John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
“Facebook” is a town bulletin board, and “YouTube” is just chairs arranged around a TV.
If you want an answer to a random question—say, the global range of the sewer rat—you could Google it. Or, if you happened to be in Civitacampomarano, Italy, you could try your luck at a weird cafe that’s masquerading as the physical incarnation of Google.
The way it works is you walk in, sit at a table labeled with the Google logo, and start throwing your questions at people. That’s it. The town has other ultra-low-tech versions of popular web services, too. An old metal mailbox functions as Gmail; a community bulletin board as Facebook; a bunch of chairs arranged around a TV as YouTube; and a public bench for smooching as Tinder, to name just a few.
The surreal environment is the work of Biancoshock, a Milan-based artist known for his head-spinning urban interventions. He initiated this project, titled “Web 0.0,” for the CVTa Street Fest as a commentary on how people can get along just fine without the Internet. Biancoshock writes:
Civitacampomarano is a small village in the province of Campobasso with just 400 souls, mainly elderly.
In this village, rich in folk traditions, Internet is a partially unknown world: mobile phones have difficulty working and the data connection is practically nonexistent.
The provocative idea is to show that these virtual functions, considered by the vast majority of the population as necessary and essential to everyday life, also exist in the country, where the connection is hard to reach: this is a sort of Internet “in real life” able to demonstrate that in traditions and popular culture these instruments, in other ways, have always existed and have allowed people and families to have cultural exchanges, meeting at the bar and living the town’s streets.
Here’s a sampling of the dozen new “services” around town, none of which are currently selling stock: