IJF18 Day #3: Perugia’s intuitions

Original italian version by Antonio Emmanuello

Our third day at the IJF18, Saturday 14th of April, started with an intuition that tasted like bedsores: the sofa-bed that seemed to be comfortable on the first day, was actually what our sight suggested from the beginning: a “soft” torture. Besides this, we immediately got into action, and in no time we were out around Perugia. That day, the plan was to, first of all, see a panel run by Mario Calabresi, Director of La Repubblica*. With a talk show and an interview, Calabresi interacts with Massimo Mantellini about the topic “Low resolution”. The writer asserts that we’re witnessing a general decrease of quality: once upon a time people thought that technology would have improved the world, but nowadays the facts show us something else (according to the writer’s opinion). We’re living in the era of immediacy and we tend to sacrifice quality in order to have everything, now and at a low price. Obviously this means that, as it has been explained on stage, we’re undergoing a clear change, compared to a past in which the youth had the consumer goal of owning the best speakers on the market, or the latest album; by now, this is sacrificed in exchange for crackly 9 euros speakers or a simple low quality mp3 downloaded from YouTube.The same happens with airlines, considering that in the past people expected a certain kind of service while flying, but now lowcost flights’ success is only due to their cost, and surely not to their scarce quality.

Here Mantellini lets us understand that despite the decreasing of quality, every cloud has a silver lining and, on the contrary, benefits need compromise. Listening to music in a lower quality could be actually underwhelming, but nowadays we can get to all kinds of music; travelling in an uncomfortable way, but lowcost, means being able to explore the world. Everything translates into culture: a personal wealth of experience that needs less and less investments and is accessible by everyone, not only élites. The same principle applies to newspapers, and Mantellini suggests a solution: we have to find a meeting point between the huge quantity of information and our shallowness, that is to say the lack of desire for elaborating. If we were to criticize this idea, we could say that his speech is probably filtered by memory, since technically everybody likes to think about the good old times; saying that people used to look for record players with a specific needle, or speakers built with a certain kind of membrane, does not consider a world that was completely different, where people used to search different things. Briefly: once upon a time one could have had the possibility to spend an entire salary on a single thing, but now the things that are taken for granted, and sometimes necessary, are various. Smartphone, PC, Netflix account, weekend travels. We prefer to spend few money for more experiences, rather than paying more for a less things.

Speaking of experiences, at the end of the meeting at the Teatro della Sapienza, we finally managed to try a typical dish from Umbria. A mix between a bun and a piadina**: the torta al testo should not be called Testone, if you don’t want to make the natives laugh. Actually, Testone is just a restaurant chain in which this sort of thick and stuffed piadina is sold, but we didn’t know it. Since I am a sofisticated and refined taste taster, I suggest you to withstand a half an hour queue to taste something typical, if you’re in Umbria. Nothing unexpected, but for 4 euros it was worth the the wait.

After lunch a meeting that had more to do with communication in general than with journalism was waiting for me at Palazzo Graziani (that absolutely did no totally overstepped at least 4 times, without seeing the entrance). With a view to 2019 elections for the renewal of european governing bodies, the lecturers Alberto Alemanno, Raffaella De Marte, Eva Giovannini, Luca Misculin and David Sassoli (Deputy president of european Parliament), spoke about the situation of the Union (let me lend the american saying dreaming of the United States of Europe). They took the stock of the situation , mostly about the facts of the previous nights, that is to say the attacks in England and, most importantly, since it is the founder of EU, the attacks of France against Siria. Once again, multi-speed Europe is a central topic, together with Orban, who is inspired by illiberal democracies of Russia and China, and with the USA that close up in order to look for some sort of autarky. The model for a positive information is based on this last issue, and it is a thing that can and needs to be done in order to build a functioning Europe that has decison-making power in the international scene. If the USA, with their president, hope for closure, the single States can face the decisions they do not accept. So, if Trump decides to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, California can create ad hoc laws against pollution. Europe -Sassoli says- is made of little things, not just a mix of institutions; we’re all Europe, and we all can take part in it, proposing solutions, and not waiting for Europe to solve problems that the single states cannot face.

The third panel is again about propaganda, Infowar and digital propaganda. At the hotel Brufani, the lecturers Daniele Chieffi and Matteo Flora started from a crucial point: propaganda is a form of social and political storytelling. During a time in which Facebook gets accused of invading users’ privacy, the spokesmen want to clear out one concept: Internet has just simplified the access to data, but that doesn’t mean that this hasn’t already been done before. Nowadays, in fact, we have switched from the use of big means and huge investments, to a consumerization both in how one can obtain data (that is to say, with simple and every day means such as social networks), and in the interaction between the ones who want information and their subject (by now it is the user himself that says everything about his preferences, with his online interplay). Obviously we’re talking about targetting and, less obviously, about bots that automatically interact with users (such as the infobot used by Maroni*** during the referendum for the autonomy of Lombardy). Another recurrent topic is the news intermediation crisis, meaning the lack of trust towards what we’re told by the authorities; this means that we look for the news we want, by ourselves, but since we don’t always have the tools to know where the truth lays, we end up being victims of machanisms that we don’t comprehend. This brings us to a big intuition that is exemplified by the Rubin vase: we can focus on one thing at a time, and usually we only see what we think is real, excluding everything that undermines our reality.

These words make it seem like a negative day, almost heavy and defeatist; actually, it has instead been full of interesting hints that helped to think about some details that can be easily skipped, even if they’ve been discussed over and over for those who look for a deeper information.

By any means, the big intuition of the day was the cocktail hour that turned into a cocktail with dinner, being it the prelude for another consideration: the plans about visiting Perugia by night were going to vanish, again. It was time to figure out a fact that was, by that time, almost self-evident: we’re boring and our wine waiting for us at home didn’t give us any motivation to go out.

Baci from Perugia.

*La Repubblica is an italian newspaper
**piadina is a
thin flatbread, than can be stuffed in many ways, prepared in the Romagna region
***Roberto Maroni is an italiano politician, member of the Lega Nord party.

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