Whenever we learn something new, we become something new.

Marcello Spagnolo, Responsabile Ufficio Comunicazione, Urp, Editoria Università degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria

Abstract IT

Ogni generazione ha “spezzato” la relazione con il modo di pensare del suo tempo, ha fatto salti in avanti, più o meno complessi, che non si sarebbero effettuati se alcuni, o tanti, non avessero deciso di non seguire le tendenze di ciò che appariva l’evoluzione naturale delle cose.

Non possiamo esimerci dal guardare con attenzione alla nuova fenomenologia del mondo digitale e tutte le possibili implicazioni, cercando di favorire percorsi virtuosi finalizzati ad un corretto utilizzo anche in quegli ambiti che, per incapacità di comprensione o semplicemente snobismo intellettuale, per alcuni non devono essere “contaminati”, in senso negativo, evidentemente. Per la visione che ci piace di più, il concetto di contaminazione è invece decisamente positivo e vale quale metodo di reciproca conoscenza e valorizzazione delle migliori peculiarità.

È opportuno spezzare una lancia a favore di una rivoluzione culturale che ha bisogno di essere compresa per essere valorizzata al meglio e accompagnata per generare effetti positivi sulla società. Non è saggio combattere l’innovazione o ritenere le “nuove abitudini” necessariamente negative: lo studio delle complessità suggerisce di non restare in superfice ed avere la capacità di studiare bene i fenomeni, valutare lo stesso aspetto da differenti punti di vista, allargare la portata delle valutazioni ed aprire la propria mente anche in direzioni che pensiamo non possano essere corrette. In definitiva, mettere in discussione i preconcetti o, se vogliamo, avere la capacità di “mettersi” in discussione.

Confronto, analisi della complessità, attitudine all’ascolto, apertura alle contaminazioni di competenze, conoscenze, teorie e prassi, culture e modi di pensare, è questa la strada da percorrere cercando di individuare il percorso più adatto a favorire una adeguata consapevolezza di come può evolversi il modo di apprendere oggi.

L’utilizzo delle nuove tecnologie può operare per una migliore diffusione della cultura: attraverso nuovi metodi, nuove intuizioni, possono essere trasmessi i valori più alti del sapere e la possibilità di avere accesso alle informazioni in maniera semplice e diretta può divenire lo strumento per una vera democrazia universale, nella quale chiunque possa avere gli strumenti per approfondire, conoscere, confrontarsi, in poche parole SAPERE.

È così che l’innovazione potrà permettere la realizzazione di un sogno: la democrazia della conoscenza.


3 stories to tell

The first story. Natura non facit saltus – Nature does not make a jump

My father did not understand what job I would have done, I did not follow his parameters, I made apparently “crazy” choices, instead I was “anticipating” a revolution that today is before everyone’s eyes, but not even I realized it.

I ran a private radio and I liked everything related to communication, as an undergraduate my thesis in “sociology of communications”, focused the application of music in commercials, no one had done it yet, at that time.

The kind of studies I wanted to do did not exist in the universities of those years.

I wanted to study the brain, but without having to learn how to do injections…. Many years later this field of ​​research was called “Neuroscience” and, elsewhere, they were getting to the goal through different paths, halfway between engineering and biology.

What I really wanted was to study how thought was “materially” formed, where thought is transformed into matter, how organic material generates the thought.

In the 1980s, only a few pioneers, somewhere in the world, were beginning to study these correlations.

Each generation has “broken”, somehow, the relationship with the common thinking of its own time, thus making more or less complex leaps forward, which would not have occurred if some, or many, had not decided not to follow the trends of what seemed to be “the natural evolution of things”.

The second story. Mater artium necessitas – Necessity is the mother of invention

The lockdown, resulting from the spread of Covid in 2020-21, among the many negative aspects it certainly determined, also gave us some positive elements. Relevant. In the use of technologies, it made us jump at least 20 years forward!

The need to keep in touch with the others, both for work and family reasons, has forced us to positively re-evaluate functions that seemed to be useless technological discoveries, born to make our brains dependent on these hallucinating equipment called smartphones.

Suddenly we realized they weren’t going to make us dull, our kids hadn’t suddenly become stupid dudes with their eyes fixed on a mini screen, on the contrary, the world was changing and we weren’t noticing. And, once again, young people were ahead, while our old generation, did not understand that in the world, communication had already, definitively, taken a new path. Just like today: adults populate Facebook while young people are already somewhere else, rejecting this medium, which is already “for old people”.

And let’s consider the implications in teaching or team working. Here, too, the step forward has been incredible. It would have taken us at least twenty years to understand that video-meetings or videoconferences could be an effective solution for us to save time and money, allowing us to share ideas and proposals, being able to read documents on our PC or watching video or graphics produced by colleagues. Without the lockdown we would still be figuring out which software to use (and, even from this point of view, the widespread use has made significant progress in these tools). Today, workers use Teams rather than Zoom or Meet. If it hadn’t been necessary, how many people would know how to use them? Few, very few…

The third story. Omnia mutantur – Everything changes

We had begun to hate mobile phones because we thought they diverted the minds of so many people, but above all of our own kids. And we looked with suspicion at the advent of electronic games, virtual competitions and the hours and hours lost in front of a mini screen. Then we discovered that our children were able to dialogue with peers from other places in the world, from Jordan to the United States, from Russia to India. And they could speak fluent English. They watch foreign movies without dubbing and read novels in the authors’ languages. They can think in another language! And then, also thanks to the beautiful intuition of “The Game” suddenly our mind lights up, and we understand that the “generational leap” has taken place while we were not realizing it. The new generations were already ahead. And those games, which we also cursed because of their violence and their bloody scenes, had allowed young users to know episodes of the French Revolution or medieval historical periods better than they could have learned from many school texts and some boring teachers who were not able to stimulate their curiosity.

We have thus discovered that our children have ways of learning that are different from ours, that movies or comics can also be useful to educate, and that the tutorials on YouTube are not just for discovering new recipes or understanding how to assemble a lamp or change the oil in the engine (which in any case is not a trivial matter), but also for learning, exploring, knowing, deepening, understanding. Studying.

We were very reluctant, then we listened to our kids, and we discovered that they are able to love history, science, art – even philosophy! – and they know both the scholastic aspects and many insights. Or the movies, they strictly watch on mini screens, and then the music, the great classics, Bach and Beethoven, hard rock and heavy metal, but also blues and jazz! And Giacomo Leopardi and poetry, they know by heart many cantos from Dante’s Inferno or Homer’s Odyssey. They can describe nanoparticles or the value of the nanometer, and the culture of Japan, of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Maybe they got there by sideways, but luckily bringing with them an enthusiasm and a desire for knowledge that many of us achieved much later!

Thus we all headlong tried to understand what those settings were, so rich in details that, although of a fantasy genre, often noir, inspired by different epics, mythologies and historical facts that really happened, thanks to incredible design skills and to characters, often exaggeratedly equipped, in highly suggestive settings, they brought with them a strong desire to discover true history, through the study of European or Eastern ancient or post-modern mythologies, from ancient Greece to the age of the Vikings up to the late Middle Ages and the Gothic age or in feudal Japan or, to get to more recent times, set in different historical periods, from the Italian Renaissance to the French Revolution, from the English Industrial Revolution to the Second World War.

“If we consider each videogame as a separate world characterized by physical principles, rules, time management, it is interesting to focus on how these principles – different from our reality – produce their own culture and their own meaning that the gamer learns through the use of mythology, which will cover almost all of history. Just as the ancients found answers to existential questions and physical phenomena through the creation of fables and myths, the gamer will also discover the world and its rules through myth” (Erika Scantamburlo).

Today, the idea that cultural marketing looks with great interest at the web, at virtual reality, gaming and gamification for cultural production and promotion, makes it clear that an important path is underway; probably for some it is the “commodification” of aspects that should follow different dynamics, but we cannot waste time and not try to adapt the new learning trends even in those “noble” sectors that otherwise risk being cut off from history. Otherwise knowledge could end up in the hands of a few, generating a mass of subjects who are unable to have a critical conscience, being only able to follow fashions, models and emptiness.

But, if it is true that we must carefully and critically observe “all that man is and all that man does” – as an old sociology treatise said – we cannot avoid looking diligently at the new phenomenology of the digital world and all its possible implications, trying to favor virtuous paths aimed at its correct use even in those areas that someone, due to his inability to understand or simple intellectual snobbery, believes should not be “contaminated”, in an evidently negative sense. We prefer to consider the concept of contamination as a decidedly positive one, as a valid method of mutual knowledge and enhancement of the best peculiarities, “crossing, exchange, métissage, result of the encounter among cultures and/or cultural forms, even within the same anthropological-cultural identity“. F. Cambi.

The underlying theme.

“Vorrei che tutti leggessero, non per diventare letterati o poeti, ma perché nessuno sia più schiavo”

I would like everyone to read, not to become writers or poets, but so that no one is a slave anymore”

G. Rodari

Mine is obviously a provocation. A strong one. But only up to a certain point… it is clear that the whole “training sector” needs an important “human presence”, a strong attention to the exact understanding of the message and a correct assimilation in real contexts, to “accompany” the growth of a clear and defined awareness.

The debate on these issues has perhaps just begun, but I honestly still see little relevance of solid and valid arguments. Great efforts should be made in this direction to create truly important skills. It is a discussion that, at least here, is hardly starting. Often, when discussing teaching, young people’s thinking, new educational trends, I still see smokiness, conservatism and the inability of those who should lead the process to assume an adequate role. Unfortunately, not all those who have roles of responsibility – locally or at government level – demonstrate a clear awareness of these issues, no one seems to be able to “take the plunge”. Only a few, enlightening experiences, often too isolated, if not even harassed.

Well, I hope you have followed me in this digression, which deliberately did not respect rigorous scientific exposure criteria. But I hope the reason is clear enough.

We have witnessed a revolution we have not realized, of which we have been not aware, and we were not able to understand what was happening, at the very moment in which it was taking place.

It is a strange revolution, anomalous, new. We thought technology was taking over Man (that’s partly true!), but we were not realizing that the world was actually changing its points of view. Even physically, our brain is probably changing its conformation: this is another topic to be focused and there is a germinal interesting literature on this subject, which, however, we cannot deepen here, although we are aware of its great importance.

So, assuming a positive impact of the technological invasion is a pure illusion?

We wanted to give a “positive” key to a whole series of phenomena that some schools of “thought” or pseudo-moralisms consider highly negative.

Obviously ours is a provocation. We know the degenerations that an obsessive or even inappropriate use of the most popular electronic systems can determine – in young people and adults – and the boundary between scientific knowledge within everyone’s reach and abuse is clear. For this reason we should define how technological innovation can bring benefits to training and knowledge, and how an innovative approach to the system of scientific and skills dissemination can take place in the near future.

It is useful to push our thought further, to enhance a cultural revolution that needs to be understood and accompanied to generate positive effects on society. We shouldn’t fight innovation or consider “new habits” as necessarily negative. The middle way is often the most appropriate way to give an effective interpretation of reality. The study of complexities suggests that it is necessary not to remain on the surface, and to study phenomena in deep, to evaluate an aspect from different points of view, to broaden the scope of evaluations and to open our mind even in directions that we consider incorrect. To question preconceptions then, and to be able to self-questioning.

This does not mean giving way to new absolute truths, but being able to look at the new with due respect, with an adequate attention, free spirit and open mind. Comparison, analysis of complexity, attitude to listening, openness to the contamination of skills, knowledge, theories and practices, cultures and ways of thinking: this is the way to go, trying to identify the most suitable path to foster an adequate awareness of how learning can evolve today, providing the tools for a critical approach and not going forward a “manipulation of knowledge”, as many fear, which can take place in a much simpler way if there is a lack of critical consciousness in individuals.

Thought must make men free, enhance thinking of being able to trap them through massification phenomena leading to “control” – as it happens in some science fiction stories – is the opposite of our goals. We would like the use of new technologies to be aimed at a better dissemination of culture, the highest values of knowledge to be transmitted through new methods and new insights, and the direct and simple access to information to be the means for a true universal democracy, in which anyone has the tools to deepen, realize, compare, KNOW.

This is how innovation could allow the realization of a dream: the democracy of knowledge.

Another theme to be explored, in a current way and in connection with the topics of technological innovation and new media.