Englishn. 2 New Media e Culture DigitaliSalvatore Iaconesi e Oriana Persico

Neoreality – ubiquitous publishing and new space-time-identity perceptions


On  October 15th 2011 the big manifestation fuelled by Spanish Indignados and Occupy Wall Street movements proceeded on different levels passing through the town in different ways.

The analysis of social network activities in the space/time of manifestation shows very clearly the uninterrupted interpenetration of digital and analogical worlds, by considering the possibility of their fluid and changeable fusion and defining a new city in which the worlds of molecules and bits are combined together. The observation becomes an opportunity to redefine the concept of publishing, that changes in a range able to penetrate arts and disciplines to create processes of learning, education, culture, information and consciousness, focused on the ideas of ubiquity, pluralism, emergency.

 translation by Alessandra Varriale


6.21 pm, 15th October 2011. S. Giovanni in Laterano square, Rome. Coordinates 41°53’09”N 12°30’22”E. X is really upset. The situation is not clear. From the point he is, propped against the wall behind some autos, the square, usually so well-known, seems unrecognizable: smoke, loud noises, people going back and forth,  fast displacements to avoid the security forces and the reactions of demonstrators. Every body coming close to X for a while hazarded a guess: “Don’t go to the square, there’re strives”; “The coast is clear! Let’s return to the square, no fear!”.

 18.21 pm, 15th October 2011, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare. Coordinates 41°53’09”N 12°30’22”E. Using a neural net logistic regression-type [1] to analyze the natural language of the conversations between social network users (caught in real time and collocated in the area immediately  around S. Giovanni in Laterano square), it’s possible to draw a classification of the themes and emotional moods the users express in the messages.

Y is really upset. The situation is not clear. From the point where he is, hiding behind a van in a usually quiet lay-by behind a peaceful square, he can see smoke, explosions and people running back and forth.

Y takes the smartphone out of his pocket and starts to move it around, using it to look at the square in an Augmented Reality (AR): turning around he can see “red”, “red”, “yellow”, “red”, “red”, “green”. I’ve got it! Green! By the green: “We rejoined, here quite calm #15thOct”; “they opened the main entrance to let us into, there’s also water #15thOct”; “@ rough we’re running away, let’s meet in front of the trees to the left of the arches”. Y jumps to the green.


VersuS is a project by FakePress Publishing and Art is Open Source, a part of a research program called ConnectiCity; its aim is to observe the changing life in the cities thanks to ubiquitous technologies [2]. The conversations on social networks are caught in real time, geographically placed, classified according to the typology of employment (e.g. the kind of the emotion expressed, the kind of message, the subject) and infoaesthetically displayed, creating tridimensional representations in which the classification of interest creates different volumes.

In Picture 1, (title: “love VS turin”) the tridimensional surfaces on the geographic map of Turin indicate the intensity of love conversations taking places on social networks in those areas: where the surface is higher, the number of love conversations made by users (situated in that moment and in that place) is bigger.

In Picture 2, (subject: “rome VS riots”) on the map of Rome is represented the intensity of messages exchanged on social networks during the manifestation of 15th October 2011.

VersuS project describes an extremely relevant clash of the latest years: the creative attack to the reality made by digital cultures.

That’s a non-fight, without winner or looser, a sensual and changing performance in which the two duellists wrap each other in a recombinant, permanent hug, violent but lovely, coming out of it joined in fluid and moving configurations; they will transform objects, buildings, skins, arts, speeches, actions, places, times, knowledge and emotions that multiplies, free from single points of view, in the space and processes, changing from connection to connection.

VersuS is a form of publication that describes the new life of our space; its subject is the correlation of physical and digital spaces. VersuS projects and changes the conversations and the interactions among people from social networks to the streets of our towns, in our homes, in the places we work, we consume, we learn and hobnob. The physical and ordinary life fills up with several strata of information and communication that change its reality, essence and substance: objects, buildings, people and processes are joined together thanks to digital exchanges able to follow different crossovers of spaces and times of our lives.


Connecting information and digital communication to the physical world over the idea of a simple overlap and choosing a more complex and conscious recomposition process, creates different kinds of effects on different levels (cognitive, cultural, anthropologic, social, political and poetic).

In the first place, it is possible to describe some of these effects:

–       the hypertextualization of physical spaces;

–       the ubiquity;

–       the dissemination;

–       the emergency;

–       the recoding.

It’s possible to materialize the hypertextuality (one of the most peculiar aspect of digital contents) by linking digital contents to physical spaces. On a cognitive level, creating links has huge effects as showed in [3]and [4]. Connecting the hypertextuality to the physical world – and connecting places, objects, contents, people, imagines, videos, sounds, texts and other links – conveys this effects in the physical space and in the perception of our ordinary life [5][6][7]. The use of ubiquitous technologies in augmented reality and location-based techniques let us change our perception of spaces and processes and turn it into an hypertextual experience: the space is considered as a form of multidirectional and multimodal graph-wise or net-wise writing/reading, in which bodies, objects, and physical places are related and enriched by transmedial contents and where exist countless possibilities to cover spaces, to interact with objects, to relate with people, through non-linear, rhizomatous directions. Physical space, objects, bodies, processes, architectures became minds and nets, in a perpetual enrichment, mutation, connection, recombination.

We are talking about technologies ubiquitous-type, as tagging instruments (like QRCode), near field computing (like RFID), location-based computing or augmented reality. These technologies, together with digital nets, are as ubiquitous as their effects. In particular, the analysis of this background is very interesting for the human being, and for innovative kind of experiences in which he can take part, but also for the effects that these experiences produce on his world/himself perception and on his expression and communication possibilities.

If we think about the practical use of these technologies, the concept of ubiquity stands out as a very important item: both as a technical possibility and as typology of perceptive experience.

From the point of view of his technical feasibility, ubiquitous phenomena are a part of our domain of perception: cellular communications, videoconferences, augmented reality, world access to information in real time and other countless kinds of digital communication, let us be accustomed to the idea of an effective possibility to exceed the Euclidian idea of space; as a matter of fact, they are able to bend and distort the real by conveying our presence outright and everywhere (or in more places at the same time).

From the point of view of the typology of perceptive experience, we can observe interesting results by analyzing the augmented reality techniques: the opportunity of publishing information and communication and interaction tools everywhere, modifies the essence and the perception of spaces and times. Mobile devices (like smartphones) are playing the role of transparencies, of additional and “foreign” optical lenses by which we can observe the world around us with a new eye; thanks to this technologies we can also view the shares spread by human or non-human agents in space, time and digital nets, that modifies nature and composition of our world.

According to the idea of ubiquity, every agent or information can be shown every time and everywhere through technological devices, by setting up new non-linear paths of space and time and leading us through our experience of the real.

The information and knowledge spreading (and communication and interaction possibilities), together with the opportunity to change the world hypertextual-wise, leads to the condition and the manifestation of a mutant setting connected to an  hypertextual net materialized and spread in space and time by establishing never ending narrative paths through minds, places, objects, databases, bodies, processes and becomes, therefore, expression of an innovative narrative procedure we can define as “emerging”.

Let’s suppose to create, in a specific area, a database constantly filled up with data coming from a net of sensor used to keep the standards of environmental pollution. If we imagine to create a publication able to let this information be accessible in that area, so as we can have, in real time, direct experience of the level of environmental pollution of the place we are, this possibility will turn into a new digital sense of our body, outsourced in a complex system made by the mobile device we carry in our pocket, the digital net, the database, the net of sensors and by the environment to which they are linked for measurements.

Besides that this sensorial procedure interests neurosciences, represents also a new, continuous narrative form, extremely multi-authorial (the number of the “authors” tends to infinity according to the increase of human and non-human information sources) and, basically, emerging, continuous, choral, polyphonic, environmental: it has a start (system start) but not an end, because takes place in a multiple and perpetual transit of information.

All these phenomena describe the real possibility to use methods and technologies to create the activity of communication-relationship among humans, environment, architectures, design objects, processes and nets tangibly able to recode the world around us.

Even if in a lot of common cases already happened (like in the business applications by Layar and Junaio, or the artistic intervention in augmented reality by Manifest.AR, Les Liens Invisible or Art is Open Source, or like several games in augmented reality we can found on the market) we can suppose to create ubiquitous systems able to generate new strata of reality coexisting with the “ordinary” reality (perceived without these strata) by employing technologic tools as extensors of perception. This possibility gives important opportunities for all the human activities, because is able to transform radically the spaces in which we live in places for the knowledge sharing, the communication and the personal relationship, the socialization, the job and the entertainment.

Next-step Publishing

The described background can turn into an innovative version of the idea of publishing.

Here, indeed, we expressed a changed idea of publishing, called “next-step” [8], as to suggest an improvement of publishing activity and of the mutation of its products.

The idea of new sorts of writing, able to catch what digital cultures suggest to change our perceptive and active presence in the world, can be found in different authors and disciplines [9][10][11][12].

Ubiquitous technologies offer different kind of opportunity by permitting a substantial extension of the ideas of reading and writing, as described in the previous paragraphs: as always happened in the human history, the language turns into a tool for the world expression and set up, in which the subjectivity becomes performance by describing (realizing and communicating) our own perception of the real.

As visible from the graffiti of Pompeii made by the ancients [13] and until now, when geographically placed contents fill our augmented range of view of the places we pass through, the language turns into performance, describes/builds the world, and fixes relationships, communications, information and knowledge geographies which cross the world and describe the changeable and dynamic human presence, in a way that is not only spatial and point-to-point, but also and chiefly rhizomatous and recombinant, in which ubiquitous interactions, thanks to several new-authors-performers, enrich the spaces in a constantly evolving process, by creating temporal stratifications and relational graphs among human beings, subjects, places, objects and processes.

If in the Pompeian era this was clearly visible thanks to the overlapping and the pursuing of carved inscriptions on the city walls – in a sort of blog, comments and social networks forerunners situated in the urban area – all the same is possible to carry on this kind of observations in urban sprawl in which writer, skater and raver contribute in writing an emerging and multi-voice story, made up by continuous strata of architectonical reinvention:

–       empty and sad walls turn into ubiquitous canvas on which we can write the history of the city and where layers of graffiti describe the evolution of news items, rumbles, style and taste evolutions, lifestyle mutations;

– grey stairs and benches become magic worlds in which to perform skateboard acrobatics that, thanks to the freestyle in the city, constantly reinvent and re-contextualize spaces and architectures challenging the rule with ubiquitous spatial poetics;

– forgotten spaces of the city, that rise to new emerging and temporary places; new encoding made by vans, camions, walls of loudspeakers and thousands watts of sounds; new code among old codes, in a city-system bug that forgets the previous cycles of industry and opens the town – in the gaps of invisibility of disused industrial zones – to radical or extreme (or eXtreme [14]) forms of expressions that represent a sort of territorial performative writing.

According to these guidelines, is possible to imagine to formalize new editorial forms: ubiquitous, augmented, spread, emerging, multi-authorial, trans-cross-iper-meta-medial, interactive, stratified, architectonic, corporeal, objectified, performative, continuous, open-ended publishing.

That’s a publishing that builds and connects worlds from one subjective perception to another, by describing cognitive paths which pass across the real according to intentions and desires of single authors, by spreading contents on architectonic spaces, objects, bodies, through the use of ubiquitous technologies like augmented reality and tagging.

This sort of publishing is able to built new worlds through the performances of its authors who, expressing/performing themselves in space and time, are able to let “foreign” points of view be accessible and usable/performable through mobile devices.

Similarly, the possibility to interconnect, constantly and with different aims, the whole human knowledge and to use this interaction through ubiquitous technologies, transforms the whole world in a huge and constantly mutant mash-up thanks to endless eyes and minds which, by passing through several identities as described in the previous paragraph and, adding its own disposition, desire and vision of the world, constantly creates, even in really simple acts, a new interpretation of this multiple and mutant infoscape.

The results is a sort of world-publishing in which cities, spaces/times and forgotten interstitial spaces of our ordinary life become places for performance and writing, for new narrative and poetic forms, able to come out both from the human contribution, and from the interpretative remix-performance ability made by digital-ubiquitous neo-flaneurs or from constantly mutant databases and sensors which gives, in their observation of the world, additional information able to take part in this continuous worldwide conversation.

According to this idea of publishing, the world perception changes completely: it can move asymptotically closer to conditions of interconnected awareness, created by continuous info-performative acts in the space/time and suggests new forms of humanity and citizen, in which people turn into active, narrative and inter-connective agents of their world.