Bernard_StieglerInterview with Bernard Stiegler, philosopher, chairman of the Ars Industrialis think-tank, director of the Research and Innovation Institute (IRI) at the Georges Pompidou centre and member of the French National Digital Council.

What is a digital territory? 

There are all types of digital territories, due to the fact that their residents themselves are becoming increasingly “digitised”. These territories need to have a digital policy instilled. A territory which doesn’t have a digital policy is doomed to failure, in terms of jobs, turnover, taxation, culture and lifestyle. A territory which develops against this background is a territory that has something to contribute.  It is characterised by this ability to contribute, not like Facebook, which is poor, but in that it creates a local dynamic that is desired by its residents, developing awareness of the local contribution that enhances the territory by creating positive mutual links with the dynamics outside the territory, as Pierre Veltz wrote in 1993 (in Des territoires pour apprendre et innover).

What are the characteristics of the Nantes digital territory?

Nantes is now a centre of excellence, thanks to the investments it has been making for the last 25 years. This is more than just “territorial marketing”. The political will is there, as well as awareness and motivation. This contribution is being made by research laboratories that are at the forefront of innovation, such as the LINA, which is at the heart of the University, several colleges with excellent reputations, its major network highly ICT-oriented SMES, data centers and its FabLab.
There is also a broad network of associations. There is one other point that I feel is important. This relates to the positions take on cyber-dependency by professor Jean-Luc Vénisse, director of the addictions and psychiatric centre at Nantes Hospital, with whom I have worked on numerous occasions on contributive therapies. Things are on the move.

What makes it stand out?

The contributing territory, made up of networks, as big data is emerging, is building a new logic which concerns all residents, whether they are residents, researchers or company directors. If you don’t take hold of digital it takes hold of you, within a “remote control” dialectic. Digital territories need to develop a territorial intelligence which links coders and developers with residents in order to transform the pharmakon which is the web, with the care that the territory takes of itself, and inventing social network therapy by the social network.

A combined territory, if it produces contributing innovation, is able to make suggestions for its economic actors. Nantes has all the ingredients for this. This is especially true as what makes the Nantes digital territory stand out from other territories is its pool of extraordinary start-ups. The territorial project is clear to see, backed up by wonderful enthusiasm.

What vision do you have of the future for France’s digital territories?

Europe, which was at the origin of web and HTLM concepts, has played a vital role with France in designing digital networks. Today, Europe doesn’t have a vision. We feel that the web needs to be reinvented to serve scientific research, culture and a new type of citizenship, and that this needs to be done on a European scale, if Europe is ready to make a great leap forward, with a policy of developing a digital technology culture based on a full re-imagined web. France’s territories may be laboratories in this area, as long as they are instilled with the ability to create discussions between groups and functions – peer to peer communities – created by contributory factors. Nantes’s territory is a good candidate for this. Nantes is an ideal territory for learning.

Interview by Cécile Faver