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”.


entropy Web

Entropy on Web

Internet is the great box of all that is said, thought or done in our era.

Internet is a participative space. 
Practically, it gives everyone the freedom of speech and thought. 

It is the natural consequence of the global need, to participate, to express one’s own thought and opinion, by debating and countering.
Modern society limited to very few the publication and diffusion of contents, to authorities or privileged, leaving to all others, the mass, only the role of listeners, readers and viewers.
“Webmodern” society, beginning with Internet, has opened Pandora’s box. It has given to everybody the immediate possibility to bring the own contribution, even if not authoritative.
In fact, we moved in a short time, a decade, from an elitist management of information to an anarchic management of the same; from preclusion to total openness, from a mono flow of a directional communication to an informative and global tsunami.

Every network node, every person, communicates, participates. 
Everyone can write what he wants. 

All the world’s inhabitants who have a normal level of sociability and communication are exposed online.

It is estimated a traffic of 5 billion gigabytes per day. 
That means approximately 1 gigabyte for each inhabitant of planet Earth. 

What is generating this enormous informative mass?

Entropy, a lot of entropy. 

To explain what is happening, we support two definitions of entropy, which we find very modern and relevant.

  1. A gradual degeneration of a system toward the maximum disorder.

It is our case: Internet has been overloaded of contents of every kind; it is getting more and more difficult to find, browse, trace and expose, if not taking to extremes the ways of communication as well as the content published. First we have overcrowded our urban centers turning them into metropolis, now we are overcrowding the web.

  1. The information theory, what is of impediment to the clarity and uniqueness of the message; major is the entropy, minor is the quantity of information.

An informative overloading, coming from below, can progressively create an informative short circuit? Absolutely! In the face of billion of contents inserted daily, the original information, valid and competent, is submerged by an endless quantity of “trash contents”.
The search engines, especially Google, in front of this informative tsunami, must evaluate all the information by guessing what is relevant and understand what the cyberuser is searching for.
It is an ocean of noise that very often turns into small waves on the shore. Google algorithmically disintegrates the entropy by reducing it, on the first page, to thirteen or fourteen occurrences, of which three or four proposals for advertising. The rest, all of it, is in the storage, available only beginning from page two, for few, very few curious; a single process, unthinkable only ten years ago.
To an excessive increase of posted contents, getting from all over correspond a very high level of entropy and consequently a reduced set of useful information.

What will happen in the next decade? 

The most catastrophists say that the entropy, the overloading of contents, will win and all of us will be satisfied with the first ten options of the result list or maybe only with the first occurrence on the list.
The most optimists are convinced that this is only an early stage. A new “Generation Z” more skilled to use the web, will make use of the information more consciously. Simultaneously the search engines will develop more rational and intelligent algorithms.

To be realistic both dynamics will partially impose. 

The surplus of contents which involves all the topics discussed online makes difficult the search and the evaluation having an impact on our way of thinking, our ethic, our social and political conscience.
The Internet’s future lies in the dynamics of use by billion of users as well as in the informative flows which follow, ever-expanding flows. The limits for this process or the expanding methods are unknown and, to this day, are unpredictable.
Maybe the excess of information will determine in the future a BIG BANG of our virtual universe, the Web. To that point, we will invent something else.

Social shopping & Purchase on

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.


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.


The OVER-60s read better on tablet


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).

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).

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.


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.

Dubsmash, Selfie, YouTube and the grimaces of Barack Obama on BuzzFeed

obamacare_buzzfeedEveryday a billion of people watches on YouTube approximately three hundred million videos. Are you surprised? Let us suppose you are not because YouTube is a well-known environment and frequently used by all of us: if I have to see a video I go on YouTube, if I have to share a video I put it on YouTube, all the videos of the world are on YouTube! Have you made a video? Have you seen the last video of “that guy” on YouTube?
Yet YouTube is a pretty recent phenomenon, to be more precise the greatest multimedia repository in the history of the humanity has its origin on 23 April 2005, the day when the first video has been posted, therefore it celebrated its 10th anniversary. We may say it is still a child.
In ten years our relation with videos and photos, multimedia material in general, has completely changed, every event is followed live by thousand of mini video cameras placed on our smartphones and shared online and, if it is considered interesting, it is posted on YouTube. The personal sphere has also suffered this multimedia contamination, every event of our life, of that of our relatives, children and friends, is recorded and, often instantly, shared.
In less than one decade our way of communicating, sharing and preserving has completely changed; we have decided to expose ourselves publicly! The widespread phenomenon called Selfie has taken this direction; we have chosen to dedicate an article along with the excessive use of the emoticons, smilies which allow us to express our emotions in a fast and instinctive way.
Many other examples become evidences in support of our vision of the “show-off man” (or woman or teen-ager,…), ready to expose oneself, self-absorbed, eager to reach one’s own personal popularity online. We quote two of them pretty recent:
The president Barack Obama has recently made a video to solicit the public opinion, especially the youngest one, regarding his extremely important health care reform. The video, spread through the Social Platform “BuzzFeed“, posted many times on YouTube (click here to see Obama’s video), does not propose the president in a suit sitting at his desk, flags by his side, intent in reading an institutional statement. On the contrary, he is in front of the mirror, supposedly bright and early, parroting himself, making funny faces, rehearsing his speech, making some grimaces, having an unlikely breakfast and shooting some imaginary and originally hoops.
This is an extremely “selfie” vision of the president, egocentric and modern where the mirror becomes the instrument which reflects the image of the president toward (and in line with) the virtual world.
The video lasts two minutes and it founds itself on fruition and expositive rules typical of the web ones and not on those institutional such as broadcasting or television. An approach on the surface breezy and superficial, but in fact, based on a careful marketing analysis of the audience, the young Americans, which is intended to be obtained by sharing the new healthcare reform (informally called Obamacare, formally called HealthCare).
“Our” teen-agers are on YouTube, making videos, sharing them, watching them, making comments, voting them…they are in continuous transparent and viral, interaction with the multimedia material made by them, therefore with themselves.
Being digital natives, being used to these tools, they don’t see an alternative; they live their community without having any prejudice towards the media exposure of themselves. Not even the choice of BuzzFeed is casual: it is about a generic base, far from an institutional one, but with a great ability of diffusion and support of the mass, of the internet users.
The APP Dubsmash allows to lip-synch starting from a well-known base, deliberately chosen, a sort of “singing ventriloquism“. At first glance, if we go on Youtube and watch some videos, we are inclined to think it is about the usual “village idiot” who wants to make fun of himself, but it is not what it looks like. The phenomenon is global, we find videos practically from every nation, not only about young people and youngest ones. The Dubsmashes are the evolution of the Selfies, they are the continuation of the playful phenomenon inserted online by the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy” which has created thousand of clone videos with euphoric dancers. This is the demonstration that YouTube is becoming the storage of our ego and the smartphones the tool to produce (and to expose) our personal, emotional and visual heritage.
There is a real world, where form and content follow precise rules, where the announcement and the publication are reserved to very few, where the contradictory opinion is often absent, but at the same time, there is the web where each of us, even the youngest (especially the youngest) can expose a significant part of themselves through a direct language, grotesque, ironic. Such exposure is often a multimedia type created by means of homemade images or videos.
The jester is getting more attention online comparing to that of the king’s herald, despite the institutional trumpet blasts which accompany him, maybe because of his ability to make fun of himself and to communicate in a “natural language”, accessible to everyone without any hesitation or superfluity.
This change toward multimedia, so obvious for the youngest and so inexplicable for many others, involves even the most powerful man on the planet, the president Barack Obama (or his marketing office, it doesn’t matter a bit).
In one decade, the rules of the game have completely changed! It is necessary to communicate directly and in a multimedia way, even through a simple video. Words alone are not enough anymore! To be honest, if the words come along without a little tune or a funny face or an “I like”, many of us don’t even bother to listen to them anymore.