The Italian Sense of the Web. A Social History of the Culture of Connectivity: A Mediatization Approach
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The culture of connectivity in Italy is produced by the interrelation of social media and the evolution of social ties evolution. This article analyses this culture by highlighting the dynamics of power and participation, and overcoming the dichotomy between the “manipulative” and “democratization” media theses. It therefore focuses on the specific transition between web 1.0 and web 2.0, tracing a change, caused by the spread of social network platforms, in discourses on the social sense of connectivity: in other words, reconstructing an history of technological and communicative transformations coupled with specific events that can produce a different social consciousness of connectivity. The approach adopted to analyze this transition in terms of the social history of the media will be periodization, while the mediatization approach will serve as the broader framework for understanding and interpreting the relation between the spread of social media and the evolution of the sense that social ties express the culture of connectivity. Linking periodization to mediatization will more specifically involve taking the temporal dimension into account on at least three levels: an events-based, micro-type temporality, capable of identifying specific media events or widespread media practices; a meso-type temporality, marked by a succession of media waves which underline the disruptive effect of certain ecosystemic configurations of media devices, which can alter significantly both market and cultural dimensions; and a macro-temporal dimension, suitable for tracing a succession of technological ages, such as the passage described in the literature as the transition from the age of the industrial revolution to the information or digital age. This framework of mediatization through the lens of the periodization of Italy’s digital evolution enables us to identify– in the context of a long-term perspective on the digital age – the countercyclical role of the digital, which, especially in the mid-period, both fostered and characterized the transition from web 1.0 to web 2.0. By applying a short-term, “evenemential” logic to an analysis of the 2009 to 2014 period, it becomes possible to trace the way in which the mediatization of the social tie, thanks to the diffusion of web 2.0 in Italy, resulted in a swift transition from a rhetoric of “friendship” to a rhetoric of “participation” thatin turn was widely perceived as becoming, in a political sense, increasingly critical.
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