Eye tracking, a different way of reading, a different way of thinking

It is a cold afternoon of January 1989, I am wandering around, I find shelter in a small bookstore. The hanging doorbell begins to dilly-dally and the owner comes to me smiling.
I answer to his smile with a “just looking”. I begin to flick through some books.  I am attracted by the titles and covers, so I open a page at random, read some, open another page and read again. I repeat this rite four or five times till I find a book I like. There is a sentence I find more interesting, original. I check the price; it seems ok so I buy it. 

I would have never imagined that my nonsequential fast reading technique, my way of browsing, a consequence of my need to guess in a few minutes which book is the one for me, would have become a habit for me as for many others.

Today, thirty years later, my small personal library is almost exclusively composed of digital books, eBook.  Today, thirty years later, I am connected to a global and social network such as Internet. Browsing and quickly reading in a nonsequential way became a habit. 

None of us read all we receive in Internet because we don’t have time. It is as if, on January 1989, I would have stayed and red all the books of the library to evaluate the best.  I never would have had the possibility nor the time, also because some time later the small bookstore would have closed, gobbled up by the large distribution. 

Our attention roams in front of a website with hundreds of alternatives. It doesn’t follow anymore a sequential logic from up left to bottom right. It tries to capture interesting words or titles, it turns towards images, it focuses on the central and final part of the display. It searches for icons and colors.

On 1989 we were sequential disciplined readers. Our eyes “were moving” following a definite line. Now we are impulsive and receptive readers, we let us guided by the images, by the hypertexts.

We are circus-like who do strange stunts on the text; we are dancers who twirl towards the most interesting hashtag. We were “marathon reader”s and we became “acrobats readers”.

Usability tests and analysis steps of our visual behaviour, based on motion eye tracking, literally eye tracking, confirm these dynamics. The frequent use, very frequent use of smartphones, does nothing but accelerating our eye movement.

While I’m reading dozens of WhatsApp messages, I realize that I apply the same strategy used in that bookstore 30 years ago. I read non sequentially, but a little of everything trying to get an idea. I’m drawn to the most interesting sentences and emoticons.

To be honest, this kind of visual movement was partly ours since the beginning. For example, during the driving, especially in traffic, we don’t look into the rear window in a sequential way, we use three different rear views mirrors, we watch the road, the signs, the pedestrians. We adapt our gaze following the sounds, visual stimuli, our senses and itinerary. Non-sequentially! We quickly follow the events, as if we were in front of a video screen in a complex context acquiring and answering to stimuli.

There is a sunny day outside, I’m back on June 2020, watching tv.
There is news, the right column contains texts and previews. The bar at the bottom of the display contains rolling news and in the middle of the display there is the host talking. I am reading, watching, listening.

And, as written on the headline, to which only few of you gave the proper attention precisely because it is placed on top: a different way of reading means, in the long run, a different way of thinking.

After all, on 1989 we were living in world 1.0, it’s been a “world” since then!

World 2.0


Being TikTokers


On 4 October 2015, on our article “Instagram Global EXPO” , we explained to you the pros of the new emerging social: Instagram.  Hereby the clue sentence of our article:

“We may browse Instagram even from a mobile device; it has a strong visual impact, is multicoloured, multimedia and multilingual allowing its own projection to be exposed with no need to be explained. It is an expository global space consulted by tens of millions people every day…”

Five years later Instagram still convinces us with its agora based on hashtags.
Instagram turned out to be more current than Facebook, thanks to its multimedia DNA, to the presence of mutant aggregations, in perpetual motion.

For the same reasons today, a few years later,
TikTok is definitely surpassing Instagram.

ComScore has revealed, in only three months, an increment of +202% of TikTok users in Italy, from 2.1 million to 6.4 million users.

In three months TikTok has tripled its users.

And worldwide it’s the same with over 1.5 million users who downloaded TikTok App.
The new social, the most welcome by the youngsters (and not only seen +258% users between the age of 25-34 years), it is a real multimedia showcase where thousands of “TikTokers” expose themselves.

We all understood that via Facebook it is possible to socialize and talk about himself.
Instagram surpassed the centrality (key role) of the text through images and hashtag, and cleared the short video and, in turn, paved the way to TikTok.

The Tiktok videos are very short, normally last 15 seconds.
The protagonists reach in few second the maximum media exposure.
They are influencer and influenceable, ego and centric, even if only for a few instants.

In Italy are published 236 videos per minute.
Popularity, synthesis, multimedia impact, sharing,… this is TikTok.

Maybe TikTok is not the most modern APP on the Store but, perhaps, is the one used in the most imaginative, aggregative, dynamic and fashionable way.
The “TikToker” looks for originality being deliberately flashy up to ridiculous, trying to create something unique, original.
The TikTokers draw from the surroundings; they are often sarcastic, they emulate each other, they differentiate from each other and contradict each other.

To the center of TikTok we find the “trend”, real catchphrases, creative intuitions: Backing tracks, original drawings, imitations, imitations of the imitations, filters,… tools used by the TikTokers in the most disparate ways.
It is a nebula, an interpersonal agglomeration, in continuous creative evolution.

Often these videos are so original to create a short circuit with music videos, programs and TV advertisements. They “copy” one from another and vice versa; a vortex, a sort of global brainstorming, tendencies which influence social people, web-influencer which inspire the normal media.

Is there a new way of communicating? If it is, is on TikTok, and there is already a multitude of young TikTokers who is having fun with it. They will do it for a while, perhaps for some days and then just as quickly move on to something else.
Creativity, rapidity and multimediality are essential part of daily life and social experience.

We wonder what may be the effects in the long run of such a widespread multimedia exposure, especially for a child or a teenager.
Often the TikTokers don’t have even the age to give the consent to the use of their personal data. Officially, lots of the creative youngsters who supply constantly the web are not even connected. This shows even more the discrepancy between the real world (and its rules) and the ever-changing World 2.0.

Vice versa TikTok is also an “index” of digital divide. Do you find silly to post a video online? Or follow a new kitch tendency ? You don’t want to appear on web at all? Maybe you are very secretive, or far more likely, you have a digital divide towards internet and its excesses and its virtual showcases.

What is the finish line of our article? We are not here to celebrate TikTok. 

Instead, we wonder if it is possible teaching and informing by using non-traditional tools, creating new visual bonds towards the new generations.

Is it possible to teach art, history, literature using short videos?
Is it possible to involve their own students using the hashtags? 

Is it possible that a teacher become a “TikToker?” 

Can we use the dynamics and the communication tools of the youngest for the youngest and with the youngest?

Culture and information are compelled to use “not social”, institutional channels?

Are you a teacher, a librarian, a social worker, a child psychologist?
Accept the challenge and use TikTok to involve “your” young users in a creative and empathetic way.

What is our advice? There is no trend and no time to lose, we must be multimedia and communicate through Instagram and TikTok.
Because in this World 2.0, we are all in a window; you can bet your hashtag!

And don’t forget to unload TikTok on your smartphone!


Amazon Go the store without store owners

Hands up who never made a purchase on Amazon!!
No hand up? Everybody is looking away?
Calm down, we expected this. Every now and then all of us Internet users immerse ourselves into the great virtual stores looking for something that cannot be found, trendy or just intriguing. Even only to check the price, color, characteristics or the size.
It is only a small step from the searching to the purchasing, only a few clicks.
The Amazon package has become the symbol of Internet purchases, of something that attracts our interest and after a short waiting it reaches us. The virtual that becomes concrete, right at home.
When we talk about Amazon we talk about concreteness and much more. We get that from the statistics. The annual income, in little more than a decade, rose from 6.92 billion in 2004 to almost 136 billion dollars in 2016. The web shopping doesn’t know consumption crisis, on the contrary, with its endless range of products, often at a lower cost, represents an opportunity.

Longer we use the web, easier seems to be the online purchase; part of our lives.
Shopping online is not the only end point of this process of modernization.

The first Amazon store fully automated in Seattle, Amazon Go, is tracking a further new direction.

You must have activated the corresponding App on your own smartphone, then you enter the new store, you take what you want and exit. No registers, no line, no human touch. An automatic system is following you step by step tracking your operations, what you touch and what you take;  autonomy on movements, swiftness in purchasing, impersonality.

With Amazon Go there is not the Internet with its online stores to look like the real shops, quite the contrary. There is the real shop imitating and replicating the impersonal dynamics of the web. 

The online buying on smartphone application with login and password is instant, direct, anonymous, free of contradictions and human touch.

The first real shop Amazon Go, certainly the first of many, has something of virtual.  There is a “click” materializing.

It’s as if Facebook opened a restaurant where to socialize, obviously not in person but only through displays (maybe this is something that has been already done!).

It is also true that inside the shop there are salesmen, ready to answer to all the customer’s questions and necessities. Some tradition in a high-tech shop doesn’t hurt.

Amazon Go is the end point of a long process that transformed the commercial transaction, where the purchasing is aseptic and not to be shared with anyone.


Using technologies in order to follow every customer’s movement with the aim of making him autonomous and free to purchase, has its nemesis in the trial, and we underline trial, the same that Amazon has conducted on its own employees with an electronic bracelet unable to track the activities and working rhythm.

We don’t want to fall in trivial speculations, but is rather evident that in both cases:

  • Web, communication and data are replacing partly the people (salesmen, cashiers and supervisors) and accelerate the action of purchasing or supervision.
  • Efficiency, immediacy and productivity are taking the center stage, relegating behind the stage the observation, the personal contact, the empathy and emotion.
  • The great freedom of movement offered by the shop technologies finds, through the same technologies, its oxymoron in the production chain, where every inappropriate movement may be evaluated.

Both dynamics are directed on the object and not on the person avoiding distractions.

As mentioned before, this is an attempt at bringing Internet into the real world by automating part of our lives. 



Substitutephone: the useful smartphone that does nothing

Internet is a wide and complex universe, hard to describe in a simple way or in a few lines.   In this article we will try to explain it better by using a paradox.

Mr. Klemens Schillinger had a brilliant idea: he invented the smartphone that does nothing.

The “Substitutephone” has the same size and shape of a smartphone, but it does not have a display or provide any kind of service. It is only an empty box.
It is a replacement, useful for those who suffer from Internet addiction.
The cyberuser who can’t get along without the smartphone, can manage the uncontrollable urge of going online by using a substitute, or better, holding a “Substitutephone”.
It’s about a familiar object, analogous to the original one, enriched by tactile elements such as spheres which permit to replicate some movements when touching the screen.
We don’t know if the “Substitutephone” will be on the market or if it will rest only a challenge. What we are certain of is that this is much more than a design exercise. It is the antithesis which demonstrates the thesis; a paradox, an oxymoron which highlights how Internet is changing our lives, our daily routine.
This smartphone, the tool that allows us to communicate almost with everybody and have access to all the contents online, is replaced by a tool practically alike, except one detail: instead of letting us doing everything (or almost) it enables us to do anything.
This nothing which opens another paradox! This useless tool gives us back our space and our time in the real world. This nothing allows us once again to do everything.

It is the apotheosis of the contraiction.
It is the opposite gaining a foothold in order to contrast a strong dependence.
We are talking about nomophobia.

It is “FOMO”, the fear of missing out.
It is a phenomenon that involves millions of people.

substitute phone

Internet, available to all, offers innumerable opportunities, but at the same time distracts us from the real world of which it is the antagonist, the alternative.

There is a further paradox to underline: be unable to disconnect us from Internet, makes the virtual world indispensable, equal with the real world. We are compulsorily present in two adjacent and parallel universes.

The quickness and the instantaneousness which characterizes Internet brings us, more and more frequent, to be online; always up to date.
Which one is the most recent post or tweet or trend or selfie?

What does the future hold for us? We’ll be always online connected? Most likely…

What do we suggest? Use Internet without prejudices but sometimes turn your smartphone off, do it often and start looking around.
And if you can’t do it then get yourself a useful “Substitutephone”.


Facebook and Mr.Truman

In the 1998 Jim Carrey plays the role of Truman Burbank in “The Truman show”, an extraordinary interpretation in an apparently simple film. Mr. Truman realizes to be the protagonist of a show seen by million of people. His life is in the window, it is a complex composition of fact and fiction, of real and no real, where nothing is private and personal, but of public interest.

“The Truman show” confirms everyman’s wish to be in plain view, to become a protagonist; a wish taken to extremes and made public. The film inaugurates a new television season characterized by a large number of reality and talent shows that present, not always in a realistic way, people, emotions and small talents found among the common people.


Thousands of people get patiently in line for castings only to have the opportunity to participate, even for few seconds, to a reality or a talent show; a role reversal where some of the viewers become protagonists for the purpose of getting popular, loved by the other viewers tired of seeing “the usual” show personalities to reply similar clichés.

A game of roles with rapid changes, between anti-personalities and audience

Then, actually “in the meantime”, Internet has established itself and everybody turned instantly into Mr. Truman, each of us able to share immediately personal thoughts and daily banalities; an exhibition itinerary posted on social which, day after day, testifies openly our life.

But there is a great great difference! Truman Burbank was forced to be in the window, we cyberusers, voluntarily show ourselves through “the social”

At the heart of this exhibition process of our selves we find Facebook, the social network, the window par excellence.

Just a few days ago Mark Zuckerberg has announced an extraordinary goal reached by Facebook: two billion of users connected at least once a month.

                                                        Two billion of Mr. Truman

The more and more frequent use of multimedia material such as photos, audios, videos, makes the “social” exhibition itinerary more and more immediate. The time of spreading is more and more rapid. Our ID on the ID card, intact for years, doesn’t represent us anymore. It is replaced by the photo of our Facebook profile, a photo we frequently change like our look and mood.

We seek popularity, confrontation, chitchat, consent. We try to assert our uniqueness via web, well aware of being only one among billion of users connected online, no longer mere spectators, not entirely true protagonists. 

The central role of Facebook is confirmed by other statistics:

  • A billion and 280 million of users in the world are daily connected on Facebook (source Facebook 2017).
  • In Europe over 307 million of people use Facebook (Source: Search Engine Journal).
  • A billion and 740 million of people are daily connected on Facebook through mobile phone (source Facebook 2017).
  • The annual growth trends of the users connected via mobile phone is of +21% comparing to 2016 (source Facebook 2017).
  • Every day 300 millions of photos are posted on Facebook (source Gizmodo).
  • Every second 5 new profiles are created on Facebook (source ALLFacebook 2012).

                                         We are Mr. Truman in a world of Mr. Truman:  

Heralds in a world invaded by advertisements,

Replicants in a world of replies,

Supporting actors consciously connected,

Two billion of Mr. Truman in a World 2.0.