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.


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.


What is the use of Twitter? What to do with Twitter?

I am a Facebook user for years, but I can’t figure out what I can do with Twitter. What is the use of Twitter? This is probably the question most frequently asked by our cyber-readers.
The two social networks, Twitter and Facebook, gain popularity almost at the same time, but apart this, they don’t have much in common, even the user “type” who uses them has different abilities and behaviors.
Facebook is a simple tool very intuitive that provides a space where the user can openly share his thoughts, post images, make remarks, a sort of personal diary based especially on the bond between people, on the personal network of friendships and relatives.
The Facebook user can daily organise his own space sharing his own “post-thoughts” often enriched with images, commenting the posts of his friends, playing, creating albums with photos of his holiday and so on…
Twitter is a social tool as simple as Facebook, characterized by great potentialities, but whose principles (rules) of use are not immediately deducible. First of all the space to share the “tweet-thoughts” is not unlimited; the user has 140 characters to express a concept, a rather significant limit, especially for the “type” user Facebook, used to think (and post) limitless.
What shall we propose in 140 characters??? Short comments, value judgments, aphorisms, but above all, suggestions and references to other contents present online.
A tweet example?
“I have found this fantastic BLOG that reports the latest of internet #internet #sociology
This tweet is of 113 characters (there are 27 left!!) and contains a suggestion, two hashtags or rather words that mark it (tag it) and the link to be selected for reading the mentioned blog.
Therefore on Twitter we can insert “simple sentences” direct and immediate or “suggestions” to look into somewhere else, but we cannot tell anything we rather underline, “we launch“, we provide a further reading, points to be consider or discussed.
Other important rules to keep in mind on Twitter:

  • Every tweet must be meaningful, it can’t be written a text of 1.400 characters in ten tweets one after another because it doesn’t make sense; nobody will read in sequence your tweets.
  • Avoid the Q&A, if you want to answer to a tweet use the function “reply“.
  • If you want to quote a certain user in the tweet, you can write his name adding the character ‘@ ‘ before it. The user will receive a notification and maybe he will participate in the debate. You may quote our @Mondo2puntozero only to practice your twitter use.
  • If you have just read a tweet that you like and you want to share it, you can do it through the action called “retweet“. The retweet brings the original source without modifying it in any way.
  • Twitter is a tremendously fast tool and only the most reactive and trendy users keep up with it.

What are the strong points of this “synthetic” social network? The first one is exactly the hashtag, if a tweet is tagged, through one or more words preceded by the character “#”, your message will be aggregated with all the other tweets that have the same tag and it will be read by all the users who are interested in that precise topic (suggested by that tag). Our example tweet will be proposed together with all the tweets that contain the term #sociology along with all the tweets that contain the term #internet. The users who look for inspiration in the sociological or technological area may track it down with a simple search.
The aggregative power of a hashtag is very strong; for example I can write a comment with the tag #xf8 and right away get aggregate with all the tweets devoted to the TV Show XFactor , the eighth edition. Some of the radio transmissions and TV programs have found in this tool a “bridge” toward internet, every user has a say and the best tweets are made public during the transmission or, if they are lucky, in some of the TV programs they appear at the bottom of the video screen.
Then, of course, overturning the principle, I can look for the hashtags present online and read the most recent “tweet-thoughts” of other users, browse dynamic lists, always updated by suggestions on the matter; for instance regarding my favorite musical band (let’s say #queen) or my favorite football team or the current final (for instance #JuveLazio see the following image), or the gossip scandal of the moment, or the political reform under discussion in parliament and so on…
Twitter provides also a funny service, a sort of Hit of the most used tags of the last period, always up-to-date and available also per places, allowing us to participate in the most trendy, popular or “of the moment” debates. The service is visible on our twitter space, on the box “trends” as well as callable online as TwitterTrends (here also in mobile version).
Twitter allows us therefore to follow the latest trends, dynamically aggregated through the hashtags. Each of us can follow, on twitter, debates on topics of interest or just debates on trendy terms.

twitter_trendsAs a matter of fact, Facebook provides the possibility to insert hashtags into the text as well as to find them, but the application by users is until now very limited, also because the Facebook user likes above all to tell about himself and share everything with his friends, there is often a bond between the “posts”, while the aggregation for tag is extremely casual and extemporaneous, often functional with the current fashion.
What about our friends? With Twitter the plot of friendships is less determining comparing to Facebook, maybe for the characteristics listed before or rather for the shortness of the exchanged messages as well as the possibility that these ones may end up aggregated on many lists on the bases of the tags presence.
You can choose online the users who write the best tweets, similar to your interests, obviously your friends too, and follow them through the action called “following“. In this way on the central part of your space twitter, after the insertion of the password, you can read the tweets regarding the topics or persons you intend to follow. The list of the tweets sent by those who interest you is always updated.

lista_FOLLOWINGVice versa for those who consider your Twitter interesting; they may follow you becoming your followers.
Unlike Facebook, the absence of bonds and the failed popularity is not a big limit; I may not have friends (followers) and I may not want to follow anyone (followings), but I sure may quote online other users or through ‘@’ debate with them, or reply or retweet or comment on “trendy” arguments.
You don’t need virtual friends to use Twitter!! The important thing is to be, to browse attentively the other twitters and, of course, follow @Mondo2puntozero.
In essence, the element that characterizes the great Twitter users is the agility, the ability to read and move among topics.
Today the popularity starts with a tweet: politicians, men and women in the performing arts, journalists, sportspeople, eminent scientists, … everyone run after the “right” hashtag with the aim of reaching higher popularity.
So what are you waiting for? Create your Twitter user, insert your first tweet suggesting a site you like then try to follow the current trends and, above all, our @Mondo2puntozero.


Milgram and the social networks that make the world a smaller place

postinoWe are “way back” in 1967, where there is no personal computer, no smartphones and, above all, no internet and no social networks, at most, if we are NASA scientists, we have at our disposal a supermainframe (computer) big like a building and with the power of elaboration of a modern scientific calculator.
During the boom years of the 1950s and the 1960s, while the great Mike Bongiorno was creating the game show, on italian television, “Lascia o Raddoppia” (“Leave It or Double It“), another American was analising, with a simple experiment, the complexity of the American relational net of the Modern Age.
We are speaking of the sociologist Stanley Milgram and his visionary theory “of the small world”, visionary because of its capability to gather the complexity of the social fabric due to the processes of urbanization that took place during the twentieth century, visionary because able to underline the net’s evolution, the dense network among the people, visionary for the demonstration of an ample and complex phenomenon, the globalization.
To be more specific, the theory is not completely original; it is based on the story “Chain-links” published in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy. The story (we provide you the English version in PDF format), even if short, hypothesizes connections among people all over the world in a fast and global way, all this taking place against the 1929 great depression, the most catastrophic event in history on a global scale.
In 1967, Milgram selected, randomly, some Americans in the Midwest asking them to send a long distance package to a stranger of whom they knew only the name and the job, but not the address. In order to reach the goal, they were allowed to use their own personal network of acquaintances, sending the package to a mediator, considered by them closer, or rather, with greater possibility of identifying the receiver.
It is said that Stanley himself was surprised by the final result, the package had reached the “unknown” consignee through an average of five – seven passages, we may say very few.
Milgram was proving how the Modern Age with its (then) modern (now archaic) systems of communication had created a dense relational network, making “the world smaller”. The project got published on “Psychology Today”, where it became famous as “the theory of the six degrees of separation”, inflaming the International Scientific Community divided on the chosen method and the achievements.
The debate continued, on a purely theoretical level, until the internet’s advent; the experiments done in the 21st century had given a new and decisive impulse to the Milgram’s theory.
In 2001, thanks to the electronic mail’s accessibility, the first global and social tool (along with the SMS…), Duncan Watts, professor of Columbia University, repeated the research on a much more significant sample of users, around 50.000. The research did nothing but confirming Milgram’s theory, the degrees of separation proving to be exactly six.
In 2006 two researchers of Microsoft, studying algorithmically the conversations records of the chat MSN messenger, came to the hypothetical result of 6.6 levels of separation.
And then what? Then our world has become 2.0, the social networks have arrived.
In 2011 some of the researchers of the University of Milan in team with some of the Facebook’s experts had carried out a test which, had permitted to check the “degree of proximity” of two subjects on a planetary scale (see “The degrees of separation on Facebook“)
No possible controversy on this sample, certainly significant, 65 billion of relationships and no doubt on the final result, an average of 3,74 degrees of separation, even less than what found by Milgram.
In the first decade of the 21st Century the degrees of separation are less than four, the world (2.0), as Milgram had assumed, is “very small” indeed.
It is important to underline how this result has been obtained: there was a meticulous work carried out by an extremely heterogeneous team for both competences and the used tools: sociologists, university researchers, computer experts, email, log trace, “Big data” of social type and technical tools of the latest generation and last but not least, the involuntary complicity of a significant part of the earth’s population! As the old saying goes: unity is strength!
We believe that the release of smartphones and instant messengers over the last five years, could have only reduced subsequently such distance, in a very significant way. The new way of communication “one to many” of a broadcast type, sometimes even of “multicast” type, can only amplify our acquaintances network and confirm Milgram’s experiments and Karinthy’s vision.
What can we say, there is no doubt that “the global social network” is not the direct consequence of the Internet’s advent: the industrialization, the great urban movements, the release of the communication tools such as mail and telephone as well as of the means of transport such as automobile and airplane, had already created more than fifty years ago a dense network, even though invisible, among people well over the secular bonds among communities, markets, nations, banks, etc…
The advent of internet has probably made this network wider and more instant, always accessible, allowing us to be at the center of our friendships or acquaintances, visually and sentimentally as well.
Internet has not created the global social network, thanks to the imagination of Frigyes Karinthy and to the concreteness of Stanley Milgram we may truly say that in the 20th century the network was already global, even though not instant, multimedia and emotional as it is today.
We are all connected thanks to internet and smartphones, but Sociology, according to the numbers, shows us that this is not something new, many of our parents were already connected in the past.

WorldTwoDotZero cannot happen again that someone should  dare disturb me when I am at play, when I set free the phantoms of my imagination, when I think! (Frigyes Karinthy)

Bye bye handwriting

scrittura_manualeRecent news, spread by the web: Students in Finnish primary schools, from autumn 2016, will no longer learn cursive handwriting, instead they will learn to use keyboards, during the entire course of study.
It is one of those reports that many of us, who were students in the twentieth century, find shocking.
We have always known that Finland, the nation promoting this initiative, is a commendable example,  along with its “nordic cousins” Sweden and Norway, of social assistance policies, culture and education.
But what is the context that is driving this change? Let’s analyze this conversion to digital and try to understand what is behind this “social and cultural change”.
It is clear that the advent of email, certified mail, and institutional services on line is rapidly reducing the use of paper in our daily lives. Official communications are increasingly “virtual“.
Some leading international companies appear to have effectively prohibited from bringing any paper document outside the building business. A small number of companies, anticipating the change, have prohibited printing any type of document. If you violate this rule you will be fired.
This type of decision, which affects our daily lives, accelerates the process of virtualization / digitization of our work places making handwriting, for those of us who were students in the twentieth century and are now active workers, not only optional but “not welcome” from a business perspective.
Even public institutions are renewing, we hear more about and use more tools such as electronic certificates, electronic documents, electronic money, digital signatures, …
In our daily lives tools such as smartphones and tablets, that enable us to communicate via a virtual keyboard, allow us to instantly share our content and our personal opinions. At the same time tablets and e-readers are progressively encouraging the increase in the number of “digital readers” of online newspapers, magazines and books.
From the technological point of view also the cloud, understood as a group  of virtual services and virtual spaces always available to the user, encourages the transposition of our personal material, documents, images, video, into the digital world (there is no paper equivalent for the “cloud” !!!).
A confirmation of the topicality of the phenomenon we are talking about: the shift from handwriting (and paper) to digital media, the text in one of the latest hits of the Italian singer Giusy Ferreri reads: “I wanted to write you a letter though by now we do so rarely” (“Avrei voluto scriverti una lettera anche se ormai si usa poco” ).
Despite these obvious facts the news about handwriting has upset us a lot.

Our handwriting is not only a communication tool, it is also an expression of personal creativity, a demonstration of our anthropological path, our operating manual, the evidence of our personal sensitivity, an instrument of transmission of traditions and cultural values, …
Taking our cue from the news again and collect initial reflection of Susanna Huhta, who is a member of the “Association of Native Language Teachers”. She states that handwriting helps children develop fine motor skills and brain function, and therefore, the writing lessons should be replaced with alternative activities which develop the same skills such as handicrafting and drawings.
What we can say? The digital revolution is underway. It is an irreversible global phenomenon that engages in an increasingly complex, interconnected and stressed social system. Many of us have already abandoned bicycles for exercise bikes, racing outdoors for the treadmill, encyclopedias for search engines, pigeons for mobile phones, …
The next “digital” generation will be interconnected. It will have a network of virtual instruments and digital content always available, tools that undoubtedly facilitate its life and its way of communicating, but at the same time, its individuals will not experience the intimate and unique pleasure of writing a love letter or crafting poem with their own hands.
This is why we are a little concerned and, at the same time, we feel a little regret for the new generation …