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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

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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!

WorldTwoDotZero

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.

amazon_go_shop

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. 

WorldTwoDotZero

 

Lonely window: Alone in front of the computer

Before the advent of internet the relation between man and computer was extremely personal. Turning on our computer meant, often, stop communicating and turn our back on others. Programming, the video games, the word processing were intimate moments, rarely shared unless in response to a final result. Who, in the ‘80s, used frequently a computer was often wittingly isolated from the rest of the world.

Perhaps today things are different: the computers are smaller, usable in a flash, in a click, allowing us “above all” to connect with other people, from anywhere in the world. Who “turns on” the computer today, quite often wants to interact with others.

We use the computer, especially in the smart version, not to “isolate us” but to “find us”, to share instantly our emotions, our daily life.

Yet, when we think about it, no matter how real may be the emotions arose online, the context in which grow is virtual, digital, synthetic.

Digital experience resets three of our main senses: the taste, the sense of smell and especially the touch and limits the use of the remainders, the sight and the hearing, not essential for communicating online. (Actually according to Wikipedia, our senses are precisely nine, but we don’t want to make this article more complex than it is).

Despite this, the digital experience is extremely rich in contents, images and videos; immediate, but lacking in contact. We are Avatar of ourselves.

A division process of the physical contact from the emotional one that redraws the spaces and the décor of our home that redefines the way of communicating, acting in the house, especially between different generations.

The television, at the center of our living room, is progressively losing, appeal and centrality. Now we look for a quiet corner, a table, a desk, a couch where we may comfortably sit with our computer increasingly lightweight, in search of something to be touched about.

Even the spotlights of our houses lose centrality, remaining in the background, subordinated to the central light provided by the display of our PC or smartphone or tablet; spots in our house where we isolate ourselves with the purpose to feel less lonely.

The beautiful photos taken by Julien Mauve, present in the “lonely window” gallery, make perfectly the idea of this change. Of how the essence of socialization, the fact of being together in the same place, looking at each other, touching each other, has diminished partly because of the spread of the distribution network in the event of a new and different relational model, open, participative, collaborative, social but also anonymous, mimetic, synthetic, solitary.

We are in front of our computer staring at the display, our mimicry changes very quick on the basis of the inputs coming from the net. We live a profound experience, immersive that excites us, but the other cyberusers are not with us, we are alone with a display. What we experience does not draw from the reality that surrounds us.

The internet owes its success to its own open space, always reachable, without filters, inhibitions, hierarchies but, at the same time like every sea change that concerns all of us and broaden our relational space, it takes a toll in reducing our sensorial experience.

That’s us, as Julien Mauve’s photos show, alone but together, connected without the possibility to hold our hands, in front of our display, of our “lonely window”.

 WorldTwoDotZero

Global Instagram Expo

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Instagram is without doubt the social network that has had the most evident growth trends in the last two years, whether in terms of use or real interest and presentation of original contents.

In this article we will explain you the reason of this growth, anything but casual.

Let’s start with analysing some numbers: a recent statistic, of August 2015, (source statista) shows the exceeding threshold of 300 million monthly active users. No doubt, an interesting number in absolute terms, but even more interesting if analysed in terms of increment. To do this, we rely on a second statistic (the same source statista) that shows as in March 2014 the number of active users was of 200 million and in February 2013 of 100 million. Basically every year (or so) the “social space” taken up by Instagram doubles its users.

How is this possible?

The first consideration is the same one underlined in a thousand other contexts, the smartphones spreading has changed the relation with internet, increasing the network use and the social tools, even several times over the day. In this case, for Instagram, we notice an extra reason: the mobile devices are endowed with camera. Taking photos and making videos have become a habit for many of us, photo (or video) that describe our day, multimedia items that we share with our friends, that help us to explain better some situations, that allow us “to bring online” part of our real world.

The first equation is therefore very simple: two billion smartphones sold, billion of potential photographers, three hundred million (for now) monthly active users on Instagram.

Thinking that the success of Instagram is exclusively related to some well-placed lens inside our mobile phone is however extremely reductive.

Instagram is simple, intuitive and represents one of the points of arrival of this process of extreme synopsis of concepts and language that is taking place online.

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 (Milan Expo is a party for few intimate friends in comparison).

Instagram, same as Twitter, is further strengthened by the aggregative dynamics due to the use of hashtag and the possible interaction with the same Twitter.

Instagram is not just a personal space to fill in an original way and share with the other, but a possible showcase where art, history, culture, fashion, music, new tendencies and so on, may find the “right” attention. For a better perception of the large variety of contents present in this social network we consider appropriate to give you a few examples.

For instance, we recommend you to visit Cory Richards’ Instagram page, photographer, traveller, filmmaker who share his own travelling adventures; some photos are really beautiful… Instagram is the ideal space for documentary photographers, the fantastic images published by Benjamin Lowy and National Geographic are proof of this.

As mentioned above, on Instagram we find everything, from the fascinating romantic photos as those created by Arthur Elgort, fashion photographer, to the original space “seriousdesign”, from visionary to trash, that proposes objects “mixed” with food or the real “space” described by NASA, the Starbucks logos, the photos of a young rapper or photos of little dogs that on Internet, let’s face it, never miss. All examples that draw the attention of millions of followers, more exactly these first nine examples which we list, have till now, altogether, over 342 million followers.

No famous person can do without participating in this global showcase, singers such as Katy Perry or Madonna or, champions such as Usain Bolt or Serena Williams. Almost all the main protagonists of our time talk about themselves on Instagram.

Furthermore, we highlight, even if still a recent phenomenon and not yet widely spread, how Culture itself has decided to accept the challenge proposing its own beauties in a “social” way on Instagram. One example out of many is that of the Great Museum of the Duomo of Florence, that provides a “social space” all to be seen with beautiful photos of the Cathedral, the Dome, the Bell tower and so on.

Today Instagram is, for all intents and purposes, a huge global Expo which is able to feed its own personal (or institutional or commercial) popularity. But Instagram is also the image of society and tendencies of our times; it is transposition, the multimedia copy of the real world, the anthropological overview of the 21st century.

Moreover, from our point of view, the number of users still relatively low, even though fast-growing and the multimedia dimension that characterise Instagram have effect on the contents and descriptions, generally less banal compared to longest-running and popular Facebook until now at least in part.

As always, our advice is to be there and participate, do not remain a “network outsider”. Carpe diem and then share it online, through Instagram, create your best global expo!

WorldTwoDotZero