PAAS (assisted access points to web services) was launched in the early 2000's with the aim to fill the digital gap that separate those who are able to use a computer from those who do not.
A few years ago, unaware of PAAS's existence, while having dinner at my house, I heard my father in law and an old friend of his fantasizing about creating a grassroots PAAS, using free software; they were talking about reuse and rights of citizenship. I tried to follow their reasoning, without understanding much, but enough to get involved and keen to take a deeper look into it. That was the moment I started to follow closely the history of the PAAS Point of Abbadia di Montepulciano, a little village in Tuscany in which I have lived in for a few years.
I discovered that within a few years nearly all the PAAS Points had been shut down before starting to operate. The first funds (allocated at the institutional level without detailed rules for implementation) were used to buy computers and to set up structured spaces, but there were no funds left to provide money for the instructors and to buy programs to organize the courses. The few PAAS points that were left in business have lost their main purpose (the educational one) to become what we call today the Free Internet point .
From the very beginning, I found it very interesting the symbolic aspect in the history of PAAS point of Abbadia, which tells so clearly how this small community could cope with an institutional void through people's human and civic participation. Firstly with the constant and substantial presence of who, Cesiano (my father in law), conceived it , created it and has kept it alive so far. With the idea to set up a local PAAS point, without public funding, relying on the people's involvement, on the strict use of free software with a mindful reuse of scrapped computers or machines given by people who replace them with new ones, he has seen in this institutional impasse a real chance for active citizenship.
The idea became reality in March 2011 with free lessons given weekly by Cesiano. Attending my first lessons, a couple of years after the opening, made me decide to represent visually this experience. It was very engaging to witness the participants's efforts and determination, trying to 'tame' this device (computer), so unusual in their previous life. The objective of my photographic research was founded on this extreme effort by human beings to get closer to machines , and it highlighted this contrast also chromatically.
The last part of my work hints at the participants heterogeneity, through a little window on the daily life of each of them. The attempt is to highlight the aim of the project, that is the chance given to everyone (without any economical or educational selection), although with big commitment and willingness (human availability) to access the first digital literacy, propaedeutic for conscious access to the web, that I'd call it a real right of citizenship.
This work was published in Edge of Humanity Magazine with the title - Taming The Machine. Free Digital Literacy