Friday, October 4, 2013

Italy’s Internet show: Praising the Social while cursing “the others”

How Italy's hate for Inclusiveness props up reverse

MILAN – Italy  

I was relaxing at home last Wednesday October 2, when my old friend Sandro showed up on my doorstep and asked me to join him at these “Internet Days”, a Milan-based event supposedly focused on "Internet Anthropology" 

As a matter of fact, the event’s motto was “Behaviour on the net”. A headline which sounded a bit clunky and not only for using the British word “BehavioUr” whose cacophony is pompously antique, but because to me it evoked something too lame to be related to a moving reality as today’social media world.

"BehavioUr on the net”. Another thing that didn't add up with this initiative’s copy material was promoting more categories like: “on the net” which is short for “on the Internet”.

Indeed this limping-sounded outline the event’s organizers used to promote the show, it perfectly mirrors not only how these people see the new media environment but in a wider picture how the Italians see today’s world turning into a global single consciousness. 

If you ever read an Italian paper, like  “Il corriere della sera”, on any given day of the week, you can still find story-headlines propping up a vision of the Internet as something drastically separated from the world’s "real" reality. Like if the Internet were something that has nothing to do with the real world in which we all live and is instead a dark obscure land of mysterious figures from where you'd better keep out.

I'll make ya an example: "La rete si rivolta contro x" “The net revolts against this” or “this news goes huge on the net”, like if this “net” is made of people who live on another galaxy.
Frankly I have to say the introductory sentence of this “event” was absolutely coherent with Italy’s narrow-minded lamestream media. 

As you can see from the above picture, (which was the event meaningful single image), the slogan under the picture says “Change is in front of your eyes” even though unfortunately the guy is blindfolded by two smartphones placed right over his eyes (????? ). Not only! the phone displays are flipped over the other way so the guy in the picture can't see anything but the phone's black side.

I immediately gutted something was terribly wrong  and it was not just a gut-sensation.

However as I don’t like prejudice to prevent myself from conducting my quest for knowledge, I swept aside this little “behavioUr” and walked into these “Internet days”. 

There were a bunch of scheduled workshops, with big names such as Linkedin, Outbrain and Bell but the only big wig on the list was James Quarles, Regional Director of Facebook for the UK and Southern Europe.

Unfortunately when I learned about the Facebook event, it was already late, otherwise I would have definitely attended and have him questioned over the latest Facebook restrictions on content sharing as I wrote on my latest blog post

The "Internet Days" event was set like the most average sparrow-far-town trade-show, with booths and corporate displays all over, under a neon-lighting umbrella. 

What I immediately realized was the climate of stiffness and negative energy affecting the crowd who was mostly composed of Corporate employees who were all ties and suits which immediately clashed with my mind's image of  the typical Internet crowd of geeks who usually attend these events in the U.S. 

I mean, having studied at Stanford myself, I perfectly know how developers and wannabe-Internet-entrepreneurs look like. Geeks are usually socially awkward people often between 16 and 35 who dress “casually” (to say the least), while those people who attended this Milan-based Internet days looked more like State Department Officials working on some creepy black-op, like an extraordinary rendition or something along that line.

The tension in the main hall was so high  you could probably cut it with a knife.

Besides, there were no "casual visitors", the only “visitors” in this show were me and my friend and these stuffy suit-and-tie people were looking at us like if were some aliens from planet weirdos

Another emblematic image was the booth of the Italian Unicredit Bank, one of Europe's largest banks whose image of friendly company was highly juiced up in the past few months. The ad's headline was "My bank is different". The ad showed a customer walking into a bank asking for a No-fee bank account plus a tablet as a promo gadget gift and as the immediate reaction you see the bank-employees literally fly off the counter, hiding themselves under their desk and behind the furniture.
Then they show Unicredit as a bank where the Customer is welcomed by smiling familiar faces who welcome him like an old friend.
Paradoxically the Unicredit booth at the trade show definitely looked like the first bank in the ad, as all the armchairs at their booth have been empty for the whole duration of the event. If we were in the U.S. the Bank CEO had to resign the following day.

However I decided to wink at it and go see these workshops that were scheduled on the program. 

The first workshop we went was “Digital hell and resurrection, inputs from the media industry to upside down your company”. The speaker was Alceo Rapagna, whose job title is “Chief Digital Officer RCS Media Group”. 

This dude was addressing the crowd wearing a flabbergasted face while displaying slides on how the American Mainstream media host daily contributions from their readers like Op-ed stories and stuff like that.
He showed a bunch of slides of American news media front pages saying: “you see those feature stories on the side of the front-page? Those are not made by staff writers but from their average readers.” He said that while holding an expression like there was a giant stain on the screen.

After I heard that, I was saying to myself: “What am I doing here?”. I really wanted to jump up from my chair saying “A friend of mine ranks first for his Clipping Selection on the Financial Times” but then I decided to shut up. Obviously at the end of this “workshop”, questions were not allowed. 

Never rely on your first impression to make a judgement. 

Then I went to see the next workshop: that was Linkedin's, whose country manager Marcello Albergoni opened its speech by saying he was expecting questions. Great. I can’t say I remember what he said but at the end of it, I recall grabbing the mic asking him if “Linkedin was indeed too much stuck on its “Big shot attitude” and if it weren’t on its agenda to become more inclusive (being a Social Network, you know you aim at being "social" somehow) like if they were targeting a wider audience rather than just management big wigs but like Nurses for example. "Is Linkedin interested in including people like Gaylor Focker within their network of friends”? My question went unanswered and the question-time was cut off. Game over. Somehow it remembered me that time when I questioned Bill Gates on his antitrust hearing....

My friend Sandro tried to reach the Linkedin Country Manager to inquire for a possible co-branding-op with one of Italy’s largest organization in the Training Consulting Business which Sandro represents but Mr. Albergoni turned him over to the Press Office. LMAO!

Being a journalist, a published author and a Marketing of Narrative Consultant, I went to see a workshop that really caught my attention among those on the list.

It was a workshop held by the Italian Publisher Association (ANES). The speakers were Carlo Latorre President of ANES Digital, Alessandro Cederle former President (in the schedule he was titled as “past president”) Paolo Sciacca President of a healthcare publisher and Roberto Fuso Nerini. 

These people’ speech premise was that “we are experiencing a huge financial crisis that affected sales in a major way etc.” However when all these speeches stacked up, I realized something big was missing: These people were talking of the Italian market as the only target of their marketing strategy. ….the nonsense chitchat distracted me somehow but when I realized what these people were talking about, I was absolutely dumbfounded. These people represented the Publishers of Italy and the only market they were thinking as their main target was Italy. They didn't say China, USA, South Korea or Russia.....

Who were these people?

Italy is the country where people read less compared not only to the rest of Europe but to the rest of the world and the Italian Publishers Association' strategy is to keep focusing on their petty domestic market of non-readers. Parochialism at its best. Just by chance while I was listening to these people I clicked on the American Publishers Association website and right on the events column in the home page it still reads: 

Expanding Your Markets on a Global Basis!
2014 PSP/EIC Pre-Conference
Wednesday, February 5th, 2013
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Washington, DC

How can these people represent Italy’s publishers if their only target is the Italian domestic market?

Absolute Mystery.

Despite being a “workshop” questions at the end of the event were not allowed. 

The third workshop I attended was held by Art Directors Italian Club and its headline was “What does it mean doing digital storytelling and its relationship with the media that vehicle it”.


At this workshop there were three speakers: Paolo Guglielmoni, Creative Director, Paolo Iabichino, Creative Director and Maurizio Sala, Creative Director. All these people were Creative Directors. 

The speech began with Mr. Sala who helped himself by displaying a show-reel of ad clips. The first was the Mayhem 2012 Facebook campaign, the second was Nike Tamagochi-runner and the third was Seven Eleven UK debut campaign. Mr. Sala emphasized the facet of involving the potential consumer audience throughout the use of social media as today's prerogative for any Advertising strategy.

The guy made it clear since his debut that being a workshop, anyone in the crowd had the chance to make questions to any of the speakers. Then he focused on the social involvement process, as the common thread of these ads. He underlined the importance of getting people involved into the selling process, without considering nor for a minute the fact that two of these campaigns were Debut Campaign of an American big brand on a foreign country market, where people’s interaction is absolutely functional to the accomplishment of the campaign mission. Especially if the brand is targeting the younger segment like Nike or 7/11.

The second speech was held by Mr. Paolo Guglielmoni, who stood up like a minister in a Christian temple. He spoke out loud to show he knew what he was talking about.

In fact he started with understanding the premise that once television was the only mainstream media and that it was a-one-way-only media. He finished his intervention and not for a second it passed on his mind to ask the crowd the magic word: “questions?”  I was speechless.

These people were emphasizing the changed-new reality of social media, they have been praising interaction all the way up, while cutting off any real interaction during their workshops with their own crowd of listeners. They were promoting inclusiveness while cutting off their own audience. Was this happening for real?

The third speech was absolutely meaningless, I mean the guy had even the guts to emphasize his research work and he presented some Spanish-twitter ad-reel which on his own opinion was absolutely amazing while on mine it was the lamest thing I ever watched in my whole life. 

The Workshop was over, they said “we are in late we have no time” and then they said “questions?”. I snatched that opportunity like a shark grabs its prey, I stood up grabbed the mic and said: “hey you brought up two campaigns made by huge American brands targeting new markets, don’t you think that’s a peculiar situation?”  While I was asking my question the minister was perching like I had a giant spider walking over my head and the speaker’s body language was “it’s over honey you’d better leave because we don’t want to listen to your freaky questions”

Obviously my question went unanswered if it weren't for a constant nodding while his body language was like “please have some pity we are absolutely desperate! please leave us alone!”

After my question went unanswered and no interaction was further allowed, the speakers literally fled off together with the crowd like sneaking off from a grocery store after having snitched the hell out of it.

And the rest was silence. 

I was simply puzzled. I couldn't believe that thing I just witnessed happened for real. 

Promoting interaction and inclusiveness while behaving the exact opposite way. 

I think I had got the real meaning of the event’s motto “BehavioUrs on the net” That sentence sounded fishy since its beginning and not by chance.

Those "BehavioUrs" on their sick mind were the rest of the world desperately trying to get the world’s consciousness shaped in one giant single social media. 

While these people, (the Italians) were simply outraged by the new ruling principle of Oneness, which is the very inspirational principle of the social media.  Indeed Oneness for them is the nightmare that comes visit them at night to freak the hell out of them and that goes against their very selfish narrow-minded existence.

What's worse for these people is thinking about that sneaky crowd they consider like insects being able to daily interact with the mainstream media and transforming the whole world into a giant consciousness.

This is for them the biggest nightmarish threat to their reign of middle-aged categories built up on their lifetime purpose to distance themselves from that crowd of monsters who are “the others”. Yes because “the other” for these Italian "Creative Communicators" is just like hell. These people are big shots who don’t mix with “the others”. 

It’s like if they had been fighting their whole life to get on that bird stand to say a bunch of nonsense, cursing interaction as the devil himself while being forced to praise it because that's what's going on in the civilized world. 


I really don’t know what to make of all this. Did I mention I went to a Social Media Management company whose representative showed me how their social pages work while exhibiting me a bunch of paper flyers with Facebook screenshots? 

The moral of what I reported here is already crystal clear, however I think the saddest aspect of this whole story is the social picture that comes out from the Italian Internet Community which is Italy itself:

They hate being social. Being social for them is being in Hell and having to deal with “people” they would never mix with. 

While Facebook reached 1 billion users becoming the world’s Consciousness, these people still prop up middle aged categories and roles which the rest of the world already got rid of  it and being happy to do so in the process. 

These Italian Internet fockers are not just narrow-minded bigots, they are unhappy of being who they are, they have been treated really bad in their own lives and their resentment is all they've been left with. Although they are the big shots of Italy’s Communication. The truth is that in Italy if you are not a relative to these people or you’re outside of their circle of friends or you’re not an affiliate of some powerful anti-social mafia gang, you are considered not more than an insect or someone who’s there to wreck havoc to their established secure small world of bigotry and closure. 

I mean the main point here is that these people think the new social world is something to be appraised under the technological point of view, they don't get the real revolution is the social aspect while technology is just a secondary mean. They absolutely refuse to accept this is not a technological change but a social one because it mostly affects life, and life is what scares them the most.

I mean "being social" means being more inclusive while they physically showed to literally hate other people.

This is how it is. This is Italy. 

It was almost the end of the second day and I wanted to attend a last workshop called “Digital in the round, between east and west, culture and media". 

Obviously I was absolutely hopeless. The main speaker was Guido Ghedin, of Young Digitals. Indeed it was the first speaker under the age of fifty I have seen within this two days event. 

The guy was born in 1986 and he started his sliding show with a series of charts on how social media are affecting South East Asia, India, Russia and Brazil. 

I looked around just to make sure it was the same event I had been in the past 48 hours. This guy was not the kinda geek you are used to see at these convention, he was dressed like a hipster and looked and acted like Hansen in Zoolander. 

It was entertaining, it was worth any minute as the guy showed a bunch of data charts, trends and numbers of Chinese, Russian and Brazilian social media. Questions went on together with his speech creating a whole learning process. It was just great.

Guess what: it was the only workshop where the hall was half empty. 

I don’t know what to say, I think Italy is living a real sad moment because its people’s main attitude is absolutely anti-social while we live in a world which is not just simply social, it’s pure global Consciousness.

Chris Adami is an Evolutionary Biologist at the Michigan State University.  The main principle that came out from his lifetime achievements can be summarized as such: "In any biological community from single-cell entities to humankind, selfishness not only stops Human Evolution but if adopted on a large scale can lead to Human Extinction". 

The very same results obtained by Adami at Michigan State University were reached by a team of Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Alicia P.Melis, a researcher from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, went to Ngamba Island in Uganda to study chimpanzee behavior. In the wild, chimps are not in an evolutionary process because of their selfish attitude. A sort of natural instinct that push them to “exploit” their fellows to achieve food and not to share it. 

The experiment consisted of two chimps in a cage and food put in front of them just outside of the bars. A rope passes along a wood stick where the food is. In order to get the food, the chimp needs the help of his fellow. He manages to involve his fellow and they cooperate to get the food. However once they reach the food if this is not enough for both of them, only the alpha fellow between the two gets to eat. The second time the food is put on the stick the second fellow refuses to cooperate because he knows he won’t get any reward. This is where evolution stops. That's why chimps do not evolve: selfishness stops evolution. 

The conclusion of this whole reasoning is that if we want to evolve as a species we have to abandon any selfish attitude because selfishness prevents our species to evolve, where evolving means not only doing and feeling better but being more happy too.

Now, who’s going to tell these “I-hate-the-others-I-hate-being-social-but-let-me-praise-social-media”-Italian-Professional-Communicators they’re on the wrong side of the railroad? Nobody would ever be able to tell them and you know why? Because while promoting this article on Facebook I have verified that 100% of all Italian Facebook Social Pages have their message button disabled. 

This is an Italian page called "Start Up We Can", it has no message button, no posts by others and guess what? no Like button either!!! The real work of art is the statement "We can". Maybe it has to be appraised as a Catholic-inspired Majestic Plural?

The following is the page of Italian journalist Marco Montemagno, whose field of interest is Internet and Social media. Parochialism and provincialism can be immediately perceived as he posted as Timeline Cover a picture that portrays himself next to Jeff Bezos. Cult of personality combined with a neglecting attitude towards "the others". No message button, no Posts by others. He left the comment box open to be praised and congratulated for his great achievement in the Social Environment. The speech balloon speaks volumes about his Social Media Attitude.

Real Sadness. 

This is Italy, the anti-social country.

E Pluribus Unum


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