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09/05/2016 - Matteo Flora - The age of Transparency

A Global Conversation with Matteo Flora ‘The age of Transparency’

Monday 9th May 2016, first and second year students of Global Governance had the pleasure to attend a conversation with Matteo Flora.
Flora is the founder and CEO of The Fool, one of the leading Italian companies for protection of online reputation and digital assets. While introducing himself, he also stressed the fact that he is an “hacker and Buddhist”.
Flora gave his lecture “The Age of Transparency” in an interactive and enjoyable way, explaining to the audience the topics with direct and interesting examples.
In the first place, Flora gave us a sense of what is the impact of the internet and the online world in the contemporary society making a comparison with the previous situation. In 2008, only the 20% of Italians used the internet. Social and advertisement were not the protagonists yet, so what did people do online? The provocative but reasonable answer that he gave was “internet was for porn”.
Here is a funny video provided by Matteo.
In a society where some topics were not openly discussed, internet was the exit way. Now things are changed: people want to talk. They want to express themselves and talk about who they are and what they do. Even if someone has not an account on Facebook, he/she is likely to be mentioned be friends on their status, becoming part of the online world in a passive but present way. The Internet has been so invasive that it can be considered part of us, the new stream of consciousness that it is almost tangible, reflecting real people’s lives. In Italy, the 58% of people is online and talk about social media. By mentioning what we see and do online, we are indirectly promoting brands and objects. This is the reason why, in the marketing sector, the internet has become a source of money and it needs to be managed in a smart way.

Flora went on describing the pre and post internet model of marketing approaches.
The first one suggested a significant stimulus coming from a catching and repeated commercial. The goal was the one to let consumer remind of the item, not necessarily the name of the brand. Then the “first moment of truth” occurred when the product was presented by the employees of the store. If package and information were convincing people would want to buy it. The “second moment of truth” was the experience after using the good. Even if consumers’ feedbacks were negative, the important was that the purchase phase took place: disappointed opinions wouldn’t spread that easily. In the second model something changes due to the fact that buyers get information online, therefore if reviews are discouraging, people won’t even bother to go to the store. This makes clear of opinions and feedback are become fundamental to companies. It evolved into a matter of online reputation.
Reputation is hard to get because it cannot be bought, it is earned. The issue is that people online not always realize the risk that they can face on the internet, which is a tool with the power of destroying lives. Flora brought an example of a woman who made what is seemed to be a racist tweet before leaving for Africa. In reality she was joking about something said to her friends the previous night; while she was on the airplane, the tweet become viral, reposted millions of time. At the airport where she landed, she needed to be protected by the local police because a crowd of angry people was waiting for her. The minute she posted her comment online, she ruined her real life and this is not an abstract problem at all. Due to the unfairness that sometimes characterizes social interactions and competition, reputation can be used as a tool to harm companies or people through lies. This is the reason why reputation and transparency have to be protected and fostered. Another main issue follows the reasoning: what is the limit between privacy and security?
Online privacy in a fundamental right and it has to be protected, but what when it is violated? Sometimes it happens for a good cause, such us catching pedophiles or other criminals fostering illegal activities on the internet. However in other circumstances the limit is either blurred or manipulated. We all hide something, it is part of our nature and it is the reason why it is common to close curtains and send closed letters. Consequently it is normal to have secrets online as well. Although some institutions or authorities don’t agree. The former Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated that if someone has something to hide it means that he/she did something wrong. This thought is just one of the motivations found by agencies to seek legitimization to control our data. It is not legal to have direct access to our social media, calls and texts, but an alternative strategy has been created, it is called Metadata. Metadata are sets of data that describes other data. It means that, for example, the government cannot listen to the content of our phone calls but it registers the time, duration, frequency, place, person who called and person who answered and all the movements that follow so that eventually it is not hard to end up invading the personal sphere. Governments can state that they don’t read our texts, but actually they know every feature of it, isn’t it the same?
In conclusion, Flora described to the students the third model of marketing that reflect the very contemporary society. What are we looking for nowadays? Values. We want to approach brands and companies with core values and ideas that are similar to the ones we support. Therefore the internet is turning towards emotions, dedication, loyalty and greatness. This is the reason why it is fundamental to be transparent to keep a good reputation.
The approach and the energy that Matteo brought into the studio were really fascinating and gave an added value to his lecture, we both enjoyed these experience and hope to see him again.
Sara Verrino and Matteo Sarcinella