Conference publications

Communicative Internet space and youth: from clip consciousness to volunteer communities


The nature of social interactions has dramatically changed in the information and communication society. They have become nonlinear, multi-vector, and dependent on the awareness degree of the social subject, his communicative competence and computer skills. To a greater extent it relates to the communicative practices of young people as a social group, due to their being the most involved in the World Wide Web.
Establishment of the civic culture of Russian youth is paralleled with the rapid development of Internet technologies. There is no doubt that the environment of media freedom and personal creativity has had a profound influence on the formation of an active, goal-oriented person, capable of self-determination and realization of his interests.
The communicative space of the Internet attracts young people by a chance to demonstrate the completeness and the whole palette of everyday life, which are represented by «desire», «style», interest, values, and activities of a growing person. Freedom of individuality — the constitutive principle of civil society — appears here in full. First, it should be noted that young people, who use Internet as a means of communication, actively create «virtual communities», uniting with those who have similar interests. Second, an important factor for the active participation of young people in solving social problems is that modern society lives in the situation of an uncertain picture of the world, when a steady stream of events provokes everyday setting new goals and objectives. In these circumstances project activities become a universal practice. Social activities on the Internet, based on the projects that use a variety of electronic communication platforms, reflect the whole range of youth interests and appear as a result of their self-organization.

Topic of report: Communicative Internet space and youth: from clip consciousness to volunteer communities

The Internet, being created as a means of free communication, during just a few decades has become a key technology that reflects the diversity of social life organization forms. Moreover, we are not talking only about the virtual communities activities in cyberspace, but also about the impact of the Internet on civic engagement in the social reality. A social subject’s access to the information disseminated by electronic sources, increased interactions dynamics, the ability to comment and quickly find like-minded people – all of these contribute to activation of the public activities of this social subject. The nature of social interactions has dramatically changed in the information and communication society. They have turned nonlinear, multi-vector, and dependent on the awareness degree of the social subject, his communicative competence and computer skills. To a greater extent it relates to the communicative practices of youth, for whom the Internet is becoming the main habitat.

Internet services for young people are in fact one of the most effective ways of self-expression and “extensions of the sense organs” (M. McLuhan) in the process of electronic communication. Providing young people with the tools to find information and establish communication on the individual, group and mass levels, the Internet has become both a condition and an environment for realization of a variety of community initiatives. Today we have as much information, forms and means of its delivery as never before. All of them enable active interaction of people. None of the previous generations were in a situation like this. It is no surprise youth of today are called “digital natives” (M. Prensky).

The scale of Internet «invasion» in social practice can be shown in numbers. Thus, according to the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications of Russian Federation the number of Internet users in Russia in 2011 increased by 5,4% during the year and equals 70 million people. Today 55 million Russians actively use the web, which is the highest quantity in Europe. In 2013, the number of Internet users in Russia (according to the predications of most experts in the sphere of electronic communications) will reach 90 million [4].

In the context of such rapid development of Internet technologies the civic culture of the Russian youth is being established. Undoubtedly, the environment of media freedom and personal creativity seriously influences the formation of an active, goal-oriented person, capable of self-determination and the realization of his interests. However, we cannot talk about the civil maturity of youth, due to its age and not well-established ideological world view. But this involvement of young people in social activities and initiation of significant social and political projects ensure the formation of civic experience and maturity, which are responsibility for their choices and actions.

Complex differentiation of modern society, its diversity (with private interests, life projects, opinions, etc.), interweaving of the functional relations of its various elements, — all of these indicate that our society is not a single system with standardized components and linear connections. It’s a decentralized entity that allows thinking of the possible civil society structure as a «rhizome» (from Fr. Rhizome — a rhizome, a term coined by G. Deleuze and F. Guattari). As a structural model, «rhizome» adequately reflects the socio-cultural nature of the civil society. It gives a chance to see a person's ability to private initiative («formation of cultural innovations»), to critical approach to understanding current events, to choice of their own forms of expressing their citizenship. This is especially true for the youth community — the most active social subject of public life.

The communicative space of the Internet attracts young people by a chance to demonstrate the completeness and the whole palette of everyday life, which are represented by «desire», «style», interest, values, and activities of a growing person. Freedom of individuality — the constitutive principle of civil society — appears here in full. It’s realized in a variety of communicative practices in different forms and types of civic activities, which are a result of self-organization. Thus, activities of online virtual communities, voluntary associations, and community organizations, represented on the Internet, contribute to the activation of citizens' initiatives and to the involvement of people in new social actions, revealing their potential and encouraging social creativity.

Self-governing on the basis of personal choice, network communication is a developing form of social interaction. According to Castells, «the openness of the Internet architecture was the basis of its main advantage — the ability to self-development, since users were becoming the developers of technologies and creators of the Internet as a whole» [2].

According to researchers, the technological characteristics of the Internet and cyberspace also suit the «rhizome» model in describing electronic communication. The Internet, as well as the rhizome, is an open structure with a decentered and non-hierarchical organization (due to lack of a central unit, which would control information flows). The Internet is a fundamentally incomplete and dynamic system with a branched structure [1]. This is the exact basis for defining the Internet as an auspicious environment for implementation of youth initiatives in the public spheres of politics, culture, education and leisure. The youth’s usage of the Internet opportunities to achieve a variety of purposes has its own peculiarities.

First, it should be noted that using the Internet as a means of communication, young people actively create «virtual communities», uniting with those who have similar interests. This term was introduced in 1993 by H. Rheingold (a researcher of social relations on the Internet and one of the founders of the WELL community) in his book “Virtual Community” [5]. In this book H. Rheingold discusses various kinds of communication among members of social groups based on such technologies as mailing lists, news lists, multi-user community, IRC. Examples of virtual communities are wikis, thematic portals, social networks, multiplayer online games, etc. Like a usual community, an online one is also always created with a definite purpose.

Second, an important factor for the active participation of young people in solving social problems is that modern society lives in the situation of an uncertain picture of the world, when a steady stream of events provokes everyday setting new goals and objectives. In these circumstances project activities become a universal practice. They allow finding unique solutions to actual problems within specific time and resource confines. Improving computer technologies and telecommunications as an effective way to transmit information by electronic means contributes to the development of project activities in the Internet environment. The Internet is actively being developed as a space for the realization of various telecommunication projects: educational, political, business, social etc. ones.

As for the examples of the realized social initiatives we can refer to such actively promoted Internet projects as Internet representative offices of social organizations that popularize the practice of volunteering among young people. Thus, Google search engine shows 58 thousand results for the query «volunteer movement». There are a number of volunteer associations’ web-sites among them: the official site of the voluntary movement «Danilovtsy» (, an independent advocacy site „Volunteerism in the Ural» (http://ddu.ucoz. ru), the official website of the regional youth social organization of the Tatarstan Republic “The Volunteer” (, etc. The main goal of such web-sites is informing public about their activities and forming the interest of Internet users to volunteering.

Social media are especially effective in promoting the ideas of volunteerism. Their distinctive feature is that their content is generated by regular users, not by a group of professionals. Thanks to Web2.0 technologies, Internet users are now able to actively interact with each other through electronic social networks, blogs, chats, wiki services, etc. Their strong position and constant growth on the Internet arena demonstrate the importance of social networks in the development of volunteering. For example, the query “volunteer» in the social network «» displays more than 3,500 communities. Thus, one can find like-minded people here, share experiences, implement some web-based voluntary projects.

Volunteering is also being popularized on other communication platform, such as the JABA.RU Internet project (a youth second generation social network, designed for communication between people). Its creators note that special attention in their project is paid to volunteerism. JABA.RU gives a chance to take part in interesting activities of the volunteer projects and programs, such as Student Games and the Olympics, cultural and social actions organized in different parts of Russia.

As the creators of the JABA.RU Internet project say, their main objectives are to promote volunteering, to form communities of socially active young people, to technologically support the dissemination and keeping personal volunteer records, to stimulate positive personal growth of young people. The main element of the social network, on which the involvement techniques are based, is called JABA SOCIAL. The direction of their work can be classified as all-Russian federal information system of registering young volunteers, as well as the technological support in keeping personal volunteer records (so-called Personal books of a volunteer) [3].

Interest in volunteerism and understanding the importance of using Internet resources to promote volunteer initiatives contribute to the emergence of assistance proposals in creating web-projects. For example, the Internet Center for volunteering ( focuses on creating technical conditions for the deployment of Internet projects on the Internet, as well as on the professional organization of a community of volunteers, who would provide such services for free and teach the representatives of NGO and initiative groups the technical basics of creating, support and promotion of Internet projects.

As an example illustrating the thematic focus of youth initiatives, we can consider implementing Internet activities on promotion healthy lifestyles undertaken by students of Tomsk State University. The research of Russian scientists dedicated to the health of young people (including students), shows that most of the new generation does not have a clear picture of a healthy lifestyle, often associating it exclusively with physical health indicators and parameters. The youth of today are not ready to be the subject of health-saving behavior, who uses health as a valuable resource in achieving a success in life. Given that young people are active subjects of electronic communications, the students decided to make maximum use of multimedia network resources for broadcasting the healthy lifestyle ideas.

Forming the culture of a healthy lifestyle among college students is impossible without the use of such a powerful communication tool as social networks. One of the youth initiatives realized through a “” page ( is contest project «Porridge is our heritage!». According to the rules of the competition, the participants were supposed to post a porridge recipe and the pictures of its cooking process on the contest page. The winner was chosen by the number of Likes one’s recipe gets. The competition page has been active during 5 days, while the daily’s number of page visitors was over 100. The winner herself collected likes of 98 people! What’s more, there were over 50 participants and fans on the offline award ceremony. This short-term project proved that the social networks users have very impressive opportunities today. The winner collected the necessary number of votes within a few hours, having sent a link to the vote page to her friends. Obviously, the Internet, as a «communication medium» (M. Castells), allows a person to make any information public to thousands of people within just several hours or even minutes.

Besides the social network, the students decided to try such an instrument of electronic communication as blogging. As a part of an Internet project, they launched a blog with virtual lectures for promoting the “Seven Steps to Health” educational program among students that are active Internet users ( The promotion of this project in the blogosphere was supposed to be done through the blogs on the similar topics, while in social networks it was working with similar communities. Twitter was also supposed to be used. Within a month the number of the page views exceeded 2,000, which means that the blog has actually become a communication platform for students, teachers and different professionals interested in implementing the healthy lifestyle ideas among young people. 

Realization of youth initiatives on the Internet is a major factor of their success, because that is a place with no coercion and surveillance, which are so irksome to young people. Moreover, so-called “clip consciousness” is typical for young people, since it allows them to easily navigate the information-saturated communicative space. Young people perceive broadcasted images extremely quickly, allowing them to immediately process information. It is no accident D. Rushkoff notes that «the formation of the modern boy or girl is increasingly dependent on the growing influence of the Internet. Online users roam the global virtual space, collecting and sharing information without any dependence on the institutional power” [6].

Thus, the World Wide Web, as a dynamic communicative space, allows realizing a variety of initiatives, contributing to forming the civil culture of the young people. Ability to create new online communities with a single information base and common value-normative basis for the interaction attracts socially active young people. Social activities on the Internet, based on the projects that use a variety of electronic communication platforms, reflect the whole range of youth interests and appear as a result of their self-organization.


1. Емелин В.А. Глобальная сеть и киберкультура. Ризома и Интернет 
2. Кастельс М. Галактика Интернет: размышления об Интернете, бизнесе и обществе. Екатеринбург: У-Фактория, 2004. – С. 43.
3. О проекте. JABA.RU. Практика разумного эгоизма.
4. Число пользователей интернета в России достигло 70 млн
5. Rheingold H. The Virtual Community.
6. Rushkoff, D. Children of Chaos: Surviving the end of the world as we know it. London: Flamingo, 1997. – P. 175

A Portrait of the Modern University Communicator


A market-maniac? a social networker? a news-seller? hooked on tradition or
projected to innovative fields? The European University communicator has started to reconsider his/her role, his/her skills, his/her functions after the launch of the “Europe 2020” agenda, supported by many ministerial or institutional declarations which have priced communication as a strategic focus to obtain the general and complex goals. In this contribution we will try to find some new perspectives for this job which seems to widen its
horizons in the multitasking society we live in.

Topic of report: A Portrait of the Modern University Communicator [1]

1. An overview of European Higher Education at present.

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was launched in March 2010, in coincidence with the tenth anniversary of the Bologna Process, Between 1999 and today every effort was focused on creating this Area through the various processes of harmonization of the education systems of the Member States. 

During these years, eight conferences of European ministers responsible for higher education were celebrated (Bologna 1999, Prague 2001, Berlin 2003, Bergen 2005, London 2007, Louvain-la-Neuve 2009, Budapest-Vienna 2010, Bucharest 2012) and declarations or communiqués on the gradual progress of the work were signed[2]. The conference in Budapest-Vienna and its relative
Declaration concluded the first phase of the Bologna Process and established the grounds for the second round on the wavelength of the five ambitious objectives of EU “Europe 2020” strategy: employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy[3].

The Budapest-Vienna Declaration and the goals of “Europe 2020” were taken and expanded, in terms of higher education, by the conference of European universities which was organised by the European University Association (EUA) and took place in Aarhus in April 2011. This conference discussed the centrality of nurturing greater numbers of talented individuals to the mission of universities and to securing Europe’s future as a dynamic competitive global region. In the context of the present financial and economic crisis, European Commission President Josй Manuel Barroso
told conference participants that universities have a key role to play in helping Europe go through and exit the financial crisis. He remarked that the Commission’s plans for fiscal consolidation have singled out education, research and innovation as “growth friendly expenditure” and also as a key
element in upcoming discussions on the EU budget post 2013[4].

According to Aarhus Declaration (“Investing Today in Talent for Tomorrow”), higher education institutions are:

  • a crucial platform for the future of Europe;
  • motors for economic delivery;
  • the starting point to achieve the objectives of “Europe 2020”;
  • places where to address complex problems that need innovative solutions;
  • an ensemble of institutions which needs long-term investments, financial sustainability and sufficient public funding;
  • a shared place, with a shared commitment and added value to accomplish.
After setting this complex perspective, Aarhus Declaration describes its strategic action agenda for the decade 2011-2020. The issues range from widening the access to developing distinctive research portfolios; from mobility to employability; from transparency to quality; from internationalization to financial sustainability. Each action should be supported by clear communication strategies, as a vital strength to promote dialogue, to engage a variety of stakeholders at different levels, to ensure impact on society, to disseminate knowledge and messages in their entirety and in a qualified, well-coordinated and sustainable way.

During the decade that had led to the complete realization of the Bologna Process, official documents never talked about communication. It seems that Ministers were happy to agree to major changes, yet gave no thought about how these would be explained and communicated to the press and the public. It also seems that communications have failed at local, national and international levels. Universities, rectors’ conferences and associations alike have not been able to develop and deliver a coordinated, coherent and cohesive communication strategy.

The first document which openly said that coordinated communication efforts were needed was EUA’s “Trends 2010”[5]. In the same year Professor Jean-Marc Rapp, the former president of EUA, was invited at the annual Conference of European University Public Relations and Information Officers Association (EUPRIO) in Stresa, and stressed how important it was to move beyond sharing a toolbox of techniques, concentrating simple measurements and technical
aspects, towards working on defining a precise vision of what we expect from Higher Education in the future. Defined and well thought out communication strategies and a skilled communication staff will be crucial if we are to play our part in disseminating knowledge to benefit society as a whole.

2. A sketch of the current European University Communicator.

Since the first days of my presidency at EUPRIO, one of my objectives has always been to get clarity on the role of the European University Communicator, as I had realized that only vague ideas were wandering on this subject. Despite training courses, lifelong learning programmes, international workshops, there are still a few professionals who think in some compartmentalised ways, who are only interested in fancy websites, social media tools and “easy-to-sell” laboratory stories, and continue to work in the same way they did years ago, without feeling the need to
broaden their increasingly limited areas of work. Through EUPRIO’s network I tried to gather the most relevant information to draw a portrait of the European University Communicator.

This professional is usually a woman (75-80%) in her late 30s with a degree; she works full-time, was hired after competition or selection and gets a low salary. Northern and Eastern countries tend to recruit younger people (sometimes in their late 20s); in the countries with a long-lasting University tradition (France, United Kingdom, Italy and Germany) the age gap is larger. We can find lots of seniors who had the opportunity to build their careers in a department of communications, and are close to retirement (55-60 years old).

Almost everybody holds a bachelor degree or some higher education background. The typologies of degrees are very different, ranging from economics to law, literature, political science, information technology and so on. Surprisingly, few people hold a degree in communication sciences, but this is due to the relatively recent development of this disciplines in the European higher education system. Most employees have received some training in communication and a few have attended specialization classes.

After a period when external recruitment was quite usual, today the free-lancers are not so many. Communicators are full-time workers and have no other job; most of them respond directly to the heads of their organizations (Rector/President, CEO, Director General and so on). Officers who refer to heads of departments that have nothing to do with communication are very rare
now, although it’s not so easy to kick out bad habits.

The salary is low everywhere and without a meaningful average. Wages depend on the cost of living in each country, on the career annual increments and on productivity bonuses; they range from a minimum of 500 Euros that a Polish junior communicator receives monthly to a maximum of 5,000 Euros paid to a director of communications in the Scandinavian countries, which are notoriously expensive.

When we consider the tags which define positions, titles and profiles, we may abandon all hope, as they are different from country to country. This confusion keeps on when considering the forest of names used to define a communication office. What we find under the communication umbrella is everything and nothing: a big basket where Presidents and Rectors may throw

Furthermore, we must note a general lack of human resources employed in communication units. Teams with more than four people are quite rare and they have often to work on several tasks (media relations, marketing, events, etc.). When comparing countries, the most evident differences appear when we come to budget and strategic guidelines. Budget changes hugely from
country to country, from private institutions to public institutions. The lowest budget allowed is around 20,000 Euros (Poland, Italy, Greece); it seems quite impossible to beat the record of 1,000,000 Euros reported by some Swedish and Dutch universities. The average budget flows between 150 and 250,000 Euros and is not sufficient to accomplish all the goals assigned.

Budget and low salaries are not the only concerns of University communicators. In some countries there is still some cultural resistance to acknowledge the “power” of communication. This is probably due to the “double-heart” of Universities: the academic side and the administrative side. It goes without saying that the latter can hardly have the same fields of action that the former has.

Lastly, communicators complain about the incredible variety of responsibilities they have to face, with no clear strategic vision. The goals are often decided outside the communication department, by Rectors or Directors, without asking the professionals’ opinions. Hence, the absence of communication plans, the practice of external recruitment, the lack of human and financial resources[6].

So, who is guilty? the heads? the system? the global crisis? Or, rather, the university communicators themselves, who do not share a common idea of communication? Probably this is the essence of the matter we are arguing on. It’s not clear enough that University communicators are not there to sell courses, to set up red tape, to provide the cushion between the university and the outside world, to deal with complaints and that they are certainly not responsible for operating call-centres.

What people don’t understand is that the university communicator is a true knowledge worker, a strategist who works in knowledge networks where institutional communication is set[7]. On these grounds I will try to focus on the ontological essence of the forthcoming European University Communicator, able to cope with the guidelines of “Europe 2020”: a “Digital neo-humanist”, a “Wounded Healer”, a “Dionysian plurilingualist”.

3. The 2020 European University Communicator.

3.1. A “Digital Neo-Humanist”

According to a quotation of Elisabetta Zuanelli, a famous Italian linguist, institutional communication is a “system of behaviours to pursue a specific aim, which is the proper functioning of the institution.” In other words, communication is a whole where each element is connected and interactive with others; it is a system of sequences of coordinated, intentional, conscious and finalized actions. Goals must be shared by everybody, understood by everybody and we must all have access to the tools we need[8].

A higher education institution, therefore, is a system of behaviours organized by offices, consisting of interactive people with specific social roles, of actions and communication materials, of flows and messages. These «units» are arranged hierarchically: each level has a purpose and given skills and each level refers to the one immediately above and below itself. The institution works well if each unit is aware of the interactions between itself and all the other units of the system. Shortly, if the communication is well organized, the university works. Of course, this definition gets rid of bizarre applications, inappropriate roles, odd tools, which reduce communicators to acrobats: spokespersons, journalists, marketing specialists, graphic designers, webmasters…

The communicator should be one of the key figures in the university, because he/she is the one who can understand the nuances and messages that pass from one to another and make them work; he/she is the one who understands the hierarchy of decision-making, he/she is the one who can write a communication plan, which is not a list of things to do, but a vital strategic document which enables the institution to deliver its mission.

The knowledge workers, then, are the holders of contents which have to be developed digitally in order to offer appropriate services for diverse audiences. Communicators can’t develop communications strategies if they don’t understand the nuances, networks, processes, routines and their technological management. They can’t develop information services, assistance, counselling to students if they don’t truly understand the dynamics of external and internal communication.

For university communication it is the time of some “digital neo-humanism”. Today we’ve got the link between the period in which liberal arts and mechanical civilization began to work together thanks to the insights of Leonardo da Vinci, and the contemporary world, in which liberal arts are created and channelled digitally. We live in the world of “virtual artifacts”, where a book, a drawing, a piece of music become an e-book, e-photo, a “mp3”[9]. The university communicator must be up-to-date, but without making a Copernican revolution. Humanism puts the person at the centre of the world: the person, who declares his dignity, his liberty, his capacity. Rules no longer matter; what matters is the critical consciousness of the human condition. Humanists claimed the value of eloquence, of the “verbum” of the words, of the speech. This then is the modern university communicator of today: a neo-humanist, a knowledge worker, who considers
language to be the foundation for all his work.

We live in a world that is fast, interconnected and overwhelmed by the cult of the image. We put techniques and tools at the centre of our world and we forget people. To paraphrase Edwin Schlossberg, true interactivity is not just about clicking on icons or downloading files, it’s about encouraging communication between people and building relationships[10]. Putting people where they belong, at the centre of the system, requires a radical change in how we view communication. It means returning to the essence of things, taking a step back, leaving hierarchies and devoting ourselves to the essential.

3.2. A “Wounded Healer”

Today university communicators find themselves in the strange position of having changed how they thought about things whilst remaining in a context which hasn’t changed yet. Or, a context which has changed for the worse, despite the solemn declarations of European Ministers and Rectors. 2009, 2010, 2011 were crucial years for Universities; financial cutbacks had decimated the budgets for many higher education institutions and the situation has not improved yet. Communicators were in the middle of perhaps the most important crisis facing their sector.

The outrageous point is that, when budgets are cut, communication is the first to fall under the blade. The effects of these cuts have soon escalated: poor, unprofessional, scattered communication has led to no visibility in the media, to enrollment’s falling, to uncontrolled dissemination of the news. The paradox is that, though realizing that communication is fundamental for Universities, money still remains at a zero level. That’s why Rectors, Presidents, Directors are coming back to communicators asking for miracles.

This situation leads me to go beyond the figure of the “digital neo-humanist”, and to take a look at mythology and at Jungian archetypes, focusing on the myth of Chiron[11]. Among the uncultured, wild, lusty Centaurs, Chiron was the only one to be kind, civilized and intelligent. He was sired by Kronos, the Titans’ king, when he had taken the form of a horse and impregnated the nymph Phylira. He grew up with an immense knowledge of medicine, healing arts, astrology and music. His cave on Mount Pelion soon became an academy for the most important cultural heroes seeking Chiron’s education: Asclepius, Aeneas, Theseus, Achilles, Jason and so on, according to Pindar, Hesiod, Homer and Theocritus. Being the son of Kronos, Chiron was immortal; despite this, he sacrificed his life allowing Zeus to exchange his immortality for the life of Prometheus, therefore allowing mankind to obtain the use of fire[12].

The story of the kind centaur led the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung to develop the archetype of the Wounded Healer[13]. It is the person who has gone through suffering, and by transcending it, he is led to a path of service, he becomes a source of great wisdom and inspiration for others. Today Chiron can be seen as a gateway to new domains of experience and knowledge: a traveler, a messenger who can act as a bridge to impossible missions for some charitable purpose, a problem solver, a therapist, a shaman, an initiator, a hero, a martyr, the image of Jesus, a priest, a philosopher… but his wound is destined to keep opened and never to recover.

Thanks God, the university communicator’s destiny is not to suffer for the rest of his/her life. The wounds should be considered as the gateway to knowledge and the wounded man is intimately connected with the healer. Jung said: «The doctor is effective only when he himself is conscious that he can fall sick. Only the wounded physician heals. But when the doctor wears his
personality like a coat of armor, he has no effect»[14]. The Wounded Healer is the teacher who is able to self-empower others to trust themselves to the extent that they finally give themselves permission to feel that which has been too fearfully painful for the emotional body to cope with and feel[15]. 

Communicators have the ability and perseverance to go beyond issues, problems and troubles and their job has become something similar to the Wounded Healer’s therapies. They provide helpful, tangible, positive responses to Rectors to enable them to solve problems. Because of this they themselves are part of the wounds, they experience the effects of them, they overcome them and they can extract the good from them.

Communicators can offer so much, a portfolio of professional skills, contacts to share, the ability to sustain productive relationships with diverse audiences, to speak in public, to solve problems, to manage crises. In exchange, they need to be given respect for the job that they do and a recognition of their role. Respect and recognition are considered fundamentally important across all cultures.

3.3. The “Dionysian Plurilingualist”

I must say that Professor Jean-Marc Rapp, former president of EUA, was a sort of healer of the University communicators’ wounds, during the EUPRIO Conference that I mentioned before. In the crucial part of his keynote speech he said that a modern University needs a communication strategy and highly qualified experts to communicate and disseminate this strategy in a way which
supports the interests of the university as a whole. And the University system itself has the same needs.

Our universities need excellent communicators who can cope with the fact that objectives can only be met if they are continuously revisited and revamped. Communicators have to interact with and interpret their not very explicit environments. They have to select the right audiences for the right messages, negotiate these messages and choose appropriate settings and situations. They
need to understand what they want to achieve and be able to utilise the most effective keys, norms, genres and instrumentalities[16]. They have to put in place relationship technologies, procedures and routines and ensure that they interrogate knowledge every day time.

This won’t be easy, for sure. Many hindering factors will invariably come up: distances, budgets, the limitations of ICTs, opposition of senior staff, internal conflicts, generational differences, lack of motivation. But is their force so destructive? Do any of these really have the power to prevent
communicators even from starting to work this way?

According to Jay A. Rubin, Universities now look for communicators who are not only fluent in traditional academic language, but are also able to utilise the language of social media, so necessary in attracting students, grants, partnerships and positive media coverage. Communicators must also have the gravitas to become trusted advisors to rector, deans and others senior staff. the communicator desired by universities as a “plurilingualist”[17].

A plurilingualist has competences in more than one “language” and can switch between them according to the circumstances they find themselves in. He/she is able to switch between the words and the tones he uses, he/she adapts his/her language to suit diverse and numerous stakeholders, he/she prepares the same messages in a number of totally different versions. Plurilingualism and pluriculturalism are our ordinary approaches to how we interact with and react to others as complex beings.

As we learn from pragmalinguists, like John Langshaw Austin or John Searle, we normally use language to act socially with others using linguistic acts. These acts consist of an illocutionary force: if we ask “How's that salad doing? Is it ready yet?" as a way of («politely») enquiring about the salad, our intent may be in fact to make the waiter bring the salad. So, the illocutionary force of the utterance is not an inquiry about the progress of salad construction, but a demand that the salad be brought. Austin talks about the use of performative verbs which we use in the first person to actually perform an action, i.e. saying “I apologise” performs the action of apologising. Searle includes other indicators, such as mood, the order we use words, stress and intonation contour, punctuation and so on[18].

“Force” is the keyword used by the two authors: the pragmatic, intentional, oriented, targeted strength by which our utterances gain power and meaning. It’s a deep-down, visceral energy that powers mental processes. It’s the will of life, l’élan vital, as French say.

Friedrich Nietzsche claims that humans possess the art of communication in the same way we possess the instinct of understanding. As humans we understand, act and react because of our “primordial unity”, which revives the so-called “Dionysian nature” of humans: «In the Dionysian state the whole affective system is excited and enhanced, so that it discharges all its means of expression at once and drives forth simultaneously the power of representation, imitation, transfiguration, transformation and every kind of mimicking and acting»[19].

Through the Dionysian mysteries the Hellene guaranteed himself «the eternal return of life, the future, promised and hallowed in the past, the triumphant ‘Yes’ to life beyond all death and change»[20].

Thanks to the presence of this Dionysian factor, Tragedy, the apex of artistic creation, could be invented. Sophocles’ works are the highest realization of this genre. Different from Kant’s idea of sublime, which needs critical distance, the Dionysian element demands a closeness of experience.
Critical distance, Socratic rationalism separates the human being from his closest emotions; the Dionysian magnifies the human being.

It could be argued that communicators could be considered the sons of the opposite to the Dionysian, that is the Apollonian[21]. According to some linguists, the Apollonian element denotes the wish to describe, to create order, especially with unfamiliar information or new experience[22]. This point is open to question. The image of Dionysus refers to creativity, to the vital spark taken in its most productive and effective angle[23].

A university communicator should be a sort of a “Dionysian plurilingualist”, who is able to use his skills and techniques, but cannot get rid of that delicate art of comprehension, that feeling for nuances, that capacity of seeing through brick walls. Communicators need to be managers, but they don’t need to abandon creativity and, why not, poetry. Society still needs poetry. Art and poetry, different instruments, but both providing a path to knowledge because both tend to the discovery of the relationships between contradictory truths of reality. A poet sees what the others cannot see; usually he sees beauty.


1. This contribution reflects and synthetizes some speeches that the Author, current president of the European University Public Relations and Information Officers Association (EUPRIO), delivered in various conferences which took
place in Aveiro, Paris, Stresa, Salamanca, Prague and Poznań in the years 2009-2012. See, ex multis, V. ÉLOY and P. POMATI, EUPRIO. A 25-Year Success Story, Atelijeur PůDA, Prague 2011, pp. 123-126. These thoughts should be considered in progress and would be implemented – and probably closed – during the XXIV Annual Conference of EUPRIO in Gothenburg, September 2012.
2. The texts are available on the website dedicated to the EHEA: see
3. See
4. See
5. See
6. These data are based on comparisons between experiences of professionals among EUPRIO and on reports of national associations that regularly analyse the communication structure in Universities of their own country (such as AICUN in Italy, AIK in Sweden, ARCES in France, AUGAC in Spain, HEERA in the UK, LAMIDA in Lithuania, PIO and BH in Germany, SUPRIO in Switzerland, VONU in the Netherlands, etc.). 
7. E. ZUANELLI, “Comunicazione istituzionale, IT e la babele digitale ovvero il consumismo verbale tecnologico contro l’acculturazione informatica”, in Comunicazione e innovazione digitale, 3 (2007), pp. 219-220.
8. See E. ZUANELLI (ed.), Manuale di comunicazione istituzionale. Teoria e applicazioni per aziende e amministrazioni pubbliche, Colombo, Rome 2000, pp. 28 ff.
9. See E. ZUANELLI, “Il neo-umanesimo digitale: nuove professionalità nell’economia della conoscenza”, in Comunicazione e innovazione digitale, 1 (2008), pp. 15-21.
10. E. SCHLOSSBERG, Interactive Excellence. Defining and Developing New Standards for the Twenty-First Century, Ballantine, New York 1998
11. Particular thanks to Eugenio Torre, famous psychiatrist and full professor at Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy, who has given me precious suggestions on this subject.
12. See C.J. GROESBECK, “The archetypal image of the wounded healer”, in Journal of Analytical Psychology 20 (1975), pp. 122-145 and partic. 124-127. For the myth, see K. KERÉNYI, Die Mythologie der Griechen, any edition.
13. C.G. JUNG, Memories, dreams, reflections, ed. by A. Jaffé, transl. by R. & C. Winston, Pantheon Books, New York 1963 (1961).
14. ibidem, p. 134
15. On the myth of the Wounded Healer see also the perspective of H.J.M. NOUWEN, The wounded healer: Ministry in contemporary society, Doubleday, New York 1979 (1972)
16. D. HYMES, “Models of the Interaction of Language and Social Life”, in J.J.GUMPERZ and D. HYMES (eds.), Directions in Sociolinguistics. The Ethnography of Communication, Blackwell, Oxford-New York 1986 [1972], pp. 35-71.
17. J.A. RUBIN, “Wanted: a Multi-PR linguist”, in Comunicazione digitale, 5-6 (2010), pp. 41-46:
18. J.L. AUSTIN, How to do things with words, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1975; J. SEARLE, “The Classification of Illocutionary Acts”, in Language in Society, 5.1 (1976), pp. 1-23.

19. F. NIETZSCHE, The Twilight of Idols, X, 10. (cf ID., The Birth of Tragedy, passim)
20. ibidem, XI, 4.
21. A. DEL CARO, “Dionysian Classicism, or Nietzsche’s Appropriation of an Aesthetic Norm”, in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Oct.-Dec., 1989), pp. 589-605.
22. See G. ZUCKERMANN, “’Etymythological Othering’ and the Power of ‘Lexical Engineering’ in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. A Socio-Philo(sopho)logical Perspective”, in T. OMONIYI and J.A. FISHMAN (eds.), Explorations in the Sociology of Language and Religion, John Benjamins, Amsterdam 2006, pp. 237-258 and partic. 244-245.
23. J. PORTER, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on The Birth of Tragedy, Stanford University Press, 2000.

How companies achieve their marketing goals toward youngers with social networks?


This work examines the role of social network sites as tool used by companies to achieve marketing goals. As known from the main business literature, the social network represents one of the most important instrument to improve the company fame by strengthening the affection of customers to the brand. For this reason some companies use these tools to build relations and “contacts” with customers all over the world. 
The population of social networks users is made, for the most part, of youngsters (people belonging to the 13 — 30 years old cluster). In the last years, with the social web networking, social communication loses the exclusive “social meaning” and social network sites become strategic instruments for the construction of powerful relationsthat connect people with people and people with firms.
This work is aimed at clarifying the genesis and the evolution of the relations between companies and potential customers, focusing on the tools used by the firm to achieve their marketing goals through social network sites (SNSs). First of all, the work proposes the recognition of some studies about the origin of web social network and their links with marketing strategies. Secondly, it considers marketing goals achieved from any companies through Social Networking with a particular focus on advertising through web social networking. 

Topic of report: How companies achieve their marketing goals toward youngers with social networks?

The origin of Marketing in Social Network Sites: from Social Marketing to Network Science

Social marketing founds its origins in the seventies; before these years itis possible to find only advertising awareness campaigns for public and social issue(Wiebe 1951). According to McGovern (2007), social marketing aim is to understand how individuals percepttheirself and firms and how the influence of others (of the “group”) can shape them in their behaviours (Pechman 2002). 

Between the seventies and the eighties different awareness campaigns on the theme of social advertising (for eg: campaigns on social responsibility, family, diseases) have been developed and the campaigns against smoke represent a specific example of this.

Social marketing campaigns became wider trough the integrated marketing (Kotler, Lee 2007; Geary 2007) and the relevance of the network role into the business world and society have represented the connection between Marketing, internet and Social Networking; in particular, there is a relevant literature on network science that represents the connection between social, business and marketing studies. In this connection we find studies on Social Marketing and Social Network Marketing that find material instrument in SNSs.Some foundamental concepts have been studied in the past about network science: the different types of relation in networks ( Lechner, Dowling 2003); survivor, performance and development of entrepreneurial societies as focus of research ( Gartner 1985, Bygrave e Hofer 1991, Venkataraman 1997, Virtanen 1997, Shane e Venkataraman 2000). The network as more important model of organizations development ( Richardson 1972, Powell 1987-1990). People as resource in a network ( Granovetter 1974-1985, Burt 1992, Easton 1992, Gulati 1999), the network as particular form of governance and the loyalty in the network as relevant asset ( Richardson 1972, Thorelli 1986, Powell 1987, Larson 1992). The network takes different forms as time goes on (Fombrun, 1982) ( Larson 1992).

Between 2005 and 2010 the internet use as promotion of the advertising campaigns begins to take relevance because of the possibility, that this technological tool gives, to optimize relation and segmentation toward different customers with appropriate use of ad hoc messages and thanks to benefits that customers find in a correct behaviour toward society. 

Some studies demonstrate that a high level of involvement and interactivity can give a better participation and a positive approach to websites (Kalyanaraman, Sundar 2003); this approach aims at a value co-creation and a powerful relations with customer. In particular, customers are particularly influenced by firms (Kreuter 1999) but also by other customers that publish online their considerations (Awad 2006, Weiss 2008). Boyd and Ellison (2007), studying social network sites say that «social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site ».

New media can take advantage of of social marketing benefit using some important tools: attention and conservation, for example, are two elements which carry out a kind of research about consumptions sounding out a very strong propension towards the use of new multimedia technologies in order to modify the individual attitude by underlining the importance of interactive tools (Ferney, Marshall 2006, Hu e Sunder 2010, Binks e Van Mierlo 2010). New media technologies permits constant communication with customers and provide them opportunities to give and receive feedback. In particular, through integrated forms of communication (e-mails, messages), firms can try to modify long term practices of customers (verbal persuasion).Customers have an active role in the relation with SNSs because they can present data about their needsand develop, in this way, intervention and personalized objectives (control)

The technique of web marketing had to be integrated with the most recent social marketing; for companies, social marketing means to promote and to manage public relation in order to obtain reputation and loyalty. A correct activity of Social Media Marketing implies the creation and management of a social profile through a website (facebook, twitter, google, linked in) which is correct, sincere and planned to permit an user friendly consultation.

Only few entrepreneurs (expecially in Italy and between SMEs) use to manage Social Media Marketing to improve the interaction with customers and, for example, to increase sales, loyalty and brand value. Aversion to the use of Social Network Sites is higher for small and medium enterprises which can not coordinate themselves with the speed of the web (Freeman 2010) and, frequently, have not economic and human resources to manage SNSs internally. In the same time, with the increase of the relevance of these instruments and strategies, some SMEs have knownw the powerof these tools and, for this reason, have choosen from one hand a direct management of social network (expensive activity that give results in medium-long period) and, on the other hand, the investment in online advertising using SNSs; this last tool contributes principally to the strengthening of brand value. 

The “youngers” cluster in and Social Network Sites (SNSs) 

The “youngers” cluster is composed by young people that represent a target for many firms and the first supporters of Social Network Sites (SNSs). In this work, according to the European Commission, we consider in this cluster people from 13 to 30 years old (SNSs are frequented also by people of other age clusters until 70 years old). The range name “youngers”, now also accepted by the scientific community, has acquired this classification also according to some programs created by the European Commission independently of the research projects that involves the Internet. Just to study the age range of those who use Facebook or SNSs in general, it has been carried out a study of sampling and data collection based on researches that, in turn, have used data from an university centre (Ellison, Steinfield, Lampe, 2007). In order to attract several people from a variety of States and Universities, the study has been founded on a Facebook research. In particular, the survey has been started by an email invitation sent through a Facebook account, for first to students of an University placed in the Midwestern United States, which asked them to forward the e-mail to their colleagues. Participation was voluntary and those who completed the survey received an «extra credit» as compensation for their involvement. In addition, all participants were included in a project which provided the delivery of a $ 50 gift card for purchases to be done in any Apple Computer store; the online data revealed the participation of 302 members found in a limited geographic area and in a short time and most of them belonged to an age range that goes from 18 and 24 years old. This is an element that allows to perfectly understand the power of SNSs on the youngers. As in the USA, also in Italy the age range of SNSs frequently users refers to a cluster from 13 to 30 years old and it represents people who uses SNSs especially to joke, to find new friends, to exchange considerations on products and services.

Marketing and Social Network Sites (SNSs)

Social networking sites (SNSs) allows the development of a value creation process within the customers’ mind and it helps to enhance the perception of the brand value by strengthening the relationships between companies and customers. SNSs are used as “tools” to monitor, to report and to have a direct contact with customer and an amplification of business communication.

The monitoring concept is complex but relevant in marketing and, in SNSs, it involves the control of posts, discussions, exchanges of information and commentaries, but also the mood of customers in different stages of the business approach (company and product offerings exploration, product-service purchase, aftersales). The relationship between firm and customer can be direct (business-to-customer) or indirect — in this case, the firm can monitor chats, comments from expert customers and firm, fans who express negative (or positive) opinions on the product-service performance-.

The “amplification” concept of brands value, products and firm services involves a planning of the marketing activities which is able to multiply the number of customers who speak about topics connected with the company, to increase the positive feedback about brands and products, to encourage the word – of — mouth advertising among customers who have lost faith in traditional advertising.

Antončič and Hoang (2003) led for fifteen years a research on the effects that the network (in general) has on firms activities. In a similar study Kock and Coviello (2010) sustain that it can improve the activities of small and medium-sized enterprises and, in particular, they pay attention to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies and their way of using the network to reach globalization. An efficient use of the network allows companies to overcome some obstacles such as their relatively small size, their lack of internal resources, their distance from international markets. Some searches have shown that SMEs can simplify the process of product sale in international markets through the efficient use of networks (Chetty, 2003 Wilson, Coviello, Munro 1997). 

The use of SNSs is therefore fundamental for the business activities of companies because they offer alternative strategies to improve the relation between firm and customer and to minimize, trough web technology, the weaknesses that could come out starting a physical relational network. Through the SNSs companies start various activities to enhance brand value, to acquire information, to develop the relationship with customers.

With a marketing approach, there are different schemes through which it is possible to analyse information and to empower customers relationship. Between the 80’s and the 90’s, the scheme of relational marketing analysed different tools to improve the customer relation with firms (call centre, information phone numbers, customer care supports, etc.); the main aim of these instruments was the empowerment of the relation with customers through the direct contact with them even if, often, the input of the report took place in an unidirectional manner (company-customer) and, sometimes, it was resolved with a response from the company though it comes from the consumer. Through SNSs companies move towards a value co-creation based on a continuous exchange of views and information on products / produced services.

The evolution of marketing studies brings the researcher to investigate the role of the brand and its position within the marketing strategy. In particular, thinking the brand as a relational network, some powerful investments, as social network sites, are right tools to strengthen the relation between customers and firms. 
A first tool used for the collection of information is the Social Media Monitoring which differs from traditional searches because it comes out of the classic rule of rigidly fixed questions and it allows to discover free comments and, sometimes, additional elements and comments on competitors’ products. In social media monitoring, unlike the interviews, considerations are spontaneous and not constrained by the necessary response to a questionnaire or an interviewer; with the online publication of the answers, opportunities of involving and influencing other customers have proliferated and contributed to the generation of opinions and considerations. Most used tools are Social Mention, Addictomatic, IceRocket, and specific software such as: NetMiner, NodeXL, Gephi[1]. 

With the development of these new technics in marketing management, the role of new managerial figures becomes relevant in the company:

  • The Social media manager who plans the development of activities on SNSs and defines team roles and responsibilities in goals ;
  • The Community manager who manages company profiles on various social media monitoring conversations;
  • The Social Media Analyst who controls the online data, sentiments and the relations with customers[2].
The conversation monitoring is very important because it allows to understand opinions, needs, languages and customers’ wishes. The following step is to establish a sincere dialogue with users, avoiding advertising tone because, otherwise, the company could be excluded from conversations in the medium and long period. In order to create and consolidate a relationship with a wide audience, especially the youngsters, companies must offer interesting, useful and nice content. 

Strengths and weaknesses of advertising in (SNSs)

Advertising is a relevant argument for SNSs and, sometimes, in SNSs, it has a “viral form”. Starting from Porter and Golan (2006) considerations, we can look at the viral advertising as a kind of provocative communication which influences and persuades users through the use of the Internet. Some studies indicate that emotion is a relevant component of the viral advertising: Phelps (2004), for example, explains how the sender of viral messages tends to produce emotions that lead customers to positive experience; Dobale (2007), argues that the emotional component plays a critical role in influencing customer behavior but, to do this, itis necessary that messages contain a sort of «surprise»; Still, Eckler and Bolls (2011) have studied how the emotional tone of viral video influenced users, in particular young people involved in SNSs. SNSs have drastically changed the way in which customers respond to advertisements and not everybody, however, appreciate them on social networks. According to an AdReaction’s study (2010), only the 22% of customers have a positive attitude towards the viral advertising, while the 8% of them left a SNS because they perceived an excess of the advertising[3] activity. Anyway there are also some other reasons that bring companies toward the disuse of social networks:

  • the growing number of platforms that make it difficult to locate where conversations take place between users;
  • the difficulty in measuring the return on investment;
  • the difficulty of social media monitoring.
The main obstacle to social networks advertising is the intrusiveness level perceived by users: an advertisement can be defined “intrusive” when it distracts or irritates the customer (Lee, 2002 Edwards measuring the intrusiveness of advertisements: scale development and validation ).

Customers perceive an implicit social contract with advertisers in case of traditional media (television, radio, print) as they have free or reduced-price programs dedicated to advertising activities (Gordon, Lima, Turner 1997). Vice versa Internet customers do not perceive the advertising as a contract, but as an intrusive and annoying «deviation» (Mathews 2000, Gaffney 2001). Nowadays there are some studies suggesting that the most loyal users of the Internet perceive online advertisements as a negative factor (Yang 2003) as it imply the constant need of protecting their privacy (Castaneda, Montoro 2007). The use of information collection, in fact, cannot be controlled and, frequently, users do not know that web sites are collecting their private data (Milne 2000). 

The online advertising is very important for business companies and users spend more and more time on SNSs: from an average of 3 hours per week in December 2008 we have got to an average of 5.5 hours per week during December 2010 (Nielsenwire 2010). Researchers have argued that, in the same time, we have to understand why people use SNSs but also how they respond to the advertising activity (Rodgers, Thorson 2009).Some authors (Stafford 2008, Schkade 2004), have suggested that the main reason which bring users to netsurf includes structural factors, content factors (information, entertainment), and socialization factors (for example, connecting with others). According to the «Theory of the uses and gratifications» (Katz and Foulkes 1962), customers are actively seeking ways to satisfy needs both hedonistic and utilitarian: for example, they can watch television to be entertained by a movie or to be informed by a documentary or news program. Therefore this theory shows that the value of an advertisement derives from its capacity to satisfy the needs of entertainment, evasion, fun and emotional release of customers (McQuail 1983). 

Customers can use SNSs to escape from boredom but, often, these sites represent a part of their daily routine. Lull (1980) proposed a classification of utilitarian and hedonic motivations in media use, distinguishing structural dimension (the use of a media to have information or entertainment), and relational dimension (use a media to facilitate relations or interpersonal communications). Although the theory had been conceived to explain the use of television and other old forms of media, in the late ‘90s it has also been applied to Internet world (1997 Eighmey, Eighmey and McCord 1998, Eighmey and Stafford 2004), viral advertising (Rodgers, Thorson 2000), mobile advertising (Peters, Amato, Hollenbeck 2007) and SNSs studies(Joinson 2008). 

But what is the content an advertisement should have? According to some authors, the advertisment become relevant just for its informative content (i.e a content that informs users about alternative products, social responsibility or environmental safeguard (Rotzoll, Haefner, Sondage 1990)). According to others, the advertisment has to show accurate representations of the products in order to guide the customer perception (Andrews 1989); the content of an advertisment, according to some scholars (Darley and Smith 1995), is perceived differently by men and women, as well as their motivations to use the Internet are different (Weiser 2000, Wolin and Korgaonkar 2003 ); from this point of view, the information is also relevant for SNSs contents that improve the possibility to have a good visibility trough different people gender. Men are more inclined to use the Internet for entertainment, while women use it to communicate or interact with others; also the idea each group has about privacy is different: women are in fact more predisposed to protect their privacy. At the same way, while adults care about the privacy invasion threatened by market and information researchs, on the contrary teenagers and young adults freely disclose personal and private information on SNSs (Barnes 2006). This reality creates, at the same time, an opportunity for firms and a risk for people; youngsters who become adults will have problems to shift their generality trough a more reserved profile and, maybe, they could become the target of different firms that know these people since their young age. Barnes (2006) called this situation the “privacy paradox”: the author argues that it occurs when users, especially teenagers, are not aware of the Internet nature. However, Acquisti and Gross (2006) explain this phenomenon as a disconnection between the users’ desire to protect their privacy and their effective behaviour: in the beginning, the SNSs have simply represented a means to send messages and view “friends’” photos, but later, many features have been added, including special interest groups (45 million in 2009), web links, news and blogs.

Managerial implications and practices

SNSs have not the same conformation all over the world although marketing goals are often the same in all countries: brand visibility, value and customer relation improvement, fidelization and loyalty to firm and to product/services. However in some countries we find different approaches that involve different types ofSNSs power. 

There are a lot of case studies containing different experiences in different countries around the world to discuss.

In China, for example, because of the government censure, relevant SNSs can not enter in the country and for this reason we just find the development of local social network as RenRen, Weibo, Qzone and others; although this online social networks are unknown all over the world, they have million of users in China.
The success of this social network is guaranteed and it represents an opportunity for firms that need advertising in Chinese market. Demographic data, in fact, underline that the number of Chinese web users has increased: from 265 milion in 2010 to 500 milion in 2011. Some of this social network, such as RenRen, Sina and Weibon are also quoted on the Stock Exchange… Here is a brief list of firms present on this social network: Lancome that guides the customers on the choice of beauty product, Louis Vuitton, that aim at high quality video, images and events to attract customers. This demonstrates that Chinese social network have the same function of western ones: young Chinese users speak with their contemporary through blogs and thanks to the advertisments inserted on them they become loyal to a certain brand or product.

There are other successful cases of traditional companies: 

  • FORD: when Ford entered for the second time the american market with “Fiesta Subcompact Car” model, it began a wide marketing campaign called “Fiesta Movement”. The video of Fiesta campaign have generated 6,5 milion of visualization on You Tube, and Ford has received 50.000 requests of information about the product, in particular from no-Ford-driver.
PepsiCO: PepsiCO used SNSs to find information about customers and it created a new brand for a new drink through a new campaign of promotion named DEWmocracyIn Italy we can find many cases of SNSs use in marketing strategies by Ikea, Media World, Euronics, La Feltrinelli. In particular OssCom, Cattolica University’s research centre of communication and media, and Digital PR, consulting agency of communication, have studied firms communication on social media in Italy; by monitoring the communication activity of 20 chain stores active at national level in sport, clothes, customer electronics, publishing and multimedia sector, they have drawn up a classification based on degree of exposition in social media, use of digital spacesand kind of interaction with customers.

In particular, the positioning of the firms has been influenced by the frequency of profile revisions, but also by the amount of Facebook comments and links or Twitter retweet. The research has underlined that the highest step on the podium belongs to Ikea that implements communications strategies through an intensive multiplatform involving Facebook, Twitter, You tube. Media World, Euronics and La feltrinelli implement similar strategies but they do not reach the same result of the Swedish brand. Ikea, in fact, gains success with its customers expecially through comment on the projects and suggestion on products and combinations. 

The most active sector on social media are that ones referred to furniture and bricolage, publishing and multimedia, customer and electronic field. These sectors, in fact, use to work on constricted geographical zones so that SNSs become useful in order to calibrate offers, customize promotions, etc. On the contrary, companies belonging to the clothing field, for example, as it is referred to a more global business, must take care of the relationship with a large amount of customers (which are different in each part of the world) and must also pay attention to the improvment of the brand reputation.

In short, nowdays, companies which use social media for their business can not focus their attention, as in the past, just on the product that must be sponsored, but they must demonstrate a capability in shifting their focus especially on the relation with customers and brand reputation.


1. Dardi F., Editore nei social media: incontrare i lettori nei social media, Apogeo, Milano 2011.
2. Cosenza V., Social Media Roi, Apogeo, Milano 2010.
3. The decrease in the use of Myspace, for example, is principally due to the presence of unwanted and unsolicited advertising messages (Vara 2006). Even Facebook has not been immune to the criticism about the use of advertising.


ACHROL, KOTLER(2006). “ The service-dominant logic for marketing. A critique”. In: Lusch, Vargo, S.L (eds):”The Service-Dominant Logic for marketing: dialog, debate and directions”. Armonk, NY:ME Sharpe, pp. 320-333.
ADREACTION (2010). “Brands + Customer+ Social Media: What Marketers Shoud Know About Who’s Getting Social and Why”. Dynamic Logic, January 26, 
ANDERSON, HAKANSSON, JOHANSON(1994). “ Dyadic Business Relationships Within a Business Network Context”. Journal of Marketing, 58( October), 1-15.
ANDREWS(1989). “ The Dimensionality of Beliefs Toward Advertising in General”. Journal of Advertising 18,1: 26-35.
AWAD(2006). “ The digital divide of word of mouth”. Proceedings of the First Midwest United States Association for Information Systems, Grand Rapids, MI(May 5-6).
BARNES, S.B. (2006), ‘A Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the United States’ First Monday, 11: 9, Accessed 21 July 2008.
BINKS, VAN MIERLO(2010). “ Utilization patterns and user characteristics of an ad libitum internet weight loss program”. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12(1).
BOYD, D.M. AND ELLISON, N.B. (2007), ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History,and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13: 1, article 11, Accessed 19 may 2012
BUCY (2003). “ The Interactivity Paradox: closer to the news but confused”. In: E.P Bucy& J.E. Newhagen(eds). Media Access: Social and Psychological Dimensions of New Technology Use. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp: 47-72.
CASTANEDA, MONTORO(2007). “ The Effect of Internet General Privacy Concern On Customer Behavior”. Electronic Commerce Research 7, 2 117-141.
CHETTY, WILSON(2003). “ Collaborating with Competitors To Acquire Resources”. International BusinessReview, 1(12), pp: 61-81.
COVIELLO, MUNRO(1995). “ Growing the Entrepreneurial Firms: Networking for Internal Market 
Development”. European Journal of Marketing, 29(7), pp: 49-61.
DARLEY, SMITH( 1995). “ Gender Differences in Information Processing Strategies: An Empirical Test of the Selectivity Model in Advertising response”. Journal of Advertising 24,1: 41-56.
DOBELE, ANGELA, ADAM LINDGREEN, MICHAEL BEVERLAND, JOELLE VANHAMME, ROBERT VAN WIJK(2007). “Why Pass On Viral Messages? Because they Connect Emotionally”. Business Horizons, 50(4), 291-304.
DRUCKER(1954). “ The Practice of Management”. Harper e Row: New York Eisenhardt, K.M(1989). “Building Theories From Case Study Research Academy of Managment Review”. VOL.14, NO.4, pp 532-550. 
ECKLER, BOLLS(2011). “ Spreading the Virus: Emotional Tone of Viral Advertising and its Effects on Forwarding Intentions and Attitude”. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 11(2).
EDWARDS, LEE(2002). “ Measuring the Intrusiveness of Advertisements: Scale Development and Validation”. Journal of Advertising 31, 2:37-47.
EIGHMEY, MCCORD(1998). “Adding Value in the Information Age: Uses and Gratifications of Sites in the World Wide Web”. Journal of the Business Research 41, 3:187-194.
EIGHMEY(1997). “ Profiling User Responses To Commercial Web Site”. Journal of Advertising Research 37, 3: 59-66.
ELLISON, STEINFIELD, LAMPE(2007). “ The Benefits of Facebook Friends’: Social Capital and College Students’ use of online SNS”. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).
FERNEY, MARSHALL(2006). “Website physical activity interventions: preferences and potential users”. HealthEducation Research. 21(4), pp: 560-566.
FETON(1959). “ Making The Marketing Concept Work”. Harvard Business Review. VOL.37, July-August, pp55-65.
FREEMAN(2010). “ A Model of Rapid Knowledge Development: The Smaller Born- Global- Firms”. International Business Review, 19(1), pp: 70-84. 
GAFFNEY(2001). “ The Battle Over Internet Ads”. Business 2.0 July 25(2001): 19-21.
GILMORE, CARSON(1999). “ Entrepreneurial Marketing by Networking”. New England Journal ofEntrepreneurship, 2(2), pp: 31-38.
GORDON, LIMA, TURNER(1997). “ Customer Attitudes Towards Internet Advertising: A Social Contract Prospective”. International Marketing Review 14,5: 362-375.
GRANOVETTER (1973). “ The strength of weak ties”. American Journal of Sociology, 78: 1360-1380.
GRANOVETTER(1974). “ Getting a job: A study of Contacts and Careers”. Harvard University Press, Boston MA.
GRANOVETTER, (1985). “ Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness”. American Journal of Sociology, 91( November), 481-510.
GRONROOS(2006). “ What we can service logic offer marketing theory?”. In: Lusch, Vargo, S.L (eds): “ The Service-Dominant Logic for marketing: dialog, debate and directions”. Armonk, NY:ME Sharpe, pp.354-364.
GUMMESSON(2006). “Many- to many marketing as grand theory”. In: Lusch, Vargo, S.L (eds):” The Service- Dominant Logic for marketing: dialog, debate and directions”. Armonk, NY:ME Sharpe, pp. 339-353.
HOANG, ANTONCIC(2003). “ Network- Based Research in Entrepreneurship: A Critical Review”. Journal ofBusiness Venturing, 18(2), pp: 165-187.
HU, SUNDER(2010). “ Effects of online sources on credibility and health behavioral intentions”. Communications Research, 37(1), pp: 105-132.
JOHANSON, VAHLNE(2003). “ Business Relationships Learning and Commitment in the Internationalization Process”. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 83-101.
JOHNSTON, JONES(2003). “Service Productivity: Towards Understanding The Relationship between Operational and Customer Productivity”. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Managment. VOL. 53, NO. 3, pp 201-213.
JOINSON(2008). “ Looking At, Looking Up or Keeping Up With People: Motives and Use of Facebook”. Proceedings of the 26th Annual SIGCHI Conference Human Factors in Computing Systems, Gauthersburg.
JORK(2009). “ Red Robin Calls in a Facebook Favour from 1500 Fans: Casual- Dining Chain Uses Reccommendation App To Turn Passive Customers into Brand Ambassadors”. Adweek ,September 28(2009): 20. 
KALYANARAMAN, SUNDAR(2003). “ The Psychological appeal of personalized online content: an experimental investigation of customized web portal”. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Communication Association, san Diego, May.
KATZ, FOUKLES(1962). “ On The Use of the Mass Media As Escape: Clarification of a Concept”. The PublicOpinion Quarterly 26,3: 377-388.
KOPLAN, ANDREAS M, MICHAEL HAENLEIN (2010). “ Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media”. Business of Horizons, 53(1), 59-68.
KOTLER, LEE(2007). Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
KREUTER(1999). “ Understanding how people process health information: a comparison of tailored and untailored weight loss materials”. Health Psychology, 18(5), pp: 1-8.
LARSON (1992). “ Network Dyads in Entrepreneurial Settings: A Study of the Governance of Exchange Relationships”. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37(1), 76-104.
Lechner, Dowling (2003). “ Firm networks: external relationships as sources for the growth and competitiveness of entrepreneurial firms”. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 15, 1-26.
LEVITT(1960). “Marketing Myopia”. Harvard Business Review.July-August, pp 45-56.
LULL(1980). “ The Social Uses of Television”. Human Communication Research 6,3: 197-209.
MALAFARINA, LOKEN(1983). “ Progress and limitations of social marketing: a review of empirical literature on the consumption of social ideas”. Advances in Customer Research, 20(1), pp: 397-404
MATHEWS(2000). “Advertisers Find Many Web Sites Too Tasteless”. Wall Street Journal October 12 (2000):B1.
MCGOVERN(2007). “ Transport Behavior: a role for social marketing”. Journal of Nonprofit and Public SectorMarketing, 17(1/2), pp:121-134.
MCQUAIL(1983). Mass Communication Theory. London: Longman.
MICHEL, BROWN, GALLAN(2008).”An Expanded and Strategic view of discontinuous innovations: deploying a service- dominant logic”. Journal of Academy of Marketing Science. VOL. 36, NO. 1, pp 54-66
MILNE(2000).” Privacy and Ethical Issues in Database Interactive Marketing and Public Policy: A Research Framework and Overview of the Special Issue”. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 19,1: 1-6.
MORRISEY(2009). “ Brands Seek Fans on Advertising “. Adweek, October 12(2009).
NIELSENWIRE.” Led by Facebook, Twitter, Global Time Spent on social Media Sites up 82 Percent Year over Year”.
O’DONNELL(2001). “ The Network Construct in Entrepreneurship Research: A Review and Critique”. Management Decision, 39(9), pp: 749-760.
PECHMAN(2002). “ Overview of the special issue on social marketing initiatives”. Journal of the Public Policyand marketing, 21(1), pp: 1-2.
PETERS, AMATO, HOLLENBECK(2007). “ An Exploratory Investigation of Customers Perceptions of Wireless Advertising”. Journal of Advertising 36,4: 129-145.
PORTER, GOLAN(2006). “ From Subservient Chickens to Brawnymen: A Comparison of Viral Advertising to Television Advertising”. Journal of InteractiveAdvertising, 6(2).
RODGERS, THORSON(2000). “ The Interactive Advertising Model: How Users Perceive and Process Online Ads”. Journal of Interactive Advertising 1,1: 26-50.
RODIE, KLEIN(2000). “Customer Partecipation in Services Production and Delivery”. In: Swartz, T. e Iacobucci, D. (eds).” Handbook of Services Marketing Management”. Thousand Oaks, CA: sage, pp 111-125
ROTZOLL, HAEFNER, SONDAGE(1990). “ Advertising in Contemporary Society”. Cincinnati OH: South Western
ROXANEDIVOL, DAVID EDELMAN, HUGO SARRAZIN. “ Marketing and Sales Practice”. 
SHANE, VENKATARAMAN (2000). “ The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research”. Academy of Management Review 25, 217-226.
SONG, ZINKHAU(2008). “ Determinants of perceived web site interactivity”. Journal of Marketing, pp: 99-113.
STAFFORD(2008). “ Social And Usage- Process Motivation for Customer Internet Access”. Journal ofOrganizational & End User Computing 20,3: 1-21.
STAFFORD, SCHKADE(2004). “ Determing Uses and Gratification for the Internet”. Decision Science 35,2: 259-288. 
STAFFORD(2000). “ Identifying The Users and Gratifications of Web Use”. Proceedings of the 2000 Conferenceof the American Academy of Advertising. Beachwood, OH: American Academy of Advertising. 
STEUER(1992). “ Defining Virtual Reality: dimensions determining telepresence”. Journal of Communication,pp: 73-93. 
VARA(2006). “ Myspace, Bye Space: Some Users Renounce Social Sites as Too Big”. Wall Street Journal October 26(2006): B1.
VARGO, LUSCH(2004). “Evolving The New Dominant Logic for Marketing”. Journal of Marketing. VOL. 68, NO.1, PP 1-17.
Venkataraman (1997). “ The distinctive domain of entrepreneurship research: an editor’s prospective”. In: Katz, Brockhaus ( Eds), Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth. JAI Press, Greenwich CT.
WEISER(2000). “ Gender Differences in Internet Use Patterns and Internet Application Preferences: A Two-Sample Comparison”. CyberPsychology& Behavior 3,2: 167-178.
WEISS(2008). “ Listening To Strangers: whose responses are valuable, how valuable are they, and why?”. Journal of marketing Research, 45(4), pp: 425-436.
WIEBE(1951). “ Merchandising commodities and citizeniship on television”. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15(4), pp: 679-691.
WIND, RANGASWAMY(2001). “ Customization: the next revolution in mass customization”. Journal ofInteractive Marketing, 15(1), pp: 13-32.
WOLIN, KORGAONKAR(2003). “ web Advertising: Gender Differences in Beliefs, Attitudes and Behavior”. Internet Research 13,5: 375-385.


A person as a member of society is generally known to require knowledge – information necessary for personal development and socialization. In the 21st century, the main tool of social informatization and globalization of social processes is no longer the mass media but the Internet – the worldwide network of interconnected computers. The Internet is the global computer network based on the smaller local networks. Initially, the main function of the Internet initially was the exchange of information between the computers connected to the network. Presently, the Internet represents an international computer network that interconnects different kinds of users such as governmental organizations, educational institutes, libraries, corporations, private individuals etc. From its initial main function of optimizing the exchange of a great amount of information, the Internet has developed into the main communication medium for virtually the entire world.

Internet communication has been researched by such scholars as A. Toffler, N. Luman, M. Castells, J. Habermas, and U. Eco, among others. Their research allows us to conclude that this new informational technology is the most important tool of interaction between individuals. And the Internet also facilitates self-expression of a person that can only happen through socialization, according to the social communication expression researchers (symbolic interactionism – J. Mead, H. Blumer and others, phenomenology – H. Garfinkel, А. Schutz and others, dialogism – M. Bakhtin, М. Buber and others, post-modernism – J. Baudrillard, J. Lyotard and others). Thus far, the most important reason for the transformation of the Internet from a tool of information exchange and processing to a broader communication environment lies in human nature and psychology. 

The process of communication is the main anthropological practice since it provides personality development as opposed to plain possession of information. Communication is the basis of personality self-identification and self-expression by means provided by society and technical progress [1]. According to М. McLuhan, communication technologies determine social systems formation. McLuhan also assumes “the Gutenberg galaxy”, the era of typography to die out and be replaced by the era of the audiovisual sensitive post-written culture based on the electronic video technologies that inevitably leads to the literature decline [2]. U. Eco, on the other hand, points out that the leading role of the text in cyberspace is a quasi-return to the written culture, and therefore, to Gutenberg. 

Combining the main features and functions of the TV set and those of the printing machine, the Internet has become a global informational communicational environment, an alternative to objective reality and possessing great potential in influencing and altering the objective world. Technically built virtuality becomes the location of objective things and phenomena, which cannot be found together in the real world [3]. Therefore, a new type of the so-called symbolic life of a personality, culture and society has been developed. This new type becomes the main framework for all other types of life.

The communicative function of the Internet as prevailing caused the development of the new virtual communication genres that are widely used nowadays: Internet Relay Chats (IRCs), I Seek You Service (ICQ), forums, conferences etc. An informational resource has a feedback function that enables a user to leave a request or a comment or to invite another user or the author into discussion.

Wide distribution and popularization of different communicative genres attract many users of different nationalities, genders, ages, social layers and religions and turn a dialogue into a polylogue. The short period of communication euphoria seemed to claim that the technical characteristics of the communication model of the Internet such as interactivity, unlimited amount of contacts, anonymity, freedom of speech and self-expression, abolishment of social limits would bring a revolution of personality consciousness. Instead of the global social unity, the Internet gave birth to another strict socially-differentiated system than the one existing in the real world. The nature of the Internet communication model created Internet-communities with rigid rules, ethics and language, closed corporate structures with limited access, its own agents, life principles, subordination and regulations.

Like other virtualities in anthropological practice, the Internet is another stage of personality and societal development. Compared to other kinds of virtuality, however, it is a technology that absorbs all things in existence and alters them in accordance with its symbolic nature. In its swift and persistent development the Internet has changed its status from informational anthropological practice or communicative environment to another being. According to Bergelson, rapid development of Internet technology and its persistently growing social significance is a cliché that marks “the high degree of penetration of a certain idea into the social consciousness regardless the current situation that this idea portrays” [4]. 

What are the points that determine the Internet communication as a specific form of being? A survey of existing research sorts out three basic features. The first feature is a virtual personality (VP) as a product of activity of a real individual or the net reconstruction of personal and social identities. The VP expressed itself using lingua-cultural self-presentation adequate to the discourses of the communicative situations in the Internet.

The second feature is the language used for such communication. Finally, the formation of “the framework,” which is a set of nonverbalized regulations, norms and traditions of the web interaction.

The technical characteristics of Internet communication appear to be invariable burdening factors as they are initial basic conditions of the personality existence that cannot be changed. In the beginning there were no specific purposes of Internet technology usage, no ways of self-expression or self-fulfillment of a personality in the set conditions. This circumstance has automatically caused a necessity for a search that has created an illusion of chaos as it is built from an intellectual and emotional activity. The chaos naturally tended to develop into a self-organizing and self-developing organism and thereby has gained a name of the virtual community. 

On the Internet, public space invades personal space that widens to the size of the universe so the inner and outer space become one. It is no surprise that in the research of the Internet as a cultural phenomenon, the leading part belongs to the philosophers of postmodernism. It becomes even clearer when the Internet is taken as a main form of existence of postmodern society where philosophy is postmodernism [5]. The most essential feature of postmodernism is erasing the line between art and everyday life, elite culture and pop-culture, eclectics and styles fusion. Postmodernism is a fusion of incongruities. Chaos theory is a striking example of postmodernism in science that erases the lines between the examination of the phenomenon from the point of view of physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology. Thereby, the postmodernism philosophy could be examined as a methodology of chaos theory [6]. Postmodernism is distinguished by polysemy, pluralism, doubt, detachment, irony, transformation of reality into an image, reflection, citation and self-citation, fortuity and ambivalence, aspiration to disorder. It brings the problem of reality loss, otherwise known as “the death of the real” or “the kingdom of the simulacrum”. 

However, fusion and erasing of borders are cause for the search of the relative points of stability that make self-identification possible and organize the chaos by turning it into a complicated organism of informational society with the virtual superstructure that interprets the events and regulations of the real world. The superstructure develops up to the level where it is capable of self-education, becoming independent it produces a product of original art of the individuals that the virtual community consists of.

The following points support this statement: 
1. Synchronic and diachronic development of the network environment.
2. Many-dimensionality of the informational-communicational environment.
3. Formalization of the language.
4. Netiquette.

What follows is an elaboration on each point.
1. New communities, groups, communicative genres and styles of communication that determine diachronic development of the Internet technology appear constantly.
2. The whole network is constructed according to the principle of nonlinearity. Hypertext is a basis of the Internet structure that is constructed according to the principle of associative thinking [7]. The given many-dimensional structure opens immediate access to all levels of information.
3. Many graphic symbols and abbreviations lose their etymology and transform into formalized signs that mark communicative situations. Such phenomena are typical for an originally developing language.
4. Netiquette is a set of nonverbalized regulations and norms of behavior adopted by the users in the process of electronic communication. In the same way the rules of etiquette accepted in a culture are adopted in the process of real communication. 

According to K. Cherry “we gain experience in understanding these forms as they appear and trace their structure, rules and regularities. It is how reality appears from chaos” [8]. The Internet communication and the level of its development and significance for a person is grounds for comparison of reality and virtuality.

The research on Internet technologies in different fields such as psychology, sociology, linguistics and others concludes that modern form of this technology works as a distorting mirror that refracts the reality. A closer look at this idea reveals that the research of the question of motivation for using the Internet provides the following interesting factors:
1. Immateriality – the absence of the physical aspect of perception of a person.
2. Social gradation and conventions corresponding to it.
3. Unlimited number of contacts and its independence from time and location.
4. Anonymity.
5. Limited emotionality that doesn’t muddle a message and makes self-expression more effective. [9]

It is not difficult to understand why these factors are the most attractive for a person. They all build a situation of communicative intensity; they are the most important in the process of communication and, therefore, they represent the risk factors that influence the success of the communication. In real communication too much attention is paid to physical and social aspects that almost always condition the nature of the communication before it starts.

These aspects are external (in both a direct and indirect sense) and important for an opponent, but the specifically personal aspect represented by anonymity and limited emotionality is internal and conditions the behavior in the process of communication. Thus, electronic communicative practice is an attempt to get rid of the burdensome factors of reality that immediately affect the process of communication and its result. An individual feels highly excited upon entering the electronically communicative environment for the first time due to the cancellation of conventions and perceived freedom of self-expression. However, as time passes, the participant of the Internet-communication faces the problems of a no less serious sort as those he left behind in the real world. The peculiarities of the electronic form of being that seemed to be advantages turn into extreme disadvantages. Immateriality and anonymity, the absence of social belonging deprives an individual of a crisp image and reduces himself by turning him into a symbolic person, “one of many others” that constantly changes and does not stick in the mind. A deprivation of natural individual emotional expression leads to a deprivation of full self-expression that turns an individual into an image created on the basis of an experience and stereotypes. 

Thereby, resuming the above, the Internet causes transformation in physical, psychological and social components of a personality, leading to dangerous effects of new types of communication and, potentially, personality disorders. Escaping the defects of reality a person faces more serious problems in the virtual environment that cannot be fixed without personal changes.

1. Луман Н. Что такое коммуникация / Пер. с нем. Д.В. Озирченко // Социологический журнал. – 1995. – № 3. 
2. McLuhan H. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, New York:Bantam, 1967. – С. 2
3. Иванов Д. В… Виртуализация общества. Версия 2.0. СПб.: «Петербургское Востоковедение», 2000. – 96 с.
4. Белинская Е.П. Социальная психология личности / Е.П. Белинская, О.А. Тихомандрицкая. – М.: Аспект Пресс, 2001. – 301 с.
5. Абрахам Ф., Митина О., Хьюстон Д. Теория хаоса и интернет в эпоху постмодерна \\ Компьютерра. – №28 (357). – 2000.
6. Кайо Р. Миф и человек. Человек и сакральное. М.: «ОГИ», 2003
7. Bush, V. (1991). As we may think. Reprinted from the Atlantic Monthly. – № 176 (1) (1945). – P. 641–649.
8. Черри К. Человек и информация. – М..1972. – 269 с.
9. Suler, J. R (2004). Computer and cyberspace addiction. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. – № 1. – P. 359–362.

Art Museum: Temple or Forum?


This paper focuses on the problem of attracting young people to the art museums at the age of computers. Why should a young man stay in a line and pay money to see such moving expositions if he can just go on the Internet and get it for free all at once? What kind of motivation is he supposed to have in order to be immune to the temptation to use new media?

This issue has generated socio-cultural polemic around the process of ‘democratization of the cultural legacy’ and has become the basis for re-evaluating the essence and purpose of a museum as a social institution.

The author comes to the conclusion that young people expect a museum to be a temple and a forum, but not limited and anonymous. New media are not an alternative or a threat to museums. As usually, the human factor is key. New media technologies provide unlimited excess to everything and, along with that, create problems for a museum as a cultural institution. But they also offer limitless new opportunities for everybody -professionals and the whole society- and these opportunities should be used productively in order to create and transfer cultural memory and true art.

Once one has had an opportunity to see a ‘live’ exposition of Botticelli’s illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy or Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus in the unique atmosphere of a museum, he will always be in need of a museum environment. There is a problem connected with the fact that most young people see art and acknowledge masterpieces only (or, at least, for the first time) on their computer screens, which do not provide the sense of reality and texture. The question is whether even the newest technologies – such as new media – are capable of communicating the feeling of ‘touching’ a genius painting drawn with a pen on a thin, almost transparent piece of paper by an artist who had determined the way of development for our civilization ages ago.
Moving the most precious, or should we say, priceless museum collections from one place to another all over the world is a common practice nowadays. But why should a young man stay in a line and pay money to see such moving expositions if he can just go on the Internet and get it for free all at once? What kind of motivation is he supposed to have in order to be immune to the temptation to use new media? 

It is a rare young person who knows that in 1936 a German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, [1] proposed that pieces of art would lose their aura when they became technically replicated: ‘it seems like ‘Museum-Temple’ has no future’ he admitted. Ten years later, French writer and culture expert André Malraux [2] proposed his concept of the ‘Imaginary Museum’ as a ‘realistic’, profoundly positive, and democratic perspective for a traditional art museum. Malraux’s ‘Imaginary Museum’ is a museum of art replicas outside of their historical context. These replicas are so well-known that they do not require comment. It seems like such a museum is open to anyone and does not need a ‘Forum’.

Through to this day, these ideas have generated socio-cultural polemic around the process of ‘democratization of the cultural legacy’ and are the basis for re-evaluating the essence and purpose of a museum as a social institution. At the same time, the practice makes it clear that museums remain attractive especially to youth. According to the results of some surveys, the number of museum visitors has exceeded the number of football match spectators in Germany over the last decade. [3]

How can this phenomenon be interpreted under the circumstances of ‘endless opportunities’ of the new media to create ‘imaginary museums’? Based on a semiotic analysis of changes at an art museum in the context of new media technologies, on an analysis of the opinions of famous philosophers and museum experts, as well as on my own experience I tried to outline the prospects for a museum in the computer age in my book Dynamics of a Modern Museum [4]. 

Despite the fast development of new media technologies, the essence and objectives of a museum remain those of the ‘pre-new media’ age: technology is not only incapable of replacing museums, but with every progressive step it proposes new challenges which make museums respond and, as a result, develop. This tendency is obviously seen in the attitude of the youth audience. According to the tradition of ‘new museology’, formed in the 70s, with its tendency to communicate with an audience and to use new logistics, an art museum tries to cope effectively with a new socio-cultural situation determined by the appearance of new media. Consequently, it turns not only into a place for researching, preserving, and reconstructing certain historical situations, but also into a place for exposing art — a kind of ‘temple and forum’, a mediator and place for bringing together professionals and lay people.

It goes without saying that a museum, as an institution of ‘sorted out’ and regulated exposition as it was created during the Age of Enlightenment, is no longer attractive to the majority of young people. There is an opinion that the culture of youth is not ‘historically oriented’ [5]. The domination of mass culture, global informatization, and development of technology create such an environment in which a museum must correlate with the thesaurus of its audience and transform itself from a place of etiquette instruction into a place for art interpretation. It must be able not only to ‘inform’ and ‘show,’ but to evoke interest and create conditions for individual evaluation of the observed artwork. 
Now let us go back to the Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex: it is exhibited in a museum room, spotted by a beam of light in which one can see the transparent structure of the paper and whimsical pen graphics left by Leonardo. It feels like a Temple… In the next room there is a computer, which helps one to learn the story of Leonardo’s mirror writing, and to see and to understand a sample of it in any language in the world. In addition, a visitor can relax in the hall, lie down, meditate, listen to music, socialize… Is this a Temple or a Forum? The answer is both: It is a Museum.
A person will always return to a place where his emotional sphere was affected. The issue is to find a way to make that person believe that the real experience of interacting with art at a museum is so amazing and different from a virtual experience that he should try it himself in order to get new feelings and form his personal opinion. 

At the time of the global problem of free music and movie downloading on the Internet, it seems like museums do not have such issues. Anyone who visits museums from time to time recognizes that a Repin or a Rauschenberg (not to mention any kind of installation) can never be an object for Internet piracy. On the other hand, someone who has never been to a museum lacks the proper experience necessary to understand that Google art project ( may just simulate a museum environment, but will never replace it [6]. 

Internetization of the museum space and its accessibility to anyone lead to users’ two-dimensional perception and their ‘satisfaction in advance,’ instead of stimulating their interest in art.

Yuri Lotman used the ‘museum’ metaphor to explain the term ‘semio-sphere’[7]. According to this explanation, a museum incarnates true organization and systematization. All the exhibit items have their ‘labels’ (which actually correlates to the concept of the ‘digital’ NET-Museum). New beautiful paintings keep being delivered here. The behavior of visitors is perfectly regulated here, but if visitors do not come, all those rules will not mean anything. In order for a semio-sphere, as well as for a museum to exist, people with their semiotic worlds are needed. Those worlds compose one common, real, museum space.

Entrance to the Internet-Museum is anonymous and might be even accidental. But even that kind of museum needs social attendance and real feedback [8]. When people come to a real museum they do it on purpose. They come with certain expectations based on their core knowledge and esthetic experiences. The opportunity to meet their expectations or even to exceed them is real here. Communication of the modern art museum focuses on such expectations and knowledge, especially of the young visitors. 

The art museum, meta-discourse influences current art practice. For instance, Anna Karamitova [9] explains why young people’s art needs new technologies and new media: ‘It is natural that, unlike a museum hall, the Internet platform is more accessible for young artists, who work with new technologies. Using the Internet, in a short period of time an artist can put his masterpiece on display for an unlimited audience, without any agents, with no local parameters. But this ‘endless generosity’ leads to the problem of finding some particular work on the Net, because the works digital character allows them to be spread globally, avoiding transportation coasts and logistics. (…) After interviewing video-artists, I can say that the most attractive substance for them to work with is ‘time,’ as it has become more real than ever due to the ‘new’ technologies. (…) The opportunity to express the process itself attracts many artists. But there is another issue we should not forget about: digital art is perceived very light-mindedly and casually by the audience’. 

Obviously, that is not satisfying for many young people, and they are ready to look for, and to find, ‘real’ ways to express themselves artistically: ‘Why are young people always supposed to use the Internet when they want to show anything? On YouTube, for example. Just because almost everyone is on the Internet? Why do we not have real places to show our work?’ [10] 
Innovation and provocation always go together with the ‘art vs art museum’ opposition. But when it comes to new ‘art technologies,’ (from video-art to Internet art) the relationship between art and art museum becomes more complicated, as there are no firm criteria to evaluate those forms of art and to develop conditions of presenting those forms in a museum. For instance, the existence of the Internet art items online depends on the relevance of the net-technologies used in creating them. But the digital world – media and nets – keeps changing all the time and there is a real possibility that they will remain only in museum archives and published books. 

This problem, however, might have a solution in the future. In the meantime, the new media art is being realized occasionally as a ‘Festival event’. This partially explains the not only critical, but even depressive and destructive, attitude of young ‘non-traditional’ artists who do not have access to museums as authors. They do not have criteria for comparison; they do not follow any ‘norms’ and canons in art. The famous ‘Fountain’ by Marcel Duchan is a perfect example of such destructive self-expression: it appears as a real urinal with the author’s autograph and the date on it. 

Art does not have to meet the demands of the audience. The same is not true for a museum. New technologies can provide art with new opportunities and means of artistic self-expression and communication through desire for provocation. A very bright example here is art festival ‘Transmediale 2012’ ( [11]. It shows that there are no value references in the works of young people using new media. Moreover, in order to attract audiences’ interest they consciously use new technologies to appeal to negative emotions. And visitors love it! [12]

The ‘Berlin Gallery’ Museum (BG) [13] proposes an alternative perspective with the creation of the ‘IBB-Video Lounge 12x12’. [14] Over the course of the year, the works of 12 authors, who appealed to such innovative technologies as video and media film, have been exhibited here. The series of works belong to both acknowledged artists and new ones. This corresponds to the BG’s overarching model of showing only Berlin art and providing artists and audiences of different generations with the opportunity to meet each other. Remaining relevant, the program of the museum (as well as of many supporting initiatives) helps to attract more and more young visitors. [15] 

The Long Night of Museums is another good example which illustrates why young people come to museums [16]. The project began in 1997 with the purpose to improve museum statistics. Since that time, twice a year it gathers thousands of Berliners and tourists who patiently wait in lines to enter museums where ‘museum objects have their special uniqueness’ [17]. Highly specialized museum staff mediate through cognitive, interactive, and synthetic forms of communication. 
During this night many young people visit museums for the first time. They are intrigued by the opportunity to spend the night not ‘partying’ or sitting in front of a computer screen. Naturally some visitors come circumstantially. But there is a good chance that many will come again and again to see new collections and exhibitions.
The Long Night of Museums’s statistics [18] clearly shows that the majority of visitors belongs to the medium-age group (20 to 40 years old) and has secondary and higher education. Every one of them uses a computer at work and in everyday life but only 9% pay attention to cultural Internet content! Even fewer young people go to museums after satisfying their interest toward art online. Often they do not have any intelligible criteria for selection: ‘despite great amounts of information one still feels absolutely uninformed’; ‘it is hard to choose, having so many options’; ‘if the Internet cannot provide one with anything, then how one can find any information’? [19] The Web seems to be very tangled concerning museum proposals, especially for those who would want to use them on regular basis. It is more convenient to use the Internet when looking for some applicative information or a particular event. For instance, when buying tickets for certain dates and places. That is what the web portal of the Berlin Museum was created for: to navigate and guide potential and current visitors. Not to be an alternative to the real museum [20].

So what is the main interest factor for young people in museums? Obviously, it is the real socio-cultural environment which includes family and friends. Young people usually respond to the personal experience of close contacts: something said by friends or advised by parents. ‘You can get a lot, being a part of the right environment. You can learn nothing being an outsider’ [21]. Practice proves that the first things young people feel in need of are direct communication and exchanging ideas and thoughts- interactive events they can be part of. They expect it to be provided by museums: ‘I get interested in something explained by its creator’; ‘I like watching different people and sharing something with them’; ‘I need someone to go to a museum with me, because I do not want to go there by myself’; ‘I want a less distant atmosphere and less isolation from the other visitors’; ‘I need to get out of my room’ [22]. 

In conclusion we can see that neither new technologies, nor special weekend offers determine young people’s interest in museums. They need uniqueness as something special, different from everyday norms of behavior and conservative museum messages. It is a fact that new technologies cannot solve all the problems connected with stimulating young people’s interest in museums and culture-related events. But they certainly are not the reason why young people do not feel motivated to study history, recognize cultural identity, and satisfy esthetic needs. A museum changes its public space according to new technologies, but these technologies cannot change the essence of its existence, which is the transfer of the cultural memory to future generations. 

Young people expect a museum to be a temple and a forum, but not limited and anonymous. New media are not an alternative or a threat to museums. As usually, the human factor is key. New media technologies provide unlimited excess to everything and, along with that, create problems for a museum as a cultural institution. But they also offer limitless new opportunities for everybody -professionals and the whole society- and these opportunities should be used productively in order to create and transfer cultural memory and true art. 

In this regard, the conference ‘Influence of New Media on Consciousness and Behavior of Young People’ is very significant in terms of its relevance and complex theme, its interdisciplinary approach, and possible ways of solving represented problems.


1. Walter Benjamin, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’) in: Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 
2. André Malraux (Psychologie de l'Art: Le Musée imaginaire — La Création artistique — La Monnaie de l'absolu, 1947-1948-1950). 
3. Tatyana Kalugina, Art Museum as a Cultural. — 
4. Vesela Losanova, The Dynamic of the Modern Museum, 1999. 
5. Das 1. Jugendkulturbarometer „Zwischen Eminem und Picasso“ wurde 2004 von Susanne Keuchel und Andreas Johannes Wiesand vom Zentrum für Kulturforschung in Bonn herausgegeben und lässt sich von der Internetseite des
The First Barometer of the Youth Culture ‘Between Eminem and Picasso’, published in 2004 in The Center of Cultural Research in Bonn. 
6. February the 1st, 2011 the Google Art project ( started. ‘It provides excess to the largest international art museums’. At the moment, anyone who has the Internet excess can ‘open and see’ Alte National Galerie (Old National Gallery in Berlin) ( and 151 other museums of the world and can ‘see’ more than 30000 works of art’ (…). It reminds of ‘Street View in 3D’. On one hand, it ‘helps to spread culture legacy which becomes ‘accessible’ in any place at any time’ (Wieland Holfelder, the Head of the Google Center of Development in Munchen); on the other, according to Dirk Burghardt, the Executive of the Dresden State Art Collections, ‘the project will help to preserve the Rafael’s Sixtine Madonna that will turn 500 this year. However, it will just accompany the museum as ‘it is not the same with as actual visit at the museum or the influence of an original’. 
7. Yuri Lotman 
8. There is a peculiar that the DAM project (Digital Art Museum) (, which started in 1956 with the objective of video art demonstration and later of using computers for creating art, opened its own real gallery in Berlin in 2003( also in Köln since 2010). 
9. Anna Karamitova, Email-Interview, 26.04. 2012, Quelle bei der Autorin 
10. Susanne Keuchel, Andreas Johannes Wiesand 2004
11. Transmediale ( is a 25 year old international project in Berlin which connects young artists and organizes annual events (for example, ‘McLuhan’ in Europe in 2011 ). The event is an alternative to a museum and became popular among young people. 
12., The fact that this phenomenon characterizes social psychology of our society is an important issue for a discussion. 
13. Bеrlinische Galerie — National Museum of Contemporary Art, Photography, and Architecture (
14. (
15. BG’s statistics.
17. Interview with Wolf Kühnelt, founder and head of the Long Night of Museums:
18. The Long Night of Museums
19. Susanne Keuchel und Andreas Johannes Wiesand, 2004 
21. Keuchel, Wiesand 2004
22. Keuchel, Wiesand 2004

Social Media and Value Dilemmas of Digital Culture: Future Trends for the New Generation

For the purpose of the “Connect-Universum 2012” conference presentation I would like to structure my talk with several points or theses, hoping that this bullet style logic will help to make my ideas clear. This paper is based on my ongoing research in the field of culture and technology, which I prefer to conceptualize as Digital Culture studies (works of C.Gere and D.Trend must be referred here as an important contribution to the field). Thus whenever we ask about different digital technology phenomenon in the context of social, cultural or psychological agenda, digital culture is the framework for shaping discussion. That’s why the first point is the following.

1. Social Media (SM) must be considered and analyzed in the broader context of digital culture.
It is hard to disagree that new media mark a significant generation shift from the old media – television, radio, printing press, home video, LP and tape recording, printed photography – to the new media: personal computer and its versions in the form of mobile devices, the Internet, on-line social networks, digital photography, electronic documents, digital video and audio recording etc. Following McLuhan's idea of media as extension of man (МcLuhan, 2001), we can say that those who grew up in 2000s are much more electronically extended humans in terms of access to data and social involvement via popular Internet services like or (in Russia).

2. Digital culture is based on totality of digital technology and reveals itself on several levels: material (things, gadgets, technological systems), symbolic (languages, signs, form of communication), social (institutions, functions, communities), mental (cognitive structures, identities, stereotypes) and values.

This multilevel model of culture is adapted from cultural theory and social anthropology. Rejecting reductionist view of culture only as a material or mental or social (institutional) phenomenon, we insist on integrated approach presented in this paper (se Pic.1). Why integrated? The reason is totality of digital technology in our everyday life from smartphones or office desktop PC to Internet communication, from digital photo camera to iPod player, from videogame system to automatic computer system in our car.

3. Social media are strongly interconnected with other phenomenon of digital culture, such as videogames, personal computer and its mobile modifications, software, artificial intelligence, the Internet and virtual community.

This point is just further development of the previous. So called social media are impossible without the Internet as such, special and instrumental software applications, re-mediation of old media (photography, video, audio recording, printed word etc.), digital gadgets of any kind, videogames and upcoming artificial intelligence software to support data management in the endlessly growing cyberspace. In this configuration social media take us to the unique set of technologies of communication never existed before.

4. An influence and impact of SM is and will be defined by value dilemmas of digital culture and ways to resolve these dilemmas is a key for the future of Social Media. We bring this argument because digital culture has inherent value dualism which is controversial relation between neoliberal consensus and nature of computer technology itself – the control system or system of control.

The neo-liberal consensus is dominant ideological set of values that defines specific value of information technology – freedom of information. In this context digital culture is shaped by appreciation of free access to information, user centered market of IT services and products, absence of governmental control over the Internet (strongly supported by global IT community) and copyright so-called creative commons regulation of the digital content. The major parties of this consensus are IT-businesses, virtual community, entertainment industries, governments and international non-profits.

On the over side of the coin there is a “hidden catch” – the nature of computer technology itself that is control. We say nature, because the origin of digital technology is the science of control – cybernetics, system of military control – DARPA style advanced techno-militarism, capitalism — corporate control of production and markets (Pic.4, see also Gere, 2002). These are all roots of computer technology in XX-th century before any liberal consensus about it became possible.

Being controversial itself, digital culture provokes value tensions or what we call dilemmas. On the Pic.5 you can see a list of them.

Let us start with the controversy Individualism vs. Cooperation in virtual community. We know that key values of the Western civilization are centered on individualism – the existence of free autonomous individual who is the proper owner of the human rights. We also know that this idea is doubtful somehow because collective nature of society is an obvious fact and it is more correct to talk about balance between individual and collective elements of society (Etzioni, 2001).

What we see in the use of social media is celebration of collective life and cooperation. New generation learns how to live with hundreds of friends on-line expressing yourself and sharing what is important in your everyday life. Yes, CM is for individual use and profiling. But even simple gesture of liking makes you expressing you self and experiencing togetherness not individual power. In 10 or 20 years social media will become a heavy challenge for individualistic values of the West. What we should expect is the virtual community becoming a new source of norms and social integration equalizing takeovers of individualism and atomization.

The most important controversy is the border of privacy and private life. The global village of social media is fundamentally anti-private. This idea is attributed most often to the founder of the Facebook – Marc Zuckerberg. SM are not for hiding but presenting and exposing yourself: where you are and where you’ve been, who you are with (friend, colleague, in relationship), what you like etc. Anyone in the world can find you and get to know you somehow. The more you transparently collective the more you are social human being in social media world.

From this point we are moving to the next dilemma – Transparency vs. Total control. The more you are exposed to the world in the form of digital data the more controllable you become for government and corporations. Electronic visibility of individuals and organizations is often called transparency. For example, the system of electronic government is supposed to make political authorities more transparent and reachable for people. Fellow citizens can easily find out anything they want about any official or legislation. However, government and corporations can easily watch and control you with databases, video surveillance etc. Somehow transparency becomes watching the watcher circuit. The latest example in the realm of SM is WiKiLeaks. Did they push too far to make US government more transparent or they are right showing how politics operates indeed? Another example is well known anti-corruption project in Russia based on transparent data about governmental contracts it makes public all suspicious and illegal cases of potentially corrupted deals. Anyway, social media construct new transparent world and conflict between media based transparency of government, social institutions, private life and technologies of total surveillance and control will become unpredictable.

Another very strong value dilemma is Private property vs. Freedom of creation. In terms of copyright violation, virtual community and social media are key elements of so-called piracy or pirate use of digital content. As we mentioned above, SM is about sharing content. Transparent collective existence is about sharing – everything! Movies, music, events, news, moods, likes… However, sharing immediately approaches legal issues of copyright. But sharing is also a creative environment that involves people to use existing content to generate new one, since it is easy and you can reach desirable audience. It seems like there is nothing can be done with this “nature” of virtual community. In January 2012 we all saw how new US and EU legislation on the Internet control (obviously tuned in favor of big entertainment companies) was met by protesting citizens and even IT companies. The pirate nature of virtual community will lead to reconsideration of copyright system in favor of freedom of creation.

The next dilemma touches the heart of the digital culture values – freedom of information. It is Data trash vs. Knowledge management. Value of information and its quality in social
media is always in question due to information overflow. The amount of data produced for the Internet everyday is so huge that it loses its value due to impossibility to process all this data trash. There is a perceptual and physical limit for humans to follow this enormous data flow (Kroker). In social media too most of the data is just flowing with very little transformation into the usable knowledge. In our e-mail boxes and on the SM pages we get more and more junk messages, invitations, promotions etc. This is how freedom becomes chaos and even nightmare. So here it come control in the form of what we would like to call knowledge management. It is going to be an exciting new project for the new generation – learning how to manage data and transform it into the knowledge everyday. During the next 5-10 years social media will be struggling for the value of the information transformed into knowledge.

And in the most predictable this project will become a digital culture project, because knowledge management should integrate with SM new software applications, educational videogames, artificial intelligence functions and robotics, computer arts and design as well as new generation of digital gadgets.

As a part of digital culture the new media are strongly connected with its other elements and deeply rooted in its controversial value system. We attempted to show, that social media generation of 2000s will have to reconsider individualism in favor of transparent collective life, will have to deal with heavy conflicts around transparency and total control, will be developing further free sharing anti-copyright values as a key principle of virtual community, will be struggling to design convenient knowledge management instruments not to let freedom of information to dissolve in data trash.

But the question remains still: shall we see in 10-15 years a new generation of knowledge workers with new re-configured digital culture or we will face diverse trends with flows of lazy copy-pasters, semi-schizophrenics lost in data space, normal users, advanced knowledge-workers and some over possible social types of SM users?

Etzioni A. Next: The Road to The Good Society. New York: Basic Books, 2001
Castells, M. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell. 1996/2000
Gere C. Digital Culture. Reaktion Books (London 2002)
McLuchan M. Understanding Media. The Extension of man. Routledge, London-New York, 2001
Kroker A., Weinstein A. Data Trash: The Theory of Virtual class. New York: St. Martin`s Press, 1994

The Spiders from Mars


We have more friends and we meet them less. We have more music, but we sing less. We have more porn but less love. Meet the square life on the round Earth! I will share with you some thoughts and observations about the role of the individual as a molecule in the giant body of the Humanity that wraps the Earth in its net.

Topic of report: The Spiders from Mars

Remember the times when potable water was free and we used to pay for music? Well, we have a complete reversal of that situation now. There is a growing consensus that the World Wide Web is changing us and numerous researchers attempt to prove so with graphs, statistics and various studies. Here are some conclusions that may be derived from this supposition.

A Quantitative Survey

I present to you the exponential growth in the number of people using the Web, the time we all spend online and the number of sites available. You don’t need visualizations to know and understand this tendency. What is fascinating though is to compare the data with the growth in number of grossly obese people – there is, I am sure, an undeniable correlation between the two figures. Regrettably, I am no dietician and cannot judge whether it is the Web that makes us fat or it is the fat that somehow feeds the expansion of the Web or some other as yet undetermined force that drives both phenomena…

Parallel to the growth of the Internet there is the inexorable rise in the number of people over 30 who live alone or at least outside a stable relationship. The development of electronic communications mirrors the explosion in crime, particularly violent crime like murders. 

The three graphs shown here lead us to the logical conclusion that either the Internet causes obesity, divorce and crime or alternatively, that Internet use is driven by corpulent, divorced, homicidal individuals!

The World Will Never Be the Same

So what exactly has changed during the last 15 years? Try and remember how many times you heard that mantra – after 9/11, after the onset of the crisis – everyone says that with the Internet the world will never be the same.

Now can you imagine what the world must have been like before the use of iron, electricity, before the invention of writing, before air travel, radio, TV, mobile phones?.. How revolutionary those discoveries were and how we have changed because of them? And does it matter given that they are a permanent fixture of our present and we take them for granted? I understand the Web as yet another instrument. It is like the first-ever metal knife. You can do useful things with it, or you can hurt yourself.

But were those inventions really „created” out of nothing or they had been there all the time waiting for someone to bring them into existence? I’d like to draw your attention to the difference between the nature of the creative process in science and in the arts. It is likely that you are familiar with the soundtrack of the ‘Pink Panther’ animated series. But how many of you know who the composer of that soundtrack is? Henry Mancini, that’s who. Let’s compare Henry Mancini’s music for the ‘Pink Panther’ with the compilation of the Periodic table by Mendeleev. What is the difference? Had Mendeleev been killed by a falling brick, no doubt someone else some place else some time later would have created the Periodic table of elements. Had the proverbial brick fallen on the head of Henry Mancini, no-one ever would have written quite the same composition. 

Likewise the Internet would have come into existence sooner or later regardless of the fate of its creators. This means that technological progress carries about it an air of inevitability, of self-fulfilling prophesy. 

The Perfect Computer

„Perfect machines for perfect life ” – this is the philosophy of the industrial society. So let us view the computer network as a compound entity comprised of separate elements, or computers.

What would the perfect computer look like? I imagine it to be self-improving, self-repairing, able to repair other computers. It should also be self-sufficient, not dependent on an electricity charge, it could even generate more power than it uses. The ideal computer would be able to create even better computers than itself. 

The good news is, it already exists. I am that perfect computer!

I am capable of far more than memorizing and reproducing information, sending off mail and computing (which after all is at the root of the word ‘computer’). In order to live all I need is water, sunlight and cabbage salad, and in my lifetime I am capable of generating greater resources than I am ever likely to consume. If I am in need of nourishment I will use my own legs to search out a source and I certainly don’t live on electricity. I can develop my knowledge and physical skills. I can nurture other, malfunctioning ‘computers’. When my essential parts age with use and friction I will reproduce myself into several little ‘computers’. And did I mention that in that respect I am infinitely better placed than a Ferrari, because when a Ferrari is worn out it cannot bring forth little Ferraris.

Extraterrestrials Playing ‘Cry Extraterrestrial’

I know it’s hard to convince you that you are computers, especially within the confines of a 30-minute talk. So I will test your credulity even further by attempting to prove that you are in fact extraterrestrial computers! 

Yes, WE are the extraterrestrials. We stick our round heads in square-shaped rooms and we try to shape a round Earth into a square. Where do we get this ‘squaredness’ from when it is inimical to nature? Slaves built the Egyptian pyramids out of square-shaped stones, and we build our financial pyramids out of square-shaped computer screens. This talk I wrote on square-shaped sheets of paper, too. 

Jonas Salk says that if all the insects were to disappear from the Earth, within fifty years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within fifty years all forms of life would flourish. 

I cannot think of another life form on this planet whose sole purpose seems to be to suck out its lifeblood, to bury it in waste and to destroy other forms of life, apparently in the name of ‘a better lifestyle’…

We bust ourselves earning money in order to spend them profligately, and then for things like going to the Moon where it is cold and inhospitable. Since you cannot argue against that I will go even further: I put it to you that it all comes down to our genetic memory, which pulls us in the direction we came from.

If you are confused you should know that by saying what I have said so far I managed to confuse myself too. So if I started out thinking I was a computer, then an extraterrestrial, now I am convinced that I am an extraterrestrial computer virus!

Spiders from Mars

My point is that the World Wide Web is merely a projection of ourselves, something we create in our own likeness. We explore Creation in order to know the Creator, not the other way around. Imagine you have never encountered humans and chance upon one of their creations, the automobile. How would they imagine the creator of a vehicle that has headlights like two eyes, two side view mirrors like ears and an exhaust pipe?!?!

Man is a social animal, we are constantly told, but we never stop to think what this actually means: that Humanity is an organism with humans playing the role of separate cells. We exist together, specialize in fulfilling various tasks (thus helping other cells) and colonize the Earth together, not separately. To my understanding it is humanity that is the real spider guided by its software in a quest to trap the Earth in its web, to suck out its resources, and than… what happens then… Well I guess the shared software will give us more instructions on the next evolutionary level of the computer game we are playing.

All experts tell us that in the coming years everything will be connected to the net: your cooker, your dog, your reading glasses – everything. Soon we will have chipsets implanted – something that is taking hold in the US right now – so that prisoners for instance will be allowed to serve out their sentences at home. That way we will connect to the Web our hardware as well.

Growth for Growth’s Sake

Let me ask you this: why do we want better technology, why do we want to improve, why do we want more of everything? ‘Because we want to live better’ is a frequent answer. Why is it then that the greater our prosperity, the less happiness we experience? Why do we have more friends but see them less often? We have more sex but less love. There is lots of music around be we sing less. We have tons of pictures of the world but we rarely leave our homes to go to the world. We have more security but less freedom. And what a collective loneliness is that – to hang out in the “social networks” while staying home alone…

Here is our biggest misinterpretation of life – we think that our goal is to satisfy our needs. But it is exactly the opposite – our needs are there only to stimulate us to achieve our purpose. The Goal is not to feel good – feeling good is our reward for following the program. We think that sex is the goal – but sex is only the stimulus by which our software entices us to multiply our species. We thing that doing successful business is the goal, but it is not – greed and ambition are just plug-ins in our software that only lead us to creating more and more resources for the Humankind monster. We think that our goal is to fight the world hunger. But we are programmed to feel compassion and to help each other because otherwise human population would not increase and we would not be able to colonize the Earth as a human race. 

Thank you for the opportunity to exchange a few megabytes of information with the other participant machines here at this conference. I hope that it really enables us to update our browsers to a newer version. 

Finally, let me address you, all my fellow computers and advise you thus: to enjoy better life — charge you batteries regularly, do not overheat, do not visit disreputable web sites, clean the dust off your monitors, empty the recycle bin regularly, use a proper antivirs program and give full access to your hard disk but only after checking properly the other devices beforehand. Negotiate daily the Big Question: how should growth serve me, not how I should serve growth. Remember: growth for growth’s sake is the operating mode of the cancer cell.

Influence of New Media on Human Brain

What we care to look at in this talk is an exiting question that not just interest scientists but also interest parents, employers, and indeed, and the citizens of the 21st century. And the reason is that concerns the brain. I like this picture of the brain where you can see someone actually holding a human brain because it brings home to you just how special you are and yet how mysterious the brain is. It reminds me of when I was student in Oxford and we had to dissect a human brain and these brains are wheeled in and in pots on trolleys, and you are wearing cloves because the brain is in a fixative that preserves it so you wouldn’t cut it up. But I do remember, on this very special day, when I was holding the brain, thinking, if I was not wearing gloves and I got a little nit of brain tissue under my fingernail – would that be a bit somebody loved with? Would that be a memory? Would that be a hope? How could you have a hope under your fingernail? And it was this idea of this very boring, sludgy, very uninteresting object that you could hold in one hand and how that translated into all the things we feel special about ourselves, and about our emotions, and about humanity generally. How the one linked to the other. 

So what we care to look at in this talk is not just how the brain translates into a unique human person but more how that person, how that individual might be changing, might be being affected by new technologies. Is this the fate of our children and your grandchildren. Are we going to be transformed into dysfunctional creatures with now emotion? Or are we going to be experiencing for the first time the real potential of human individuality, whatever that is.

Let us start by really looking at the basics to try and understand what it is that really makes you so special. And in this talk what I have done is to number the key conclusions so that whatever happens you will know that sooner or later our conclusion is going to come along. 

The first conclusion is that the environment is the key. It is important in making you the person that you are. The wonderful thing about being born a human being is that you are born with pretty much all the brain cells you will ever have. But it is a growth of the connections between the brain cells that are counted for the growth of the brain after birth. Why is this interesting or important? We do not run particularly fast as the species, we do not see particularly well, we are not particularly strong, and yet, we occupy more ecological niches than any other species on the planet. Thanks to so called plasticity of our brains. Plasticity comes from the Greek ‘plastikos’ — to be modeled. It does not mean our brains are made of plastic. And here you can see what happens in the first two years of life. The blobby bits are brain cells and the stringy beets are the connections between them. So we can see that at three months, fifteen months, and two years there is an astonishing change in the growth of the connections between the brain cells. This means, because it happens after birth, that you can adapt to your individual experiences after birth.

So even if you are a clone, an identical twin therefore, you are going to have a unique brain because only you will have unique experiences. This is why you can transplant hearts, you can transplant lungs or livers with increasing ease nowadays, but eve if it was technically possible, you could not transplant brain because the brain is the essence of a person.

Let us look and see just how sensitive your brain is to be modified by the environment.

There is a wonderful experiment involving three groups of adult human volunteers none of whom at the beginning of this experiment could play the piano. It is a five day experiment. If ever you get a chance to volunteer for an experiment like this, a word of advice, try not to be in the control group. Anyway, what happened is the first group, the controls, had to just stare at the piano for five days. But there was a second group and they learnt five finger piano exercises. But the most exiting group was the third group because this group had to imagine they were playing the piano. And here is what happened. In the controls over five days the brain is literally unimpressed. Nothing has happened to the scans. However in the group who were learning with physical practice, the five finger piano exercises, you can see the astonishing change in functional brain territory related to the digits. Te third group, those who imagined playing the piano, their brain scans are pretty much similar the ones who were physically having the movements. 

So what does it tell us? A lot of things: The first is this brilliant quotation from the man who developed the treatment for Parkinson’s disease: ‘Thinking is the movement confined to the brain’. And we will come back to that towards the end of the talk. But this is exactly what has happened to the second and the third group. The only difference between the two groups is that one was imaginary and one was literally taking place. But what is important, as far as the brain is concerned, is not the contraction of the muscles. It is the thought that has come before, the thought that has preceded it: The thinking of the movement, not the movement itself. 

It also shows how it is wrong, as the people at the past have done, to draw the distinction between mental and physical, between mind and brain. It is not as if thoughts are out there in the air around somewhere and our brains are like satellite dishes picking them up. Somehow, among the brain cells and their connections and all the chemicals we are going to look at, somewhere you have a thought. And even that will modify and change the brain cell connections. 

In order to understand how this happens in the brain, we have to go from people playing the piano to rats. Because what we are going to now is actually look and see how the environment, hoe the interaction with the environment can actually modify and changes brain cell connections. In order to do that with rats, who obviously will not play the piano, we will look at the effects of an environment that encourages them to be very exploratory, to be stimulated, a so called enriched environment. 

Enrichment for rat does not mean that they come on to joint interesting conferences on digital media. For a rat, what they have to do is explore little ladders, branches, and wheels. We can see how happy they look. Now if you look at a single brain cell from an animal who was not quite so lucky, as when they were assigning the group someone was just in an ordinary lab cage, this is the kind of brain cell that you see: there are branches that are coming out of the blobby part of the cell, the main part of the cell. We can compare these branches in an animal that was in a simple cage condition to the comparable branches in an animal in the cage with ladders and wheels. We can see that the branches in the second case are much bigger. Why is this interesting or important? Everyone is familiar with the fact that when you exercise muscle it gets bigger and stronger. And if you do not exercise muscle it tends to get weaker and to atrophy. You use it or you loose it. This is what happens in the brain. If a brain cell is very active, like with muscle, it will respond to continuous use. The more active it is, the more it will grow these branches. That is how it responds. 

Why is it important? By having more branches you have a greater surface area. By having a greater surface area you make more cell connections. The more stimulating and exiting is the environment even for a rat, the harder the brain cells work, the more active, they respond over time by growing more branches and these branches enable them to make more connections. The more stimulating environment is, the more connections you can make. 

Let us think about what that means for us, humans. 

You were born, in the words of the great psychologist William James, into a booming buzzing confusion. What can you do when you are a little baby? You evaluate the world in sensory terms: how sweet, how fast, how cold, how bright. But as the days turn into weeks, turn into months, slowly the sensory world, abstract pattern of colors and shapes, accompanied by meaningless sounds and smells and textures, gradually this sensory confusion will form patterns that are recognizable because your connections now are responding to the inputs that they are receiving through the senses. So now, instead of it being an abstract visual pattern, it will be your mother’s face. And that will have a meaning. We call this ‘cognitive’ from the Latin ‘cognitio’- ‘I think’. And if your mother features again, again, and again in your life, the more she features, the more associations and connections will form. Like with the piano playing. Because you are experiencing and interacting with her all the time, and this will leave the mark on your brain. Your mother will have a significance to you that she does not have to anyone else. 

Let us look at an example here. These are colleagues of mine. They will mean nothing to you. You will see these people as white middle-aged men in suits and ties. I see them as David, and Chris, and Martine. I remember the very day this photograph was taken. We just signed a very interesting agreement with the university, very important agreement. I remember this day, it means a lot to me, as the individuals shown here, one of them sadly now who has died. But I know their wives, how many children they have, when they hold their holidays. We have shared successes together and failures together, so they mean a lot to me, in a way they mean nothing to you, because you do not know them, because you just see them generically. Similarly, you can put in your colleagues, your family and I will see them in a generic way, as men, women, and children. For you they may be the most important people in you live because of the associations that have been formed. 

So, connections give people, indeed objects, a meaning of a time, a significance to you by virtue of the experiences you have had with them.

Let us turn to another example. Think of a wedding ring. When children are very small they would not understand what it is, it would not mean anything. But they are attracted to it because of its sensory properties. The fact that it is shiny and gold, the fact that they can roll it on the surface, the fact that they can put things through the middle. They might even try to put it into their mouths. As the children age however, they realizes that it is a ring. And rings are the things you put on fingers. As they get older they also realize that there is a difference between a wedding ring and other types of rings. And gradually, according to the culture they live in, wedding rings and weddings might have special meanings to them. And then, as they are getting older, they might have wedding rings of their own. And the views on that personal wedding ring will vary as they go from their honey-moon, possibly, if sadly it goes to divorce, the attitudes to their particular wedding rings will be different. So, that has come in a long way from something shiny you put into your mouth, and yet it is the same object. And yet it is all to do with how your brain is reacting to the sight of this wedding ring. According to what stage you are on in your live, what culture you live in, and how you view and interact with this particular object. It gives this object a meaning.

Let us think there is someone who is dressed up in a ghost costume. Hopefully no adult can find it particularly frightening. They might find it a bit silly. But if a two-year-old child saw someone come in dressed like this or, indeed, a person with dementia, they would feel very frightened by this strange-looking creature that is coming in. however an adult will not feel frightened because they have checks and balances. They have the associations; they have the experience to realize that this is someone just dressed up as a ghost.

Connections not only give things a meaning, they help you to understand what you are seeing; to make sense of what you are seeing. So you do not react in an emotional way, you can react, as we will say, cognitively. By drawing on your experiences in the past, it helps you to understand what you are experiencing in the present. This is why we are so successful as a species in surviving on the planet. 

And I think connections do something else for us. They help us to see one thing in terms of something else. As you could see with a candle. It reminds me of when my brother was only three and I was sixteen, and I used to enjoy torturing him. One of the tortures was when I forced him to learn Shakespeare when he was three years old. Some of you may know that in ‘Macbeth’, a famous play, there is a line: ‘Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…’. How would you ask a small boy what does it mean? Do you understand this line of Shakespeare’s ‘Out, out brief candle!’? He would have said: ‘Well, of course, I have a candle on my birthday cake. And I can blow it out’. He could not have seen it as a metaphor for death. How could he? He was only three years old. This is only by realizing the power of those words reasoned not in the literal image of the candle but in the fact there is parallel between the extinction of candle and the extinction of life. 

Connections enable you to see the meaning in objects around you and people; to understand what is happening to you and what you are experiencing; and to see one thing in terms of something else, to be able to think symbolically. 

I would like to suggest you therefore, that the biological basis of the mind is the personalization of the brain through these unique ever-changing dynamic connections between neurons that are driven by your own unique experience. That is why you have a unique brain. Because you are constantly interacting the world. You start off in this one way street – how sweet, how fast, how cold, how bright. But gradually as you bump out it with the information you are getting in, slowly the associations will form that reflect that experience, so as you get older, as things are coming now, you will evaluate them in terms of what is there already, so the ‘one way street’ has become a ‘two way street’. 

It is this wonderful dialogue with the outside world in your brain that makes you the person you are and enables you to evolve as a person as you go through life. Here is a picture in my presentation. Everyone here is doing their own thing. Every person in this picture has unique coordinate in space and time. Unique trajectory of our beginning, middle and ends of our lives where there is causal link. One thing leads to something else and this is what we call our life-story. In your life-story if you have passed an exam, you can not un-pass such exam. Maybe you do not make the most of your education, it might be that you have failed other exams, it does not matter. No one can take away from you that you have passed that exam. And that therefore will have consequences within your life such as contributed to your identity, to making you the person that you are. 

All these events that are linked however indirectly, in whatever ramifications, are leaving their marks permanently on your brain cell connections. You have up to a hundred thousand connections converging onto one brain cell. 

So this thing is the mind and I hope I have convinced you that it is influenced massively by the interaction with the environment. My second conclusion is that the environment of the twenty-first century is unprecedented in changing how that mind is going to work, how we going to think and feel. 

What will happen to the next generation of so called digital natives? An important issue many studies are currently coming about is how much time young people spend in front of the screen per week. And this is one study showing the situation in the United States in 2010, here 54 percent of children between thirteen and seventeen spend 30+ hours a week in front of the screen. And this is in recreational use, not doing home works and assignment at school. This is 5 hours a day plus working with digital media when doing anything else. I think the most neuroscientists will not automatically say whether it is good or bad but everyone will say it is a given that the brain will change. How can it now change if it is evolutionary mandate in to adapt to an environment. And if five hours a day you are in a new type of an environment then you will have a new way of thinking and seeing the world. What we need to do is to work out what that will be. 

Just to show that I am not a complete pessimist let me suggest to you the book by Steven Johnson. The title of it speaks for itself: ‘Everything Bad is Good to You’. What he has written here is all the benefits of screen technologies. For example they improve sensory and motor coordination and something in particular, that is surely desirable, arise an IQ. And he argues very persuasively that there have been arising IQ scores in different societies in the western world over the last few decades and this could be due to the rehearsal of computer games. Because the computer games are similar to the IQ tests: you need very fast mental agility, you need to see connections, you have to get to a fixed answer within a certain period of time. So if you are rehearsing and practicing computer games then if you are asked to do an IQ test you will be probably be good at because you bare in mind your own rehearses, using it or losing it, you will be better than anyone who has never done it before. Surely this is good. But again, he argues that just because we have seen an increase in agility in IQ tests, this is not being accompanied by an increasing insight into the economic problems of the world or the Middle East crises. So just because you can process the information quickly does not mean to say that you automatically have a better understanding of it. We need to distinguish between information and knowledge. These are not the same things. This does not mean that information is a bad thing or information processing is a bad thing. But we do need to keep it distinct. Surely in human beings we need both. 

Let us look at different aspects of the screen environment to see what might be good and what might be bad, if we are to shape the best environment possible for your children and for your grandchildren. The issue with screen technology that people often forget is that it breaks down into lots of different questions. One is the issue of social networking. Let us think a little bit about social networking. When people communicate with each other face to face surprisingly words have only ten percent of impact. Eye contact is vital important. We all know hoe frightening it is to talk to someone who is not looking in your eyes at all. Or conversely to someone who stares at you continuously and does not let the eyes go to one side or the other. Eye contact along with body language therefore, not surprisingly, has a huge impact. How we interpret someone crossing their arms, how we interpret them turning away slightly, opening their body and so on. All these things are registered by us as giving clues to what someone is feeling, enabling us to empathize. Similarly voice, you do not have to speak a language to know if someone is angry or happy. The tone of their voice, the rate at which they are speaking, the volume they are using, all this is very important in conveying emotions and it counts for thirty five percent of the impact. No one has measured pheromones, these are the sneaky chemicals which give you a feeling of liking or disliking someone. Or, indeed, perhaps the most powerful form of communication of all – physical contact. And yet non of these are available on Facebook. On Facebook and on other social networking sites one is left just to exchange words. Non of the opportunities and the skills that we have for practicing empathy are possible and just not available. 

Is it surprising therefore that we are seeing a declining empathy in the particular study which was with 14,000 college students over last 30 years. They have shown in the last 10 years in particular there has been a sharp decline in empathy. Someone could say this is merely a correlation, this is merely one trend and the rise of digital nation is another trend. And that is true. Like people in early 1950s said: ‘Look! There are people dying of lung cancer and people who have increased in their smoking habits’. It took a long time for the epidemiologists to come and actually prove in a convincing way that the smoking was causing the cancer. Similarly here we will await epidemiology, and I would like to see this happened, where by someone can see to what extend this societal trend of being in digital world so much can actually impact on empathy. My own view is that it would be hard to see how it could not be effected in some way. 

Another issue with empathy and the screen technologies is to look at people with autistic spectrum disorders where what you see is what you get. They interpret someone’s behavior just in terms of their actions. They find it very hard to actually pick up on voice tone or body language or other skills we just considered as not available on social networking sites. Is it surprising therefore that people who have autism are very comfortable; in fact, they prefer to be in a digital world. I would like to suggest you it is because when we are all engaged in cyber world we are all effectively autistic. We are not using the skills we have learnt of interpersonal communication. We are merely judging someone in two dimensions on the screen by the movements of the behaviors that they are generating. 

So could we see therefore another reason for thinking this reduction empathy is being linked to screen technologies? And if so then how does that impact on the kind of person that you are? What kind of identity might you have? If you are constantly defining yourself as someone who is constantly in touch with other people, who is defining yourself in terms of the numbers of hits or the amount of recognition you get from other people, continuously online – where do you end and other people begin? How do you see yourself as an independent entity if you are constantly involved in twitting and blogging and social networking sites without necessarily having time to be distant from other people. 

If we just think about the history of blogging I think this example is very titling 1995: ‘I just have to tell about this thing my cat did today’ from Blogger; 2004: ‘Oh my God! Cat pictures!’ from Flicker; YouTube 2005: ‘Moving cat pictures!’; 2007 (this is really taking off) Twitter: ‘1 PM: My cat just sneezed. 1.02 PM: My cat sneezed again. 1.04 PM: Cat hasn’t sneezed recently. Getting worried’. It does really raise an issue of ‘Who cares?’. Why do people feel it is important to tell the other people what they have for breakfast, what they are doing in that very moment? And I feel there are two issues here. One is if you are so busy reading out to other people, you are not really enjoying the moment for yourself. And also if you are doing that, you are not doing other things, perhaps, defining you. You are someone living for the eyes of others. It is very important for such people to describe their experience in terms of how it would look on Facebook, how they would look as a brand. 

My own fear is that the people that are like this are perhaps in some kind of existential crises. It reminds me very much of a little child: ‘Look at me, Mom! I am putting on one sock. Look at me, Mom! I am putting on another sock’. Because if you do not look at me how do I know I exist. So the effects of social networking are reduced empathy and less robust notion of identity. 

What about gaming? This is a big business at the moment. Here are two little boys. They are very busy playing a game with each other but they are not communicating with each other. They are playing with a screen. And we should all ask ourselves why is it that the screen which has only two-dimensions, as opposed to the tree-dimensional real world, which only accesses are sound and vision, not all five senses, why is it so attractive compared to real life? Presumably, it is because the screen is brighter, faster, and louder then the real world is. The interaction is therefore more exiting. Fitting in with that idea is another trend that we need to look at with greater detail. This issue is the rise in prescriptions for a drug you may not recognize, Methylphenidate but you may recognize the brand name Ritalin which in the West is given for attentional problems. I know that in Russia it is illegal. However you can see that in the Western countries the prescriptions for this drug, which is dopamine and amphetamine based drug, are escalating hugely. Could it be that doctors are prescribing more liberally or could it be that condition for attentional problems is being recognized as medical condition or could it just be, and it is not mutually exclusive, that if you put a young brain in an environment where we have seen its evolutionary mandate to adapt to this environment, and that environment is brighter, faster and noisier, the young brain will adapt to that. When a child goes to school they are asked to live in three dimensions, which accesses all five senses but everything is much slower, less dramatic, less exiting, and the child will have attentional problems and then they will be given this drug. Again I repeat that this is the kind of issue that we need to explore. 

So what could be the effects of gaming? The fragmented attention and shorter attention span. What about something else? If you are playing a game and you kill someone, unlike in real life, they can become undead. I was saying in the beginning of this talk that in real life you can not reverse things; you can not un-pass the exam. But in computer world you can reverse things, you can make someone undead. So therefore if you are playing a computer game and you get into the habit that actions do not have consequences, will that change you attitudes to risk? Might it make you more reckless? 

If you talk about risk taking to a neuroscientist, what they will do is always point to neurological cases where, because of brain damage, the patient will present with increased recklessness. And the first person who did this was, in 1860s, the man who owns his page in history called Phineas Gage. He lived in the States, in Vermont; he was a forman on the rollway gang. It was his job to use a big rod called a tamping iron to push down explosives so that they could get rid of all the rocks and debris that was enabling them to lay the rollway track going from the East to the West coast. And one day what happened was that there was a premature explosion such that the formidable rod was driven from through the frontal part of Phineas’s brain. So you can imagine this is a very sad story that silly severe injure would have damaged Phineas if not killed him. Why am I telling this story? Amazingly after few moments he regained consciousness and could see, and walk, and talk just fine! And at that time there was no provision for people with brain injuries. And he actually got back to work. There was only weeks turn into months that his colleagues noticed a serious difference. Once he could walk, and talk, and see, and hear, they did notice that he became short-tempered like a child but, above all, very reckless which was not good if you were working with explosives. In the end he had to leave his job and become a fairground freak where he earned his living by showing out his wound. Nevertheless, he paid neuroscientists a great contribution by showing that this frontal part of the brain might in some way be linked to taking risks. 

What do we know about this frontal part of the brain? In humans it occupies a very large area, 33% of the brain, and only 17% in chimps. We know from other cases of shrapnel damage during the wars that when it is damaged you get this so called ‘frontal syndrome’ which includes increased recklessness. These other situations where the prefrontal cortex is not working as fully as in normal cases, one is in people who are very heavy, who have a high body mass index. In such individuals, the heavier they are, the less active is their prefrontal cortex. As we are aware, in the West obesity is a great problem, not least related to the lifestyle of children sitting in front of the screen. What is very interesting, people who are obese are more reckless according to the results of the research. So we know there is a link between under-active prefrontal cortex, recklessness and obesity. 

Another condition is schizophrenia, when the frontal part of the brain is less active then in normal people. What do we know about schizophrenia? It is not a split personality. More it is a split from reality. A person behaves in a different way, rather like a child actually. A schizophrenia person is very easily distracted by the outside world. They feel that things are imploding in on them, that people can see inside their heads and their thoughts. They have a short attention span because they are constantly reacting to everything around them. They can not see one thing in terms of another. They are indeed like children, like my little brother was who did not understand ‘Out, out brief candle’; he thought it was literally a candle. If you say to a schizophrenic person that there is a proverb ‘People who live in glass houses should not throw stones’ and you ask what that means, this person will say: ‘If you live in a house made of glass and I throw a stone in it, the house will break’. And finally schizophrenics have an under-active prefrontal cortex as the children. 

As for children, the prefrontal cortex is only fully active in later age years, in early twenties. It is one of those very famous scenarios where individual development reflects evolution, or as people used to say, where ontogeny reflects phylogeny. 

Let us think about what all these different cases could have in common, the link in under-activity in prefrontal cortex. 

Anyone who eats know the consequences of eating but the thrill of the food for someone who is obese has trumped the consequences they will put on weight. Anyone who gambles knows the consequences of gambling but the thrill of the roulette wheel and roll of the dice, that excitement trumps the consequences they may lose all their money. The clue comes perhaps from the schizophrenia. There is a very famous series of paintings of a cat by a schizophrenic person. The cat was easily recognized by anyone at the beginning of the illness and no one could recognize it towards the end. What we see here is the transition from cognitive and meaningful through to something purely sensory. 

Could it be that what these different conditions have in common is that whether you are a child, an obese, a gambler or a schizophrenic, now you are in the world where the senses, the input of the moment is more important then the consequences. 

If that is so, then how does that impact on computer games? The was an article in The Telegraph sometime ago, the title was ‘Children Who Love Video Game Have Brains Like Gamblers’. What the authors found was that this particular area of the brain, so called nucleus accumbens, is enlarged in people who like to play computer games, rather like in the brains of gamblers. Could that be a link and what link could that be?

When I was given a talk to a journalist about 18 months ago, I said ‘Could that be a world where people say ‘yak’, and ‘wow’, and ‘yak and wow’ and they just live in the moment without any consequences. Because I talk quickly, she misheard it and wrote ‘yaka-wow’ which was a meaningless word but nevertheless, it started a craze, such as there were 75,000 hit on Google within 24 hours. Someone actually was entrepreneurial enough to decide to take out the domain name on market T-shirts and to create the first church of ‘yaka-wow’. 

But the point is the words ‘world without consequences’. Is this the world of a gamer? Let us think about it. It is very exiting world where you are aroused. Many find it addictive and, by definition, many would find it rewarding. What do we know about these conditions in brain terms?

There is one chemical messenger that helps with all these different mint sets: with being exited, with being addicted, and indeed with reward. It is not a chemical for addiction or for reward, but it puts the brain into a certain state that actually relates to these conditions. That chemical is called dopamine. What do we know about the dopamine?

We know that it come from a very basic part of the brain and it does many things, i.e. it is important in the control of movement. We know that all psychotropic drugs ill be associated finally with the release of dopamine and addiction. We also know that reward processes are on someway linked with the release of dopamine. And finally we know that dopamine inhabits the prefrontal cortex. So, where does that place us? 

We can imagine therefore with gaming a continuous cycle where intense stimulation of the screen gives a very fast excited respond. Therefore you are highly aroused and dopamine is released as the result of your arousal levels. This is similar to the reward seeking addictive behavior, so more dopamine is released. This inhabits the prefrontal cortex. And we have seen that the prefrontal cortex is associated with conditions of schizophrenia, obesity and childhood. And in terms of these conditions have one thing in common that there is a drive for sensation, for the immediate thrill of the moment over cognition, over consequences. That means that a screen offers a world which is more appealing than the real world. 

Just to show that these are having long term changes in brains, the recent paper come off from China, showing long term changes in the brain of adolescent people who have got Internet addiction disorders. 

Finally, let us look at search engines. Again, a separate issue entirely. Let us take a word like ‘honor’ which is a very abstract word; it is something that is hard to show as an image. I googled on ‘honor’, and remember – it is a British Google, and the first thing I got was the Queen and then I saw the images. If you showed these images to someone from Mars, they would have no idea what ‘honor’ was. In order to understand ‘honor’ you surely have to see it in different context, you have to see it at work, you do not just see pictures. In order truly understand what it is images are not enough. 

What are the effects of search engines? It is very hard to convey an abstract concept of ‘honor’ just as it is hard to convey the ideas of ‘Out, out brief candle’ or people who live in houses made of glass. That is the first problem.

The next one is seeing one thing in terms of another. For example, here is an old Play Station advert for rescuing the Noble Princess Yukihime in ‘a world of darkness and magic, power hungry warlords battle for the chaos, the Noble Princess Yukihime is kidnapped’. I bet you do not care about Princess Yukihime. Not in the same way how you would care about the Princess Mary, the character of ‘War and Peace’ as I am sure many Russians have read Tolstoy Why? The Princess Mary has a past, a present, and a future. Just as like you. And she has friend, just like you. Therefore she has significance in a meaning because she has a context of her life, she has a life story, just like you. And tat is why you care on turning off the pages. Not because staring at the page is exiting. It is because of the images that come into your imagination and the significance they have that keeps you reading the book. The Princess Yukihime does not have this significance because she has no context other than she is something to get to rescue. 

Just to show that I am not alone in these worries, here is the words of Eric Schmidt, who was the CEO of Google: ‘I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information … is in fact affecting cognition. It is affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way of learning something. And I am worrying that we are losing that…’. 

So, what is ‘thinking’? Here is my third conclusion, the final one. Harnessing the 21st century technologies id important because we could now promote original thinking, named ‘creativity’. What do we mean by this?

Let us think about the people who live for the moment. I am sure that in Russia there are also night clubs where the thrill is on the sensory input, the bit of the music, brightness of the light, the sound of the music, not the words or the meaning of the words, not the past or the future. As we say in English ‘Let oneself go’. We are having ‘a sensational time’. You do not say ‘Let us go out and have a cognitive time’. One could say that this is a raw feeling. I do not think that people in clubs do much thinking. 

One could think of the two different modes that we put ourselves in. You could call it ‘mindless’ and ‘meaningful’. On the one hand – strong feelings. On the other – thinking dominating. On one side – strongly sensory. On another – cognitive. Mindless – you are in the ‘here and now, yak and wow’, you are living for the moment. Meaningful – you have a past and a present, a future or a fantasy. In the mindless state you are having distractions form the outside world, in the meaningful state you are interacting with the world, you evaluate it in terms of what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. In the mindless state there is a reduced sense of self, you have let yourself go, you have blown your mind. Whereas in the meaningful state there is a very strong feeling of self, you are acting in your life story. In the mindless state there is no space or time, you are just in the moment. In the meaningful world there are strong space and time references. The first state is more dopamine, the second is less dopamine. 

What we can do as adults is putting ourselves in environment of ‘wine, women, and song’ or ‘drugs, and sex, and rock-and-roll’ which disables the connections between brain cells and blows our mind temporarily. And my concern is that although we have done this since we have evolved as a species, and we have had this balance between letting ourselves go and creating an identity, that now what we are doing with computer games is developing an environment that shifts us asymmetrically to stay in this mindless state which would match up with under-functional prefrontal cortex.

That scenario, some people could claim, is surely related to creativity. And this is an interesting thought. Kind of people that might paint pictures are creative. Or the children. And we know that their connections are still growing. Schizophrenics are renowned for writing poetry or painting pictures. And they have dysfunctional connections due to the dopamine level. We know that drugs impair connections and still people on drugs are often highly creative. But these conditions do not guarantee creativity. I am sure that one can know of children, or schizophrenics, or people who have taken drugs, who are not creative at all. And I am sure that you have known of creative people who are not children, not schizophrenics, and have not taken drugs. 

I think it shows us a possible link, but one that may be necessary without being sufficient and can be reached in different ways where one is challenging dogma, deconstructing the world, not seeing automatic associations between one thing and something else. 

What are the conditions of creativity? The first one is premium on de-constructing to abstract sensations. To see the world not as a bottle of water, not as a glass, but as a series of textures and light that you can de-construct and try to reproduce. We also know that you have to have an unusual association. Schizophrenics would have what is called ‘word salads’, unusual words that come together. Artists will pain the things that are unusual, that you are not used to seeing. 

Here is the painting of a sheep made by a girl and let us think why it is not a work of art. She has painted an unusual sheep, with an unusually colored red body, and still it is not hanging in any art gallery in the world. Here is another sheep by Damien Hirst. It is in formaldehyde and hailed as work of art by some. What is the difference between these two sheep? In both cases the authors have challenged dogma and they had unusual associations. The difference is that Hirst’s sheep has shown that these new associations can activate more extensive associations so that they have meaning in self and the others. And what that means is that suddenly you see the world in a new way. Suddenly you can see a person, or a sheep even, in a way that you never saw that sheep before. In the case of science or in literature you can have an idea about life that you never had before. But it is not enough that it is something new or unusual. It has to tap in to a meaning. And by doing that it has to recruit new associations between your brain cells. 

We said at the beginning that neuronal connections give connections an even deeper meaning as with the candle. How does that help to understand the world around us? There are connections in space where one can see one thing in terms of something else. But for me thinking involves connections over time. As I said earlier, thinking is movement confined to the brain. Perhaps this could be the essence of thinking. Thinking always has a time sequence, like a rational argument, showing that two equals one, or a business plan which shows how one thing leads to another, or a little story with the beginning and the end. Whatever happens, you always go ‘beginning-middle-end’. It is always sequence of steps. You can not access it in random. Like a sentence is a sequence. Like you life is. It goes from your childhood, to your work, to eventually your retirement: all that is making you the unique person that you are. You cannot reverse things; you cannot muddle up the order of those things. This is in a way what we call‘cognition’. That is what ‘thinking’ is following a particular sequence, telling you a story, and that story gives you your identity.

Stories are essential for creative insight, because this needs meaning and spatial sequence, so that it would have significance. It enables thinking because you have to have a temporal sequence. It gives you an identity that is a meaning over time. That is why the print and broadcast media are also essential because I thing that what you are in the business of doing ultimately, whether it is a fact or fiction, is you are in the business of telling stories. 

The Opportunities of New Media in the Development of the Youth’s Innovative Potential


As we know the concept of New Media has a very broad meaning. In this case we are going to talk about such new media as network humane technologies. However, first of all we need to understand the concept of «innovation potential of young people» as a possible result of application these technologies.

In contemporary Russia everybody, including politicians, businessmen, scholars, teachers, journalists, talks about the necessity of developing the innovation potential of young people. The titles of conferences and articles contain different combinations of the words “young people’s innovation potential” (YPIP) which have turned into some kind of “mantra”. It is a common practice to define “YPIP” as a set of some characteristics possessed by young people which permit them to be engaged in innovation activities. Despite there is an agreement on definition for innovation activities, there is still no common definition for the “set of characteristics”. It raises at least three questions: 
1) What kind of characteristics does this set consist of?
2) Why is it so necessary to emphasize the importance of young people’s innovation potential if people of other ages are also capable of conducting innovation activities?
3) Finally, what are the ways to turn young people’s innovation potential as a “set of characteristics” into young people’s innovation potential as system characteristics of a young individual which is manifested in his deliberate striving for innovation and determines his professional choice, career, and place in the society.

After clarifying the authors’ opinion about the first and the second questions, we will try to answer the third one. We will present our own model of technology for developing of young people’s innovation potential that is the main objective of this paper.

Young people’s innovation potential – a “Pandora’s Box” or the most Valuable Resource? 
It has been a while since psychologists figured out that human being is not a machine with determined functions and power potential, which can be directly embedded into any production system. Nevertheless a reductionistic approach to the human innovation potential (IP) and its role in modern society still exists in theory and practice of Russian management. Within such a simplified approach an “innovation potential of an employee” is regarded as a complex of 4 abilities.

They are: 1) an ability to perceive new information, 2) to increase professional knowledge, 3) to put forward new competitive ideas and 4) to find solutions to non-standard tasks and new ways of solving common tasks. 
Without pretending to disclose the whole depth of such complex phenomenon as human innovation potential, we want to note that there must be at least one more — fifth — element in its structure. It is a values indicator an employee is focused on in his innovation activity. Ideally, this «fifth element» would differentiate an IP engineer, manager, and programmer from an IP killer, terrorist, and hacker. Emphasizing the role of young people as those possessing the innovation potential, most of the Russian researchers do not specify the IP phenomenon in relation to this particular generation. Hence, a conclusion (perhaps quite arguable) suggests itself that “innovative potential” in respect to a person of any age is universal, i. e. has the same structure.

However we want to consider the point of view of some Russian scholars who define innovation potential of young people as a specific phenomenon and separate it from their novative characteristics (NC). NC are the attributive features possessed by young people in any society and in any historical era. As a natural way to support sociality novative characteristics of the youth are quite primitive but thanks to them a person orientates in the surroundings even without a certain experience. In a certain sense not only youth, but also young primates and even young birds have novative characteristics. NC are the basis for creative thinking. Novative characteristics of young people are, per se, the nature of their perception and the absence of fear of making mistakes. 

What are the differences between young people's innovation potential and youth’s NC? 

From our point of view, the concept of G. Burns about “iconoclasts” helps to understand this difference. In other words, it helps to understand the diversity between young innovators-“iconoclasts” and «ordinary» young people with sensitive perception and lack of fear of being mistaken. 

Basically this difference is expressed in social skills which certainly are not limited only by the ability to represent the innovation ideas. Ideally, they should include the ability to build effective communication and to get involved in mutual activities with all the subjects of interest (“partners”, “opponents”, “experts”, “investors”, “consumers”, “mass media”). 
There is another point that makes YPIP different from NC. Firstly, it allows young people to go beyond the limits of “here and now” situation into broader contexts.( It is meant that a “new knowledge” is supposed to be produced not only because it is needed “here and now” but also in the future.) Secondly, it is focused on moral values that are dominant in the society. If we compare innovation potential of young people and older ones, should we find out that in the first case the dominant component is “novative characteristics”, and in the second case – social skills and “value orientation”.

YPIP may become an “explosive mixture” and be used in public favor or vice versa, when there are poorly developed social skills, low value orientation, no fear of being mistaken, but high level of creativity. It explains the controversial attitude of society and state institutions towards YPIP. Officially, the idea of developing innovation potential is always supported. In real life it is often not encouraged or even restrained because of the fear of unpredictable results. Due to these and some other issues the young people’s innovation potential remains to be latent (“asleep”), i.e. on the level of novative characteristics

However, the public opinion on the young people’s innovation potential, as the basic source for the novative characteristics – creativity and freedom of thinking, is being drastically changed under the pressure of quantity, diversity and complexity of the challenges the society faces. They become such rare and valuable resources that it is impossible to ignore them or to postpone their development.

How to awaken the young people’s innovation potential and to direct it for constructive purposes? 
Speaking of the technology for developing young people’s innovation potential we want to make the following idea clear. We are far from thinking that successful developing YPIP is the result of applying any humanities technologies or even High-Hume. Personal human consciousness and sub consciousness as the objects for influence are too complicated and understudied phenomena. There is no way to find the direct connection between them and any influence resources. Human being is a “super-complex self-developing system”. He always has the freedom of choice of any other action (reaction) in any concrete situation. The same is true for the situation when he is the object for any technology application. 

At the same time, it has been observed that there is nothing can form human thinking and behavior as a certain environment. Due to this fact the technology for developing young people’s innovation potential is nothing but the technology for creating the appropriate innovation environment (IE) that forms YPIP. The key moment here is determining the parameters of the innovation environment.
The first thing to focus, when determining these parameters, is their correspondence to the forming system social quality which is young people’s innovation potential. The second thing is socio-psychological particular qualities of young people as social subjects. We have already mentioned some of those qualities which are flexible perception, the ability to process large information flow and the lack of fear of making mistakes. Also there is an instability and paradoxicalness of young people’s consciousness and behavior. This paradoxicalness is revealed in combination of controversial features. It is assumed that young people have problems with self-actualization because of their partial (incomplete) involving in the system of social relations, the real creative activity. It turns to be the main reason for the mentioned contradiction between consciousness and behavior. 
It helps to formulate a preliminary hypothesis. The environment which forms young people’s innovation potential (novation characteristics + social skills and communication competences + value orientations) must have certain parameters: system qualities, communicativity, network structure, openness, self-developing, non-linearity, synergetic constructionism, combination of the principles of freedom and control, high novelty, reflexivity, poly-subjectiveness, interaction between social subjects, research (projective) focus, educational character, emotional impact, ability to satisfy ambitions, insight into everyday life. Those parameters suppose to provide future innovators with the wide range of facilities. 
It is clear that the parameters of the IE all are interconnected and each of them represents the condition for functioning of one or several other parameters. Overlapping each other, the parameters enhance the main emergent (synergetic) feature of the IE which is YPIP formation. Thereby the IE turns out to be a complex self-developing socio-communicative system which aims to form YPIP as a system characteristic of a social subject. IE communicative ontology explains its procedural (permanently changing) structure. 
In our opinion, the best metaphor to define this structure is the term “hub” as a “junction” of various communications and, at the same time, the “center” of innovative thinking and innovative activities. But as far as communication, thinking, activities are “born” by people, the term “HUB” means the “union of people generating innovations” (HUB is the abbreviation for “Human”, “Union”, “Bearing… the innovations!”).

What is the technology for developing the “HUB-environment” which forms young people’s innovational potential?
The basic hypothesis: The humanities networking technology (Net-high-Hume) under the conventional term “Up To the HUB” may become one of the most effective technologies for developing young people’s innovation potential. It may be accomplished by creating an appropriate environment – the “HUB” (“Join the union of those who create innovations” or “Come to the communication HUB bearing innovations”). 
The basic characteristics of this technology are: 1) information and communication ontology; 2) self-organization; 3) “double-net” mode (functioning in “on-line and off-line” mode); 4) belonging to the triple-helix system; 5) ability to be embedded in problem-oriented social media (such as “facebook” platform)
The hypothesis is based on a set of socio-philosophic, socio-economic, socio-psychological and natural sciences theories and concepts. All together they allow to accept a principle of possibility of developing such technology as ”Up to the HUB”. The pivotal theories of the methodological complex are: the concept of information network society by M. Castells; the theory of social systems by N. Luhmann; the sociology of the intellectual communicative networks by R. Collins; the theory of self-organization by I. Prigogine and H. Haken; the idea of the “Chaordic Allience” by D. Hock; the idea of four principles of “collective intelligence” existence by D. Tapscott and A. D. Williams; cognitive psychology by G. A. Kelly; the hypothesis of techno-humanitarian balance by A. Nazaretyan; the triple-helix concept by H. Etzkowitz.
All the mentioned concepts and theories have unique methodological opportunities for developing different elements of our technology. But only when combined they turn into a complex, necessary for implementing “Up to the HUB” as Net-High-Hume which is capable of creating the innovation environment, developing YPIP. That reveals system (emergent, synergetic) characteristics of the represented methodological complex. 

Now we proceed directly to the description of humanities networking technology «Up to the HUB». 
In the implementation of the humanities technology “Up to the HUB” one will find the following participants:
a) the target audience – “network” youth (senior pupils, students, recent university graduates); 
b) experts – acknowledged innovators from various fields of professional activities, including scientific, technical and artistic; 
c) organizers, moderators and researchers (university structures – departments, research groups); 
d) grant givers and sponsors (governmental and non-governmental funds, business-structures, venture capital companies, private companies, etc.); 
e) hosting providers

The algorithm of «Up to the HUB» that creates innovative environment (“HUB”) for the development of the young people’s innovation potential is as follows. The first step implies that researchers identify the cluster of the most zealously discussed “innovation” issues in the global electronic communicative space (social media and official mass media) and a group of the most acknowledged experts in the related field. 
The idea of the second step is that organizers and moderators carry-out appropriate seminar-discussion with the participation of these experts on one of the several international educational platforms in the double mode – “on-line and off-line” (live seminar broadcasting). The international educational platforms are organized on universities bases and form an academic ”net” (inter university partnership). 

At the third step discussion is relocated to the problem-oriented social network (“Facebook” technologies permit quick development of profiled networks). Discussion is supported in the network by moderators and experts during a particular period of time (1 to 4 months). All this time the target audience (young people who are interested in innovations) has the opportunity to get the answers to their questions in the on-line mode directly from the experts. 

The fourth step: the most important and current issues get revealed and accumulated and the plan of work for the next on-line and off-line seminar is being developed, and so on in the “helix” mode. 
The main advantages of the technology “Up to the HUB” are in the fact that it creates self-organizing “HUB-environment” in which:

1. Not only experts and researchers but also the targeted audience itself (young people) will be able to participate in forming the content of the process to develop their innovative potential. The phenomenon of “collective intelligence” that appears at this stage will maintain the values of individual intelligence. 

2. Thanks to social media the following will happen: a) the broadening of the net of targeted audience — there will be more young innovators and they will be instantly known by all the participants of the “triple helix” (universities, business and governmental institutions); b) the “connection” of innovative environment to everyday life of youth. 

3. The combination of the two modes (“on-line and off-line”) will provide the state of “productive disequilibrium” of the “HUB”-environment not allowing it to be either totally controlled (ordered) or uncontrolled (chaotic). Freedom of discussion in the social “on-line”-network will be combined with planning of workshop content in the academic “off-line”-network. In addition, the presence of these two modes provides a “techno-humanities balance” necessary for: a) carrying out humanities and axiological expertise of all the suggested ideas; b) the adoption of innovative technological knowledge at the personal level.

Winning grants young people with the highest motivation to innovative activity will tend to participate in the workshops for face-to-face communication with the outstanding experts-innovators from different countries as the Internet will never completely replace live communication.

The use of technology “Up to the HUB” functioning on the principle of “triple helix” + “double network” (social media and academic, “on-line and off-line”) may lead to the creation of self-organizing innovative “HUB”-environment as an new type of educational structure – “Open Networking Innovation University” (ONIU). Its main socio-cultural functions are IPYP forming as its system quality and maintaining the creative abilities of the society in general. 

The advantages of the open networking innovation university as the bundle (hub) in the network of intellectual communications in its accessibility (openness) for all the potential innovators, mobility, flexibility, “first-hand” knowledge transfer. ONIU is a bundle in communications network that supports the creative power of society. 

1. Berns, G. Iconoclast. – Alpina Business Book: Moscow, 2009.
2. Castells, M. The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. ol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2000. 
3. Collins, R. The Sociology of Philosophy: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. – Novosibirsk, 2002.
4. Etzkowitz, H. Triple Helix: University, Industry, Government. Innovation in Action. Routledge, 2008. 
5. Haken, H. Synergy. – Peace: Moscow, 1980.
6. Hock, D. W. Birth of Chaordic Age. – San Francisco: Berret Koehler, 1999.
7. Kelly, G.A. Theory of personality. The psychology of personal constructs. Norton, New York, 1963. 
8. Luhmann, N. A. Soziale Systems: Grundriss einer allgemeinen Theorie. – Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1984
9. Lukov, V.A. Comprehensive study of human societies: the novation characteristics, innovative potential, innovative abilities of young people. — 
10. Nazaretyan, A. Evolution of Non-Violence: Studies in Big History, Self-Organization and Historical Psychology. Saarbrucken: LAP, 2010.
11. Peters, T. The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness. EKSMO: Moscow, 2010.
12. Prigogine, I.; Stengers, I. Order out of Chaos: Man's new dialogue with nature. Flamingo, 1984.
13. Schedrovitsky, P.G. Tomsk Lectures on Management (1998-2000). – Tomsk, 2000.
14. Stepin, V. Theoretical knowledge: Structure, historical evolution. — Moscow: Progress, 1999.
15. Tapscott, D.; Williams, A. D. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Atlantic Books: London, UK, 2008. 

Mind and media


What experiences do we have of the relationship between mind and media? In the first part of these notes, I try to describe the relationships between mind and media (in particular certain essential points of connection or disconnection between a person’s mind and Twenty First Century media of mass communication). In the second part of the writing, I try to evaluate the relationship between mind and media — I try to observe the marriage or divorce between mind and media from a normative point of view: from a perspective based on some shared values, such as freedom, truth, health and friendship. I focus in the end on the importance of taking both interpreted facts and ethical judgments about the relationship between mind and media as something complex — something to be understood by being aware of the multifaceted nature of human beings and reality.

Topic of report: Mind and media

It is significant to notice that our experiences of the relationship between our mind and the technological media of mass communication show us the image of an articulate or differentiate landscape. This is so because the analysis of the nexusbetween the human mind and the media of communication demonstrates that such nexus relies upon a high number of facts and upon the possibility of evaluating them by means of many distinct and sometimes diverging normative judgments. In the first place, the human mind or consciousness is something ambivalent and somehow ineffable — it is perhaps the most complex thing that the human beings know in the cosmos (one could even say that it is the ‘strangest’ thing of which the human beings are aware). In the second place, contemporary mass media, being themselves human artifacts — that is, technological tools of communication ideated by the human mind itself — are elaborate and continuously evolving machines. They are machines that one could presently describe (at the beginning of the Twenty First Century) by means of the following points: i) they are technologies that take the form, more and more explicitly, of spatial or iconic devices — of digital tools conceived to get closer and closer to the essential visual and imaginative capacities of the human cognitive system; ii) they are technologies that take the form of integrative devices, of tools that could incorporate, inside one single system, many other subsystems or functions (they are, for example, ‘digitalizing devices’ (from the Latin word ‘digitum’, finger as discrete unity) that allow one to put together telephones, radios, television sets, data or information processing machines, etc. by means of one single computer; iii) they are technologies that take the form of more and more powerful devices, first of all with respect to the relevant amount of information that they are able to carry and with respect to the high speed at which they in fact vehicle such information; iv) they are technologies that take the form, at least in part, of interactive devices: for example, of machine that make it possible for their human users to pass commands and in general ‘inputs’ to the machine itself (for instance, by means of an active user ‘interface’); etcetera.

Given such qualities characterizing the contemporary media, one could then see why their relationship with the human mind might turn out to be both good and bad. This of course could be so for every kind of instrument, and the media of mass communication are, first of all, an instrument: it is not indeed surprising that one could use a simple tool such as a knife both for helping oneself more easily to eat a cake and for violently killing other people. The actual media of communication are complex instruments (at least a little more complex than a knife) and the ways in which they could be used by the human mind or influence the human mind are extremely various — this is true, although a straight comparison between human mind and current computers would immediately make it clear that the human mind is a kind of ‘machine’ unattainable for current machines as computers. The possibility for the marriage between human mind and media of succeeding or failing mainly depends, then, on the ability of the human mind itself to reflect on the media.

The essay is divided in two main parts: I try, in the first part, to throw some light on a series of facts and descriptive cases that seem to connect the actual machines of mass communication with the mind (or that seem to separate the actual machines of mass communication from the mind). I devote the second part of the essay to discuss some value-judgments that apply to the relation between the actual media and the mind. A few final remarks follow.


A person’s mind could simply be taken to refer to the set of that person’s cognitive and sensory experiences, broadly conceived — such idea of the mind should be seen to include such things as a person’s perceptions, emotions, will, actions (i.e. intentional behaviors), etc.

What are the media? We all know what they are: they are technological machines of social communication. Indeed, if we take into consideration their history, we could perhaps just say this: that the history of the media amounts to the development of more and more powerful — e.g. more and more far reaching — and sophisticated systems of mass communication. The most relevant historical fact which seems to shape the history of the media at the beginning of the Twenty First Century is then the so called ‘Turing’s machine’: the prototype of all successive computers up to the present new digital media.

Not to be mistaken: technological mass-media, at the beginning of the Twenty First Century, are, for example, telephones (mainly mobile telephones), radios, televisions, and, first of all, as we have said, computational systems — that is, informational hard-wares and soft-wares, etc. The central role played by computers, and in general by digital systems, in shaping the media at the beginning of the Twenty First Century, is the possibility offered by such systems to integrate, in the space of one single ‘machine’, many different functions.

What is a medium? Literally, it is something placed right in the middle between two other things: something that could thus‘mediate’ between those two things. When, for example, a person A calls a person B by telephone, the telephone, by means of which A and B can talk, is a device logically placed between A and B. Let’s notice, here, a possible analogy between a person’s mind and a medium of communication. If one locates a person’s mind in between i) a subject or Self and ii) some sort of (external) objects, then the mind is something that could be seen to share certain structural or functional characteristics with a medium of communication: one could see, for instance, that a person’s mind conceived as her background cognitive dispositions is, just like any given medium of communication, something that somehow mediates between the person’s self and the objects or stimuli that she perceives (this idea of the mind as a cognitive structure that ‘mediates’ a person’s perceptions is precisely Kant’s idea of the mind).

One crucial point of essential disconnection or difference between a human mind and a technological medium of communication, such as, for instance, a digital computer, is of course the fact that the human mind can create a computer but the opposite — i.e. the possibility for the digital computer of creating a human mind — does not hold (this possibility has been even discarded from a theoretical point of view, at least for the fact that there are many persuasive arguments against the so called ‘hard’ (or ‘strong’) project in artificial intelligence’).[1] 

A further question is now this: how does the human mind concretely interact, or simply get in touch with, the modern technological media? Let’s observes some cases: a person talks and listens through a mobile phone, or listens to the radio, or watches a TV, or reads and watches the information displayed on a computer screen, etc. (as we have said, all these things might now occur when a person is using just one single ‘machine’, for one single machine could now work as a mobile phone, or as a TV-set, or as radio, or as a video or Internet player, or as an electronic book, etc.).[2]

When a person is watching images (e.g. pictures, videos, etc.) on a digital computer, but also when she is reading some written texts on a computer, the person is somehow behaving as homo videns. But there is more: even when the person is using theaudio files of a computer she is more or less explicitly behaving as homo videns, for the audio files — and thus the generated sounds, etc. — are something that is located in this or that spatial part of the digital machine (first of all in this or that ‘active’ region of the screen, etc.). The centrality of the visual attributes of the media, in particular the relevance of the screen of contemporary digital machines, has prompted some scientists to observe that when a person begins to exploit a modern communicational device, she somehow passes from a three dimensional (i.e. ‘3D’), ordinary reality to a two dimensional (i.e. ‘2D’) reality. Thus, for example: a person that makes a video call to a friend by means of a computer should be seen to be an individual that interacts with her friend in a two dimensional reality (and so: a person who decides to spend more time making video calls to friends instead of meeting them in normal streets, etc. is simply someone who decides to spend more time in a two dimensional reality — rather than in a three dimensional reality).

Are contemporary media active or passive devices? (Are contemporary mass media more passive or more active devices?) They are getting — just as devices — more and more active, that is, more and more interactive machines. Why is this so? It is so because the number of functions available to contemporary media users is getting higher and higher (this point is of course connected to the higher and higher power of functional integration of contemporary mass communication devices). Indeed: a Twenty First Century computer clearly allows its users to have access to more operations than, let’s say, a Twenty Century TV-set (here one could simply begin to notice that machines merely producing black and white images have been replaced by machines producing high definition colored images).

Another more and more evident fact characterizing the media, in particular their relationship with the human mind in the first half of the Twenty First Century, is this: the acceleration in the processes of communication made possible by contemporary media. Executing tasks by means of a computer is getting quicker and quicker (and just by pushing a button on a keyboard one could now, for example, instantaneously change the images, videos, texts, etc. displayed on the computer screen). Here one could also reflect on Baudrillard’s idea of the ‘moving image’ as the central mode by means of which recent media technology mediates reality.[3] To be precise: Baudrillard argues, from his post-modernist perspective, that the ‘moving image’ (the image that one watches on a TV set or on a computer screen, etc.) is in fact the main element by means of which the media literally ‘substitute’the real world. However: Baudrillard’s description of what is unreal in our ‘medialized’ perceptions is — at least as it seems to me — somehow hyperbolic (i.e. somehow exaggerated).

As for the acceleration in the processes of human communication allowed by modern technologies one could observe the similarity between the change affecting the media and the change affecting the systems of transport. Like the systems of transports (e.g. animals, carriages, cars, trains, airplanes, etc.), the media are first of all types of carriers — information (or disinformation, etc.) is the basic ‘good’ carried by the media. Like the systems of transport, which have historically incremented their speed, the media, as we have noticed, have also historically incremented their speed. So one could now compare, for example, a person that sends letters by means of a pigeon with a person that sends electronic mail messages; and then compare all this with the difference between a person that travels by camel and a person that travels by airplane.

In considering the relationship between media and mind is it relevant to trace a distinction between medium and content (of the medium)? Yes, this seems to be a simple distinction to be aware of. To consider an elementary case: when a person reads Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf’ both on a paper book and on an electronic/plastic book and is negatively influenced by it, one should perhaps see that it is the book as content (i.e. the thoughts of Mein Kampf’) rather than the book as medium (i.e. the paper or the electronic/plastic reading device) which has negatively influenced the person. And conversely, trivially: if Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf’ falls down from the shelves and disturbs a person’s sleep, one should see that it is perhaps the book as medium (i.e. the paper or the electronic/plastic reading device) and not the book as content (i.e. the thoughts of Mein Kampf’) which has disturbed the person (at least in consideration of this basic fact, Marshall McLuhan’s famous claim (in his Understanding Media) that ‘the medium is the message’ should be seen to be implausible — that is, one should take this claim, ‘the medium is the message’, at most as an eclectic slogan, not as an evident empirical statement).[4]


I now would like to raise an explicitly normative question: do the new media of mass communication play a positive or a negative role with respect to a person’s mind? More specifically: given certain shared and basic values such as i) freedom, ii) truth, iii) health and iv) friendship, how should one judge the relationship between the new media and the human mind?
I) Let’s begin to say something about the experienced sense of freedom or un-freedom that a person could entertain when she gets in touch with the contemporary media. Let’s for example focus on this situation: a person knows how to use a computer well and also likes using it (indeed the person has learned how to use a pc well because she likes using it); when she does something with her computer she feels free. By contrast: for another person, using a computer is a problematic experience — this latter person finds it difficult to use a computer and does not really enjoy to learn how to use it well: she claims in the end that she does not feel free when she has to use a computer.

Another question concerning freedom is this: is a person’s mind objectively free if the person has access to new media technologies? Yes, she is: enjoying more possibilities means for a person enjoying more freedom. This is true — i.e. this is at least prima face true -, though one should now also observe this basic opposite point: since a person’s life is contained in a given logical space, every new possibility entering such dimension also somehow constrains it. For example: a person who is aware of the fact that she could use a computer to send messages has intuitively less open memory (or less free ‘space of thought’, etc.) than a person who is not aware at all about such possibility (it is for similar reasons that philosophers are sometimes interestingly advised to make ‘tabula rasa’ of all their knowledge and somehow embrace Socrates’ intellectual stance: ‘I know that I don’t know’).

II) Let’s now try to answer a question that has at its centre the idea of truth: is a person, who is exposed to the power of contemporary media, more or less liable to be or become victim of false (i.e. not even veridical) information? Let’s here focus on this case: a man, who is living in Persia many centuries ago, can know the events which are occurring in northern Europe because another man, who is travelling by horse from northern Europe to Persia, sometimes brings him news about that far away land. Of course the former man has simply to trust the latter man: it would be impossible for the former man quickly to check the truth or falsity of the latter man’s reports (by assumption, the former man could in fact just wait for the arrival of other travelers by horse, or wait to have he himself the possibility of going to northern Europe by horse, etc.). Let’s now compare this case with a contemporary (i.e. beginning of Twenty First Century) situation: a man, that is living in what is the actual Persia, could know what is happening in northern Europe not only by consulting other human beings coming to him by horse, but also by making a phone call, or by listening to the radio, or by watching a TV program, or by reading about northern European facts on the Internet, etc. In this second case, the man in Persia could also quickly or more quickly check the truth or falsity of the received information about northern Europe — he could, for example, make many quick phone calls and check what is really occurring in northern Europe by asking many different people; or he could consult and compare different websites (thus different articles, ‘blogs’, etc.) that contain information about northern Europe; etc. If one observes a system of communication based on people delivering information by travelling by horse and a modern system of mass communication, it is the latter that seems to offer more epistemic guarantees.

But now reflect on this opposite possibility: hiding the truth might be on the contrary easier given certain characteristics of the modern system of mass communication. For example: it seems it would be much easier for a person to hide me the truth if she could just talk with me from the other side of a phone rather than having to speak with me while watching me straightly into my eyes (a fortiori it might be easier for an unknown internet site to pass me some false news; etc.).

III) What about a person’s psychological health? Do the new media of communication increase or decrease a person’s sense of psychological wellness? Of course it seems (all things considered) that it is healthier for a person to bring her body to go to walk in a green forest, or to swim in a clean lake, etc., than to put it to sit down for hours and hours in front of a pc video. It seems indeed so, though a person, who could use a computer to develop his or her creative abilities, might receive considerable pleasure, and thus considerable sense of healthiness, by spending a considerable time using a digital medium.

Contemporary digital media, in particular social websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.), or videogames, etc. have sometimes been accused to make their users — especially if they are young — somehow schizophrenic and autistic: persons unable normally to listen to other people, since their minds have just been trained to react to fast moving pictures, or ‘multi tasks’ stimuli, etc. Such accusation against the electronic media, if supported by empirical evidence, should be seriously taken into consideration, although one should then check whether the postulated young victims of the pc have a real opportunity also to engage in normal 3D, classic social relationships. In fact: if I a person must obsessively use (i.e. must use for a very prolonged period of time) a given instrument, then it might be normal to discover that such instrument has generated in the person some sort of abnormal behavior — for example: if a person has to hear for days and days a song that continuously repeats her the word ‘house’, then it might really happen to see that even in the absence of such song the person goes on hearing the word ‘house’.

IV) Value of friendship: do modern communicational technologies favor or contrast the possible development of a feeling of friendship among people? Once again, here, the reality seems to be composite. On the one hand, the speed and possibility of distant reach (together with the high functionality) of many contemporary media make it possible for one easily to stay in touch with many people — even with persons that live very far away from the place where one is living. On the other hand, the fact that the mass media significantly accelerate the possibility of contact among different people might negatively influence the quality of their friendship (for instance, since one knows many people one might not be able to find the necessary time to deepen his friendship with another single person or with a few persons, thus becoming more and more detached in one’s affective behavior).

Final Remarks

The end of the Twentieth Century and above all the present time, the beginning of the Twenty First Century, are sometimes described as ‘Information Age’: a period in which, among the other things, the human mind is massively investigated and with it the possibility of making its technological artifacts more and more ‘intelligent’, that is to say, more and more similar, in terms of capacities and potentialities, to the human mind itself (being the human mind, as we have said, the most powerful ‘mechanism’ currently known in the existing universe or cosmos). However: the main trait of the human mind is its openness, and it is indeed such openness that will constitute in the future the hardest obstacle on the road to make this or that invented machine, including this or that technology of mass communication, similar to the mind itself.[5] And hence: in contrast to the self celebrating, grandiose rhetoric that often surrounds the achievements of present day technological engineers and designers, it is perhaps useful to realize that even the most advanced computer is not — so far, if compared to the human mind — much more than a modest kitchen liquidizer or some other sort of humble electrodomestic.


1. Here I have in mind the contingent, historical debate on the ‘hard project’ on AI (i.e. Artificial Intelligence) involving such philosophers as Hubert Dreyfus, or John Searle, etc.
2. On this point also see H. Gardner, Is the Medium the Message?,
3. J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, University of Michigan Press, 1994 (orig. French edition, 1981).
4. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY, 1964.
5. It is interesting here to read this simple thought by G. I. Gurdjieff: “It is possible to stop being a machine, but for that it is necessary first of all to know the machine. A machine, a real machine, does not know itself and cannot know itself. When a machine knows itself it is then no longer a machine, at least, not such a machine as it was before. It already begins to be responsible for its actions.” (Quoted in P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, Mariner Books, 2001, p. 19.)