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Italian media at Mit MediaLab

logoCivicMedia.pngIt was great to meet such an incredible group of researchers who are working in one of the myth of media studies, lead by a myth of cosmopolitan, civic, active media like Ethan Zuckerman.

My contribution, it seems, has helped them to open their views in a weird way: they needed, it seems, to get over the cutting edge problems that they face in their day to day life, and to go back to where part of the rest of the world is, or where at least Italy is: somewhere in the past.

Why should such a contribution be in any way interesting? History is done by leading, innovative contexts, such as the MediaLab, but it is also done by the laggards. Italy, as I have been saying, is a laboratory of how some media decisions can go very wrong. But there is hope and, most important, responsibility to be taken.

Two messages in one: where traditional television is still very important, the social and civic media space is even more strategic. In a place such as Italy, civic media is fundamental to generate a more equilibrated media landscape. And the year 2011 will be remembered because: 1. for the first time, internet users in Italy were more than 50% of the population; 2. three national and very important referenda were won by those that campaigned online, while television was almost completely silent (id.e. adverse) about the matter.

Hope should be linked to responsibility.

The MediaLab folks showed a fantastic knowledge of what Italians have been able to contribute in terms of politically innovative usages of the media, from Antonio Gramsci to the “radio libere” movement and to Beppe Grillo’s blog. But I have also stressed that those wonderful examples were also “minoritarian by design”. And I sort of proposed to find some more responsible ideas, in terms of possibilities to involve a more substantial part of the population or even the majority. Civic and social media are not condemned to stay minoritarian. They are made for everybody. But what do we need to get there?

I proposed a very simple – maybe naif – approach:
1. the television age has grown illiteracy, but we need to reduce funcional and digital illiteracy to make the most of civic media;
2. following Ethan, the media space is more like an ecosystem than an industry, and the positive relationship that can be developed between professional newspapers and citizens contributing to information is going to be instrumental to the success of the whole innovative process that we are facing and living;
3. the civic media space needs a sort of practical “epistemology of information”, some sort of common methodology to enlarge the space of agreement about some shared and sharable knowledge; a sort of balkanization of the civic media space would make it weaker in comparison with old-traditional-powerful media (and the danger is real).

Ahref, with Timu, is trying to propose such an approach. We will see how it is received. It is a simple approach. But just telling everybody that you follow some simple methodological principles when you generate and share information, could make a difference. A more transparent behavioural code could be embedded in a platform code to create incentives that could help grow a common space of information.

But we also added, during the discussion at the MediaLab, that participation will not be motivated by that sort of common methological pattern. It is much more likely that participation comes if there is something cool, or important, or revolutionary to do.

New formats, new initiatives, new editorial presentations for civic media project are as much important as the methodology: they motivate people, they make their ideas more noticed, they make big media more interested in reporting, they are more fun. The common methodological grownd is good for a long term objective. Formats are good for taking action.

The MediaLab folks asked me what’s new in Italy about this matter. They were impressed by the lack of protests and revolutionary movements in Italy at the moment. I don’t know why that happens, but it is clear that what Italians see as “cultural innovation”, today, is more about finding a common space for knowledge. A common sense of what is the important information that we can share and from which we can build something new would be a revolution, for Italians: any antagonist action, while damned to lose, has also become part of the distraction strategy that has been created by the powerful media of the present.

These are some examples of what’s interesting in Italy now. We can share them here as well. But it is a work in progress.

Now, how are Italians developing on that opportunity? I asked friends online to share some of the best examples they knew about civic media in Italy (thanks to all of them!!!). Here are some examples:

photography as social change tool
critical city
creative ideas about getting together in town for learning and having fun
german speaking community in the North developing its culture and social impact

- kapipal

- percorsi emotivi
tell stories about emotions that you link to places in Bologna
blog sarzano (e altri quartieri genova)

bottom up social service design
adopting a politician to record all her/his decisions and movements

procivibus (kublai)
civil protection withe the help of citizens

- Continuum innovation

a platform to organize discussions while drinking something together
where places are better accessible to everybody
Decoro urbano
citizens share information about the quality of urban services
Progetto e21
information and quality discussion about local administrative decisions
linking green economy and digital agenda (slides)
informing to help the environment
Milano abbandonata
where are wasted spaces in Milan
clean the city

Ethan Zuckerman, head of the Mit Center for Civic Media, invited me to share some experiences about civic media and professional media in Italy. Here I took some notes before the speech. Here is a sort of live wiki taken during the meeting.

Here is Matt Stempeck’s report (thanks!).

ethan and luca.jpg


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  • informazione utile: stiamo traducendo in italiano il post orginale del civic center, e anche qualcosa da questi rilanci di luca – onde ampliare la discussione nell’ambito italiano, visto che e’ il soggetto del tutto…
    yes, it hard to write and/or read only in english sometimes 😉

Luca De Biase

Knowledge and happiness economy Media and information ecology