metamedium_coverMetamedium, net economy and software culture

The social history of phone on internet

The last two decades of human history have projected us in a special life condition in which the so-called “cultural software” – ideas, practices, tools and languages supported and proceduralized by software working with and on networks – increasingly mediates our relationships with people and the world. Consequently, among salient characteristics of actual telecommunication scenery there is a tumultuous ongoingness of services and experiential spaces created by digital remixes that both blending traditional media and opening them to new functional and expressive possibilities, creating links, selections and hybridisations of resources and contents owned by the heterogeneous connected communities.

Despite its apparent specificity, the story of integration between telephone and internet shows a fundamental step in our digital turn, timely describing its sustainability and archetypal logics. Contrasting the newism with the tension of a less or more recent past, such episodes help us to understand many of elements feeding the contemporary debates and social networking phenomenon, revealing the roots of a systemic process, of which it preserves a vivid and realistic picture of context and contingencies because snapshot was taken when “corpse was still warm”.

(2011, Naples, Liguori)

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Author’s note:

“After many years from the work describing how telephnony was born in internet I realize that this book was becaming unique. Not so much because when it was originally published (2002) the theme was still far from popularity – to say, Skype was not yet invented as internet platform to phone or make a videocall.

Really, the main reason of originality is that this research remains the sole voice telling the social, technical and cultural events happened on, and thanks, the internet network of the time.

I have often tried, also recentely, to find these plots somewhere, online or in other books – there was a curiosity to came back on that events throught different eyes. Unfortunately, as it often happens regarding events lived through the network, of them there are no traces in the world: events, voices and stories of the many protagonists now exist only in this book – another reason to shout ‘books are great’ for their irreplaceable work of memory!

Nevertheless, it was an important turn to talk each other on internet through the vital breathe of human voice , also thinking of all opportunities – at technological and democratical level – opened in terms of real time communication, starting the new streaming era – can we imagine ourselves without our media prothesis, to say without Zoom, Meet, Team, Skype, Facetime, Youtube or Facebook live sessions?

Impacting so deeply society should be the mission of many digital enterprises – that’s why I believe such stories must be the known ingredients to understand and also create other successful stories in order that projects and software becoming for us cultural objetcs/enviroments feeding our lives.

From this point of view I still continue to consider very instructive Lev Manovich observations:

You are likely to know the names of Renaissance artists who popularized the use of linear perspective in western art […] or early twentieth-century inventors of modern film language […] — but I bet you do not know where Photoshop comes from, or Word, or any other media tool you are using every day. More importantly, you probably do not know why these tools were invented in the first place.What is the intellectual history of media software? What was the thinking and motivation of the key people and research groups they were directing As we will see, the theoretical ideas of these people and their collaborators work very well today, helping us to better understand the contemporary software we use to create, read, view, remix, and share. Welcome, then, to the “secret history” of our software culture —secret not because it was deliberately hidden but because until recently, excited by all the rapid transformations cultural computerization was bringing about, we did not bother to examine its origins. This book will try to convince you that such an examination is very much worth your time (Software takes command, 2010).


MediaLiquidicoverTangling with media and computer liquidity
The dimensions of ubiquitous computing and the grasp of world

Information and communication devices are steadily inserted into the tissue of economy, culture, and society, involving every relationship we engage with surrounding realities regardless space and time, provoking very intimate and personal interactions with all sort of ideas, objects, places and events.
Media and computers liquidity is a technological way to accentuate a short circuit between our nude life and the variegate “external” world.  The availability of cross-media resources, their pulverization and diffusion into matters, bodies and the very air we breathe, together with their increasing user-friendliness and project plasticity, is a participating element of the wider socio-cultural reshuffling of post-industrial era.
Following a minimal approach starting from concrete examples of ubiquitous info-communication, the book questions combinations that are redefining our substance of people of a network society, as well as the emerging meanings that could appear “alien”, delineating a move that, through a wide work of re-mediation and subjective and social appropriation, tries to overcome the condition of impersonality and eradication of context (dis-embedding) typical of high modernity techno-social systems.
(Lampi di stampa 2009)


The book contains some reflections about ways and pervasiveness with which new digital technologies are amalgamating with our lives contributing to transform them. They are mostly observations risen around developments or launch of particular technological products/gadgets, sons of wonders that in such moments unite specialists and technologists, of extremely interesting discussions and reflections  that would merit – for intensity and acuteness of look – a bigger attention.
Meanwhile, we are all irresistible absorbed in a dense digital network that works as a dematerialised/deterritorialised  but real and lively infrastructure, with and on which we experience and expand much various emotions/activities, organizing social networks on scale that, in their indefiniteness for our increasingly synchronic condition, we define glocal (global/local).
In effect, as noted, it is in our nature considering infrastructures as granted, feeling them as something that “stays there”, ready-made and completely transparent, something on which something else “runs” or “works”, being rails on which cars go or computers run software programs. They remain on background,  subtracted to the scene, in a toolness that hides their intense relational dynamics and continuous trials of sustainability at which, as common goods, they are directly and indirectly exposed. From this point of view, Ict infrastructures are even more deceitful, counting – just for their peculiar constitution, shapeness, and applicative expandability – on effects, to say, of a double transparency.
This work tries to make visible and thick background processes, to evidence components and relations that – in a scenery of increasingly media and informational liquidity – are originally characterizing  our existences. In effect, the ubiquitous presence and availability of Ict technologies predispose us to a communicative porousness and relational ecology interesting not only the ways people or groups meet each other and manage social activities into the more disparate environments, but also the terms of inter-mediation among the variegated entities inserted in these networks. With diffusion and embedding of electronic and wireless microcircuits  into the objects, bodies and every kind of environment, we are assisting at a digital innervations that  is also a social and cultural re-blooding involving any sort of component and process, a work uses the power and the art of remediation of two genre of specific but now convergent technological developments, media and computers. The book considers some effects of this technological alchemy that combines in a new way the ability of media to “make the world” and the functional efficiency of computing to create automatic procedures around phenomena and activities of physical and  social reality, opening continuously new paths at “otherwise possible”.
As well-noted by sociology, their aid to organize wide and, at the same time, integrated socio-technical systems was fundamental for modern societies and people’s experiences, that have accustomed to new way of imagining and acting, as well as new situational geographies, bearing problematics and  ambiguities of a condition that tends to overcome the closer world of face-to-face interaction. In effect, these processes don’t offer any warrantee of sistematism, risking often to not be able to reflect and contain behaviours, experiences, knowledges and competences maturing in societies, while the very technologies of mediation are supports  sensitive to crises and changes of people’s life. Factor and symptom of these transitions, technological emergence offers itself as one of the most vivid field to explore their tensions, facing both problematics and ambiguity of balances, and novelty of solutions that delineate more appropriate horizons of concreteness.
Taking inspiration from some recent Ict implementations centred on forms and relations between physical world of bodies and objects and the digital world of networks, the book advances some reflections about the nature, ibridations and criticalness of our actual  life re-configuration, underlining experiential pregnancy  of a condition in which human being goes back, in a sort of animism, to be part of a never-ending dialogue with the various surrounding entities, being persons, web pages, voice mail, games or artificial intelligences (personages of video-games, bots, interactive software programs, components of automobile, anthropomorphic puppets and friendly artifacts as Nabaztag, availabot, Uebbi, etc.).
(Lampi di stampa 2009)


The porous dimensions of ubiquitous info-communication
The media and computer liquidity

Logic and aesthetics of multimedia telephone
Tiny/big signals
The iPhone case
Multimediality, digital convergence and personalization
Business models, old actors and newcomers
The device
Aesthetics of iPhone
Aesthetics as experience
iPhone and the aesthetisation of information tool
iPhone and the aesthetics of network society

The “Cloud Computing”
The solid architectures of “cloud computing”
The socialization of informatics
The new economics of scale
Means and contents
Critics of web 2.0

Digital morphogenesis
Questions of presence
Inter-actions by dissemination
Bifocal beings, local and global



ilvideofoninoThe video cell phone
Genesis and horizons of the phone with images

Although video telephony as a  communications system has remained at the margins of the telephonic world, its original idea has stimulated the development of the current platforms of multi-media communications (voice, image, data). The book goes over history from a critical perspective, to analyze socialcultural developments tied to new technological scenarios, asking whether the introduction of visual communication in the latest generations of mobile phones could have the same social and anthropological impact as voice and text messages have achieved in recent years. The approach to the subject is a cross between socio-technical inquiry, anthropological analysis and phenomenological reflection: on par with any and all digital communication devices, the video cell phone is, in fact, a sort of prism with a thousand faces. The work thus invites readers to focus not only on the medium’s creation of images but – by reclaiming its symbolical roots – to pay greater attention to the infinite prospects of its present consequences. The text contains an essay by John Durham Peters.

Luciano Petullà, an expert on communication and information technologies in relation to their social and cultural contexts, has published L’INTERNET TELEPHONY. STORIA SOCIALE DI UN MEDIUM DELLA NEW ECONOMY (2002) and in 2005 edited the Italian edition of John Durham Peters’ book SPEAKING INTO THE AIR: A HISTORY OF THE IDEA OF COMMUNICATION (2000).

Davide Borrelli, a professor of communication science at the Università degli Studi in Lecce and the Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples, conducts research in the field of the social history of media and the culture industry. He has published several books, including IL FILO DEI DISCORSI. TEORIA E STORIA SOCIALE DEL TELEFONO.

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internet telephonyThe Internet Telephony
The social story of a medium of new economy

(2002, Rubbettino)

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