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The Next European Renaissance (Part 1)

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 26th 2011

Some of you may have read my recent piece Silicon Valley: The Next Decade in which I discuss the evolution of Silicon Valley toward a place that has a spirit that is more in tune with the liberal, performing, and visual arts, a sharper focus on human-centric computing, and a vision for a new renaissance that fuses ideas from information technology with those from the arts. The piece has triggered many interesting discussions, both online and offline, the latest of which happened in France over a lovely lunch at a small village called La Garde-Adhémar in Drôme during our recent trip to Provence.

These discussions and our recent travels have given me reason to revisit the subject, although with a slightly different perspective. While I have focused on Silicon Valley’s next renaissance, coming at it from the technology side and seeking an infusion of the arts into the region, it may be just as reasonable to seek an infusion of technology into robust, thriving arts and culture communities, especially in Europe.

Why especially in Europe?

In my experience, Europe preserves, packages, and markets culture better than any other place in the world. And the French may be the best at this, including from a policy point of view. To give you an example, last week we were at a small village called Grignan that just finished its annual letter-writing festival:

The fame of Grignan is of a literary nature; this Provençal village cannot be disassociated from her, who made it famous through her correspondence, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné. 

“The prettiest girl in France marries, not only the most handsome boy, but the most honest man in the kingdom.” When Françoise Marguerite married the Count of Grignan in 1671, she went to live with him in Grignan. It was the start of a long series of correspondence between the mother, who stayed in Paris, and the daughter. The letters of the marquise de Sévigné are a masterpiece of literature, known by all schoolchildren in France. (

In honor of the marquise and her letters, Grignan hosts its Festival de la correspondence each year. The post office mails all hand-written letters free.

Charming, isn’t it?


This segment is part 1 in the series : The Next European Renaissance
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I loved your thoughts on Europe as a source of inspiration where there are deep traditions and ideas that are more in tune with the arts, human-centric computing, and a potential source of impetus for the convergence of information technology and the arts. Recently, I helped host a delegation from Bordeaux, France led by Alain Rousset, President of the Aquitaine Region, which is investing in innovative companies and seeking connections with Silicon Valley. Some of their interesting companies were digitalizing France's cultural heritage and supporting development of the digital media and arts industry in the Aquitaine region. They are also seeking relationships and learnings from the wine regions of California. Interesting, isnt it?

Kyung Yoon Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 2:30 PM PT