The Italian writer Alessandro Baricco has commented in his analysis on global connective culture, The Barbarians: An Essay on the Mutation of Culture, back in 2006: "The future is in the hands of brilliant savages." But who are these savages, and where lies their genius?

Alessandro Baricco, photo by Sebastian Magnani.

Alessandro Baricco, photo by Sebastian Magnani.

If we think of a barbaric revolution, we imagine a violent act far from any form of civilisation, dangerous and nightmarish, capable of destroying our “advanced” culture, or at least our romantic and nostalgic idea of it. No matter how we can love, hate or be shocked by this mutation, we can't ignore it is happening and Baricco make us reflect on the fact that we are not losing our culture, but we are simply acquiring a new way of knowing and experiencing the world.

In the past, the concept of knowledge was connected to the value of time, more time employed, deeper the study, and greater the result. Today, depth is rarely a priority: long and precious time has been substituted with speed and immediacy; instead of delving into the topic at hand, the pioneers of this revolution are "surfing" on the millions of possibilities represented by web links. Technology and innovation also have brought a democratisation of culture, making knowledge available for everybody. Among the brilliant savages that have create this system we might as well recall Larry Page and Sergey Brin, inventors of Google.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google, 2002. Photo source:  The Red List.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google, 2002. Photo source: The Red List.

Democracy is the value of the barbarians: they don't believe in the superiority of a caste over another one, intellectual or political, but in the "mediety:" the winner is the one assigned by the greater number of votes from the majority – translated into connective media terms, superiority comes with likes and retweets. 

For these barbarians, the enjoyment of culture is not what it was in the past: a privilege for a restricted group of individuals that can consecrate their time and effort to some refined pleasures, but something for everybody that easily satisfies; something spectacular, sometimes kitsch, but always entertaining. This simplification of culture is reflected also in a new language where it is favoured the utility and practicality, the commercial value of language, rather than the intrinsic high and low that divide, exclude, and label the speakers.

Undated photograph titled ' Lifeguard  by Joseph Szabo.

Undated photograph titled 'Lifeguard by Joseph Szabo.

The new savages refuse the idea of soul and they are not particularly grateful to the past, or their ancestors – not because they are cruel, but because they refuse the slavery of ideologies: the concept of the spiritual loftiness, born to justify aristocracy and high society not inclined to work, the notions of “nation” and “race,” for which millions have died during history, and the dogmas of the Church, celebrating suffering and strain in the name of God. 

The pioneers of the new are often regarded with horror by the traditionalists: they have no love for high culture, they have no respect for the past, they speak poorly, they prefer Coca Cola to excellent wine, they go to cinema rather than showing off their erudition. But these “barbarians” have new beliefs and a great project for the future: a culture open to everybody, at the touch of a "click." What will, however, prevail?

Words: Veronica Mafolino

Copy edited by Elena Stanciu