Society

The Internet thought

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We are at home, connected to the Internet, we open Google to look for something… We have the mono field in front of us where to write, the keyboard and maybe the mouse; here too we follow a logical scheme.

Only few of us read sequentially the Google search result list, usually our look scrutinises familiar reliable terms such as wikipedia, amazon, promotions, last minutes, commercials. And very few of us, probably the same who believe that the draughts pieces can be of chocolate, continue analysing the following pages to the first one on the result list.
From the Google list we select a website, as mentioned before, the one which brand or terms present in the first two lines proposed by Google, lines following the title, seem to us pertinent or familiar. The two lines proposed by Google for every occurrence are really minimal to decide rationally.

The selected site offers hundreds of alternatives, menu items, icons, large texts, small texts, images and videos, sliding windows. In this case too we follow a scheme, in the face of such entropy we automatically discard and we don’t read everything sequentially, it would take too long! We look for single terms, our attention being drawn away by images or titles and, finally, we click.

What we found seem interesting and we share it on Facebook, even if we are well aware of the fact that many of our friends will not read it. Nobody has the time to read all the things posted by the friends on the social network. We open Facebook, with the help of our mouse or of our fingertip, we quickly scroll down the posts shared by our friends, looking for some image or some funny or trendy term, or the most “liked” one. This is another case where we follow patterns of reading and thinking aimed at simplification.

Internet has introduced in our life new patterns of thought, fast, selective, caustic; patterns we repeat more and more often.
The enormous amount of information has set in motion a process of disinterest and massive discard, of selection through repeated and sometimes trivial fruition patterns.

The Internet thought” follows logical schemes and customs different from those we live in the real world; a different conception of the sentence, space and time for reading.

We can quit reading anytime because we have no restrictions to follow and no obligations.  The Internet provides, to each of us, the possibility to give our own contribution, of merit or without value, allowing us to live constantly the virtual spaces and to dissolve the enormous entropy by selecting only what we intuitively consider extremely important or interesting.

All of these are virtual elements, concomitant, which determine new patterns of thought, new methods of reasoning online, namely collective or individual.

There is nothing dramatic or definitive in all this, we are simply facing an epochal and global change which concerns our mankind.

Basically Internet is changing our way of thinking.   

WorldTwoDotZero

The Smart Commuters

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Let’s travel back in time for a moment. We are in the ‘60s, we have the possibility, questionnaire at hand, to ask the passersby, citizens of the ‘60s, how do they imagine the forms of transport of the future, in fifty years or so, let’s say in 2016.
We are sure that a large part of the respondents will answer positively, proposing “futuristic” situations, in line with the science-fiction movies of the period, in the wake of the enthusiasm due to the race towards the conquest of space. To strengthen the optimistic and positive opinion on the progress of “the citizen from the ‘60s” we also have the recent diffusion of the household electrical appliances, technological tools that facilitate our life.
But, returning suddenly to our time in 2016, we realize that the things didn’t happen as imagined. The cars don’t fly, not even the skateboards like those in “Back to the future” movie, no teleportation, no flying eggs, no rocket ships parked in front of our house.
This strange premise of ours is build up by the numbers provided by ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, in the study called “Gli spostamenti quotidiani per motivi di studio o lavoro” (“The daily commuting for study and business purposes”) issued in August 2014 with reference to 2011:

“They are almost 29 million (48,6% of the resident population) the persons who commute every day on business or for study purposes, over the last decade the number has increased of approximately 2,1 million.

And again:

“… the time serving to commuting has been extended. The quota of those people who spend up to 15 minutes has decreased considerably.”

The number of people who for work must “immerse” in traffic has increased and for many of them the travel times have been further extended. It is about persons who spend an important part of their lives travelling daily between their residence to work/education place and vice versa.
The structural measures aimed to improve the mobility in urban areas can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the cars have been enriched with optional package, but basically they remained the same, the phenomenon of distance working has become smartworking, on the rise, but without reaching significant numbers yet.
Anyway technology came to the aid of the “commuters of the 21st century”, not in the manner we have hoped for, not optimising the transports nor reducing the travel times, but providing fruition’s tools and social connection, “smart” tools that may be connected to the internet even during the trip.

The quarterly report AudiWeb Trends of June 2014 describes an extremely “smart” Italy with 25 million people who declare to access to the Internet through a smartphone (+13,7% in the first semester 2014) and 9 million who declare to log on through tablet, nearly double compared to the previous year (+88%).
These tools have changed the commuter’s life allowing him to spend, at least in part, the time he wasted on commuting.

In Italy the percentage of “mid-range” commuters who uses internet during the travelling is around 60% (Ansa source). Of these, a large part uses their own “social network” mainly WhatsApp and Facebook, 42% surf the web, 31% make some video calls, 27% declare to use video streaming services (the same Ansa source).
During long-distance travelling, for instance by train or by plane, many travellers, especially the “usual” ones, the “long-range” commuters, use their own laptop, tablet, e-reader or smartphone to work, see a movie, listen to some music, read a book or a recipe, plan a trip, check the weather, read the latest news and so on. The percentage of people who use the internet is really high among the “long-range” commuters, both for the ability to use modern tools of communication, indispensable in working environment, as for a greater financial means when purchasing services or subscriptions on-demand.
All we have to do is getting on a plane or a high-speed train to come across many cybernauts, sat side by side, sometimes in rather narrow spaces, completely indifferent to each other, each of them staring on their own display. There are those who are laughing up their sleeves, those who get excited in a debate regarding work, those who seem hypnotized, totally captured by the images coming from their own display. The “smart-commuter”, especially the “long-range” one lives in his “virtual bubble” during the travelling…

The “Smart Commuters” phenomenon is significant in both cases, short or long-range, whatever the types of diploma or financial means or skills and personal interest.
This symbiosis between commuter and web, and “smart-devices” is based on:

  • a structural deficit present in the real world, or rather the impossibility to reach in a short time the desired place.
  • the need to make up for lost time, the hours of one’s own day that get lost in commuting.
  • the need to be protagonists of one’s own social space, to share one’s own opinion even on trivial matters or the latest news.

The strength of the Internet stays precisely in its availability, openness, in succeeding to provide a ubiquitous service, while travelling. The ubiquity, the achievement of being reached in motion, is perhaps the characteristic what most distinguishes Internet from television, static and one-way tool par excellence, and because of this, less modern and of the moment.
The intensive use of smart devices by commuters should not be underestimated, we are dealing with a mass phenomenon that makes familiar these electronic devices, stimulates the digital reading, increases the relationships among people “located elsewhere”.
In conclusion, the urban commuting helps spreading the Internet within our society.
Once again we have to emphasize in our articles, how the internet gains momentum where the real world is lacking, where, in absence of concrete solutions, or where there have been no intention to find any, the internet offers new virtual ways of communication and entertainment.

WorldTwoDotZero

Slow Reading

Faster and faster! We are moving faster and faster

Since smart devices as mobile phones and tablets have spread, we keep receiving new stimuli all day long: texts, videos, images, short audio files, e-mails, emoticons and so on… We receive all sorts of things.

E-mail, Facebook, Twitter and most of all WhatsApp, have made us always traceable, ready to debate, hyper-receptive, perhaps unjustifiably available.

Our followers are increasing month after month: we add a neighbor, a colleague, an old friend… Therefore, both our number of received messages as well as of sent messages keep growing…a real “virtual Babel”.

Some of us, quite a few, are progressively reducing the interval of internet access, more and more frequently they feel the need to check if there are some news on their social spaces or email. On our previous article we have quoted the FOMO phenomenon, “Fear of missing out”, afraid of not participating when it happened. A fear that, applied to the network, forces the internaut to be online more and more frequently.

A greater virtual presence implies, inevitably, a lesser presence, perception and availability in the real world.

In practice, from the motor point of view, while we receive hundreds of virtual stimuli, we sit still, immovable. Our metabolism is inactive, silent, almost all of our muscles are unused. We are like Keanu Reeves in Matrix who, before being released, lived, immobile, in an electronic cocoon, a “normal” virtual life.

A possible antidote to this increasing acceleration /virtualization of our lives is offered by David Mikics: the “Slow Reading in a Hurried Age”.

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We are familiar with the concept, it reintroduces successful tendencies such as “Slow Food” or “Degrowth movement“, trends based on the will to give back spaces, flavors and new feelings to the individual; the basics.

But what is the Slow Reading?

First of all the Slow Reading is not “against” internet, nor a nostalgic form of valorization of the printed book to the detriment of the digital one. The Slow Reading is a readout mode which not only involves the net, the eBooks and the digital material in general, but a way of dealing with the information, the content.

David Mikics suggests to follow the “book’s rhythm”, to stop and reflect on what we are reading, to look for small details in the text, “to dialogue” with the author, for instance adding notes to the borders of the text, reading without rushing, approaching patiently even the great novels.

To David Mikics echoes Thomas Newkirk that in his book “The Art of Slow Reading: Six Time-Honored Practices for Engagement” traces an extremely analytical framework of our way of reading, analysing principally the readout mode and the multitasking approach of “our” students.

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We find particularly fascinating two of his concepts:

  • Clock in the mind“, practically each of us has his own “inside clock”, each of us needs his time to get a correct and complete understanding of what he reads
  • Culture of distraction”, too much information has transformed our way of reading, now we “hop” from one resource to another.

Thomas Newkirk affirms that it is necessary to re-establish the bond between the book we are reading and the words of which is composed of.

It is obvious, we would add, that our lifestyle has heavily influenced our way of reading and thinking. TVs, text messages, chats, instant messengers, blogs have set in motion a synthetic process of our language, of visual inputs proliferation. We have grown accustomed from search engines to move among million of occurrences, creating in many of us, a sort of addiction toward the overload of information that we are effectively experiencing with the consequence that the choice, often, is reduced to the first three results on the list.

The virtualization’s process of our lives is just starting out and is irreversible, there are no alternatives or dualisms, the path is clear, the printed book, probably already in the first half of the century, will be replaced by the digital one. The handwriting will follow analogous fate and over the same period the number of persons who will not use internet daily will be close to zero, equally the number of persons who will work at home, through the network, it will exceed 30%.

Under these conditions, given the change of our habitat, we need to learn how to filter the stimuli coming from the web, how to read slowly, how to analyse patiently the list results provided by Google looking for what really interests us. We need to learn how to read Websites and Portals ignoring advertising images, banner, special offers and casual proposals of friendship.

It is necessary to find a balance between our thought and our available time and between our available time and the information proposed.

The story, the novel, if read in the right way with the proper attention, might become the antidote, stimulating the capacity for thought and for critical thinking, training our mind.

There is no need to think and read fast, we just need to think and read.

Once again in this blog we try to overcome false dualisms between real and virtual, between technology and culture, between analog and digital, in support of a total awareness that only the thought, the reason can guide us during this irreversible historical change.

WorldTwoDotZero

Social shopping & Purchase on

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In this article we will analyse two, apparently completely at odds, ways of online purchase that are becoming more common on the Internet.

The first one is based on the quickness, the immediacy of the commercial proposal.
In this first case the cyber user search something online, displays the image, the main characteristics and, consequently, through a click he immediately makes the purchase.
Google, that studies very carefully the users’ behaviour on global scale, has perceived the great possibility of proposing already on the search results list some valuable details of the seeking product and, great innovation, a button making the purchase immediately possible. This procedure of immediate purchase directly from the search results list is at the experimental stage with the name of “Purchase on Google.”
From the anthropological point of view we can consider it as an inevitable consequence of tools and “modus operandi” currently possible online; the increasingly frequent use of the Internet by everybody, the easygoing access of smart phone characterised by high resolution displays and low cost Internet connections, the blind trust in the results list proposed by the search engines, the compulsive use of the social tools and so on, are elements that connote many of the cybernauts as modern, fast, receptive, impulsive, instant and smart.
The principle is simple: search, see and select everything with a click.

The “Buy-on-click” is much more than a temporary tendency; it is a deep-rooted and global form of use to which all, the institutions too, have to deal with; it is the abolition of borders that separates the first perception from the real purchase; it is the affirmation of the smart tool, phone or tablet, of the action on the thought and of the offer on the search.
Google, well aware that most of its users choose the first three results proposed by the search results list (see our previous article), tries to catalyse this impulsiveness in order to direct it toward the immediate purchase.

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If you are not a buy-on-click type, but you love the confrontation, the reflection, the search of the promotional offer, then for you goes the second way of purchase described in this article, the so-called “social shopping”.
The “social shopping” is based on “circular mechanisms” that characterize social tools and new-generation portals, tools and social groups who share the latest news in terms of offers and promotions or prefer to exchange the discount coupons. Often are the companies themselves that create promotional situations which involve and loyalize this particular type of clients.Not only social groups, but also real portals as Italian Grupon and Tippest or Let’s bonus, where everything is promotion, super discount or on sale, where exceptional condition becomes normality and certainty.
In this case the speed and the thread of the web don’t change into impulsiveness but into comparability regarding the spasmodic chase offers and great savings.
The “social shopping” user is willing to invest his time in the search of a great offer, even if is not what he really wants, but he would tend to share it online in order to nourish his popularity and credibility as a “social shopper”. He believes in the friendship liaison and the relationships with others “shoppers” whose reviews and advices he follows; he is careful to the trade even if he is well aware of the fact that the frenzied search of the lowest price can also lead to a less advantageous purchase or less appropriate.

Purchase on” and “Social shopping” are nothing but two sides of the same coin, the network provides endless (or almost) relational possibilities and endless (or almost) alternatives. Each of us reacts to this chaos by trying to create his own path; some of us act on impulse, out of habit or for laziness take the shortest route and some of us, on the other hand, exploit all the possible alternatives in the search of the free-of-charge or the lowest price.
In view of these extreme forms of behaviour, which we confirm is not a question of small groups but of most cyber users and on a global scale, it is important that certain social agents play the leading role.
The institutions ought to guide the customer who should have the same rights and duties online as those presents in “the real world.”
The family, first among all the social agents, has to follow the process of search, selection and purchase online, especially of the youngest, namely digital natives.
The school, equally important agent, has to explain, already in primary school, how to use the internet and how to “deal with the information”, but that is another story we will look into in one of the next articles.

WorldTwoDotZero

The OVER-60s read better on tablet

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There are researches that underline obvious facts and others that reach targets not even hypothesized at first, researches that change our perspective confirming and overcoming some of our prejudices.
No, we are not about to unfold for the umpteenth time the discovery of the penicillin by Alexander Fleming, the reference framework is definitely less remarkable, but the research results are, with the due proportions, equally surprising and fascinating.
The research to which we are referring has been done by the University of Mainz and published in 2013 on PlosOne (Full article).
The study analyses the perceptive ability and the cognitive workload while reading a text on paper and on electronic devices.
More exactly this study uses EEG measures combine with eye tracking in order to check if the reading on digital device requires more cognitive workload than is necessary during the reading of traditional books.
The key issue stays in the application of a reliable methodology and then drawing a comparison between the results obtained and the subjective evaluation given by the readers involved in this experiment.
The research has been carried out by analysing the “EEG frequency activity and fixation” during the action of reading on three different devices: tablet, e-reader and paper book through a combination of the numerical data with a questionnaire filled personally by each participant.
This duality, on the sample of the readers divided in two age brackets, young and elderly, as well as on the use of automatic techniques coupled with the collection of personal opinions, has brought to divergent conclusions, some of them quite surprising.
No surprises regarding the digital natives, or rather the young adults, the action of reading on book page appears to be easier, the measures of the eye movement reveal longer periods, and therefore a greater visual effort during the action of reading through electronic devices. The questionnaires confirm such trend, what was perceived by the reader corresponds and confirms what was collect through tracing techniques of the eye movement.
For the young adults, age bracket 21-34, reading on paper turns out easier.
The blue column on the graph below points out that during the experimentation the easiest medium to read for the “Young adults” was clearly the paper format (Book page).

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We would like to remind you that we have already covered this aspect in a previous article by highlighting how, till now, for the young ones the sequential reading on paper format is less demanding, able to provide more information memorized for a longer period.
Let us also remember that today’s generation of “young adultsis not fully digital, it concerns individuals who have undertook a learning pathway in primary and secondary school based on writing and reading on paper. We believe that the generation who will use only electronic textbooks, (a pretty puzzling event for many of us to which we have dedicated another interesting article), will have a different and perhaps a better digital sensitivity.
But let us get to the point.
The “older adults” readers read faster and with less cognitive workload on tablet, this is the first stunning conclusion to which the research comes. This is motivated by minor eye sensitivity due to age and claims that the most elderly readers benefit from the contrast provided by the tablet. The electronic device highlights better the text “backlit” (first column on the graph below “Medium with the best readability”, “Tablet” device for category “Older adults”, age bracket 60-77).

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The second stunning conclusion is that many “older” readers don’t acknowledge such benefit and, on the filled questionnaire, they indicate by far the page book as the best device, easier and faster to read.
The conclusion to which the research comes is that the subjective evaluation concerning the medium operated, must be dissociated from the cognitive and neural workload employed in the management of the information during the reading.
In short, this research underlines three different, concomitant and contradictory, situations:

  • A reduced receptive ability by the youngest readers in the face of a digital text,
  • The prejudice of the older ones in using a digital medium for reading,
  • The fact that in certain circumstances is easier to read on tablets, devices for general use, than on e-readers, devices targeted only for reading.

There is a cultural and cognitive gap to fill in the new generations as well as a digital prejudice to fill in the long-lived generations and there are technical aspects to improve in the electronic media already on the market.
The paradox lies in the fact that the youngest often choose to use digital media, the “over” the printed books, and that to both of them an expert would recommend the purchase of an e-reader; all sub-optimal situations according to the already mentioned research.
These paradoxes are typical of the “transitionalepochs, when the innovative element which leads to a great change is not yet completely successful, when the alternatives of use are not perceived as opportunities but as antagonistic options, representing different generations and different lifestyles.
We have to say, in partial support of the tool e-reader, that the research has been carried out more than two years ago, during this time the devices have been subject to further important developments.
The e-book and the printed one are not antagonistic tools; the knowledge has and will always have the same, authentic and immense value whichever medium promotes it.
It is important for each of us to choose, without prejudice, the most suitable readout mode.

WorldTwoDotZero

The trend of e-books purchasing is constantly growing in Italy, the Italian publishing Report of Aie-The Italian Editors Association marks in 2014 a slight decrease of the printed format against a 26,7% increase of books available in digital format and more than EUR 40 million of turnover.

In thanking “PlosOne” for the research subject of this article, available on line, we remind you that WorldTwoDotZero is only a game, a web walk to take together; it doesn’t have any commercial purpose.