Since the past 26th of June until July the 31st, inside a 200 square meters inflatable futuristic structure at Rome’s Music Auditorium (Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma, ndt.) the smart future minds exhibition will be presented. Articulating the theme “the future of the city” through twelve different projects, the exhibition is guaranteed to constitute a moment of critical reflection and artistic divulging within the wider scenario of the smart urban stage, cutting-edge road show that is going to hit Zurich, Paris, Madrid and London and has already been in Berlin.

The theme on which the exhibition is based on is undoubtably topical and subject matter of debate in diverse fields: academics, art, design, activism and surely in economy and politics as well. It is however ambitious and far from being simple to center a project, which is both cultural and curatorial, on a topic such as the future of our cities and on how new technologies and environment conditions will affect the urban space and citizens’ lives. A wide subject indeed and at the same time a low average knowledge among people on what do precisely these hypepraised new technologies consist of and what could their positive impact be. Moreover, it is hard to discern five eligible thematic sections through which subdivide the exhibition.

In a future that now more than ever shows the need to be entirely constructed or at least being regulated in the most sensitive, intelligent, foresighted approach in terms of fitness for human living, economic sustainability, urban, social and environmental impact. Smart urban stage therefore has, in my opinion, the merit of presenting on the ground of collective thought an important and complex issue, and to do so in an original way. Ten of the smart future minds exhibition projects will be selected among the excellence of Italian Architecture (Live section), of Media/Information Technology (Exchange section), Design (‘Create’ section), Science (Explore section), of Society and Culture (Be section).

The projects will be presented by five curators: Luca Molinari ( architect, curator of the Italian pavilion at the 2010 Venice Biennale Architettura), Alberto Abruzzese (mass-media expert), Martino Gamper (designer), Paolo Mataloni (quantum physicist) and Lorenzo Imbesi (architect and Theory of Design expert). The aim of these selected projects is to suggest ideas and stimuli for a conceivable future and, through the combination of utopia and feasibility, fantasy and science, to put forward innovative enhancements for an everyday life balanced between technological growth and ecologist ethos.

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Digicult will hence have the pleasure, in the coming three issues of the magazine, of interviewing three of the smart future mind exhibition curators: Alberto Abruzzese, Lorenzo Imbesi and Paolo Mataloni. Our first guest is Alberto Abruzzese, full professor in Sociology of Cultural and Communicational Processes at IULM University in Milan, where he is also headmaster of the Tourism, Culture and Territory Department and pro-chancellor for International Relations and Technological innovation, of which fields of research are: mass communication, cinema, television and the new media, with a particular focus on the social developments connected to the diffused implementation of media.

Marco Mancuso: Professor, I first of all would like to ask you for some anticipation and presentation of the works you chose for your curatorial project. What is the core concept, the idea, which is the challenge that brought you tackling such a vast socially ubiquitous theme as media communication and meta-technological sharing (of information, knowledge, relationships, expertise, contents)?

Alberto Abruzzese: To choose which projects to present I adopted a medialogical point of view on society and social anthropological/cultural traditions, I would even say on its archetypes or myths, like as a matter of fact, the city is (this being especially true in Italy a country with no territorial, social and symbolic experience of the metropolis, only partially compensated by the daily multichannel broadcast TV regime).

My viewpoint is medialogical, namely post-sociological. The deepest modifications of our contemporary societies forms of life – the highly developed as well as the underdeveloped ones; the wellness ones and the desperation ones – are expressed by media innovations, by their switching from analog to digital languages.

It is on the top of all a revolution of expression, I hence thought that – to tell the relationship between the “future city” and the forms of social relations, therefore of communication and so of old and new media – the most advanced form of representation would well better belong to the ways of artists, or creatives, those that are nowadays the most sensitive to the collapse of sensical mass-culture regimes and to the rise of their inner conflicts exactly on the media field.

Technologies are nothing but prosthesis of our beings, consequently I decided to turn to authors being highly sensitive to the relationships between body and locally- or globally – lived experience (namely, a glocal dimension). Mass media and personal media are platforms of expression which concern both people’s contents innovation and great social matters of mobility and environment, of quality of life.

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Marco Mancuso: Besides the need to adhere to the thematically area you have been put in charge of as curator (Exchange), I’d ask you which are aesthetically and technological parameters, which the guidelines that defined your choices and the selection of works?

Alberto Abruzzese: Baudrillard offered us – with the title of his well-known essay Symbolic Exchange and Death – a very effective slogan indeed; drawing the spheres of economic politics, symbolic reality and death as objectivity/subjectivity of human experience close to each other and ultimately, making them overlap.

Looking at the world of forms and actions, I have always tried to dodge the opposition between the apocalyptic and the integrated fronts (which was created to be used by the dialectical devices belonging to Occidental systems of domination, to modern and nationalist politics, to enterprise and government based cultures), deeming that it is necessary to adopt an ambivalent way of thinking to understand our present reality, even paradoxical (the non-knowldege – possible as well as impossible – that modern regimes have often removed), capable of being at one time both apocalyptic and integrated, therefore substantially tragic and yet political, hence keeping in consideration life, everyday life, the suffering of flesh.

It is within this frame that I chose authors and projects.

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Marco Mancuso:New technologies and environmental conditions will undoubtedly influence future urban spaces and the life of their inhabitants. As a matter of fact, an increasing number of mobile, satellite, locative technologies are gradually invading the (emotional and physical) space in our life. How, in your opinion, those artists and designers who work on new technologies do relate with the growing informational superstructure? And in which ways are they able to use such structure to better “communicate” with a virtually infinite audience and how, on the other hand, people’s very perception can change through the increasing merging of multimedia technologies?

Alberto Abruzzese: Too many tracks should be outlined to answer this question. A question itself embodying many questions on the evolving relationships between past and future:

A – between territories and media-technologies ( but pay attention! It’s not the digital technologies being invading the territory of modern hysterical experience or better yet its stratifications and space-time combinations – from the field of writing to television and screen – but rather the metamorphosis of the daily life, of the expanded and externalized interiority of our affiliation with the world);

B – between aesthetic or professional traditions and web culture, between the languages of knowledge and the ones of esperienze, subjects and objects, bodies and flesh, between autocratic, vertical, centralized dimensions and dimension those from the low, instinctual, emotional (the authors I bring forward pay much attention to the distinctions of value between languages of seeing and languages of feeling: an opposition that assumed, with McLuhan, a strong political meaning, symbolizing the conflict between enclosed, nationalist, totalitarian, centered, military systems and opened, antimodern systems, pregnant of a sense of sacred far more than the feeling of obligation characterizing the religious spirit of civilization; between a future that clones past and one that is perceived, instead, as a pre-human, animal origin);

C – between individual and collective identities, mass and person, person and crowds. The node of the matter consists in the ability to spot places and subject of an ongoing negotiation – again, so, we are talking about conflicts of powers directly perpetrating the social and cultural identities that have wrecked the twentieth century – in which various anthropological onsets, originated within the hybridization processes between humans and technology, are triggering powerful dynamics of loss of structure and pulverization of social arrangements based on a Judaic-Christian tradition ( monotheism, humanism, civilization).

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Marco Mancuso: Advocating for awareness over a number of themes that are crucial for our lives such as some of the ones listed in the Smart Urban Stage event, for instance the future of our cities, as well as the more environmental sustainability-related aspects, is an operation that is today constantly done through the Web. It isn’t just about following news on dedicated blogs and niche websites, now major newspapers also realized how vast the media echo of themes that so effectively represent our times and are likely to grow in this role.

So then my question is: given that many of the major news companies find the most curious and catchy news directly checking the aforementioned niche websites and blogs, are we facing the risk to see, in a couple of years time, all the system of independent information (not just politically speaking, I am referring to cultural information in general) being completely absorbed by the mainstream, as a consequence of the structural impossibility to compete with big editorial groups, hence gradually loosing the precious uniqueness of contents?

Alberto Abruzzese: We are now in a complicated transitional phase. The quality of digital technologies is now in itself capable of being traduced in any possible strategy of expression, of subjectivity and therefore of content. It can be compared to the machines of the industrial society and functions as the flesh which constitutes the transversal area between subjects and objects on earth.

It can be an instrument for any form of domain and field of interest. Thus the struggling of firms, parties and institutions attempting to apply the technological innovation as an actual innovation: this happens because they are obsolete, atrophic, unable to evolve and hence they can’t find contents that could be suitable for the potentials of the new we languages, ads so ending up using them in the exact same way – and with the same aims – broadcast traditional media do. Until these current times, the possibilities of developing technological innovations have been under the direct control of the heads of social systems and trading dynamics: radio, for instance, despite the possibility to be interactive was made unidirectional. It might happen again: evidences of a regression by generalist networks aren’t rare to be remarked.

What is happening is, nevertheless, of incredibly far-reaching consequences, especially in the concerns of connections between different media, from mobile telephony to biotechnologies. I believe that valorizing the virtually revolutionary nature of digital languages must be a consequence of a profound reflection on our society. On, in point of fact, the catastrophe of the “ideal city” that western society caused and therefore on those cyclical models which divided the world among elites and cannon fodder.

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Marco Mancuso: I conclude asking you how do you consider, within this frame, the role of social networks, and which are the potentialities that the forthcoming new forms of online shared forms of economies could imply? Which are, in short,the antidotes the web could develop against the strong attraction of a mass-transforming process, as has happened in the past with press, radio and television?

Alberto Abruzzese: I have in someway already answered to this in the previous question. Social networks do not, by themselves, have a libertarian, revolutionary or simply democratically DNA. They are the outcome of the strong pressure human life exercises on existence and therefore of a plurality of needs that no religion or regime or government can satisfy anymore, unless they recur to violence. Social network take advantage of the vast range of possibilities virtually allowed by the very genesis of the information technology itself (and so the necessity of an increased familiarization of the social institutions with those immaterial technologies, paradoxically supported by the dynamics of business itself).

The opportunity to weight upon the interests connecting mass media and typically modern forms of power (imperialist states, global firms, highly environmental-dangerous productive procedures, peace war-missions, etc.) is however one and one only: to mature a sensitivity which would be radically anti-humanist, anti-historical, anti-institutional, antireligious, post-human; to restructure the despotic human-centered attitude we have toward the world, our exclusive will; we must recognize what remains – the living that remains, perpetrates -, something of which the human being is nothing but an impermanent ripple.

Make use of this sense of limit in the most extreme way, whereas we have the responsibility to ‘live’ the world (hence a radical deconstruction of those ideologies that tend, today, to blur and cloud the ways and functions of social behaving:this including the present rhetorics about giving, rhetorics which are inclined to impose to the act of giving a progressive, humanitarian framing and yet to remove its unavoidable, undeniable belonging to the act of sacrifice).