If Fellini were filming his satirical portraits of Italian life today, surely, his characters would be absorbed in their mobile devices searching for the “digital sweet life.” Yet, in one of the most ancient of all cities, the connectivity of our fast-lane, telematic communications has redirected the search for love and happiness. While walking the streets of Rome (and most cities of the world for that matter), the circulation of digital messaging has inserted itself front and center into the stream of everyday life.
Note the woman in the photo above who is all but ignoring the affections placed on her: she is absorbed in another place, another conversation, another gesture of affection delivered remotely. In fact, nearly every person in this photo is either communicating online, or carrying their mobile device as a prosthetic appendage. This photo was not staged, it is the reality of our post reality, it is the sphere of our social relations, it is the condition of humanity caught up in the third space of “la dolce vita digitale.”
While strolling the historic Via dei Giubbonari, just off the Campo de Fiori in the old, historic section of Rome, the inhabitants are displaced, caught up in a remote exchange with someone a mile away or perhaps on the other side of the globe. No matter: forget about the romance of the cobble stone streets and stone buildings of a charming Roman neighborhood dating back more than a thousand years. We live in the distributed NOW, tethered to the digital impulses of the ever-present present racing through our devices and our nervous systems at the speed of light: the Internet as the new circus maximus.
In today’s Roma and the never-ending pursuit of la vita and its meaning, we find ourselves caught up in a new meaning, a new aesthetic, a new romance with la vita digitale, the fast-paced, quick-cut reality that no doubt Fellini would have embraced as a portrait of life in today’s Rome as a telematic city.