English).

Helsinki 9.8.1998


- Mikael

Mikael Book * Katto-Meny * Tallbergink 1/39 * FIN-00180 Helsinki * Phone +358-9-6947730 * Fax +358-9-27090369
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