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”.


Analyzing Google

Let’s analise Google, the “center” of the web.

Next month, precisely on 15th September 2017, will be the 20th anniversary of Google’s dominion. It’s been twenty years since two students of the University of Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have completed the first step in the implementation of Google. Twenty years that brought all of us online. Years in which we have learned to entrust our curiosities and our search needs to a specific tool, based on a single field and specific algorithms. social-google

Analysing the course done by Google, we identify,  in these two decades, three distinct stages:

Stage 1: The idea 

In a few years our nephews will read on the history books about Page and Brin and their idea of building “something” in order to instantly collect the network’s informative flow, something like a “shopping list”.

The legend narrates about their wandering from one company to another and their meeting with smart-alecky and short-sighted executives who did nothing but mocking ideas and perspectives.

What remains today of this first stage is their visionary idea, definitely original.


Google, the search engine, is a tool that feeds itself from the (online) product of human kind. It connects information and people. It is the automaton, the scribe who observes the history and takes notes while everything happens.

All of it inside a model of fruition based on a white page, without invasive advertising and without useless waiting time.

Google doesn’t invade our personal or visual space, on the contrary it suggests us what to do.

 Stage 2: The expansion 

In the early years of its existence, Google on par with a child, keeps growing and learning very fast, gaining billion of web pages.  It analyses them and improves its own algorithms of ranking. The impression during this stage of technological revival is that of a system able to support our knowledge. Computers placed all over the world able to store information, to rapidly acquire, index and draft lists of contents.

At the same time it provides us a service of personal electronic mail, always available, endowed with a large space for storing and without advertising intervals: Gmail.

This stage of acquisition and data supply, through a single search field, has made a crucial contribution to the evolution of Internet. It has become easy, very easy, looking for and being searched.

Stage 3: The regression. The new goals are missed 

The following third stage has started with amazing advertisings, the creation of a universal translator able to bring together people of different origin, glasses able to maximize our reality with additional information, modulated and personalised smartphones, self-driving cars.

It is the beginning of a new era thanks to Google? Absolutely not! At least for now…

To this day Google translator, Google Glasses, project ARA, Google car, attest a lack of growth stage. Probably these research projects were aiming to high with too ingenious elaborations to be carried out by the computers in use till now.

Not even the social network “Google+” has reached the pre-fixed popularity and use, compared to those of Facebook, just to be clear.

These science fiction visions, in the later decade of the 21st century, failed to materialize. There was no further improvement, in either possible direction. Today’s Internet is not so dissimilar than the one of five or ten years ago.

And what about Google’s search engine? 

Neither this did have the evolution we had hoped for. A few years ago on the network were rumors regarding a semantic web, web 3.0, able to offer correlated contents, suggestions, information and intelligent support. None of this happened up till now, at least as far as Google is concerned.

Google’s list result proposes, in the central part, a greater number of advertisements comparing to some years ago. It promotes geo-located contents and popular in certain cases at the expense of the original and cultural contents. It applies “automatic” logical assessment of the contents.

The amount of information available online grown out of all proportion, certainly doesn’t help. The search engine in response to each attempt offers millions and millions of results.

In fact, a completely useless list except the first or the second page, for ten or twenty results characterized by a short description.

The search engine has not become more intelligent or more accurate if not for some trivial aspects of less importance.  

It follows predefined schemes assigning scores based on rules that for the most part have been presumed by computers scientist and copywriters replicating or bypassing them attentively. This leads to a high competition between right information and promotional information aimed at the sale, or worse surrogate information, false and showy.

The network users didn’t become more intelligent.  

Probably they are faster, more connected, but in front of a result list they tend to rely on what is proposed by Google and think less. This paradoxically doesn’t improve the knowledge on the contrary it reduces it to popular elements, already chosen by others; pages and texts that follow syntax and semantic rules appreciated by the algorithms. Many data, a lot of opportunities but only one list of ten results from which the cyberuser more and more passive may choose.

Criticising Google

Multimedia texts and contents shared online are centrifuged and lyophilized up to their essence. Billion of ideas, words, images and videos become a short list with minimal descriptions.  All the information outcome of all our searches is contained inside a “small postage stamp” on which all of us want to leave the signature. The first page of Google’s search result list, the page on which today everyone wants and has to be.

Online information grows and evolves. The cyberusers are faster and faster getting more and more compulsive. Google is becoming the absolute judge of this virtual universe.

For this, for its central role which has assumed in our virtual society Google can and must do better. Its algorithms must become more sensitive and less automatic; more careful in promoting useful contents to the community; more explanatory on the result lists in order to provide to the most receptive users a greater number of information; more careful in analysing the users behavior not predominantly for commercial purposes. It has to be able to understand the user requests and raise his level of knowledge and self-awareness.

It is a very difficult task, almost impossible, but if there is anyone who can do it, that is Google.



The Google Doodle

The Google Doodle is one of the Internet symbols seen online every day by hundreds of millions of people; it is a real icon of our time, the emblem of a different way of communication, of providing information, of highlighting or reminding something.

But why do we like Google Doodle so much? 

First of all because it is simple; it is an image of well-defined size, never excessive, always introduced into the same context, placed on the same spot and on the same white page; simple and at the same time efficient.

Its sound, in complete harmony with the main brand “Google”, and its literally meaning,  make the doodle rather informal, contemporary and  close to the new way of doing network.


The more we use Google the better we understand its interface, its instructions for use minimalist and intuitive; it doesn’t represent point of departure, in terms of communication, of interaction visual or technological, but a point of arrival.

Year after year Portals, Social networks, Apps and Blogs follow a process of simplification aimed at usability, with the intent to provide more and more information, services, multimedia contents and so on, and at the same time, with the purpose to get easier and easier to use. Step by step they get closer to “that white page”, now so familiar but not too long ago the one that seemed to us almost empty.

Google is a global search engine, but above all, remains the Forerunner in terms of simplicity of use and visual impact.

Strangely enough we also like Google Doodle for the opposite reason, on an extremely white page it represents a touch of color, an element of highest standards, pleasant and never too excessive, that renews the page and catch our attention diverting it from the main objective which is searching something online.

It is the antagonist of the mono search field. 

The Doodle is the yin in complete, chromatic and functional, opposition to the yang of Google. It has the difficult task of minimizing the role of the mono search field, the real web’s “center” and the binder of thought.


We like even more Google Doodle because it doesn’t have direct and explicit promotional purposes (except to remind us the fact that we are on Google, but we already know this). Is no small thing in a world, real and virtual, swamped with banners, messages and advertising spots.

The Google Doodle reminds us birthday anniversaries of eminent people who give value to science, community, culture, human rights and so on. It reminds us recent and less recent events, holidays, anniversaries… It is a “bridge”, a “clasp” with the past and traditions.

If older people remember, the young people and the very young ones, attracted to the image and its colors like bears to honey, may discover some interesting character or event of the past and casually learn something.

But the real reason why we like Google Doodle “so much” is the fact that it has no borders, just the way internet is transnational, shows-and-tells “a little bit of everything”. At a time when in the real world the right of citizenship stands above the human and asylum rights, the Google Doodle tells us situations and events which often go beyond our “virtual” geographical boundaries.

Furthermore, for those who do not know, Google provides an archive of Doodle available at the following address: https://www.google.com/doodles#archive 

To older people it may seem impossible, but in a few decades the archive of Google Doodle will be seen as an archive of memory, a database of Remembrance, an element of nations’ union which goes beyond the borders.

Are we going too far? Maybe, but if we try to imagine a world where everyone is connected to the network, it isn’t difficult to imagine the next step, and that is hypothesizing where the knowledge will  be stored, and how the new generations  shall refer to this source of knowledge. We challenge you to think to a different place other than Google or its natural evolution where to place our past, events, anniversaries, the eminent people and so on…

What is missing? A Doodle dedicated to Worldtwodotzero. We are certain that Google, after having read and appreciate this wonderful article, will decide to dedicate a Doodle to Worldtwodotzero, to the fact that we mention internet without any commercial purposes. You think it won’t happen?  It doesn’t matter, we like Google Doodle anyway.


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 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.