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Breaking the Internet Code in Italy

Last night I went to the second performance of CodiceInternet, a one-person show by Marco Montemagno in Teatro dell’Arte in Milan. Granting that it was in Italian (which I do not speak) and that Marco is a friend, I still thought it was pretty great. (I understand a little Italian, and the context was familiar enoughthat I only had to turn to an Italian friend next to me a few times to roughly follow what was going on. Or so I have deluded myself. I am reminded of the old Woody Allen line: “I spead-read War and Peace in 30 minutes. It’s about Russia, right?”)

CodiceInternet (the Internet Code) is a project that’s been going on all month in Milan, including daily street interviews in the popular (and beautiful) Galleria. The events, the show, and the DVD that will come out of it are all intended to encourage Italians to accept the Internet in all its open glory. The percentage of Italians using the Internet is the lowest in Europe. Milan only has 100 hot spots. Net access is expensive and difficult. I’m writing this from a Net cafe, where the law requires all users to provide a passport or similar ID document to prevent terrorists from using the Net, because, as we all know, terrorists are too stupid to ever use codes.) According to Marco, the general view of the Internet in Italy is that it’s good for email or maybe looking something up, but othewise it’s a den of iniquity and a distraction from what matters. And that it is very hard to use.

So, Marco and the CodiceInternet group are trying to tell people that the Internet is not just a few tools in an ocean of porn. It is where people meet, connect, and build new things together. The Internet is for everyone. His stage show is entertaining, funny, and someetimes moving. (Marco is an incredibly engaging performer, as well as a Net entrepreneur and host of a Sky TV show about the Internet.)

CodiceInternet will continue, moving from city to city and building an online social network that already has 2,000 Italian bloggers on it. (Yesterday I got to hang out with a handful of those bloggers, which was great fun, of course.) The energy and goodwill of CoediceInternet is encouraging. Too bad it’s needed.

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