The Spin cycle: Technologies, people, society in “global rotation”

forza_centrifugaAs I have already mentioned in a previous article, article in which most probably I haven’t been too original, opinion you may share only by reading the article, web has changed the world. But how did this change happen? What process did it activate? What changes will follow? Maybe if we try to analyze the dynamics which have brought the net to the attention of our society, it will be easier to realize or simply to guess what the future will bring or at least a part of it.
I would like to start from one consideration: the first web or web 1.0 whose diffusion took place in the 1990s offered static contents that hardly changed as the days went by, with graphics package similar to that of the newspapers. The pages were columns structured with a title or a subtitle and a text. The images applied were a few as well as the colors, but the difference which strikes more than all, is how the contents were rarely put through an updating. It surely looked alike with the good “old newspaper”, but being on web, it turned out to be of no use, not even fit to wrap the fish in. It is not hard to find online “old web pages” which describe an event or a service or even disused old blogs whose last, and sometimes the only post, is dated 1995 or 1996.
The biggest limits were of technical nature, the creation of the web pages was often delegated only to the computer technicians, sometimes even to improvised technicians. The action of publication had to submit to a wearing “braid” which considerably slowed down the updating of the contents, to not mention the editing of macroscopic grammatical errors.
Do not misunderstand me, every rule has its own exception, there are examples in the first web that excel in communication and navigation, however often thanks to the inspiration of one individual and not due to the “teamwork.”
I dare to compare these first pages to the first prehistoric icons carved in stone. They have many aspects in common! First of all, they are hard to cancel or even change, second, they were created by using primitive tools and last but not least, there was no awareness from the maker regarding the importance of his creation, the conception of a rough and primitive product from the communicative point of view even though of inestimable value.
Therefore the stone age of the web coincides with the web created in the twentieth century and the “stonepages” have been the direct expression of it. A good web expert has in his drawer a list of stonepages links, web pages designed at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s.
Continuing our cursory and general analysis, we ought to underline the incredible evolution made by technology and the way it progressively succeeded in producing more dynamic and interactive tools, creating software which permit the editor to insert and publish contents in complete autonomy. Equally decisive was the diffusion of tools which simplified and speeded up the creation of multimedia material such as digital cameras, high tech video cameras, audio tools and so on…
The electronics and the computer science have certainly given a conclusive contribution by proposing new tools, simple to use and affordable to everyone.
So, the new Web has its genesis in the innovation, but such a mass and a transversal process cannot be limited to some extra bit and chip, the step-change took actually place from the very moment when the persons, the people, the vulgo, took knowledge of these tools and begun to use them daily.
This excessive use, not only has immediately determined new forms of communication, of social exposure, but above all, it has induced new requests of use, clearer.
Being an experienced computer scientist I know that the good result of a project, of a software programming service, depends very much on the actual use/ liking of the internet user as well as on the quantity of suggestions actually applied by him to the software.
The stage two of 2.0 is characterized by the users’ ability in over stimulating the means at their disposal finding sometimes innovative and original ways of use, sometimes even suggesting new developments.
The stage three of 2.0 has been even more important because it had turned millions of individual web users into a virtual society and some of the web tools into social networks, in other words, it has been created the first de facto virtual agorà. The stage three surprised everybody, even the most optimistic employees for its intensity, but above all, for the course of the phenomenon. As I already mentioned a few pages ago, there was some billion of people who felt alone, who had that tribal necessity to exchange two words, to feel each day alive by bringing in one’s own small way his fast and precious contribution.
The society is caught by this network and it won’t succeed in going out of it.
The second and the third stage have had a massive impact on the tools proposed by web, bringing new stimuli and a lot of money to those people able to plan and succeed in innovation.
The stage four of the new web is nothing but a second turn of field: further innovation, greater use and identification from the individual as well as further borders’ extension of an already mass phenomenon.
At this point of my monologue it becomes clear that the web 2.0, which all of us are experiencing, is a circular phenomenon, rapid and in constant growth. A circular phenomenon which rotates fast inserting a centrifugal force that runs over all the participants! Just imagine a billion of paper handkerchiefs which rotate at an incredible speed inside a huge washing machine. For this reason, when we use a new tool provided by social networks we feel sometimes played-out, we are into the spin cycle
The spin cycle has another evident collateral effect, it expels, throw out from its center the heaviest objects: politicians who love the monologue, researchers who use complex tools and well-structured publication procedures, whoever wants to keep a secret, long-winded orators, and others…
If you are not cooperative, if you don’t want to take a challenge, if you think it’s better to communicate using ways and slang typical of last century, or if you are just too slow, you don’t live the real-time web, or perhaps you are not fit at all for the innovation, then my friend, you are out of web, you exist “only “as a real person, but from the virtual point of view, you are simply meaningless.


News on paper or online?


I keep on repeating, article after article, on this blog, the concept of the “new web”, how this is a phenomenon much wider than all of us succeed in perceiving today, a dimension, a space, which will change the customs of this century. In a previous article, I have used some statistics in order to describe better this change which, in short, confirms that many of us are “always online” and that this “cyber presence” will continue to grow as far as involving everyone. The numbers give us important indications but, in my opinion, they don’t succeed in representing concretely the change. Much more is needed, therefore I would like to highlight, with the help of a real confrontation, what was “before” and what is “after“, the “real” and the “virtual“.
To do this I have analyzed an area of great interest where the two models, the descriptive sequential one of the 20th century cohabit daily with the new model, visual, fast and interactive of this 21st century, therefore of our times.
Last Monday I bought a papery copy of one of the most important Italian daily newspaper, and that is “Corriere della Sera”, and I read every single page, and soon after the same day, I browsed the version online of the same daily newspaper taking also some screen shots.
To my astonishment the two versions have very little in common. The papery version has a page structure on vertical columns, nine columns differently positioned with six main articles that continue within the newspaper and other six titles corresponding to articles also present inside the newspaper.
On the first “papery” page we find nine images, among these we find a cartoon and, in the four angles, small and middle advertising inserts. We find the same scheme the following pages, mostly characterized by long texts, with an average of two or three images (and some extra image on the sport page, it is Monday after all). The advertising is set aside in big “showcase-pages” made ad hoc.
The symbols used are only a few and the “infographic” elements are practically absent except for the page devoted to weather.
I think, considering the topics raised, the space devoted to football and motorbikes as well as the publicity offered, that this newspaper is oriented toward a predominantly male over 40 audience.
Let’s give a quick look to the version online! The first consideration is related to the contents, they are way different, the version online is updated, the dematerialized information can be updated at every moment, this is why the online site brings today’s news and the papery version yesterday’s news. The main news are all different, which is no small thing. The second difference stays in the number of the contents offered, the web page has an indefinite length and it is opportunely divided in horizontal areas, thing that imposes a certain visual order allowing an easy reading on horizontal sections, from left to right. There are dozens and dozens of articles. I counted the images and only on the homepage they are 142, I remind you that the papery version had only nine and almost all of them in small format.
On the version online they are more articles but shorter, many of them I wouldn’t even consider them as articles, but rather news. Their structure is rather simple and the terms used are basic, sometimes even elementary.
The page contains lots of interactive elements, slide showcases, photo gallery like “Photo story”, videos. Considering the high-level of innovation reached, personally, I would increase the use of the hypertexts, especially the hipertextual weave among the articles.
Paradoxically, the version online, though having much more contains and images, results simpler to visualize, browse and read, in some cases so simple and immediate to seem even banal compared to the “structured” papery version.
My tone in this comparison is deliberately simple, we are on a blog, even if, to say the truth, for an instant I have had the temptation to analyze the “wireframe” or rather the graphic model of design and communication on which the two daily papers are based on.
Seeing the different morphology of the “two daily papers” I’m inclined to believe that the audience is created by different types of people. The version online is oriented to young people and “medium” young people who use internet every day, and therefore who look for a quick reading as well as the latest news and who often choose on the strength of the visual impact due to the terms used and the images provided. The papery version is more reflective, for a less reactive audience, probably more cultured and less frantic.
The papery articles follow the tradition of the “printed paper” , they propose conjectures and showan analytical context. They have a sequential and progressive line.
The articles online are easy and immediate. Most probably the editorial office online is composed by different resources compared with the papery version. Maybe it has different work schedules, always active working on news in brief in contrast to the papery editorial office, more reflective and characterized by the “daily delivery.”
To put it in a nutshell, we have two types of audience, two editorial offices and two ways of operating the information. The splitting between real dimension and virtual dimension becomes more evident when we talk about the journalistic information. Two ways of spreading information, two excellences situated in two different universes, each of them with its rules and its audience.
In conclusion I would like to pay tribute to the “page footer” of the web version where we can find indicated various blogs and forum, a modern and dynamic version from which we cannot leave out of consideration the new ways of communication along with the new tools. My compliments go to the editors online who decided to make such a visionary choice transforming journalists into bloggers and bloggers into journalists.
Returning to the opening question, I consider absolutely anachronistic the diatribe between the information online and the real information, therefore also between the papery information and the information online. They are two complementary universes characterized by different dynamics of use, different services and, often, different audience. The auspice which closes this article stays in the hope that this difference would help to growa plural and well informed society.