Review: Aldo Agostinelli & Silvio Mauzza – People are Media

People are Media
Aldo Agostinelli & Silvio Mauzza

Digital technology has been disruptive even in this field. Nowadays, everybody can communicate with whomever they want, wherever they wish, for free and instantly… We are talking about a huge human capital which needs to be regulated, but also a potentially limitless market where to make business by interpreting big data and using the most refined and efficient storytelling techniques. ”

I hoped that this book would discuss how to exploit people as media. Instead it reads as a list of facts with no actual argument. My wife got half way through this book before she gave up and needed to rant to me about it. She did read the second half (no other books on offer at the time) which had more details and practicality in terms of what will happen next eg. ‘getting lots of likes’ is the way that things are heading.

One of the later chapters discusses the ‘Big Data’ of ads – you can give feedback that you already purchased it so that it can predict what you might like to buy. Google not only knows where you are going, it now knows where you park. This data can be used better, and at the moment isn’t good at cross-selling. He writes as if this is a bad thing at two two extremes: ‘everyone wants freedom & chaos’ and compares it to Singapore where ‘a lot of rules and tracking leads to fines when people do the wrong thing, but can also be used to improve traffic’. I don’t believe that the culture in Australia and the US  would let the latter happen to us, because we like our freedom, and campaign hard to keep it.

We used to be so focused on keeping our data and information private. People used to be secretive and not even mention when they were going on holiday so that people wouldn’t rob the house! But now, we even let Facebook know when we are out to lunch. Technology already knows where I am all the time (with a phone in my pocket), now I’d just like to be more useful – so the only way forward is to improve the technology. The authors don’t feel this way at all – whoever has that data like Facebook and Google can monopolise and use it to control the world.

The authors are clearly Italian because they mention it a million times, but it’s not really relevant. With this in mind, perhaps it is typical that I comment on it not being written well with many long sentences a lot of commas. A lot of the paragraphs are a single sentence with no links or reasons for why particular things are mentioned, leading to it reading in a fragmented manner. Additionally, statements are randomly bolded – things that he seems to think are important – but they are just facts, not the point.

When you look at past inventions such as trains/planes it was new for the time and considered a huge innovation. The media selfie era is no different to what has already happened in the past. Because it is new to you in your lifetime doesn’t mean that it’s a unique occurrence! The statement of ‘When I was young…’ is something that can be applied to many things. When I was young, my grandparents told me that there were never books about cooking because everyone knew how to, and it was just passed on. Then in my time, and my parents time, cook books were popular. Now, it’s all on the internet. It’s a natural progression of things in my opinion.

The conclusion wasn’t a conclusion. It was just what you could have understood from looking at the front (there’s no blurb). The authors ask their rhetorical questions in the conclusion, but don’t actually answer how technology can be harnessed in a positive manner. The point of the book is that we should learn to harness the technology and use it to improve the world, but we have no hope of doing this until… ever. Apparently there is no hope of doing that.

This book wasn’t for me or my wife. I’m not sure who would enjoy it or find it useful – perhaps in its native language it is more relevant and well written. Don’t rush out to buy it, have a browse in the bookstore first.

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