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Trend 27 January Jan 2021 0942 27 January 2021

Edoardo Fleischner: "The pandemic has accelerated crossmediality, but large digital gaps remain"

The professor of cross-media communication and project management at Milan State University explains that a change of cultural and physical pace is needed. Because there is still no connectivity in many parts of Italy

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After meetings on Zoom, direct Facebook via tablet, the kitchen transformed into the office and the utility room into a 24/7 news channel, 2020 has been named as the year of crossmediality.

This is not a definite statement yet, but is a "global understanding", which has led 1-1.5 billion users to make greater use of the Internet, and its tools have brought to light a situation which has been in the making for some time. Edoardo Fleischner, professor of cross-media communication and project management at Milan State University, is sure that this is the case and has been waiting for this moment for a long time. "My habits have not changed with the outbreak of the pandemic and the transition to smart working and remote learning. I got my hands on a computer for the first time back in 1984. An Apple. I'm not a computer scientist, but I've always believed that technology and innovation would provide good support," Edoardo Fleischner said.

A pioneer of connectivity, "even when there was no proper infrastructure and I forced companies to make large investments in connecting home PCs with office PCs," Fleischner experienced the acceleration in 2020, both on the academic and professional side, in the role of the company consultant.

Two aspects united by common difficulties, all of which are referred to as the "digital divide": "As a professor, I've found students more relaxed in exams than during lectures. I've been involved in large meetings, even in the corporate sector, where the lowest common denominator was not testing. As Italy is among the bottom places in the OECD survey in terms of level of digitalisation, the entire supply chain is lagging behind by about 15-20 years. There is a digital divide both culturally, such as the overdramatisation of remote learning and a heartfelt appeal to return to lessons in the classroom, and materially, with employees lacking the necessary tools to cope with the transition. This is an aspect that spills over into the costs of a company becoming a hardware provider. On the other hand, some colleagues have been telling me about students leaving their homes, with their mobile phones in their hands, trying to intercept a password-free home Wi-Fi so that they can connect to the network."

The human brain is reticular, with tens of thousands of neurons making it crossmedial. Since the time when our ancestors painted caves, we have been able to process different tasks in parallel

Edoardo Fleischner, professor of cross-media communication and project management at Milan State University.

Despite the delays, however, crossmediality has established itself as a model of reality by giving a specific form to what Fleischner describes as "neuronal crossmediality": "It all starts from an observation: the human brain is reticular, with tens of thousands of neurons making it crossmedial. Since the time when our ancestors painted caves, transferring to a variety of media what was happening in reality, we have been able to process different tasks in parallel. Computers took on the neuronal aspect when they started mimicking this mechanism, evolving to such an extent that they created what we now call 'artificial intelligence', no matter how crude it is.

The traditional media are coming to terms with this: "The latest research indicates that printed media, despite a small peak during the recent period, has lost half of its readership in the last ten years. This loss is only partly attributable to a shift to online editions. There are more contacts, but the number of purchases made is in decline. Television has been able to resist the onslaught of the Internet by freeing itself from the television set, turning pure and simply into a video service, while differentiating the points of interaction. This development has contributed enormously to traffic consumption, which grew by 10-15% worldwide. Radio is a special case: in almost the whole world it has the highest percentage of daily use. Or to put it more clearly, radio will appear at least sometime in your daily feed of media coverage. This is exceptional, especially in a crossmedial world".

It remains to be understood how much of this situation will continue once the coronavirus crisis has come to an end. The news of the vaccine has kickstarted again the return to normality. "Everyone has learned something. We were almost forced to do so. To test ourselves. But there are still no percentages for those who delved more deeply into this first approach by completing the self-learning process. After all, this is a methodology which offers great potential when it comes to online matters."

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