The Smart Commuters


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.


The digital Omnivores: A new model of mass consumption


The consumer society, or rather consumerist, underwent a significant change during the last decade.
On the one hand, the modern productive model has reached physiological limits producing more than necessary, in terms of consumption and desire, and on the other hand the serious public debt of many industrialized countries, among these Italy, has determined the application of strict policies on the deficit which have led to a drop in consumptions and, consequently, to a decline of the manufacturing processes.
This state of crisis has originated, in one part of the consumers, the beginning of a critique conscience which determined a greater ability in selecting and identifying the own necessities, for a critical and aware consumption. The others, perhaps the majority, are getting used to it and begin to buy less and worry more about the future.
In this sad passage from the postmodern society to a new model of social consumption, internet – “the web”, is determining a further significant “rift.”
On internet the consumer doesn’t play only the role of a passive spectator as happens in the real world: he chooses, makes comments, shares, read other people’s judgments, communicates, compares the prices, passes the word in a fast way,… practically he is the protagonist of his own purchase. Through internet the consumer has at his disposal a remarkable number of alternatives and a great deal of opinions and information which accompany every choice he made.
Furthermore, web spreads, online as well as in the real world, a new model of purchase based on the use of goods or services and not on the possession, going far beyond the “old system” which had dominated before the rural society and after the industrial/modern/postmodern one.
I, as a user, read the comments of the others and consequently choose the movie to see this evening. Therefore, I am aware of my choice made, let’s say, through a service “on demand” among thousands of titles available. At the end of the vision I don’t retain any right on this film (if not, in some occasions, for a short period of time).
The passive spectator/reader/listener/client becomes an active user who chooses, judges, spreads information and who, at the same time, through services online or on demand or streaming, listens to the music, reads a book, watches a documentary, a film, a TV series.
The novelties are uncountable, the user is aware of the fact that the services are provided in real time without being necessary to reach a particular place to proceed with the purchase and, above all, the patrimony is replaced by the immediate and to term usufruct, not to mention the quantity of the goods available, practically endless.
Today, in this epoch “of transit”, often, for the people who don’t know me in person, I still am what I possess. By the end of the next decade, for those who won’t know me in person, I will be what I will purchase online, what I use, what I reach and what I share /comment.
The option of term purchase, typical of intangible services “on line“, “on demand“, “streaming“, “in cloud“, adopts the main characteristics of web: it is fast, participatory, social, it doesn’t require personal contact, it is delocalized, it can be anonymous. All characteristics amply deepened in the previous articles dedicated to the “new web 2.0.”
To sum up, “I choose what to purchase and when to proceed with it, I don’t stock, I don’t possess, I don’t preserve more than I need.”
The new digital devices, especially the tablets, are the real protagonists of this change. They are determining the global spread of this new model of mass consumption.
The tablets are more “friendly” than the Personal Computers: they are easy to turn on, easy to turn off, in an instant they allow you to access the services without using a desk, they have a good autonomy, they are able to memorize your own passwords accessing both internet, through a browser, and APP, or better, applications expressly saved.
The tablets are not the only type of available tools, a wide range of mobile devices, each of it characterized by specific characteristics (dimensions, weight, video, price), allows each of us to be frequently connected online.
The study made by Deloitte named “State of the Media Democracy” underlines the increasing purchase and use of tablets, despite the economic crisis, paying particular attention to the other devices as well, such as “Laptop” and “smart phone”, also very popular .
The previous model of consumption is in full crisis, everyday thousands of shops close, the consumers don’t buy anymore and they even lose interest in buying, yet, as Deloitte’s study indicates, the consumption crisis doesn’t concern at all the mobile devices with the internet access, which, by the way, is in very fast growth in Italy in 2014 as well. Along with this, increases the number of people able to navigate from a device to another (tablet, smart phone, PC) depending on the situations, which strengthens even more the initial hypothesis and that is the one of the user who is becoming more and more expert and aware of what internet means.
The infographic proposed in this study sustains that 44% of Italians possess one of the followings: a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone, fact that gives him/her the possibility to be connected to internet all day long, in a targeted manner, based on the personal needs of each individual.
Deloitte goes further coining the term of “Digital omnivores” with the purpose of identifying that typology of users who are often connected to internet, hungry of contents, information, social contacts and so on…
To summarize, once again web, through its “smart” tools, positions itself in areas where the “real world” turns out insufficient. The user not only has a smaller economic availability but also a shorter time available and therefore he uses more (online) tools to search for opinions, to compare the prices, to choose, to suggest, to buy in a down market even by means of new contractual forms.
The “old style” consumers are decreasing and the “digital omnivores” are increasing. They are fast, comparative, schizophrenic, never completely satisfied, with a strong tendency towards saving and free on line.
The all while the previous social model, based on the consumption on the spot and the physical possession of the goods, has evidently overcome its peak only to follow a steep descent whose distribution seems to adopt an all-Gaussian tendency.
What if the GNP, the gross national product, will be calculated in the future through the number of online transactions made by its citizens? The statistics of Google Analytics on our transactions would govern our deficit and our spread.
Maybe there is a reason to be concerned about or maybe not.