The $496-million-a-year plan will target 10,000 18-year-olds, giving them €500 ($577) in credit to spend in the app.
France’s latest attempt to harness its political soft power is a Tinder-style app that lets you swipe left or right to discover new types of culture. Focusing on neighborhood areas, the app will show you what’s available in the realm of culture – be it a book, play, film, concert, exhibition or dance class. Then you either swipe to see anything that’s related, or book a ticket or pick up a copy of your preferred cultural activity. Set to be rolled out across the country by late October, the €430 million-a-year scheme will target 10,000 young people, giving €500 worth of credit to be spent in app to people who are aged 18.
Last month France’s culture minister, Françoise Nyssen, said the app would involve “no cultural snobbism … No cultural or artistic offering will be excluded. Every organization active in the cultural arena will be welcome on the pass – public or private, physical or virtual.”
But as much as the app might seem like a part of president Emmanuel Macron’s wider plan to undue the city’s cultural snobbery, it also seems to be a handy marketing tool for some of the biggest content creators in the world. The Guardian reports that “80% funded by the private sector, including potential partnerships with Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple,” suggesting the app might be designed to give preference to content paid for by the behemoths of the internet.
For decades the French have been overly protective of anyone trying to water down their culture, to the point where they’ve run the risk of disengaging swathes of people. They even have a government department called the Délégation générale à la langue Française et aux Langues de France (General Delegation for the French language and languages of France) – who are responsible for keeping an eye out for English words creeping their way into the French vernacular and replacing them with local substitutes. In 2010, the then-president Nicolas Sarkozy refused to let Google digitize the country’s national collection of books, forking up $1 billion to fund its own mass digitization project.
Eight years on and the tables have turned. As the scope for funding and distributing culture becomes increasingly narrower, is this the first step in France ditching its highbrow laurels for the more lucrative world of paid-for content, controlled by a handful of media giants?