Il Momento is a website based on a program written by Simona Bariselli, an Italian web developer with an education in philosophy and a master degree in photography, which automatically and continuously collects and aggregates in form of collage the photographs published on the main Italian online newspapers.
Until recently, the survival of online newspapers was determined by advertising and is now crossing an irremediable crisis due to ad-blockers.
In order to counter the damage and bring more clicks to their pages, newspapers have adopted the “right-column” method, a website’s section presenting not purely journalistic material, such as gossip, nude, kittens and viral videos. This way, exploiting people’s attitude to get easily distracted, websites integrate confused galleries of voyeuristic pictures, which do not serve any journalistic purpose.
Despite its form – a collage of unnecessary, low-quality and anonymous pictures – Il Momento is also an aggregator of real news and articles, from which the viewer can easily find all sorts of information through pictures.
However, it is difficult to read this complexity when living in a condition of image proliferation. This is referred to by Baudrillard as ‘modern iconoclasm’ whereby images themselves are not destroyed but, due to the vast profusion of photos available, there is ‘nothing’ to see.With that in mind, I was annoyed with the abuse of images of online newspapers, especially in Italy, where content that has nothing to do with journalism – gossips, cats, virals – proliferates through galleries of redundant images without any article. In my opinion this essentially encourages voyeurism, distraction, and confusion between journalistic and sensationalistic content.
That is why I started working on a parody of this system. A parody that would have used the same tools: a real-time web application that shows the pictures published by Italian online newspapers.
Il Momento was developed by me, so it may be faulty! However, I also turned to close friends who were able to lend a helping hand – in particular, Marco La Mantia who designed the website. There were also a number of conversations with various professionals which proved crucial for guiding this personal project.
F: The images you present are deprived of any additional information, be it a caption or the name of the author. How does this project relate to the theme of authorship in photography?
SB: It is true that, at first, the aggregated images are displayed without any text. The project core is a huge flow of fragments and cliches that are difficult to interpret, either for the poor quality or the lack of text. However, you can click on the picture, read the title and the copyright (if present) and the link to the original article. This may seem paradoxical but I obtain images whose copyright is rarely specified. I then republish them without including the copyright. It therefore becomes explicit that the photographer is missing.
This relates strongly to today’s trend of authorship within photography – a good example being Italian newspapers which rarely choose to show photo credits, considering that one of the major newspapers started specifying the copyright only a few months ago (and only in printed versions). The images in newspapers are normally taken by either professionals, photojournalists or amateurs. Therefore, indicating the copyright would mean more responsibility on publishers, photographers and viewers.
F: As a web developer, how do you think online information is evolving?
SB: So far, online newspapers have mainly survived thanks to advertising. They adjust to a merely quantitative mechanism — where page views have the same value, irrespective of the content quality. This has led to the deterioration of photojournalism as described above.
Furthermore, services and ad-blockers that intervene between users and published ads are spreading. For example, The Guardian has recently defined newspaper websites as ‘dead parrots’ and in order to combat ad-blockers, their website can now detect if the reader is using one. If so, they then kindly ask you to subscribe.
In my honest opinion, a minority of internet users will always opt to pay to read an online article, but quality content will always win – and should. Great, meaningful content is king. This could be especially true if platforms like Blendle (an online aggregator of global news) becomes an increasingly popular service.