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Can A Collaborative Writing Platform Serve As A Springboard For Europe’s Culture Sector?

The digital age has brought about significant changes in all industries. The cultural sector is no exception, with the rise of social media sparked a bonafide revolution in the way musicians, filmmakers, writers, etc., create and share their content. In Europe, the issue is particularly salient in the writing world, as the region faces a lack of alternatives to the American and Chinese social media platforms dominating the market in terms of online text diffusion. Alexandre Leforestier, the founder of Panodyssey, an innovative social network dedicated to authors and readers, recently shared his thoughts on the need for a European digital industry that serves the culture, citizens, and democracies of Europe.

Image of a collection of pens.

A collection of pens.


Panodyssey, the collaborative platform gathering professionals and non-professionals creators, was born out of a simple idea: the need for Europe to create a solid and independent European digital industry. In a recent interview [in French] with Club Italie France, Panodyssey’s founder Alexandre Leforestier said that while both American and Chinese cultures have their respective, undeniable benefits, he believes it is crucial for Europe to build its own thriving digital industry that promotes European values and caters to European citizens. This is the driving force behind Panodyssey, which aims to offer a platform that fosters a peaceful and advertisement-free social environment, respects users' behavior and choices, and provides transparent algorithmic functions.

The dominance of American and Chinese tech giants, such as the GAFAM and TikTok, in content distribution to European internet users has raised concerns about the bloc’s cultural leadership on the internet. Leforestier stressed that the distribution of content should not be exclusively controlled by said tech giants. Instead, Europe needs to rise to new challenges and create a strong European alternative that combines ethics and digital innovation while combating digital pollution.

Lessons from the music industry

The European Commission has shown a strong commitment to addressing these concerns and establishing a new digital framework focused on transparency, protection, sovereignty, and regulation. The Panodyssey founder commended the efforts of European Commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Thierry Breton, who encouraged entrepreneurs and investors to create new projects in line with Europe's digital strategy. This strategic support from the European Commission has provided a favorable environment for Panodyssey and similar innovative initiatives.

Drawing from his extensive experience in the music industry, Alexandre Leforestier highlighted the early impact of the digital revolution on music distribution. His journey in the music industry, witnessing deep changes in the way people consume and share music, taught him valuable lessons about innovation and the inner workings of major American tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and YouTube.

Europe needs to rise to new challenges and create a strong European alternative that combines ethics and digital innovation while combating digital pollution.

With Panodyssey, Leforestier aims to disrupt the current paradigm where the GAFAM dictate the rules, often at the expense of publishers, distributors, and authors who face the threat of extinction — instead providing a platform for authors and publishers to come together in a community that shares the same values and vision. The goal: to develop innovative solutions and tools that promote high-quality content and offer new possibilities for creators.

Panodyssey's approach is distinct from existing social media platforms: By certifying all user accounts, the platform establishes a trusted digital space where individuals, organizations, and brands have full control over their names and reputations. This certification process also safeguards intellectual property by creating automated registers linked to certified accounts. Additionally, Panodyssey allows users to customize and control the algorithmic system, creating a more personalized experience that does not rely on advertising models. The resulting reading experience is therefore in a unique position to attract a quality audience, ultimately benefiting publishers, authors, and readers alike.

In tune with Europe’s values — and goals

Panodyssey's innovative approach aligns with the European Commission's efforts to build a more ethical and user-centric digital landscape. By emphasizing transparency, personalized content discovery, and the promotion of diverse high-quality content in European languages, Panodyssey contributes to the broader vision of a strong European digital industry.

One distinctive feature of Panodyssey is its commitment to supporting European languages and cultures. The platform encourages the creation and discovery of content in various European languages, promoting linguistic diversity and cultural exchange. This focus on multilingualism sets Panodyssey apart from other global platforms that primarily operate in English, catering to a more diverse and localized audience.

As Panodyssey continues to grow and evolve, Alexandre Leforestier envisions partnerships with European publishers and media outlets to further amplify the platform's reach and impact. By collaborating with established players in the industry, Panodyssey can tap into existing networks and leverage their expertise to expand its user base and provide more opportunities for content creators.

Panodyssey aims to play a crucial role in fostering a vibrant and diverse digital ecosystem.

With its focus on ethics, transparency, personalized experiences, and support for European languages and cultures, Panodyssey represents a promising initiative that aims to redefine the digital landscape in Europe by offering an alternative to dominant global platforms. It has the potential to empower content creators, foster cultural exchange, and provide a space that aligns with the values and aspirations of European citizens.

As Europe continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, such projects, along with the support of the European Commission and other relevant programs, play a crucial role in fostering a vibrant and diverse digital ecosystem that reflects the rich cultural heritage of the continent.

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Where 'The Zone Of Interest' Won't Go On Auschwitz — A German Critique Of New Nazi Film

Rudolf Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp who lived with his family close to the camp. Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, a favorite to win at the Cannes Festival, tells Höss' story, but fails to address the true inhumanity of Nazism, says Die Welt's film critic.

A still from The Zone of Interest by

Hanns-Georg Rodek


BERLIN — This garden is the pride and joy of Hedwig, the housewife. She has planned and laid out everything — the vegetable beds and fruit trees and the greenhouse and the bathtub.

Her kingdom is bordered on one long side by a high, barbed-wire wall. Gravel paths lead to the family home, a two-story building with clean lines, no architectural frills. Her husband praises her when he comes home after work, and their three children — ages two to five — play carefree in the little "paradise," as the mother calls her refuge.

The wall is the outer wall of the concentration camp Auschwitz; in the "paradise" lives the camp commander Rudolf Höss with his family.

The film is called The Zone of Interest — after the German term "Interessengebiet," which the Nazis used to euphemistically name the restricted zone around Auschwitz — and it is a favorite among critics at this week's Cannes Film Festival.

The audacity of director Jonathan Glazer's style takes your breath away, and it doesn't quickly come back.

It is a British-Polish production in which only German is spoken. The real house of the Höss family was not directly on the wall, but some distance away, but from the upper floor, Höss's daughter Brigitte later recalled, she could see the prisoners' quarters and the chimneys of the old crematorium.

Glazer moved the house right up against the wall for the sake of his experimental arrangement, a piece of artistic license that can certainly be justified.

And so one watches the Höss family go about their daily lives: guiding visitors through the little garden, splashing in the tub, eating dinner in the house, being served by the domestic help, who are all silent prisoners. What happens behind the wall, they could hear and smell. They must have heard and smelled it. You can see the red glow over the crematorium at night. You hear the screams of the tortured and the shots of the guards. The Höss family blocks all this out.

Many possibilities, no explanations

Here's the first question The Zone of Interest doesn't answer. Doesn't even try to answer: is this ignorance? Of course it isn't. Is it not wanting to know? Sure, but that's not enough of an explanation. Is it conscious approval based on racist and nationalist delusion? I'm sure it is.

Is it longing for an idyll in the midst of a situation perceived as threatening? Without a doubt. Is it the pride of the petty bourgeoisie that has managed to achieve a higher status which they do not want to endanger by letting the murder of millions get to them?

There are many attempts at an explanation, but they don't really interest Jonathan Glazer. In a very free adaptation of Martin Amis' novel of the same name, Glazer describes the situation in what is possibly more oppressive than anything we've seen in Holocaust films before.

It concentrates in one garden the attitude of an entire nation that wanted to know nothing: from the civilians on the "home front" who one morning saw the Jews of their town walking in long lines to a gathering point, to the soldiers of the supposedly so honorable Wehrmacht, to the servants of the Reichsbahn who put the trains to the death camps on the track.

The essence of humanity

For half an hour, maybe even three quarters of an hour, one watches this tremendous ignoring of reality and elimination of conscience with increasing perplexity. But at some point — if Glazer's concept is crystal clear to you — you ask yourself if this can be enough. There is little development in the permanent horror.

Hedwig's mother, who comes to visit, can't stand the smell and the hell-light and flees on the first night. Hedwig herself rebels once against the slavish obedience to the fatherland and the family head when her husband is threatened with transfer — but it is not a rebellion of conscience, but one against the imposition of having to give up her "paradise."

Somehow Glazer must have sensed that this one perspective is not sufficient after all, and so he shows — as if shot with a night vision camera — a girl from the resistance hiding food for forced laborers under cover of darkness (but otherwise not appearing in the film).

Glazer's last feature film to date was called Under the Skin, in which an extraterrestrial — played by Scarlett Johannsen — seeks out men in Scotland and destroys them. It is ultimately a film about what constitutes the essence of man. This demon discovers something in itself that he didn't know before: empathy.

The refusal, the denial and the suppression of all human empathy.

The Zone of Interest can be read as the sheer opposite: the refusal, the denial and the suppression of all human empathy. That human beings are capable of this is a realization to which we have had to become accustomed with ever new horror, with each new genocide. Since then, we have been searching for the psychological, historical, and social factors that make this possible over and over again.

Glazer is only marginally interested in this, if at all. He presents a picture of the greatest possible horror that quietly creeps up on us, which is so effective because it doesn't show the horror. Actor Christian Friedel plays a concerned and loving father and actress Sandra Hüller a dutiful and responsible guardian of the house.

A few times, Father Höss is seen in matter-of-fact office discussions about better methods of murder, and once Mother Höss snaps at at one of her domestics, saying she could make sure that her husband scatters her ashes in the fields. No further horror makes it though the filter.

Cinematic portrayals of Nazis

One gets the impression that Glazer is working off the image that prevailed for half a century in the portrayal of Nazis in Anglo-American film and television — the roaring, heartless brutes. He operates with 100% contrast. Yet there have been cracks in this portrayal for some time, Christoph Waltz's cultured (if still merciless) officer in Inglorious Basterds or Philip Hochmair's Heydrich acting like a modern manager in The Conference.

Above all, however, there was Theodor Kotulla's 1977 film Death is My Trade in 1977, a year before the miniseries "Holocaust", with Meryl Streep, interrupted the sleep of West German oblivion forever. At one point in Kotulla's film, Höss's wife sees through the full extent of the extermination machinery and, terrified, confronts her husband, who invokes his sense of duty.

Would he also kill their children if he received the order to do so, she asks? Of course he would, Höss replies — as soon as he received the order.

Kotulla is not content with a horror cabinet of petrified consciences and numbed humanity like Glazer. He depicts "a German life," striving — largely successfully — to answer the question of how Höss, a World War I soldier, could become Auschwitz-Höß.

But in the end, The Zone of Interest falls considerably short.

Glazer's film, on the other hand, seems like an illustration of the worst monsters from Hannah Arendt's thesis of the "banality of evil". One must probably warn again, especially nowadays, against the rebirth of such monsters. But in the end, The Zone of Interest falls considerably short.

In real life, Rudolf Höss hid after the war on a farm in Schleswig-Holstein and waited for the opportunity to escape to South America. A Nazi hunter tracked down his family and forced Höss's wife to hand over her husband's address by threatening to send their older boy to Russia. Höss was arrested, sentenced to death in Poland, and hanged a few yards from his old villa in 1947.

Brigitte Höss, one of the daughters, married a U.S. engineer and lived in Washington D.C. for a long time; only her husband knew about the family history. Hedwig Höss died in 1989 in her daughter's guest room during a visit.

And Martin Amis died on the day of the film's premiere in Cannes.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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