Once upon a time there was an alpine valley. The valley, carved by the Duria and its tributaries, was crossed by ancient communication routes, paths beaten over the millennia by wild and domestic animals, roads traced by the inhabitants and by passages, down towards the valley and the east and up towards the passes and the west. Travelers, traders, invaders, many had crossed it. Valsusa, they called it.

Decisions taken elsewhere wanted to impose the construction of a railway line called “Alta Velocità”. Swarms of workers had to be employed, gigantic machinery, enormous resources for a new pharaonic way. It was necessary to pierce the already exhausted mountain, to fell trees, to pour cement on the ground, to divert streams, to contaminate the air with substances well hidden in the bowels of the earth.

The inhabitants opposed that wicked plan. In word and deed, they went down the streets, stopped the bulldozers and trucks, slowed down the work in every way. Each new government found the situation increasingly tangled, and the opposition increasingly widespread. There was violence. Some were beaten up by the police and vigilantes; others were imprisoned. The echo of the struggles ran from valley to valley: from afar they came to show solidarity, displaying common disdain in the face of injustice.

It was not just a matter of opposing that senseless project in that valley: little by little it became the symbol of widespread opposition to many similar projects, united by the useless consumption of land and by the contempt of governments and big capitals for the local communities. In the valley, the flags multiplied, “NO TAV”, it was written, stop saying yes to any madness, stop destructions that do not create anything good, stop promises on the skin of our land: we do not want this Alta Velocità, we do not you need your grandi opere1, your petty alliances.

But the construction sites went on relentlessly…

It was the time of the social web, of sharing content on the Internet. Without social media, some said, we would never have reached the whole world! Everyone was feeding public profiles like crazy, reposting and retweeting, liking and sharing as if there was no tomorrow. Of course, it had a nice effect, to see those numbers rise like whipped cream: many shares, a lot of support, and from so far sometimes! Even if, when put to the test, those numbers could be deceiving: how many people were at the picket lines, at the demonstrations? Some felt the need of something more user friendly, easier to use, more engaging.

An app for example. Able to locate friends, and friends of friends, on a map. A map of the NO TAV flags, someone said. Why would we need it? Said someone else. Those who knew about social media marketing answered in chorus: of course to give visibility, and to show how strong the community is, it’s obvious!

It soon became a kind of competition for those who pointed out more flags on the map. To finance the venture, someone launched a magnificent crowdfunding, a tool to raise money from the crowd. Many more apps followed the first one: like a cascade of information that fitted together thanks to simple questions: When? Where is it? At what time? With who? Post a photo of the flag. Better a video. Better a video of the house where the flag is hoisted. Of the square. Of the people who are there and smile. Tag them with name and surname. Allow recording of GPS coordinates. Connect your social accounts. Tell your friends that you uploaded this photo. Express your thoughts, contribute, share!

Of course, the information published on the map was in the public domain, even if it was almost always uploaded on social networks of private companies, but on the other hand, how could it be done otherwise? The system worked wonderfully, everyone agreed on that.

Apart from certain strange characters, who called themselves hackers. At the beginning of the social adventure they had proposed training courses to build communication systems managed by the inhabitants of the valley. The idea was to keep the data in the valley, they said. But no one understood what they were doing, the hackers opened their computers and poof!, everything worked, but only as long as they were in the area. Without them, it was a disaster. The villagers wanted simple things, other than hackers!

Then there were the usual killijoys (it was rumored that they were primitivists, opposed to Progress), who claimed that this system was also ideal for governments, businesses and police. It was an automatic system, which filled every space and gave meaning to every activity in the valley: ideal for those who wanted to impose their dominion, without even showing it.

Fortunately, nobody paid any attention to them: transparency was the solution, everything was there at hand, everything was explicit, there was nothing to interpret, weigh, evaluate: every detail worked automatically!

The French Tourist

Jean-François Jubelot had recently discovered Valsusa and had fallen in love. He loved skiing: the ski lift facilities on the Italian side were less crowded and less expensive. He also liked to walk the paths in good weather. And refreshment in the refuges, but also bingeing on the delicious local specialties.

Of course, without the notification system he would have been lost. There were so many possibilities, it would have been impossible to choose! Instead, the ValSusa4U app was miraculous. It offered him perfect itineraries tailored on his desires.

One day, almost by chance, he had clicked on “Hi JFJ, do you want to receive updated information on ValSusa?”, and a world of unlimited choices had opened up to him. The app kept him informed of cultural events, but he had also made him rediscover sports passions, he felt rejuvenated by twenty years with all those attractions organized down to the smallest details! And what about canyoning? Boulder? Or the sky running?

The app’s voice assistant guided him, and not just as a sat-nav: it bought tickets for travel, booked restaurants, offered menus suitable for his diet. Game, what a delight! And all this for a few euros, a trifle. You gave access to your social profiles, and the app took care of everything. How many less thoughts!

The Musiné

And so, everyone lived happily and peacefully in his world. A private world, even when shared with others, continuously customized automatically by the respective apps. No friction, no conflict, blissful mutual ignorance.

“An evening for you, in Turin!”, The operator 663 chirped. JF was housed in the lower valley, the path was very simple, he took his car and let himself be guided as usual. A splash of pheromones (you never know…), and off you go. Suddenly the screen went blank. End of charge, and he didn’t even have an emergency power bank! Damn! Discouraged, he looked up. And he saw it.

A mountain, lower than the ones he liked. Mangy, certainly dry, isolated from the others as if she were a crippled sister. The huge writing that stood out at half height was made even more white by the last slanting rays:


TAV? Mafia? But what was going on?

Reality hackers wasted no time and dotted the mountains with similar phrases. They called them the blackboards of the valley. That one had been the first, it was called Mont Musiné, an esoteric place of myths, UFOs and magical stories. A small flaw in the system, a drop in electricity, and despite all the augmented and specially gamified reality, the writings rose loud and clear, beyond the technological tools, without the possibility of misunderstandings. There was always someone trying to disfigure the words, but all the time teams went up the mountains to restore and to rewrite so that it was possible to see the writing from afar.

To look up, to rise your sight, to put your hands on…

You aren’t born hacker, you become a hacker.

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In italian: major public infrastructure projects.