Technological progress has always contributed to transforming the relationship between Man and his environment. The CfGC, in line with research developed over the past thirty years, analyzes how concepts like mobility and staying put are at the center of profound redefinition with the advent of new technologies in different sectors: from health to education, from agriculture to cultural heritage, from productive activities to sales. Every aspect of society, politics, economy, and culture is touched by the exponential spread of automation systems with the potential to link everything and everyone as never before in human history.
In this scenario, the immense potential of new mobility to bring into communication, to connect, to join, or on the contrary to disconnect, to detach, to isolate represents a powerful tool not only to make our world smaller but to rewrite our socio-economic reality. No more in-between spaces to cross as rapidly as possible, spaces reduced to a minimum, distances slashed to the miniscule. Instead, we find in-between spaces to be explored, planned and built.
There’s not an enterprise, institution, agency or organization that can afford to postpone transforming their mode of communication, that is to say putting people, ideas, and things in common. Mobility today means planning, producing, creating.Thus, mobility becomes a tool to govern the complexity in which we are immersed and transforming it into an exceptional resource. This can take place on vastly different scales: from a single organization to an entire society. Sociology has always pointed out the unfortunate difficulty in intercepting profound changes that technologies for mobility have brought about, and continue to bring about today. The crisis we are currently experiencing is a clear confirmation of this.
Braudel, in his La Méditerranée (1985), pointed out how we tend to see reality like a black box that neither evolves nor changes. However, in this way we are unable to grasp macro evolution, which is what characterizes history. In line with this perspective is also the important reflection carried out in the same period by Enzo Tiezzi regarding historical and biological times (1984). What we’re speaking about–and what we’re called on to deal with on a daily basis–is a natural, historical sort of digital that humans have always embodied, as opposed to our modern computer-based concept of digital. Indeed, we often encounter difficulties engaging because we are tied to a pre-complex concept of territory that frequently characterizes sociological thought.
The territory, therefore, becomes an increasingly active subject. By being in continuous evolution and unceasingly changing, it creates new connections between subjects that have previously never worked together and, at the same time, interrupts and rewrites pre-existing collaborations. This also has a strong impact on the way the university’s Third Mission is perceived and put into practice.
Understanding that continuous processes of territorialization, deterritorialization, and re-territorialization redefine notions about staying put, mobility and its relative relations however mustn’t lead to a simplified flowing continuum where the boundaries between these two ways of experiencing and crossing territories are reduced.
By adopting the perspective of complexity, the transformation of a territory leads us to also redefine our ideas about mobility and staying put. The need for a transdisciplinary approach to active research in the field of mobility indeed seems evident.
The CfGC continues to demonstrate its engagement in this field with three important projects:
Before being physically and geographically defined, territories are groupings of symbolic patterns. From this derives the importance of stories and storytelling. The recounting of individual and collective experiences makes it possible for territories to be linked which may be geographically very distant. Physical links, generated by the movement of people and goods; and symbolic links, generated by the circulation of ideas and sharing of cultural traits. Just as the physical constantly generates the symbolic, so does the symbolic generate the physical.
When considering the CfGC’s approach to research in the field of mobility, it’s necessary to keep in mind that territories are not only crossed in a physical way but also mentally. Travel is not limited to physical movement from one place to another but it can be virtual as well. We can travel in our minds thanks to online digital environments, in our own interior, intrapsychic dimension or through our social experiences.
In this sense, the identity of a territory is not established by its boundaries but rather by the web of interconnections that exist within it by the stories and tales of those who live in it and those who cross through it, who plan to cross through it or remember having done so.
Augmented reality technology has the potential to redefine the relations between physical travel and symbolic travel. Through its use–for example in the case of the San Casciano Smart Place project–it becomes possible to hybridize them and create a new way of using both the territory and the information and knowledge linked to it. A reinvention of the ancient concept of genius loci. By acting on the relations that connect physical places to the knowledge linked to them, the opportunities to use those places can be modified and extended.
Augmented reality, and more generally the development of robotics, has interesting repercussions also in the field of education. These technologies can help redefine the relations between that which a person studies and how they apply that knowledge, as well as offer the possibility of taking him or her –and the contents they’re studying–directly into the field where it’s possible to directly test the application. Also this new relationship between scientiae usus participates in redefining the concepts of mobility and staying put, which is the common thread of all of the CfGC’s research in this field.